Today’s world is full of cookie-cutter solutions for nearly every technological need.
However, these ready-made solutions are designed to generate quick profits for the creator and often fall short of helping businesses achieve specific goals.
Your business has specific goals that require a customized approach to everything from website design and software development. You could hire an entire in-house IT team, but you’ll spend a fortune on training, resources, and employee-related expenses.
The optimal solution is to outsource your custom software development needs. Although outsourcing provides a number of benefits to small-and-medium-sized businesses, there are some downsides worth considering.
The pros and cons of outsourcing custom software development are outlined below.
Although, with the right approach, you can circumvent the cons of outsourcing and obtain the powerful software solutions you need.
1. Development costs
Every business wants to save money and cut costs wherever possible. Outsourcing, rather than hiring an in-house team, is the first step to saving money. However, outsourcing won’t automatically save you money. You need to be vigilant and choose the right development team.
Pros & cons of outsourced software development costs
Pro: Predictable development costs
Outsourcing your software development needs can slash capital and operational expenses. If you’re not a software development company, you’ll pay far more to keep an in-house software development team on your payroll.
If you keep an in-house team on payroll, you’ll need to keep those employees busy when you don’t have any active development projects. The busywork you’d give to in-house software developers could easily be hired out as another position at a lower rate of pay. There’s no sense in paying a software developer’s salary for busywork.
By outsourcing custom software development, you’ll only pay for the work you need completed. You’ll have access to a team of software developers ready to take on new projects as they arise.
Con: An independent developer could end up costing more money
Depending on who you choose to work with, you could end up paying more for outsourcing your software development project. For example, say you come across an impressive development portfolio and want to hire that developer. After submitting a proposal, you discover the talent behind the portfolio is a popular in-demand developer who charges a premium for their services.
Some independent developers command premium fees simply because they contract with large corporations.
Who wouldn’t want to work with the developers who built the software that powers a tech giant? Working with popular developers sounds like a great experience, but it’s not necessary to get high-quality work.
The cost of an independent developer will also vary by their location. For instance, a U.S.-based developer will usually charge more than an overseas developer simply because the cost of living in the United States is much higher. However, overseas developers can be equally talented as U.S.-based developers.
The cost-saving solution
Make cost-conscious choices to save money when outsourcing your small business software development projects. A popular developer won’t necessarily produce better work than equally skilled developers who haven’t branded themselves on the backs of giant corporations.
Narrow down your choices first by results, then by cost
Get project quotes from multiple development teams so you have a larger pool to narrow down. Avoid eliminating a development team based on price before you’ve researched the quality of results they deliver.
First look at each team’s portfolio and play with interactive samples of work produced for their clients. If you like the work, ask the company for permission to contact their client(s) to get a direct referral. This will also help you verify that the development team you’re talking to did, in fact, build the project in their portfolio. In today’s world you have to be discerning.
Once you narrow down your list to include only the teams with adequate skills, that’s when you should narrow them down further by cost.
2. Access to talent
When you need custom software development, you need access to talent. Some projects may require a team with a diverse range of talents. By outsourcing, you have access to virtually any development team you can find.
Pros & cons of outsourced software development talent
Pro: Access to highly skilled experts
Outsourcing gives you access to highly skilled software development experts. These experts have dedicated their careers to developing projects that make their clients more successful.
The average software development team consists of experts in various programming languages, but also contains experts in project management, client communication, marketing, and even subject matter experts. That means if you’re a marketing agency, it’s possible to find a software development company with expertise in your industry; that expertise will drive the project forward with laser focus industry outsiders can’t provide.
Con: Complex proprietary software needs could take longer than expected
When you need proprietary software with basic features common to many software projects, most development teams will have an easy time creating whatever you need. Software developers keep chunks of code and even entire libraries and frameworks to reuse and save time. However, when you need custom software that functions differently with complex branded specs, your project could take longer than you might expect.
For instance, say you need a multiple-choice quiz that weighs results much differently than standard quizzes. Standard quizzes are programmed to give weight to each answer as a numerical value and the sum total of all answers automatically generates the results. Any software developer can create this type of quiz. However, what if you need the final result to be altered based on how previous questions were answered and the time it takes the subject to select an answer?
Some developers won’t already have a framework for scoring a quiz in this manner and will need to create it from scratch.
In actuality, this type of quiz wouldn’t be that difficult for developers to create, but if you need any kind of proprietary software that functions outside the scope of existing frameworks and libraries, prepare for extended development time with an outsourced development team.
The solution to a speedy development process
If you want a speedy development process, document your ideas in detail before contacting companies for quotes. Providing in-depth information to a development team will give you more accurate cost and timeline quotes.
Communication is one of the most important aspects of working with a software development company. As a client, you don’t want any details overlooked or misunderstood. You and your development team will need plenty of patience for refining and clarifying your communications.
Pros & cons of communicating with outsourced software development teams
Pro: Communicating with clients effectively is routine for developers
Development teams are used to communicating with clients day in and day out. In fact, a large portion of software development is communication. Developers expect a high level of back and forth communication to clarify ideas because they need to understand a client’s project fully before getting started.
Without effective communication skills, a software development company won’t be in business long. If the outsourced team you’re looking at hiring has plenty of experience, their communication skills are likely to be good.
Con: Different time zones
Working with a development team 12 hours ahead of your time zone is challenging. You either need to get up extremely early to discuss your project, or you need to work late into the evening. Either way, both parties are frequently inconvenienced.
When your development team is a half a day (or more) ahead of you, sharing ideas becomes a drawn-out process, meetings get postponed or canceled, and it sometimes takes days to reschedule.
The solution to smooth communication with an outsourced development team
If you don’t want a 12-hour gap between you and your development team, you don’t need to outsource to an overseas company. All you need to do is look for a nearshore or onshore development team.
If you’ve never heard of these terms, a nearshore development team resides in a nearby country that shares your time zone within a few hours. An onshore development team resides in your country and might be in a different time zone, but not the extreme of a 12 or 16-hour difference.
Successful software projects inevitably require flexible programmers and flexible clients. Sometimes developers need to rework a project to fit a client’s specs and other times the client needs to change their specs to fit within technological constraints.
Pros & cons of flexibility in the development process
Pro: Outsourced teams know flexibility is important
Outsourced software development companies know clients want flexibility and can be exceptionally flexible with projects. For instance, sometimes clients don’t know exactly what they want until they start seeing working prototypes. Professional developers will help clients by showing them simple examples of what’s possible to stimulate a client’s creativity.
Professional developers expect clients to change their mind and want a project to go in a different direction, so they work on projects in shorter bursts to limit the amount of changes. This eliminates the need to scrap time-consuming work and opens the door for better, more frequent feedback from clients. The end result of flexibility is a software application that more closely matches the client’s vision.
Con: Your project will cost more if you request too many changes or wait too long to make requests
A flexible development team is great, but the cost of a project can skyrocket if you wait too long to make requests to change direction. As a client, it’s hard to know what requests will require developers to rewrite large chunks of code.
The solution to maintaining flexibility while saving money
A software development project can only maintain flexibility through clear communication. For example, if a project needs to change direction, that needs to be communicated as early as possible before, say, a month’s worth of work is completed. Software developers can be extremely flexible when it comes to changing a project’s direction and scope, but they need to know as early as possible.
Be an active participant in your development project
Software development is 50% coding and 50% client participation. Clients should be equally involved in their software development project as their team of programmers.
A development team’s duty is to produce and refine a project until the final result meets a client’s vision. A client’s duty is to clearly communicate all requirements and specs to the developers and ensure all client deliverables are provided on time and in full.
Essentially, the key to maintaining flexibility (without raising your project’s cost) is being responsible for communicating early and often with developers. You’ll help your developers by providing deliverables on time and being patient with communicating and refining your needs.
5. Contracts for long-term, ongoing maintenance
Many outsourced software development teams will provide an option for maintaining the completed software application. This is especially true for mobile apps. It makes sense to have the developers of your project do the maintenance.
A reliable software development team will stand behind their work long after the project is completed. They’ll provide patches, updates, and support for you and your end users in some form.
Pros & cons of long-term maintenance agreements
Pro: Ongoing support and maintenance
Many professional outsourced software development companies will actively insert clauses into their contracts to provide optional ongoing modifications as your end users test the software. They’ll also provide support for you as you learn how to manage the back-end of your project.
Con: Allowing other developers to modify your project could void your maintenance contract
Once your software project has been completed, consult with your development team before allowing anyone else to access and/or modify the code. You might have an expert programmer in-house, but allowing them to alter just one line of code could void your maintenance contract even if they don’t break the code.
Professional software developers are extremely protective of their work, and for a good reason. No matter how skilled a developer is, if they didn’t write the program they’re modifying, they might break the code. Developers generally frown on having to fix problems caused by DIY developers and people outside of their team.
6. Preferred programming languages
By outsourcing custom software development, you have access to programmers who code in virtually any programming language you need.
Pros & cons of preferred programming languages
Pro: Outsourcing provides access to a variety of languages
Many software development teams consist of multilingual programmers and/or individual teams that program in different languages. Many teams also have developers that specialize in the top programming languages like PHP, Python, and HTML5.
Each programming language has its own unique set of pros and cons, and some languages are great for certain projects, but not for others. If you’re not a programmer, you have no way of knowing what language is best. Having access to multilingual developers means they’ll help you figure out what language is right for your project.
Con: Some development teams only work with certain languages
It’s rare for software developers to be proficient in only one language, but sometimes that’s the case. Although a programmer might be an expert, your project may require components written in more than one language.
The solution to building your project with the right language
Skilled software development teams are not only well versed in multiple programming languages, but they won’t build your application in a brittle language when there’s a stronger option available. They also won’t try to convince you to use the only language they know.
To get your custom software applications built in the right language from the start, hire a company that employs multi-lingual developers. Even if you don’t understand the programming languages, ask your development company what languages their programmers use. If they only program in one language, get a second quote before beginning your project.
The best person to determine what language your application should be written in is your software development team.
7. Preferences for project management applications
Every project should be managed in one central location. However, working with a development team makes that a bit challenging. You’ll need to compromise on the way you track and manage projects in a way that doesn’t hinder the development process.
Pros & cons of project management application preferences
Pro: A development team already has a working project management system
An experienced software development team will already have a project management system that works to keep the team on track. You won’t need to micromanage a solid team.
The only problem is that you won’t necessarily have access to their project management platform. If that’s the case, you’ll need to trust that they’re managing their part of the project in the best possible way that works for the team.
Con: Your development team might not want to use your software
In a perfect world, it would be great to see the progress of your custom software application right inside your existing project management software. However, getting a software development team to use your preferred task tracking tool may not work out.
Software developers have their own preferences for managing projects and many adhere to Agile or Scrum methodologies. These methodologies aren’t always compatible with the task management software businesses use for employees. Asking a software developer to contain their entire progress inside your task management system will only create more work that you’ll have to fund.
You can, however, create simple milestones and tasks for your developers to check off inside your preferred software, but this won’t necessarily be met with open arms. Developers have so much work to do that tracking their work in two separate applications will be cumbersome.
Custom software development is a partnership
Partner with Dev.co for custom software development
We want to partner with you for your custom software needs. We work with SMBs as well as enterprise in a variety of industries including finance, marketing, healthcare, and agriculture.
Outsource your next custom web application, iOS or Android app with Dev.co and experience the quality of custom software development. Contact us today and let us know what you need and we’ll help bring your project to life.
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