It’s no secret that the demand for developer talent is outpacing the supply of quality software developers. Countless apps, websites, databases, integrations, and digital projects are in need of capable coders. Even if you find the right person, it can take weeks to bring them onboard and bring them up to speed, let alone retain them when headhunters start snooping around. The speed of the current digital marketplace is only exacerbating the issue. Every service has competitors, and winning over the rest takes speed and ability as much as anything else.
In that environment, the value of hiring offshore developers is clear. They can help you ramp up your dev resources quickly on a short-term or long-term project without lengthy onboarding. You can find the specialized resources you need to respond flexibly to product needs, get a fresh perspective, solve difficult problems, and reduce your time to market. By leveraging the right tools for communication and project management, it’s never been easier to bridge the gap between your team and the rest of the world.
However, despite how far the offshore development industry has come, there are still several potential pitfalls when finding the right team for you and your company. While one or two typically leads to frustration, if they get too strong or too numerous, they can lead to high-stress environments. Even worse, you may end up losing out on opportunities or your market overall.
Here at Pristine Tech, we have heard more than our share of horror stories that come out of bad offshore relationships. If you are considering an offshore team to help advance your business, you should know what to watch out for, and what to avoid.
Language, Culture, and Distance Aint What They Used to Be
There was a time that the biggest barrier to getting things running smoothly was finding people who literally spoke your language, followed your work ethic, and were available when you needed them. These issues are largely eliminated today, especially for US companies. Teams all around the world are ready with English speakers ready to meet the demands of high-speed, high-output projects. Project management practices have improved and tools like Github are almost universal.
Even more, the time difference that was once a barrier to productivity can now be a benefit. Because communication and code sharing are so much simpler, hand-offs from one developer to the next can be very smooth. If you have a team in Indiana and another in India, you can almost be pushing development forward 24 hours a day.
New World, New Problems
Now that those basic issues have been addressed, new problems have started to emerge as common issues for offshore dev team.
You Get What You Pay For
As in any industry, in software development there are price players and quality players. The price players definitely have their value: for only $12/hour, you can have a developer build you a new app or website. These companies typically have dozens, if not hundreds, of potential coders, so they promise speed and scalability.
These savings come with costs elsewhere, as well as added risks. You may get your app or website quickly, but whether it works the way you intended is unclear. Because of the way these teams tend to rely on previously written code, or finding solutions online, it can be hard to know where the problem is coming from since the developer didn’t necessarily write it themselves.
Once the issue is identified, don’t count on your bug reports being addressed in a timely fashion. It can take weeks, or even months, to get your whole set of issues addressed. The lack of experience of the average developer at these companies can make it hard to communicate clearly what needs to be fixed or added. All of this, of course, assumes that the team in question isn’t holding your code ransom for payment, or just disappearing altogether before the project is complete.
I know this sounds like a lot, and it is. As we mentioned, there are times when working with teams like this is the right choice for your company. But knowing when those times are, and preparing appropriately, can be invaluable.
The Importance of Transparency and Communicating Well
As mentioned, technology has made bridging the distance between global teams easier than ever before. Email, Slack, Skype, various chat functions; the options for staying in touch throughout the day are endless. But having the tools isn’t the same as knowing how to use them and doing so properly. Plenty of teams still fail to check-in about scheduled milestones, let alone daily check-ins and responding to product questions.
This is why we love Agile as a methodology (and why it’s taken off so much in the software development space). Transparency throughout a project is one of the core principles. This means that you know exactly what’s going on with your project at any given moment. You know who’s working on what, when they will be done, and whether they are going to hit their deadline. This can be a huge relief for project managers, developers, and executives. It also helps address problems before they become time sinks, improves the adaptability of the team and product to new information, and overall improves your speed to market.
One of the key considerations here is good documentation. Without good documentation, the success rate of a smooth handoff drops considerably, and your confidence in the coding ability and decision-making of your offshore team should drop as well.
Good Developers Aren’t Cheap, and They are Always Worth It
Being a good developer is about way more than just knowing how to code. In fact, a strong background in two or more languages is almost a baseline expectation these days. This means the definition of a strong developer is more nuanced than just coding experience and ability. How well do you work with others? Are you a creative problem solver? Do you put in extra hours on difficult issues? Is your code clean as well as functional?
One way to stand out is efficiency. Experienced developers know that as rewarding and valuable as custom coding is, there’s no need to always reinvent the wheel, and they may not always have the best way to fix a problem. Good developers are connected to multiple resources that can help them find an answer that’s even better than the one they can create themselves. Open Source projects, forums, slack channels, reddits, all of these and more can lead to someone else who has already solved the problem in question. When developers leverage this information, they can save you time and money, and even improve your confidence in the final product.
All of this points to one of the biggest values that strong developers bring to your project. Because of their experience and wisdom, they know exactly what your tech does and why. This makes it easier to find and address problems. It makes it easier for you to take that final product off their hands and start working with it yourself. It means your in-house development team can make changes, improvements, and expansions that much more quickly.
As you can see, the world of offshore development has come a long way, but it still has a long way to go. Though fundamental problems like distance, language, and culture all have solutions, there are still many ways that working with an offshore team can have issues. Selecting a quality partner here is no different than selecting a reliable partner for other crucial business processes.
Are they leveraging the right technology to address the fundamental challenges of working with a distributed team? Do they have the minimum level of technical ability, experience, and soft skills, to work well? Do they have the systems and practice to address the most common issues, including transparency throughout and adaptability? What is their perspective on issues like documentation, testing, and more?
If you think that offshoring may be right for you and your team, but you want to learn more about it, feel free to reach out. Whether you want to get started on a project, or just want to ask some questions, we’re always open to talk!