The term “outsourcing” has become a bit of a dirty word in the software development industry. However, outsourcing software development, -- or “digital outsourcing,” as it's called -- is a great way to maximize efficiency. Outsourcing certain tasks, a once-taboo subject, is quite common: Accenture, IBM, Microsoft, Intel, Amazon, P&G, Bank of America and Hewlett-Packard have all jumped on board.
The list of fears surrounding digital outsourcing can be lengthy, but those fears can be alleviated. Below are four of the most common concerns regarding outsourcing software development and how to mitigate them to make outsourcing work for your business.
Many business leaders have expressed concern about the hidden costs associated with outsourcing. Hidden costs include money wasted on unproductive operations abroad, money lost due to cultural differences, transition-related costs like temporary decreases in productivity and the costs of managing the outsourced team.
Luckily, good communication will do a lot to mitigate these costs. In addition to informal daily communication with your "abroad" team, schedule teleconferences or meetings regularly to discuss larger issues that might be hindering productivity or cohesion. The more you can get to know your abroad team, the better: You’ll be able to verify that this particular team is the right fit for your company.
You can also avoid hidden or extra costs by planning ahead. Establish clear productivity and team-building goals, and have the outsourced team commit to accomplishing those goals within a set period of time. Make milestones frequent and achievable by adjusting them as necessary.
Selecting the wrong vendor
The fear of choosing the wrong vendor to handle your development needs is valid and common. However, you can take certain precautions to make sure you’re happy with whom you choose.
Pick your outsourced vendor wisely. Instead of just choosing the cheapest service, look into experience, success metrics, testimonials and potential language barriers. Also, ensure that the vendor will be willing to work on your schedule. Depending on your project, close collaboration might be necessary; as such, you’ll want your abroad team to operate on your local team’s hours.
Most importantly, don’t be afraid to switch! One great thing about outsourcing development is that outsourcing opens the door to many viable options. If you’re unsatisfied with the work product of your outsourced team, you can easily find another team for a comparable, or even lower, price.
Skill gaps between outsourced and local developers
Another common fear is that leaders won’t be able to ensure efficiency due to skill gaps between outsourced developers and local developers. Creating strong ties between the two groups, however, is an easy fix.
Depending on the structure of your company, consider keeping a few skilled developers in-house. You can then implement systems to check the outsourced work as it is created, to avoid receiving a subpar work product.
For example, re-compile and build your software every time a developer submits work for a product. Doing this will help detect problems immediately so they can be remedied without delay. You can also require that outsourced team members develop and run individual tests for their products during development.
Creating tests prior to the implementation of a feature can help clarify what the software should ultimately do. These tests can then be run again and again throughout development. Testing needs to be automated and thorough, and the end-user experience should always be kept in mind.
Collaboration is another valuable method to mitigate the skill gap. If possible, in addition to frequently communicating with your outsourced team members, strive to collaborate with them to better resolve potential problems that occur during development. Using Scrum is a great way to facilitate this collaboration.
Finally, require that your outsourced team members create technical documentation so you can better understand their work. If you switch vendors in the future, you’ll need the technical and architectural specifications for the tasks your current outsourced developers are working on to avoid future delays.
Security is a concern for many developers who work with trade secrets and other types of private data, so it’s imperative to take this into account when selecting a vendor. International certifications for data privacy exist, and most reputable vendors should meet the certification requirements.
When choosing an outsourced vendor, look for past incidents regarding client security. How did the vendor handle it? How would you handle it? By considering possible security issues beforehand, you can avoid potential disaster later.