You are a small business owner and you want your website developed or are looking at having mobile application built. That is great! I’m really happy for you. In todays market you are blessed with a plethora of options: established development houses (very expensive), young local freelance developers, or offshore outsourcing. All these options can achieve your desired goals.
If you are reading this post, chances are you looking at having your idea built by a team overseas because you are looking at getting more bang for your buck, or the bucks are pretty low.
I ask you this question? Are you a software project manger or someone within the IT industry that has worked with other software developers or understands how to scope and manager a project? If the answer is no, then please read on.
I have developed software since 1985. Yes, I’m an old fart in the technology world but I have one thing. Experience, both good and bad. I know what cutting corners will achieve and I can see a train wreck of a project from a mile away.
Before you embark on managing a team of web/software developers (onshore or offshore) then you need to consider the following points below.
Have you got a clear scope for your project?
If you are not clear in your mind and on paper what your project is to achieve in both objectives and functionality then you and your developers have no idea when your project is complete.
Maintain all communication in writing and ensure that the developer provides you with a document explaining what they are delivering in their words. This is know as a functional specification. Any decent developer or company you are dealing with offshore will know what this means. This will also give them the impression you know what you are talking about and make them less likely to pull the wool over your eyes.
You need to define the different milestones and the payments associated with them. And pay them on time.
There are many forum discussions on who are the better offshore developers around the world. You will read countries like India, Pakistan, Philippines, Eastern Europe.
In Australia, dealing with developers then anywhere from south-east Asia to Eastern Europe can work if you are prepared to work in the afternoon to late evening. Pick the timezone that works for you.
Communication … Yes?
I’ve dealt with offshore developers for over a 10 years and I would say that the sub-continent and south-east Asia will have a higher percentage of developers than will say “yes” to what you have to say. This is bad news as you may think the project is further advanced than it really is.
As a project manager you need your developers to tell you if they think your ideas/solution are not the best and come up with other ideas. I have found too many times inexperienced developers are too afraid to challenge you and just persist with a bad solution. You need to encourage and empower your team to speak freely. This is a challenge as culturally this is not how they speak to authority.
If you engage developers in Eastern Europe you are more likely to deal with a developer that will tell you if they think your idea is rubbish and have the foresight to come up with something better with a logical explanation.
Communicating with offshore developers needs to be done on a regular basis. You need to hold them to a schedule that you all agree.
Remember, you are accountable to either your internal stakeholders or your own customer.
If you have a team of developers offsite then you need to ensure they are working directly on your infrastructure. This could include your web hosting for the website they are building or they are saving the files and documents in a shared file-space like Dropbox for business.
If something was to happen to your developer or they decide that you are putting too much pressure on them, they could just stop communicating with you.
In this situation you are in a bit of hole. If the developer holds all the source code or design files then you will need to start again with someone new. This can be an expensive mistake.
How much should I pay?
This is a difficult question. If you are dealing directly with a freelancer and you expect quality then you are looking at about 1/3 of dealing with the same resource within an agency.
Most developers will work in USD but you can generally negotiate a rate in your own currency.
Where do I find these developers?
Finding and interviewing developers is an article on it’s own. For the sake of giving your something here try http://upward.com, freelancer.com.au to name a few. Check out the reviews for the developers before engaging.
You are the boss of this project but not a dictator. It is important that when working with a new team that you monitor the project very closely. If your plan is to work with your team over the long term then accept and give feedback.
Offshore outsourcing can provide great financial benefits to a business but you need to take charge of the project and be clear what you want. If not, then expect a world of pain like I have in the past.
I wish you all the best in your future projects. Let us know what you experiences have been dealing with offshore development teams.