How to make software: to outsource or not to outsource?

When you start to think how to make software, you quickly discover that there is much more to do than writing a code. Once you have the idea, know the problem that it solves, plan the core features of your app and remove all the non-core features for the sake of making an MVP, you need to design its UI and UX, plan your business and marketing strategy. Getting it done requires either a lot of time (and I mean A LOT) or a good team to take care of all these things. And there comes the time when you ask yourself a fundamental question:

To outsource or not to outsource?

And the choice is not an easy one! A lot has been said about outsourcing experiences – both good and bad, scary things. Even though there are some serious reasons to choose outsourcing, there are also some fears which prevent entrepreneurs from doing it. When proceeded wisely, it can be a remedy for many entrepreneurs’ problems: it is cost-effective, it saves time, it gives startups an opportunity to take advantage of someone’s experience. If not – it becomes risky and can cause some serious problems. Some of the horror stories about unsuccessful cooperation with outsourcing companies – prolonged projects, exceeding the budget, misplaced functionalities, to list only a few – have been strengthened and effectively stop entrepreneurs from outsourcing their software development. Should they? Let’s see what some of the most popular pros and cons of outsourcing software development are!

The pros are obvious: it’s cheaper, it’s faster to get on the market and it’s quicker for the team to start working (as you don’t need to recruit them, set the environment etc.). The cons, however, are quite disturbing. Some of them seem to be overblown, like language differences. After all, you don’t sign any agreement right after seeing the offer. You talk to the people you are considering to work with and if there is any problem with understanding each other, there are plenty of other service providers to choose from. Some of these fears, however, like the risk of lowering the quality of the product, can be really deterring.

Other concerns

It is often said that software development companies are not committed. And that once you are ready to have your own, in-house team, it is not easy for them to understand the code delivered by the outsourcing company. And even though you’ve read that it’s not true, even though you understand that their success depends on customer success and that they simply cannot afford bad performance, you are still not sure if the risk is not too big.

On the other hand, deciding on building your own team, especially in the case of startups, is not less risky at all. You face a lot of challenges: you need to reach people who could work for you, convince them to join your startup and have enough money to secure their salaries. You also need to consider the changing demand for human resources. At some particular stages of a project, you may need a different number of developers to make it and to maintain it. (This is actually one of the top reasons to choose outsourcing when you start a startup.) And there is no need to say that this solution is more expensive, more time-consuming and… not less risky at all, as you cannot test the performance of your team before they start working.

Keeping that in mind, outsourcing may appear a bit less scary – especially when you learn how to mitigate its risks.

Risk reduction

The first step to successful outsourcing software development is choosing the right company to work with. People who don’t have any experience with outsourcing often have problems with this – they don’t know what to focus on, so they focus on the price and tend to underestimate other factors. This may lead to bad experiences: receiving a product of bad quality that cannot be further developed by their in-house teams. Instead of saving time and money, they are wasting both. To avoid this nightmare scenario, you should take your time and do your research. Check:

  • Your potential outsourcing provider’s experience. Have they worked on projects similar to yours? If they managed to create X MVPs for some startups, they will probably manage to build yours as well.
  • Their references. Note that not all the companies let the outsourcing providers publish their references! So if you don’t see many references on the website, don’t hesitate to ask for them.
  • The framework for managing product development. Keywords to remember: Agile, SCRUM.
  • Their technology stack and procedures. It is good when they have automated Continuous Integration and Deployment, and Quality Assurance every step of the way, and when they set high code quality requirements.
  • Their security standards. Data protection is particularly important when it concerns customer records or invoice details. According to Charles Parks, it is good to choose countries within the EU which abide by the same data protection legislation.

Having these in mind, you will mitigate the possible risk of bad outsourcing experience at the very beginning. Especially the one related to the product’s quality.

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Marketing Specialist, enthusiast of customer-oriented marketing, linguistic communication theory, and literary semiotics - adapted to storytelling. Quora addict, compulsive learner. Follow at Quora