From Raw to Workable
For those companies interested in transforming their raw idea into a workable piece of software, one fact becomes clear very quickly: building software is not only a long and difficult process–finding and hiring the right staff for the project can be just as daunting. The technology industry continues to have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the United States and the demand for high-quality software engineers will only increase given the incredible importance of software in the business world.
Many companies are turning to software outsourcing services as a solution to their staffing problems. These firms can provide a range of services that help businesses scale their capabilities rapidly and complete difficult projects with no long-term hiring commitments. However, while there are many amazing service providers in this industry, companies must still do their due diligence before signing a contract. This guide will help managers understand their outsourcing options, properly strategize their project, and ensure that their outsourcing partner is the best fit for their business.
Types of Outsourcing Models
Before diving into the nitty-gritty of choosing a software outsourcing service, it is important to understand the range of services that these companies offer. One of the most common and recognizable outsourcing models is IT staff augmentation. This form of outsourcing involves bringing in a small number of outside contractors to supplement existing programmers. Companies with extensive in-house teams who need a little additional help at crucial stages of the development process, such as writing code and quality assurance, often use extended teams like these to fill key roles without a long-term employment commitment.
On the other hand, autonomous delivery teams represent a completely different level of outsourcing. Rather than try to manage and staff a software development project in-house, many companies turn to autonomous, end-to-end teams to produce custom software with little supervision and without the need to sideline in-house engineers from their core tasks. These outside groups allow management to focus on their organization’s sales numbers and future strategy, rather than getting bogged down with the day-to-day work required from dedicated project managers.
Prior to contacting any potential software outsourcing services, companies must take the time to complete an honest assessment of their current developmental capabilities. This assessment should look at the size of the in-house engineering team, their experience level, and management’s ability to oversee an intensive software development project. In addition, this study should determine whether the current programming team is capable of taking on a new, large-scale project while also fulfilling their core responsibilities.
Next, it is important to bring all stakeholders together—including senior management, related departments, and end-users—to offer their ideas and to create a rough outline of the proposed software. This process should explicitly state the challenge that this software aims to address along with its exact solution, and include a step-by-step outline of the venture’s stages of development. This initial assessment will help companies develop a firm understanding of their project’s scope and help narrow down the list of potential IT outsourcing companies. However, a good outsourcing partner should help their clients develop this assessment even further, as well as offer suggestions and improve the accuracy of both cost and time estimates.
Look Beyond Cost
One of the biggest mistakes that managers make when outsourcing software development for the first time is to go with the cheapest option without first considering other factors. While outsourcing has a reputation for cost savings, the service’s real power is the ability to access talented software engineers with ultra-specific skill-sets around the world, without regard for geographic boundaries. By honing in on the cheapest option, managers limit their access to skilled developers and increase the risk of a major problem occurring during development.
Bargain outsourcing companies often use novice programmers who lack advanced English skills in order to offer such low prices. The best firms, on the other hand, will only hire the top talent in their country, ensuring that an outsourced project does not equate to a compromise on quality. Before selecting an outsourcing partner, it is important to thoroughly research all options to ensure that the company can also provide high-quality and secure code, can communicate clearly and regularly in English, and that they have a reputation for delivering easy-to-use and secure software.
Quick and easy communication is essential for overseeing a successful software development project. One of the most commonly cited problems associated with software outsourcing services is the dearth of high-quality, fully-bilingual software engineers available to clients. Many outsourcing firms are located in East and South Asia, where English is seldom spoken in daily life. This communication barrier makes collaboration between in-house, Western development teams and their supplemental programmers incredibly difficult. Working with a software development partner in Latin America allows managers to hire high-quality, English-speaking engineers easily.
Another major point of concern during outsourced development projects is daily communication. In order to ensure that the project is on-pace and that stakeholder ideas are integrated into the final product, communication between company management and the development team must remain constant. Speaking with potential software outsourcing companies about their communication style and commitments is imperative before signing a contract. In addition, if working with a company outside of the Western hemisphere, ask about the work hours to ensure that all employees are working at the same time every day.
One of the most accurate predictors of future success is a company’s past performance. This is very important when searching for an outsourcing partner to assist with a major software development project and to serve as an asset well into the future. One of the first questions to ask is whether a given outsourcing company has successfully implemented these same type of technologies in the past. Managers should ask for specifics, such as the client name, the project scope, and exactly what role the outsourcing company fulfilled in the process.
In addition, it is important to keep in mind that the age of the company, or the experience of senior management, has little bearing on the success of an individual project. IT outsourcing firms are only as successful as their employees. Savvy managers want to know how contractors are sourced, what the company’s hiring standards are, and the retention rate of software engineers. The answers to these questions will provide a wealth of information on the quality of their workers, as well as their company culture and employee satisfaction–vital clues when searching for a long-term business partner.