How to avoid software outsourcing problems
Building a piece of custom software that meets all of its objectives–it addresses customer demands, satisfies all of the important stakeholders, and works beautifully–is an incredibly difficult task. It’s also the main reason why business and technology leaders are so overwhelmingly pessimistic about their chance of success: a recent study found that 75% of these executives anticipate that their next software development project will fail. That same study also found that less than a third of current projects throughout the industry will meet their deadlines and finish under budget.
Some companies have turned to software outsourcing companies to help alleviate this frustration. However, those who venture into the field soon find that not all outsourcing partners are created equal. The best companies in this industry pride themselves on offering custom solutions to their client’s needs, which range from augmented staff arrangements, handling entire segments of the development process, or even serving as an autonomous, end-to-end team that produces software. Yet, the worst of these firms can wreak havoc on their unsuspecting clients.
Choosing the right software outsourcing partner
The importance of choosing the correct outsourcing partner simply cannot be overstated. Working with an experienced and well-regarded software outsourcing company has helped many companies expand beyond their initial startup stage, rapidly adjust to market pressures, and bring custom software to the market while maintaining their agility as a growing organization. The best outsourcing partners will provide assistance through every aspect of the software development cycle, helping their clients conceptualize, execute, and bring their software to market.
However, working with poor software outsourcing companies can be counterproductive. It can lead to massive cost overruns, harm company morale, and lead to numerous missed deadlines as they struggle to fix their own mistakes. In addition, all of this frustration may be for naught if the final software reflects their haphazard approach and lack of attention to detail. This article will help companies avoid these pitfalls by identifying the 8 most common outsourcing problems, as well as their solutions.
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Quality of Service
The most troubling concern associated with outsourced software development is a lack of quality control. This can manifest itself in the quality of outsourced talent, coding abilities, or the final product itself. Inexperienced outsourcing companies often focus on cost savings at the expense of hiring the most qualified engineers. Even worse, these novice programmers often make rookie mistakes that can hinder the functionality of software and frustrate customers.
Solution: Performing adequate due diligence before signing a contract with an outsourcing firm is the easiest way to prevent issues with quality of service. First and foremost, any potential vendors should be thoroughly researched and feedback from past clients must be solicited. In particular, public reviews and personal feedback can attest to the quality of the outsourcing partner’s code, their customer service during the project, and how their quality assurance and testing process ensured a smooth rollout. In addition, only outsource development to companies with a proven track record of working with recognizable clients and across a variety of industries.
Many managers point to cost savings as one of their top reasons for outsourcing development services. However, handing off key development responsibilities to a poor outsourcing partner can actually lead to cost overruns, in addition to an array of other problems. While their inexpensive hourly rate may initially sound appealing, some developers often take longer to complete ordinary tasks and make more mistakes, leading to more billed hours overall.
Solution: The easiest way to avoid cost overruns and set a realistic budget at the start of a large-scale development project is to work with a well-respected outsourcing firm with a reputation for quality. They can bring in experienced project managers to help with the planning process and have access to the type of hyper-specialized software engineers who can complete their tasks in the least amount of time. In addition, savvy outsourcing partners can help prevent cost overruns by listening to stakeholder ideas and user feedback in real time, ensuring that the final product meets all demands and avoiding the need for major changes late in the development cycle.
It can be incredibly frustrating to spend the better part of a year and a huge amount of money on a software development project only to end up dissatisfied with the final product. Yet, this exact situation is what many executives find themselves in after collaborating with a software outsourcing company. Unclear goals and a lack of understanding early on in the process can cause an outsourcing partner to believe that they grasp their client’s goals and aesthetic ideas, even if they have wildly different interpretations of the project.
Solution: The best way to avoid mismatched expectations is to thoroughly research any potential software outsourcing services and insist on clear and regular communication from the very beginning of the process, and establish specific expectations from the get-go. When researching potential companies, it is important to ask how they respond to client goals and ensure that their understanding of the project matches their client’s. The best software outsourcing partners will over-communicate in these early stages to ensure that both parties are on the same page. In addition, they will set key milestones throughout the project to solicit feedback and ensure that the software is meeting stakeholder expectations before too much time or money has been invested.
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Process and Decision Rights
One of the most commonly cited problems associated with outsourced software development is a misunderstanding of process and decision rights once the contract has been signed and work begins. While traditional software development projects have shared process and decision rights between senior leadership and project managers, the introduction of outsourcing partners calls this arrangement into question. How can software development projects remain agile and efficient when decision-making is shared?
Solution: The answer to this question depends on the extent of the outsourcing arrangement. For companies who are simply hiring augmented staff members such as software engineers and testers, process and decision rights should undoubtedly remain within the organization to ensure continuity throughout every stage of the cycle. However, companies who are working with autonomous delivery teams should seriously consider the consequences of each option. Keeping these decision rights in-house ensures company control over the final software product and maintains brand standards. However, passing on these decision rights to an autonomous delivery team can increase efficiency, reduce the time to market, and alleviate senior management’s responsibilities.
Language barriers have repeatedly been identified as one of the major challenges associated with hiring a software outsourcing service. Traditional outsourcing companies located in East and South Asia long ago developed a reputation for cost-savings. But, that financial benefit comes with an array of problems–with the language barrier being one of the most difficult to overcome. This communication hurdle can lead to misaligned expectations, frustration on both sides, and a decrease in product quality.
There are several ways to avoid this problem and to ensure that any outsourcing partnership starts off on the right foot. The easiest way to overcome the communication barrier is to work with a software outsourcing company located in a country where the majority of their professional class speaks American English (if located in the United States) and where the language is a fundamental part of daily life. Many countries in Latin America, such as Argentina, Colombia, and Mexico meet this definition. In addition, select nations in Southeast Asia have both the educated workforce and daily English skills needed for successful outsourcing as well, although the time zone issues investigated in detail below can pose a problem.
For managers who have already begun working with an outsourcing partner and are experiencing problems, the following tips may help ease the frustration. When speaking with an IT outsourcing firm who struggles with English, it is important to use video calls and images whenever possible, since a picture truly is “worth a thousand words.” In addition, speaking at a slow pace and using only formal language, while avoiding slangs and metaphors, can help alleviate the communication barrier. Finally, always check for comprehension at the end of every call to ensure that all parties share the same understanding.
Time Zone Issues
A frequently voiced concern about outsourced development firms in Asia is the incompatibility of their work hours. Most American firms begin work at 9:00 am, or somewhere thereabout, and work until 6:00 pm or later. However, while an in-house technical team may begin work at 9:00 am EST, their counterparts in Mumbai, India, for example, are unwinding and eating dinner at their 7:30 pm local time. This major time zone difference can lead to a variety of communication problems between the two groups and can cause delays as questions go unresolved for a full workday.
Solution: For companies interested in working with a software outsourcing service and ensuring that their entire technical team is available to work at the same time, collaborating with an outsourcing partner in the Western Hemisphere is the ideal solution. Prominent firms located in Central and Latin America have become favorites of the Western business world for this exact reason. Alternatively, some companies in East and South Asia do offer outsourced teams that work according to American business hours. However, it is imperative that due diligence is performed to ensure that these companies are hiring the best employees in their region, despite their unenviable working hours.
Paul Azorín is the Founder and Chief Technology Officer at BairesDev. He is responsible for coordinating the technology department as well as the Presales team. Paul also leads the Marketing and Communications team and works passionately to communicate the identity and values of the company.
A Developer by trade, Paul led a software development team at Hewlett-Packard and was a Project Manager for Electronic Arts and Nike before founding BairesDev. He was always recognized as an Agile Methodologies Evangelizer and a developer with a keen eye for business opportunities. Noticing the potential for Latin American Software Exporting, he decided to start BairesDev.
Paul holds a bachelor’s degree in Software Engineering and is self-taught in several programming languages. With over ten years experience working as a Software Architect, Paul still holds a love for development that transfers into everything he does.