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6 Mistakes to avoid when working with an offshore outsourcing partner for software development.
Software outsourcing is a highly popular option for companies looking to cut business costs, bring experts on to their team, or focus exclusively on core competencies. It is a process that also helps companies expand their operations, as it can mitigate risks, help discover new markets, and get a business closer to its end-users.
While the multiple benefits of outsourcing make it an attractive option for businesses, it can get quite tricky if not done carefully. When working with an offshore partner, even small mistakes like the lack of proper communication can result in a project delay. Hence, it is important for you to be aware of the simple yet common mistakes that can occur when working with them.
So here we list out 6 crucial mistakes that you should avoid while working with an offshore partner to ensure that your project is successful:
1. Not documenting your requirements in a detailed format
Usually, while working with an offshore partner, you are in contact with either the sales team or the management team, and do not get a chance to interact directly with the design and development team. In such scenarios, if your requirements are not documented clearly, or are communicated verbally, there is a very high probability of loss of significant details about your project in the communication process. As a result, the team which is developing your product may not have complete clarity regarding its specifications.
Hence, to ensure that no information is lost, it is important that you create a detailed product specification document (PRD) which outlines the vision, requirements, and the deliverables of the project and share it with the entire team including designers and developers. Both you and your development team should be working towards the same product, else it may lead to multiple iterations which could have been avoided in the first place.
2. Not having an effective communication strategy
When working with an offshore partner, there are times when the team gets less serious regarding the project due to not having heard from the client in a while. Often, the sales and management teams need to be pursued in order to ensure on-time delivery. This can lead to certain forms of resistance and a loss in productivity. Communication is a must to dispel such elements.
Moreover, a lack of uniformity in guidelines, directions, and decisions can be damaging to the project as this directly leads to inconsistency in implementation and action. One-way communication can also be harmful to the outsourced project, because it does not allow those involved to recognize the limitations of the project. Continuously following up with your team, and asking for feedback can get rid of such issues. Try talking to your team at least once to thrice a week to check up on their progress. This also helps ensure that they are following the right work and tech processes. Additionally, your discussions with the developer and the team need to be meaningful, specific, and relevant so that no ideas are lost while communicating.
Half the problems that crop up during offshore outsourcing can be solved through an effective communication strategy.
If you are miles away from your team, try visiting them. Meet them and explain your vision to them, as a project has higher chances of success if there are shared goals and values, which increases motivation (and hence, productivity).
3. Not validating the skills of the development team
As mentioned above, clients often interact with the sales team and the management team, and do not get a chance to meet the designer and developers. As expected of them, sales people often exaggerate and oversell the skills, credentials, and abilities of their developers. While the sales team that you interact with may be impressive, it isn’t necessary that the development team will be too.
Imagine investing thousands of dollars and paying someone to create your project, only for it to be disappointingly substandard. It is such a waste of time, money, and effort.
Thus, before you sign on a developer or a team of developers, it is best to check their skills and not just their portfolio. Before handing them a full-fledged product creation project, ask them to create a pilot project to gauge their skills and check the quality of their work. It is a very safe option for the development of your product, and will set an example of whether or not you are able to work in sync with them.
If there is a tech person in your network, ask them to join your project, just to check the quality of the work done. And if you understand the tech aspects of your project, interview the development team. Make sure that the projects the agency claims to have worked on are actually theirs, and that the developers you are interviewing have actually worked on them. If you find that your team of developers isn’t qualified enough to do the job, ask your agency to change the team.
4. Not testing the delivered software thoroughly
Based on observation, most clients don’t do an in-depth testing of their software. Take the example of a social networking app. The search feature and profile creation parts may work properly. However, other minor parts such as the deactivation may not be functioning as well as expected.
Even if the app looks nice and works perfectly when you skim through it, it may be programmed poorly. It is always best to keep a reliable Quality Check team, and test the UI thoroughly, so that no bugs or issues go unreported.
5. Not being thorough in the contract
Sometimes clients are very excited to get started on a project immediately. Consequently, in such a scenario, there are chances that the contract created is not specific about every detail of the deliverable. This can have terrible consequences – not having outlined contract duration, milestones, and service level agreements (SLAs) can lead to delays in the project.
Every important point related to the project commencement, execution, and delivery must be highlighted in the contract. A contract is drafted not just to protect you and your project should in case if something goes wrong, it is drafted in order to ensure that things don’t go awry in the first place.
It is also important to decide who will own the data and the final product as well, and ensure that it is communicated in no uncertain terms to the offshore partner.
6. Not addressing cultural barriers
Ask a seasoned outsourcer what his biggest worry is when outsourcing, and he will tell you that it is the differences in culture that usually affect his work, and thus, are a cause for worry.
Thus, when interacting with an offshore team, it is imperative that you find effective solutions to the challenges presented by cross-cultural communication. The chances of the developer not being on the same page as you are high if you haven’t gotten past the cultural barriers. When left unaddressed, cultural barriers have been known to slow down outsourced projects massively.
Different people have different ideas of how conflicts can be solved, and what is “sensitive information” and who it can be shared with. In some places a 5 PM deadline is a 5 PM deadline, whereas in other places, a 5 PM deadline is a “basically EOD” kind of deadline.
For example, age and seniority play a huge role in the Indian workplace. To this day, even in the metropolitan cities in India, there exists an organizational hierarchy, where every worker has a defined place. The workplace is formal, and the higher-ups are referred to as “sir” or “madam”.
Compare this with the US, where everyone is referred to on a first-name basis, and the workplace has a generally informal setting. Moreover, despite an organizational hierarchy, the workplace is an area where everyone is allowed to voice their opinions. One may criticize the work of their peer, but still hold great regard for them.
Cultural issues are bound to be present when working with someone across the world, but it is up to you to get past it. The best solution to cultural barriers is getting to know the other party in an informal setting, and in some cases, workshops or sessions to educate both parties about the others’ work-specific cultural practices can be used to banish stereotypes of any kind.
Globalisation has made it easier for people around the world to connect, but we often underestimate the importance of actually understanding each other.
While outsourcing can give your company an extra edge, it is critical that your outsourcing strategy does not fail. By avoiding making such common mistakes, you can give your project a higher success rate, and create your app in an efficient and cost-effective way.