Over the years I’ve seen a lot of excellent small online businesses fail. A lack of capital to see the business through unforeseen events, a change in the macro environment that has fundamentally altered the playing field and evolutions in technology have all played their part. But there is one determining factor I have seen play out time and again that needs to be addressed, namely, you are nowhere without a reliable software developer.
Out sourcing a software development project overseas can reduce costs considerably but is fraught with dangers. Not only do you need to research and source a developer who you can trust implicitly but you also need to overcome the not insignificant barriers of first hand supervision, accountability and language. Get it wrong and all the cost savings you were hoping to make will be washed away by delays, stoppages and, in some instances, the need to start all over again with a local, more costlier developer.
So just how do you avoid these pitfalls and ensure a smooth and successful project is delivered on time and on budget? The following tips were learnt through hard bitter experience by a number of clients. I hope they prove of value to you.
1. Conduct forensic due diligence. Wherever possible ask for references and speak to past customers so as to get an understanding of the company’s capabilities. If the developers will not relinquish such testimonials under the guise of privacy move on.
2. Prepare detailed blueprints of everything you require of the software. Go through this at length both in detailed emails ensuring to use plain English at all times and over the phone.
3. Guard against instructions being lost in translation. Ensure that confirmation emails at each stage of the consulting process are sent so you have a paper trail of past agreements. Spend 75% of your projected project time working on the planning stage.
4. Draw up clear final specs with timelines agreed for each stage. Do not leave anything ambiguous. If possible, agree payments in stages at each development cycle benchmark so you are paying the total agreed fee in instalments.
5. Pay a local developer to act as a consultant throughout the process and inspect the final specs before signing off on the project.
6. Agree weekly or fortnightly reviews between the respective project managers and minute the discussions. Whilst the agreed blueprints should safeguard you, do not assume anything. Such calls are an important contact base to ensure the project is moving along as planned.
7. Always ask for a copy of source code to be sent at regular agreed intervals.
The above points should be the cornerstone to any overseas out sourcing of software development. Never assume anything about the working practises, technical knowledge or grasp of language of your software partner. Pry, test and remain vigilant throughout.
When you get things right you can save a great deal of money and provide you with a competitive advantage. Get it wrong and it can be a costly if not tragic mistake for your business.