Picking The Right Software Engineering Development Partner

For more and more companies, choosing to outsource software development is no longer exclusively a cost-cutting decision–and the numbers prove it. According to the Information Services Group (ISG), global spending on engineering services reached $930 billion in 2012, with that number projected to hit $1.4 trillion by 2020. 

These figures represent a 50% growth rate in an eight-year time frame, marking a sea change in how companies think about outsourcing. Today, working with an outside team opens up access to new technologies and top talent, reduced risk, and yes–cost-savings.

That said, if you’re considering to work with an outsourced software development partner, you’ll need to make sure you’re making an informed decision about whom you work with–after all, not all outsourced teams are created equal.

What Is Outsourcing in Software Engineering?

Software engineering outsourcing is a business-to-business arrangement where a company hires a third-party to perform the software development and engineering work that might typically be done by an in-house team. Often, outsourced teams are capable of managing the end-to-end development process, though the best results come when internal and external teams collaborate closely on a unified set of goals.

When to Outsource Software Development

Outsourcing software development is one of the best ways to achieve your target outcomes and gain a competitive advantage–without undermining your ability to focus on other aspects of your business. 

  • Your team is running at full capacity
  • You’re working with a limited budget
  • Your team lacks the right skills/expertise to carry out the project
  • You need to deliver faster deployments

What to Look for in a Software Engineering Outsourcing Company

Finding the right partner for any software engineering outsourcing project is a major business decision that requires a hard look at the factors that have the greatest impact on success. 

While projects will vary by organization, scope, and other factors, you’ll generally want to look at the following areas as you narrow your search for a

  • Quality
  • Collaboration
  • Empowered Decision-Making
  • Location
  • Communication 

In these next few sections, we’ll look closely at a few critical areas that businesses should consider as they review their options. 

Quality

One of the biggest challenges with working with an outsourced team is assessing the quality of their work. However, anytime you take on a new software engineering outsourcing project, you’ll want to do your due diligence before signing the contract.

Here are some key things to look for in a “quality” provider:

  • How do they approach development? Each delay in implementing the code delays any functions that depend on that code, creating bottlenecks in your workflow. As such, you’ll want to ask questions about process quality and team communications (with your team and the rest of the outsourced team) to gain a better understanding of how things will go.
  • Do they adhere to accepted coding standards? Quality code should be clean, extensible, and follow documented coding standards–you’ll also want to ensure that your outsourced team uses processes like automated testing and version control. 
  • Do they use in-line or separate documentation? Applications should be highly modular, with sufficient in-line documentation to adequately describe each module’s function. In-line comments are much easier to keep current than separate documentation since the programmer can easily update comments when updating the code. 
  • Do they value transparency? Does this company stay in communication with clients throughout the day or hole up and do their own thing? 
  • What do past customers say about their experience? Are there testimonials on the company’s website? Case studies? Reviews? Is it possible to talk to someone who has worked with this company in the past?

Ultimately, you’ll want to work with a team that uses proven methods that lead to repeatable success. Effective communication is essential for creating a bug-free code and a user-centric experience. It also prevents developers from writing good code that solves the wrong problem. 

Collaboration

According to Inbound Logistics, you’ll want to find an outsourced team that fits in with your in-house employees and brings positive energy to the project.

A collaborative culture is one of the hardest parts of establishing new development processes and workflows, but perhaps the most important. As such, a seamless, collaborative relationship must be nurtured from the very beginning of the project.

John Sircy, president of Petter Supply Company, says, “A few judicious changes in team membership also inject new energy into a team that has been operational for an extended period.” He adds, “It takes word of mouth from people involved in the process who are excited about it and willing to share that excitement with their colleagues.”

Empowered Developers

Agile methodology operates on a set of principles that emphasize cross-functional teams and fosters a collaborative, autonomous culture.

Though Agile has been a recognized standard since 2001, many projects described as “Agile” fail to take full advantage of the benefits it provides.

A fully-Agile project requires individual developers to take active responsibility in developing functionality, also known as the “user story.” Pragmatics describes that all-in commitment from developers as a must-have in the Agile world, which includes an understanding of the context and target outcome of the code.

Agile processes also depend on developers understanding the project from the point of view of all stakeholders from the C-suite to the end-user. As such, developers must be comfortable taking a proactive approach to collaboration–asking key stakeholders questions and implementing changes on their own.

The developers’ level of responsibility and empowerment are the primary features that distinguish the Agile methodology from traditional methods of software development.

The most common view of empowered developers is that they are responsible for developing code from a short description of a user story. 

However, they must also take responsibility for confirming that their understanding of the user story is correct. It’s essential for developers to confirm the code’s desired functionality before they begin writing it.

Time-Zones

Another key factor here is geographic location. 

While modern technology like video conferencing, chat, and high-speed connections have made it possible for collaboration to happen across the globe, distance matters when you’re working on a software development project that requires constant communication.

Naturally, east-west distance is more significant than north-south distance, due to the complications caused by working in incompatible time-zones. 

For example, if a company in the US is working with an India-based team, there’s little, if any, opportunity to communicate directly during typical business hours.

Nearshore software development providers offer an advantage over far-off development teams due to closer cultural and linguistic ties, as well as the ability to communicate throughout the workday. 

Nearshore teams also offer a cost-effective alternative to working with contractors or consultants in-house. In this case, clients may not have the resources to provide the workspace, tools, and technologies needed to accommodate the development team, which typically consists of five or more members. Obtaining these resources within the project budget is often impractical and will also, in most cases, significantly delay the start of the project.

Communication and Culture Factors

It’s also worth pointing out that the communication challenges of outsourcing go well beyond location and technical constraints, which in today’s era, are relatively easy to overcome. Cultural differences and language barriers, however, present a different set of challenges that make collaboration a lot harder. 

Here are some common issues you’ll want to avoid:

  • Trouble with technical terminology. The members of an outsourced team may be able to read and write in English with reasonable proficiency, but a verbal conversation involving technical terminology is typically a much more difficult task.
  • Organizational structure. US companies typically have fewer hierarchical levels in the workplace compared to other countries. Depending on where your team is from, you may find that some workers have trouble collaborating with someone who is several levels above them in the organizational hierarchy.
  • Difficulty participating in meetings. In some cases, non-native English speakers may feel self-conscious about speaking out during meetings, while in others, peer pressure might also prevent team members from fully engaging in discussions with the client. This environment runs in direct opposition to the collaborative, supportive culture required for Agile and DevOps methodologies.

Communication barriers become particularly serious when they result in misunderstood functional requirements and productivity losses. Worst case scenario: misunderstandings could go undetected until the project is beyond repair–a costly, frustrating situation on both sides.

Software Engineering Outsourcing on Your Terms

Tiempo Development combines Agile methodology with nearshore development, bringing the best value possible to our clients–high-performance, bilingual teams, the latest technologies, and a nearshore business model that offers cost-savings on your time. Learn more about our approach to software engineering outsourcing by booking a free consultation with one of our development experts.

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