The rise of international outsourcing has become a defining feature of our age. It is rocking the very foundations of how we do business, calling into question our past wisdom about corporate organizational frameworks. Nowhere is this trend more apparent than in the world of IT. Whether you are a developer looking for clients or a software founder looking for a developer, the newly globalized marketplace has opened up channels for work relationships like never before. However, while these new trends are invigorating, it is important to note that there are pitfalls when outsourcing development overseas that have to be acknowledged if you want to see your software project succeed.
Outsourcing Software Development Pros and Cons
To have a balanced view of how (and if) you should incorporate offshore development into your project, it’s important to understand both the perks and risks of the options available to you. Broadly speaking, we are going to divide those options into, on the one hand, outsourcing development overseas, and on the other, finding a local software development company.
The discussion on this page will be primarily focused on the outsourcing of development overseas and how it might relate to your needs. (For a more detailed comparison on the two options, the difference between outsourced and nearshore development.)
Let’s start by having a look at:
The perks of outsourcing development overseas
Who doesn’t want to be part of a trend on the rise, and at the forefront of how business is changing? The tech world is all about staying on top of the most efficient way of accomplishing your goals, and outsourcing development overseas appears to be exactly that.
So now for the big question—is outsourcing development overseas actually that efficient?
One thing is for sure, it can be cost-efficient. If you’ve so much as glanced at the rates of some overseas developers, you will have quickly been able to see just how competitive this option can be. Lower costs of living and local average salaries both come into play in the international market for software developers.
As a result, cost efficiency is the biggest drawcard for most startups to use overseas developers, particularly if they are unable to bankroll large payments to begin with.
In addition to the cost, outsourcing development overseas can also allow you to get small jobs done quickly without much hassle (It’s important to emphasize small as the operative word here, as this may not apply to larger projects). Getting a piece of work done can be as simple as finding the right person on a freelance platform, sending a brief, and getting your work in on deadline.
But for all the advantages, disadvantages also arise.
Pitfalls When Outsourcing Development Overseas
As ideal as outsourcing development overseas may sound, it’s important to take off the rose-tinted glasses before making a decision. It is somewhat topic to assume that projects will:
always go according to brief
be completed hassle free
not require major (and expensive) cleanups after the job is already done.
Why is it important to be so cautious when approaching the issue of outsourcing software development overseas?
While we could go into the minutiae of what we have seen go wrong in the past, it often boils down to three basic, inescapable realities:
Time zone difficulties
Differences in work style
No matter how hard one tries to get around these facts, they will remain omnipresent, usually for the duration of your project.
Let’s take a closer look:
If your developer is unable to understand the intricacies of what is needed for your project, they will be unable to deliver. Particularly if you are requiring them to deliver an end-to-end service where they take your software from concept to launch, you have to know that they are on the same page as you. An endless back and forth littered with misunderstandings may leave you feeling more frustrated than excited about your idea.
Of course, there are numerous international collaborations where both parties share a common language—but even in these cases, cultural barriers and different standards of expertise can be detrimental to your relationship.
Now onto the next immovable reality:
Time Zone Differences
While you may think this may not be such an issue, wait until you are desperate to get hold of your developer right before a deadline while they are sleeping soundly (as they should be at 3 am.)
Even if you are not working to a tight deadline, scheduling in moments in the day when you can communicate with your collaborator in realtime can be a challenge that can devastate your efficiency. This simple fact alone can delay your delivery times and end up costing you both in time and money down the line. The last thing you want is to realize too late that the time zone difference simply can’t work for you, and that you will have to switch to a local developer midway through your project.
Differences in Work Style
Perhaps the most complex of the barriers to overcome are foreign developers who are not familiar with North American corporate culture, may find it overly aggressive and fraught with expectations that they may feel are well above the norm. Let’s face it—Western culture prioritizes efficiency in a way that may not always be healthy. This can cause fissures between you and your developers as you find unworkable differences in what should be expected from the relationship.
While outsourcing development overseas is certainly enticing, it is important that you have a comprehensive view of the reality of this sort of working relationship before you do so. It’s important to realize that while this may seem like the cheaper option upfront, it may end up being the more expensive one down the line, with what you might have to spend making up for lost time.
As far as we’ve advanced, we still have not been able to replace a good ol’ face-to-face working relationship as a software development company.