How to Outsource Software Development: 5 Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them
You’ve researched and considered the benefits of outsourcing such as saving your internal team time, cutting costs and working with specialists. But there’s more to it than figuring out the benefits of software outsourcing. You still have to make sure the outsourcing partner has the right developers for the project, stays within budget, and makes sure your company values are upheld. Easier said than done.
In fact, almost half of all outsourced projects don’t meet expectations or fail outright. The most common reasons for unsuccessful outsourced projectsare “failing to properly communicate expectations” and “not meeting deadlines.”
As a leading software development company, we’ve seen all sorts of situations arise. Here are five problems we often see, and the solutions to prevent them from happening.
Problem 1: You don’t receive anything
One of the most common pitfalls of outsourcing software development is not receiving aspects of your finished product. This means the deadline comes and goes and after many unanswered calls, you have nothing to show for it. A poorly managed project will hit problems such as running out of resources and an overwhelmed team.
Solution: Research, research, research.Find software development companies that have a variety of clients. You need to ensure they are reputable and can provide examples of similar products they have created. A good company will provide information on their practices, team abilities, and advise you on the risks involved with your project.
Be wary of new outsourcing companies that employ hundreds of team members – this often means they have a high turnover rate. If employees are not sticking around for more than two weeks, then your project won’t be taking off anytime soon.
Problem 2: No clear expectations
A common issue with software development companies is a lack of expectations outlined in the project scope. Project scope is the planning of the entire project process, specifying what the goals are and how they are going to be achieved. Often, when companies are outsourcing software projects, they don’t account for the type of software they need – they simply want it done. If a company needs enterprise-grade software, and they only receive prototype-grade software, something like software security might be missed. You need to consider factors beyond the scope of the project timeline and address them as development continues to avoid wasting time and money on a project that does not meet your needs.
Solution: Figure out what you need.
Imagine you’ve commissioned a company to build a bridge. Now, if you’ve hired a good company, they will ask you things like how many people will use the bridge and how long you need it to last. If this bridge is only going to be used for a few months while another, more permanent bridge is under construction, chances are you won’t need to worry about its longevity. A bad outsourcing company will quote you a low price to build a bridge from point A to point B with no thought to its usage. Ensure you get the type of product you need by setting defined expectations in your statement of work.
Problem 3: The deliverables aren’t up to your expectations
What happens in a software development project when you receive the deliverables, but they aren’t up to your expectations? Whether some features aren’t what you wanted or the whole project is botched, this creates a new set of issues. Now you have to allocate resources to fix them, spend more money and push back deadlines. This raises another problem; do you pay the outsourcing company to fix their mistakes? Or are they expected to work extra because the scope wasn’t properly defined? Neither solution is ideal and both lead to stress that could have been avoided.
Solution: Create a statement of work (SOW) with recourse clauses.
Things don’t always go to plan. To avoid problems, make sure you create a SOW that is agreed upon by both sides. A good SOW will outline exactly what you are looking for and how the company is going to develop it – you can see an (LINK TO EXAMPLE PROJECT SCOPE POST) example of a SOW here(/LINK). It should also outline the recourse action that is to be taken when things don’t quite line up to what you had in mind. Not only will this ensure everyone is on the same page, but it will act as a contract to ensure the project will be done to your specifications and expectations.
Problem 4: Misunderstandings over what your project involves
When development teams don’t have a clear understanding of what clients want, they will continue to create the product based on their assumptions. Even if they have good intentions, assumptions quickly lead to disaster. Not only will they require fixing but relocating resources midway through the project will put it off-schedule. This is a problem that starts at the beginning and quickly snowballs out of control.
Solution: Be part of the planning process.
Stop unnecessary assumptions from happening by actively taking part in the early stages of planning. Talk to the development team frequently about exactly what you want. This means making sure you are prepared and can allocate resources properly. It’s also helpful to have some design work to show the development firm so they don’t have to assume what you want it to look like. Being prepared allows you to spend more time discussing how features are implemented and not figuring out what you want. If you don’t know what you want, be prepared to pay extra for your outsourcing partner to help design your work.
Problem 5: Communication falls apart
You’ve handed off the project to your outsourcing team and told them exactly what you’re expecting. Don’t fall into the trap of checking in once in a while and expecting a flawless product. A good project has to be managed through to the end. Developing software is like baking a cake. You might know exactly how you want it to look, but developers will have more options to discuss with you such as what kind of texture you want for the batter and whether you want a filling in the middle.
Solution: Check-in early and often.
It is better for the developers to have short regular meetings with you to smooth out any concerns that might come up as they begin developing the program. As the project progresses, make sure to schedule meetings to address issues that arise. Having a good development team is invaluable. Remember, the biggest problem with outsourcing projects is communication. Ensure you are giving clear instructions with realistic expectations to make your project run as smoothly as possible.
With any business relationship, your outsourcing company is your partner – not your enemy, and it helps to work with, not against each other. Based on our experiences at Venuiti, maintaining a well-communicated project ensures a healthy business relationship. Make sure you apply these tips in your next project and you’ll ensure a smooth and successful outcome.