Building an in-house team of skilled developers can be tricky if your company is located in a place where experienced developers come at a steep price. In practice, the means anywhere in Western Europe and the United States.
Companies that struggle to find talent locally often decide to outsource a part of their IT services to another business. When doing that, they can choose from companies located in a different city, country, or even continent. Offshoring has become a viable alternative for companies looking for reliable tech skills that are readily available, even if coming from the other side of the world.
Read this guide to offshore software development to see the advantages it brings to organizations and best practices to help you make the most of it.
What is offshore software development?
The term refers to a form of outsourcing software development tasks to another company.
Technically speaking, it’s a form of cooperation where an organization decides to outsource a software-based project to a third-party entity situated in a remote location; a place off the shores of the client’s residence. Just to give you an example: it can be a company located in New York City delegating software development tasks to a business offering software development services in Poland.
At Sunscrapers, we have an excellent track of successful collaborations with businesses located as far as the United States.
Here’s an example:
We started our cooperation with an NYC-based company 15Five by providing them with one developer, today delivering an extended team of five full-time developers who help the company achieve its goals.
See more details about our cooperation with 15five and watch this video that shows how we approach offshoring:
Benefits of hiring an offshore software development company
Outsourcing software development to teams located far away bring companies many benefits:
- Access to top skills – by outsourcing IT to an external provider, you’ll get access to the knowledge and expertise provided by developers who have plenty of experience in the field and have worked on many projects – some of which may have been similar to yours. As a result, they’re aware of the common problems or issues, bringing tangible value to your company and positioning your project for success.
- Focus on core values – by outsourcing parts of your IT services that are less mission-critical; you’ll enable your team to concentrate on what matters most for your business growth: your core business values and functionalities of your software.
- Faster time to market – an external provider will help you accelerate your delivery speed, all the while maintaining the quality you’re aiming for.
- Flexibility and scalability – external providers can quickly scale a development team up or down for you to match the changing needs of your business. This is a key advantage of outsourcing over hiring in-house. The developers you recruit will become a fixed expense for your business – while an remote team can be easily scaled or reduced when needed. For example, you can reduce the development team once your app is ready and all you need is its maintenance.
- Reduced cost of resources – an in-house team requires many resources that come as part of all outsourcing contracts: workspace supplies, laptops, software licenses. If you hire a remote team, you won’t have to worry about any of that.
- Find more details about the pros of outsourcing in this article: Benefits of outsourcing IT services
How offshore software development works
Outsourcing collaborations come in many shapes and sizes. For example, when teaming up with a software development agency located in a foreign country, you can:
- Delegate the entire project to the remote team,
- Delegate only certain parts or features of your project,
- Hire a dedicated team of developers,
- Hire developers who would become an extension to your in-house team.
Dedicated teams – note that the dedicated team model mentioned above isn’t geographically specific – instead, it focuses on issues such as control and ownership. The external provider will have full control over the dedicated team during the project and take care of issues such as project management.
Extended teams – this model, on the other hand, relies on providing the missing software development expertise and skills to your in-house team. Developers provided by the agency will become an integral part of your team, enabling you to maximize the potential of your in-house engineers.
How to manage offshore software development
At Sunscrapers, we have a lot of experience in collaborating with offshore clients on software development projects. Over the years, we’ve learned that for offshore relationships to work, we need to have well-defined and structured processes and practices.
Here are some of the things that guarantee smooth outsourcing cooperation even if the offshore team is located in the most remote of foreign countries.
Define your goals
Setting clear, actionable goals for the offshore team is critical to the successful delivery of your software project. Without well-defined objectives, developers might not know what they need to do exactly and, as a result, feel unsupported and lose their productivity. And all of that translates into higher project risk and less profits for your company.
Remember that remote software developers don’t have the insight and access to your business. You need to provide guidance and remember that even if these developers are experienced, they still need to know what your core business values are and how the project will help you reach them.
How to set objectives? Use the SMART system:
- S – Specific. Be precise when describing your software project to the remote team.
- M – Measurable. Your goal needs to be quantifiable or measurable. “Offer good customer support” isn’t a measurable goal. “Support 10 languages” is.
- A – Achievable, or Agreed-Upon. Your objective needs to be realistic, considering that resources that are available to you at the moment. Setting an unrealistic goal might seem inspiring, but it’s counterproductive because it sets an expectation that can’t be achieved.
- R – Relevant. Set an objective that aligns with your business strategy and core values.
- T – Timely. Set a deadline for your goal.
Pick the right team
Skills are an important factor when choosing the offshore team, but it’s not the only one.
If you’d like to outsource a large project, picking a small development company is a bad idea. They simply might lack the skills, resources, or experience in projects of a similar scale. In our experience, smaller teams of highly skilled software developers deliver better results than a large team. It’s easier to manage smaller teams and communication is more streamlined, ensuring the project’s success.
Choosing a large and flashy software development agency might seem like a good idea, but they’re usually expensive and set in their ways – and flexibility is a key prerequisite to successful offshore collaborations. Smaller, highly-specialized companies are more flexible and eager to please clients by understanding their goals better and adding real value to the project.
Always check the references and portfolio. A reliable offshore software development company will be ready to pass you the contact data of previous or current clients. Choose a technology partner who can back up their claims with actual results of the software development services they have provided to other companies.
You need to have a regular communication routine with the remote team. It doesn’t matter if it’s email, video conferencing tools, instant messaging apps, or phone calls – you need a team that can communicate with you easily. Fluency in a shared language is critical here. And expert providers know that. We make sure all our developers are fluent in English with our demanding recruitment process.
Consider the time zone of your remote development team, as well. If team members are located on the other side of the world, software developers are likely to be asleep when you’re awake. That's how time difference ends up causing serious communication issues – not to mention the fact that it’s just plain inconvenient.
Eastern Europe has recently become one of the top destinations for offshore software development. And for a good reason! It offers excellent connections to countries located in Western Europe and the time difference is bearable when working with clients from the United States. Our location allows us to easily collaborate with companies from both the East and West Coast of the US.
Read this: 6 tips for coordinating internal and external development
Once your application development kicks off, make updates regular and productive. Updates allow to quickly identify differences in expectations between your in-house and remote team before they transform into serious problems. Custom software development is a complex process that goes way beyond writing code.
You need to prioritize asynchronous communication to make the process more transparent to team members. Here's how you can accomplish that:
- Communicate and document all your decisions. It's a mistake to consider offshore development as simple outsourcing of tasks. The software development team needs to understand the motivation behind your decisions to become fully engaged in the project.
- Create a vocabulary for your project. It will help you improve clarity of communication and prevent any misunderstandings. The definition of done is a good starting point, but you should also agree on other terms such as 'user'.
- Organize regular short status meetings for the entire team - both offshore and in-house. That's how you can improve collaboration and coordination in an offshore development scenario.
- Keep the time for calls and meetings as consistent as possible.
A note about technology: Make using video-conferencing tools a habit for your teams. Seeing other team members is essential for communication, especially at the very start of the project when teams are meeting each other for the first time. Video meetings are more engaging, interactive, and fruitful. It's the recipe for success in the early phases of offshore software development.
Even if it works as a self-standing unit, a remote development team still needs your guidance. If you think that ordering a perfect app and having it delivered a few weeks later is the reality of offshore development, you’re expecting way too much.
A good technology partner will now how to work independently within an offshore software development scenario. But if you want amazing results, you need to engage in collaboration fully. Here’s how you can achieve that:
Assign a project manager
Your in-house and remote team need to work in tandem, all the while overlooked by a project manager and/or product owner who knows how to manage teams. Being too hands-off is a mistake just as deadly as micromanagement. A project manager serves as a bridge for the two teams, fostering communication and making sure that everyone is on the same page during the software development process.
Make the most of technology for collaboration
Starting with basics such as Google product suite and instant messaging apps like Slack, you need to build a collection of tools that enable collaboration in the most efficient and intuitive ways. Remote workers can’t just walk across the office to check in with their coworkers. You need to provide them with the next best thing – a digital equivalent of an open-space office. There’s plenty of software on the market that helps to achieve that.
Organize regular demos
A demo is a demonstration of the incremental result of the work carried out at the end of each iteration. The main goal here is showing what the offshore development team managed to achieve during the sprint. It also helps to understand how application development is proceeding and whether the team's performance meets the expected requirements. During a demon, the product owner or the project manager usually gives the team plenty of constructive feedback, ensuring that all of it is documented and readily available to the offshore team responsible for building the app.
When conducting software development offshore, it's key that you use project management strategies that promote teamwork and collaboration. Outsourcing the development of your app to a remote team is much more than just delegating the task of writing code to another company. The success of your application relies on the quality of collaboration you achieve with your technology partner.
Remote teams do their best work when they’re engaged and invested in your project. Sure, it’s the provider’s job to ensure that their employees deliver the results you require. But you can get so much more out of an remote team if you try these best practices for driving engagement.
Recognize the input and success of the remote team. At the same time, hold the team accountable for problems and roadblocks they cause during the project. By offering feedback on a regular basis, you’ll ensure that they feel like they’re part of your team. That will, in turn, make them develop a sense of ownership of the project.
Organize regular status meetings
Drive engagement by having your teams meet via video on a regular basis. Seeing a teammate’s face results in greater engagement and mutual understanding. A weekly call will help keep everyone on track. And if you plan to follow an agile methodology like Scrum, daily stand-up meetings are a really valuable ceremony in this context.
This quick 15-minute get-together helps to synchronize the work of development teams located in different countries and time zones. The main objective of standup meeting is share the goals of the day, set the agenda and discuss any problems that may have arisen during application development.
Check also: 7 Agile best practices you should know
Make the remote team part of your company
Make an active effort to foster a good relationship with your remote team. Trust us; it’s worth it. Offshoring software development is riddled with challenges, and it's in your best interest to unite teams working in two different countries or even continents. Make sure to include them in company-wide status updates and calls, when it’s appropriate. Tell them about reached milestones and successes, especially the ones they’ve contributed to directly.
Build trust between teams
A distributed work environment doesn't help in team bonding. But there are some things you can do to make software development smoother.Agile development teams thrive in environments that promote autonomy and trust. If the offshore development team doesn't feel that it's contributing to the overall project success, its potential is reduced. If you simply give the team requirements to write code, team members won't feel motivated or involved in the project. Treat the team like a partner, create a sense of purpose, and help them understand the business context. That's how you build trust between the software team and your in-house teams, be it technical or business.
Hungry for knowledge? Check also: Successful remote team cooperation
We hope this article helps you choose the best outsourcing cooperation model for your business. Our experience taught us that offshore software development can give an incredible boost to businesses that are growing fast and need specific expertise on board as soon as possible. Gaining the support of skilled experts takes these companies to the next level.
Are you looking for an offshore development team with outstanding expertise and experience in offshore collaborations? Get in touch with us; we have an excellent track record of successful offshore cooperation with clients across different industries.