How to build an offshore software development team with an outsourcing partner

Today, the web has mushroomed with numerous offshore software development companies that aim to capitalize on the concept of "outsourcing", and prove their mettle in the offshore software development arena.

A good percentage of people around the globe feel that the only factor that has given incredible momentum to this practice is the "cost saving" factor. However if we probe deeper, we'd find that there are many good reasons for which a company can choose to opt for software outsourcing offshore.

One of the key golden reasons is "team extension". Sometimes, it's tough to find the desired IT workforce locally owing to the death of skilled manpower with the exact desired skill set in your geography. Hence, it's imperative in such a scenario to associate with a software vendor offshore that can offer you the required software developers & coders with the desired skill set and experience, and not to forget within your budget.

Another prime reason is "reduced time to market". To stay competitive in today's dog-eat-dog business scenario, you must be able to deliver your product in the shortest time frame. To accomplish this goal, extension of the development team is called for. Local hiring may be a tedious task when the pressure is so extreme. In such a case, the offshore software development company hires the required software developers to help build the product in the shortest span possible and release the same. As a result, the time to market the product is greatly reduced, which gives your business the required dose of strategic advantage.

Sometimes, some technical problem could crop up, which falls outside the core domain expertise of your company. In such a situation, it's intelligent to outsource the same for quick resolution instead of wasting your time trying to find a solution for it and losing your focus on core business objectives.

The following tips may help you make good decisions in checking whether potential software development outsourcing partners meet the criteria listed above:

Quality of development matters

Most companies seek stable, reliable long-term relations and demand the same high level of quality that their own in-house developers would produce. However, in reality, a new offshore partner always presents the risk of exactly the opposite. It is very difficult or even impossible for a company (for instance, an IT company in Europe or the United States) to be absolutely sure that a potential new partner in India, China, Russia or elsewhere can really deliver top quality.

The first step should be to research the potential company online. Check the year of their domain registration because sometimes offshore companies state on their website that they have about 10 years of experience, but strangely their domain was only registered the previous year. It is also important to divide all providers of offshore outsourcing software development into two categories: freelance developers and legitimate companies with a brand name and reputation. You should be aware from the start who you are working with. Freelance developers are unstable and often not very reliable. Their expertise is difficult to verify since the quality varies from one individual developer to the next. If a good developer leaves the team in the middle of your project, deadlines and development quality are likely to be impacted significantly. Freelance developers charge less for their services than actual offshore outsourcing companies, and though they might work well for small-scale projects (ranging from USD 1,000 to 10,000), they often disappear unexpectedly. Freelance developers tend to advertise themselves as reliable and qualified with many years of work experience. If you only have small projects to outsource, I do recommend looking into working with a team of freelance developers. If you do your research well and choose the right team, this can indeed be a very cost-effective option.

However, if you are looking for someone to develop a larger project with a prospective time frame of three months or longer, I urge you to work with a legitimate offshore company with a good reputation (good references, big clients, good reputation online, older domain name, etc.),rather than freelance developers. Such companies usually have well-organized software development processes in place and are known to follow modern methodologies and best practices for software development. The problems than can result from freelancers disappearing mid-project, not meeting your deadlines, or not delivering the high quality that you need is simply not worth the lower cost.

Some additional points to keep in mind:

Time and Cost estimation - If a service provider gives you a price and timeframe for the project but does not include a detailed estimate of the time and costs required for the individual tasks, such a company might not meet deadlines or deliver high-quality software solutions.

Development should always include testing - In some cases, testing and bug fixing make up 50 percent of the entire project implementation period. An experienced and professional company knows that extensive testing is absolutely vital in the development of complex projects and puts the necessary QA measures in place.

Check the company's portfolio - I highly recommend finding a company that has already developed projects similar to the one you are looking to outsource. The company that best suits your needs is likely to be one that works in the industrial specialization you are seeking for your project.

Do not make the lowest price your priority - Please keep in mind that you get what you pay for. If a company offers a low price, it may be because they are using junior developers rather than senior or mid-level developers.

Communication - Even for people speaking the same language, misunderstandings are a fact of life. The risk of misunderstandings increases exponentially when different languages and cultures, and therefore also different preferences and styles of communication, are involved. Simply having English-speaking contacts at your new Offshore Development Center is not enough. The company should have a system in place that fosters communication by means of the appropriate software, such as issue tracking systems, conference call scheduling, Skype chats, etc. Professional companies tend to be very experienced in setting up effective communication measures.

Source code security and intellectual property protection - This maybe the most important factor of all. When a company plans to outsource its software development and the software to be developed will be based on existing source code, it is essential that this source code as well as any information about clients remains confidential. For this reason, I do not recommend working with freelance developers if confidential information is involved since these developers cannot ensure serious protection of intellectual property.

The thought of outsourcing software development to an offshore development company may be daunting. Following the above-mentioned advice will help you find an offshore software development company that could be a reliable business partner for many years to come. Remember not rush into a business relationship with a new partner.

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