Congratulations! You’ve landed on this blog post, which indicates that you’re interested in an offshore software development company — or are at least curious to find out more about the topic. As an offshore development team, we’re more than happy to expound on the ins and outs of offshoring and the myriad benefits it can bring to you. Done right, offshoring software needs can be one of the smartest decisions a company makes.
The world of offshore development isn’t all sunshine and roses, of course. Because of the inherent distance between client and developer, being able to use a standard sniff test to detect a high-quality organization from a bunk one is often difficult. Things that are often intuitive in making business deals are less so when distance gets involved. So, companies or individuals looking to hire offshore developers will need to be equipped with a unique knowledge set to separate the solid teams from suspect ones.
One could reasonably use the analogy that looking for an excellent offshore team is like digging for gold in a minefield. If you know where and how to dig, then great. But going in blind and without precautions could lead to…let’s just say, uncomfortable situations.
This article should hopefully arm you with the need-to-knows to navigate the nuances of outsourcing software development. There’s even nuance that separates outsourcing and offshoring, but that’s a fairly thick hair we’ll split another day. For now, we’ll help provide a strategy to identify the offshore software developers that are right for you.
Step 1: Understand the Basics of Offshore Software Development Services
The world’s more connected than ever before — taking advantage of that fact is a smart move.
Knowing just why offshore software development is valuable at all is a good beginning point. There are a few reasons why a company might decide to hire an offshore software team. We’ll start by looking at some of the positive aspects.
The Bright Side
First, deciding to outsource your software development projects can simply be more cost-effective than hiring in a high-wage, developed country like the USA, western European countries, and so on. A lower cost of living leads to lower wages. This means you can lower your development costs while the engineers on your offshore team still makes a good salary in their home country. A developer in Vietnam, for example, makes significantly more than the national average, and in many cases their salaries ensure a quite comfortable lifestyle.
Southeast Asia has surged in popularity in the offshore market in recent years due to its enormous pool of talent as well as its enthusiastic engineers. We’re big proponents of the Southeast Asia strategy, and we put our money where our mouth is — our offshore development center is based in Vietnam. You can read more about just why Vietnam can be a great bet for software solutions here.
Many other regions are famous for this, including countries in Eastern Europe like Ukraine, Belarus, and Poland, or south Asian countries — especially India. In general, developing countries is where you’ll find offshore development teams. The digital transformation of the economy is worldwide, and the trend isn’t stopping.
Second, in addition to lower costs, you can secure a high quality of development. Many offshore teams follow the same development processes and have the same high standards you’d find in onshore developers, and in many cases may have even more experience. The methodology and skills required in software development are fairly universal, so most in the industry are speaking the same language — at least technically.
Third, offshore teams are experienced in flexibility and are able to mold themselves to fit many different business needs. Whether you’re a startup or a big business, you can find what you need — e-commerce to blockchain, SaaS, mobile app development, frontend to backend and upside down. Whether you’re looking to hire a dedicated team or simply bolster your onshore team with extra talent, there’s a way to do it while lowering costs.
So, to recap — offshore development teams can lower your costs, provide a superb talent pool, and help your organization be flexible. That’s a pretty good start.
Everything falls somewhere on the risk/reward spectrum, and offshore software development is no different. We’ll look at some of the potential downsides of offshoring here, and ways to avoid or mitigate those problems.
One of the chief issues businesses run into when hiring overseas teams is a difference in culture. “Culture” itself is an extremely broad concept, but we’ll oversimplify here — this article does a relatively good job of breaking it down into potential roadblocks people may encounter. For reference, these roadblocks can show up in many different forms. We’ll look at a language barrier as an example.
Language and Culture Barriers
Miscommunications can be avoided if companies can understand each other’s cultures.
Language barriers present an obvious yet inscrutable challenge to any company working internationally. This is because language is far more than just the words spoken or written — it includes communication styles, expectations, forms of address, idiom, high context versus low context communication, and so on.
Such a topic can and does fill books, but if you’ve worked with people who speak another language you’ve inevitably run into at least some sort of language barrier. It’s unavoidable, but can be managed through a combination of simplifying speech and writing patterns and trying to meet the other person halfway.
We could carry on and go into detail on handling different communication styles, understanding expectations of authority, and so on, but that would lead us off topic.
So, we’ll give a bit of simple advice: It’s wonderfully helpful if the management structure of the offshore development team shares cultural similarities with their onshore partner. Sharing cultures can reduce these headaches to a minimum or eliminate them entirely, since very little will get lost in translation.
SmartDev helps avoid this potential problem by combining the management styles of European companies with Vietnamese technical expertise. We’re happy to have our feet firmly planted in both worlds, and to be the bridge between continents for our clients.
We’re expert time zone jugglers so you don’t have to be.
Time zones and their differences are another common hurdle, and dealing with them is unavoidable. However, differing time zones don’t always have to be a net negative — they can be used to a company’s advantage or at the very least worked around. For example, a company in Europe will be several hours behind developers in Southeast Asia, meaning that tasks may be completed overnight and show up fresh in email inboxes in the morning.
Managing time zones is a topic that could again cover much more space, and we may indeed cover it in a full article in the future. But for now, let’s continue.
Without further ado, let’s get to the steps you’ll want to go through to know just what you should look for in a team.
Step 2: Understand Your Needs
“Forward” is always a relative direction.
Naturally, the first task you’ll need to accomplish before you begin offshore team hunting is to fully understand your development needs. What final product do you expect to see? Do you need web development, application development, or mobile app development? Do you need a fully outsourced team or a dedicated development team to help with an in-house project? Are you looking for custom software development from the ground up or do you have a project begun that you need help expanding?
In a restaurant, you may be able to walk in not knowing what you want, ask the waiter to surprise you, and be satisfied with the results. Such is not the case in software development. A company needs to have a thorough understanding of what a successful product looks like before they begin reaching out to software development teams.
One example of a way a product development team could help you figure out just what you need is a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). Essentially, an MVP is the most basic, prototype version of an application that has all the core components and none of the bells and whistles. If you know you need a mobile application, for example, but you don’t exactly know how to go about it, an outsourcing company could help you figure out the key parts. From there, you can decide whether you want to go with Android/iOS native or hybrid — but that’s a different rabbit hole.
Whatever the case, you’ll need to have a clear picture of your goals and priorities before you begin. Passing off that task to a development team will cost you extra money and time, and leads to the risk of moving goalposts and frustration. Nail down just what you need so you can have reasonable expectations to work with, including the time frame you set for the project.
Step 3: Understand the Tech Behind Your Needs
Not sure which buttons you need to push? That’s ok — most tech companies are happy to help advise.
You don’t need to go too deep down the rabbit hole in this particular process, but knowing what tools will be used to build your product is crucial to making the right choice. After all, there are plenty of frameworks, coding languages, and so on. So, if you know that you want to have a web application built with React, for example (one of SmartDev’s areas of expertise, by the way), you’re already a step closer to knowing just who you need to hire.
There are a lot of factors at play in this part of the process, and much of this knowledge can seem arcane if you’re not well-versed in the tech industry. A company with a small team may not have anyone knowledgeable enough to know what tech they need, and that’s ok. A larger organization can draw on tech leads or similar tech-savvy employees’ knowledge of the latest technologies to get as close to the target as possible.
Step 4: Research the Right Offshore Software Development Company
The right tech company will be flexible enough to meet your needs.
This step is perhaps the most time consuming, but time spent finding the right company is time well spent indeed. Once you know just what final product you need and hopefully what technologies you want to accomplish it, you can set out to look for companies who are experts at those exact things.
As mentioned in the introduction, the usual sniff tests that can be conducted in country are much harder for remote teams. Face to face meetings are a wonderful way to establish trust, but an unnamed virus of unknown origin has made international travel a bit more difficult lately. Because of that, alternative methods are a must.
Your first and perhaps most obvious step should be to conduct online research. Any offshore software outsourcing company worth their salt will have a strong online presence, as well as evidence of their work readily available to view. A website check may seem simple enough, but a company’s website can tell you a lot about their company culture. Do they pay attention to detail? Is the site well designed and laid out? Do you notice errors in their copy or content? These things matter in the long run, and can give you an indication of a company’s level of quality assurance.
You may have heard the story about the band Van Halen requesting that there be a bowl in the green room with no brown M&M’s in it, and laughed at the seeming silliness of it. But there’s a clear reason for such scrutiny: A concert venue that clearly read the contract and paid attention to detail would have done so. A venue that overlooked seemingly minor details like that may have overlooked major details as well. It’s for this reason we suggest you pay a fair bit of scrutiny to a company’s website.
Step 5: Have A Video Call with the Development Center
Of course, few things can replace a phone or video call — it’s hard to imagine doing business with people you haven’t at least spoken to or seen yet. Inviting project managers, tech leads, or software engineers to join the call can help them use their instincts to determine whether or not your future software development partner passes muster.
Any decent company will be fully and succinctly able to explain their business processes, provide examples of previous software products that are similar to what you’re looking for, and be able to describe their project management abilities. They may try to explain Agile methodology to you — if you understand it already, feel free to stop them. If not, you may want to save that particular talk for another time, because charts and graphs may be necessary to fully elucidate the process.
Outsource and Win
Once you’ve found the right offshore partner, celebrations are in order.
There are quite a few benefits to hiring an offshore team in addition to hitting the bullseye on the quality/cost matrix. For one thing, you’ll be hiring a team that’s already established and experienced, and won’t have to add a potentially clunky extra segment to your company. What’s more, you’ll be able to take some of your workload and pass it off to someone else — often a welcome blessing in busy environments.
Wherever you are in the process of looking for an offshore software development company, we’d love to talk to you. Feel free to contact us to request a quote, discuss your needs, or begin a dialogue to see just how we could help your business thrive. That’s what we love to see.