Navigating the World of Outsourced Software Development

Outsourced Software Development

Outsourcing software development is no easy task. There are countless variables that you have to take into consideration if you want to have a successful relationship.

A successful software outsourcing relationship is one that manages these variables throughout the entirety of the project. It isn’t just about finding the right developers, in fact, that is often the easiest part! You need to consider everything from the day 1 tasks of looking to find the right developers all the way to the post product-launch tasks of ensuring you’re set up for success in maintaining your application. In other words, if you’re going to navigate the outsourced software development landscape alone, buckle up.

Navigating Outsourced Software Development in 5 Steps

When thinking about outsourcing your software development, there are five main factors that we’ll go over. While these five factors aren’t the exclusive variables you need to consider in order to have a good relationship, they are the heaviest hitters, so if you follow these five, you’ll at least be in a much better position to be set up for success.

1: Choose the right development partner

The first step in software outsourcing is determining who you are going to work with. There are two traditional routes you can take: freelancer or agency. Generally speaking, you should look to work with an agency for a few reasons:

  1. An agency gives you flexibility. With an agency, you can easily scale your team up or down as well as expand into different technologies.
  2. An agency gives you dependability: If something happens to your developer at an agency, the agency will replace that developer for you. They have more dependability built into their model since they are a company and not a single person.
  3. An agency gives you expertise. When you work with an agency, you get to leverage the collective minds of the entire team. If there is a technical problem, you have other resources at the agency who can step in and help.

While going with a freelancer can be cheaper, it adds a lot more room for error. If your scope of work is very small and requires just a bit of help, then maybe it will make sense to work with a freelancer. If you’re looking for a long-term relationship, an agency is recommended. If you have questions on which route to go, feel free to reach out to our friends at Aloa.

2: Over-communicate with very clear statements by explaining every detail (get it?)

Okay, all jokes aside, it could not be more important to over-communicate everything when working with an offshore team. Over-communicating doesn’t mean micro-managing, it means ensuring that there is common understanding at every single step of the relationship. 

To best facilitate this, be sure to explain things as simply as possible. Also, try your best to remove all phrases and sayings from your vocabulary. Different cultures may not understand what is insinuated by certain phrases.

For example, if you are having a discussion and want to move on to the next topic, don’t say, “Okay, let’s table this for now.” Instead, you should say, “Okay, let’s stop talking about this for now and start talking about it again after we discuss XYZ.”

Another reason you want to be very careful and simple in expressing your points is because if you are working with an offshore team, it is more than likely that English is their second language. Have you ever tried working in a language that isn’t your first language? I have and let me tell you, it is really, really hard. Don’t make English harder than it needs to be. Speak slowly, speak simply, speak clearly.

Check it also mystalk

3: Have a clearly defined scope of work

While this one seems intuitive, it is commonly overlooked. You should never assume that you will “figure it out” during the relationship itself. You need to map out your entire scope of work and include things like acceptance criteria:

Ex: If a user clicks the forgot password button, they should receive an email with a link to reset their password.

By including acceptance criteria, you help increase the clarity of the feature you are requesting. While this is a ton of upfront work, it is absolutely worth it and will save you an incredible amount of time and headache in the long run.

The only scenario where it is okay to not have a completely drawn out scope of work is if you are starting your engagement with a Discovery phase with the agency or freelancer and as part of that Discovery phase, the agency or freelancer is responsible for putting this type of documentation together.

4: Figure out where you sit on the iron triangle of software development

In software development, there is a thing called the iron triangle. When it comes to software development, you have three variables that you’re juggling: Scope, Cost, Timeline. 

Unfortunately, you can only choose one of them – the other two must sacrifice something. As the business owner, you need to determine which of those three variables you want to prioritize. If you absolutely need every single feature, then you need to be flexible on the cost and timeline. If you absolutely need to stay under a certain budget, then you need to be flexible on the scope and timeline. And if you absolutely need to be ready by a certain date, you need to be flexible on the scope and cost. 

Everything in software is a give and take relationship – you simply can’t have it all, so don’t expect to. The more understanding you are here, the better you can plan ahead to build a proper and realistic plan with your development team.

5: Ensure your team is documenting & commenting 

This is a huge one, and quite simple to outline. For all code that is written, two things should be happening:

  1. Your developers should be commenting on the code that they push.
  2. Your developers should be documenting the code that they write.

Make sure this is part of your contract. 

If your team isn’t performing both of these, you are harming the efficiency of your future developers as they won’t have context as to what was written and will have a much longer on-boarding experience.

There are services out there, such as Aloa, who specialize in helping companies outsource their software development. They’ll help you navigate each of these steps, including tons of other details such as ensuring you always retain ownership of your code or validating that your scope of work will get accepted by the App Store.

Whatever route you end up going, just be sure that you are prepared for the journey. If you need help, leverage services out there that are there to help you! You don’t have to do this alone.

Team Tananet

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