by Steve Mezak

Don’t rush into outsourcing software development

Mar 31, 2017

Evaluate service providers carefully. Those that promise quick, cheap software development can cost you money in the long run. Here's a list of tips to help you find a good outsourcer.

outsourcing checklist
Credit: Thinkstock

Too often, enterprise leaders, CIOs and CTOs get dollar signs in their eyes when they think or hear about inexpensive software engineers offshore. Those business leaders then jump into outsourcing software development at the lowest possible cost and wonder why the results don’t satisfy their needs or help them meet their software objectives.

In a rush to save money, companies often plunge into software development outsourcing, quickly select a supplier — more than likely the wrong one — and expect that team to produce great software right away. In their rush, they skip the careful evaluation required to determine which software outsourcing company best suits their needs. They don’t properly vet the provider to ensure they get the highest standards and the best service, experience and quality of work.

As a CIO or CTO, you’re in charge of outsourcing software development for your business when needed. You have an important role, but if your software outsourcing knowledge is thin, follow these tips to help you protect yourself before you fall victim to the lure of cheap software development outsourcing.

Don’t make cost your main focus

When you’re looking to outsource software development, a focus on cost alone takes attention away from finding quality work. With software outsourcing, go for the right skills, not the right price. You don’t want to end up with bad software, a delayed initiative, bugs or an expensive redo.

Vet, verify, and do your due diligence

Look for technical capabilities, industry experience and a host of other outsourcing criteria. Due diligence in the selection process makes all the difference in the success of your outsourcing engagement and, ultimately, the quality of your software.

Start the vetting process by specifying the tech stacks and industry experience that are important to your software. Then create a short list of companies that meet your criteria. The next step is to send an RFI — a request for information — that provides an overview of the software you want to create, the number of developers you need on your team and your long-term vision and goals. Use the responses you get and the results of meetings and/or video calls to screen your short list to two or three top contenders. Carefully investigate references, the depth of experience and the ratio of junior to senior team members. Investigate whether your provider has experience working with companies like yours.

Look for leaders

Look through the resumes of prospective members of your software development team to scout for engagements completed for other industry leaders, as well as highly innovative engagements that senior developers worked on. Leverage experienced leadership and past successes for your own gain. Engage software teams who can bring deep experience and understanding to your software requirements.

Identify your top technical needs

Determine the top three technical skills your software requires and set them as top priorities in your outsourcing criteria. Focus on technical expertise that makes the greatest positive impact on user experience and overall quality of your software. Then, be sure your software outsourcer provider can“walk the walk” and not just talk a good game.

Make security, QA a priority

When you’re comparing your short list of outsourcing partner companies, find out how they manage security. You can’t ask too many questions when it comes to security. Ask about code QA and testing. Will they use a variety of tests to confirm quality? Make sure your provider is proficient in this area, and discuss it in depth early on. The key is to ensure that your provider makes security, QA and testing a priority.

Look for shadow workers, ask about recruiting and HR issues

A good provider of software development services is prepared to deal with team members who leave or don’t work out. Those who leave are quickly replaced with “shadow workers,” or people who have been there all along on your account in case there was change with a team member. Instead of a disastrous loss of an outsourced team member, these shadow developers — already familiar with your software — step in when needed to keep things moving along. It’s not your problem.

In other words, shadow developers ensure uninterrupted development so you can focus on your enterprise’s core competencies without distractions. Ask your potential outsourcing partners how they recruit, train and keep employees satisfied and on board. Recruiting, along with training and retention programs, should be core competencies of a great software development provider.

Seek partners with great culture and an innovative work environment

Your list of criteria should lead you to a software partner with a stimulating culture and a commitment to innovation. The firm should focus on three things to drive the right culture: innovation, communication and celebrating teamwork. Ask the potential provider to share details and insights about their workplace and company culture.

While the talent shortage of software developers has made it hard to find good engineers in the United States, qualified companies exist in Eastern Europe, Latin America, Asia and other locations. World-class and experienced software providers do exist. Use these tips when selecting yours.