9 Ways to Uncover More Value From Offshore Software Development Contracts
(HINT: Start with Nearshoring.)
Working with an offshore software development contractor can mean letting go of a lot of outsourcing standards and expectations compared to working with domestic firms in the U.S.
Even if the contracting price is low, the cost of low expectations can mean you still end up paying more as you try to implement bug-plagued systems down the road.
We at Jobsity have got nine smart ways you can turn that around, take charge of your offshore software development contract, and make it live up to or even exceed your expectations. Let’s examine those.
First, follow some contracting best practices to get the most bang for your buck.
1. Go Nearshore vs. Offshore
The greater the distance you are from your software team, the more difficult it becomes to get the best value out of the contract because of the time zone differences, when you can’t discuss project details in real time.
The burgeoning tech centers in South America, especially Ecuador and Colombia, are bringing affordable, nearshore software development closer to U.S. shores and, importantly, within the same shared time zones. The proximity afforded by nearshore staff augmentation means you can chat during your work day with the team that’s working on your projects. Many of the value-maximizing strategies that follow are dependent on real-time communications, so nearshoring is the best place to start.
2. Scope the project in writing
This seems basic, but you’d be amazed at how vague some project specs can be at the beginning stage. Enter as much detail as possible, defining all deliverables, milestones and completion dates. Make it a part of your signed contract. 2.
3. Communicate early and often.
Early communication and feedback will help your nearshore software development team get off to a good start. Lay out your expectations about the frequency, method, and mode of communication you prefer. If you like to do everything via email or via phone, say so. If Skype or some other IM platform is your thing, make that the forum. Whichever mode you choose, establish a regular time for check-ins. Short, regular check-ins are far more effective than irregular long meetings.
4. Agree on your payment structure and payouts.
Every contractor appreciates on-time payment when they have completed work milestones. Further, paying on time upholds your end of the bargain and sets a professional tone for the contractors to live up to. Agree in advance on a payout schedule, tied to completion of defined targets.
5. Use good online collaboration tools.
At Jobsity, we use Slack, Asana, Jira, Trello, or even Skype, depending on our clients’ needs. A good service provider will be platform agnostic, because clients often have their own preferences already in use.
6. Have a clear feedback process.
Clear and comprehensive feedback is critical. Unfocused, lengthy iteration on your part can confuse your nearshore developer team, possibly leading to higher bills. Make sure you’re clear about your expected review process, including who else on your team will review and comment on their work, and be clear about who will be the final arbiter to decide when a project is completed to satisfaction.
7. Set clear guidelines about workflows.
Clearly outline your expectations in terms of work product, deadlines, availability, etc. Request work-in-progress as frequently as needed and make adjustments early in the process, particularly for hourly projects.
And don’t forget: your temporary project may end - but its value can live on.
Once the engagement is over and you’ve parted ways, you may be left feeling a little naked without your nearshore programming team to consult when you’re confronting new programming or integration requirements, even small ones.
With some smart handling at the outset, you can deploy knowledge retention strategies for a consultant's work that will benefit your in-house team long-term. Few people think this through until it’s too late, but with a little foresight you can ensure that legacy of knowledge stays with your company even after the project’s development team has gone.
Here are several strategies you can deploy to reap ongoing benefit from a consultant’s involvement with your team.
8. Keep your top performers in communication with your consultant.
Consistent reporting and communication lines between your most valued permanent staff and your nearshore team leader enables your in-house people to learn valuable tips and knowledge over the life of the project. Once the engagement is over, this newly developed habit helps your own staff keep important initiatives on track and avoid roadblocks that might slow them down.
9. Have a virtual scrum with your team and the consultant at regular intervals during the life of the project.
Here’s where those collaboration tools make a difference -- you will need live chat and/or two-way video. Your team will have the opportunity to analyze project milestones, collaborate with ideas and suggestions for improvement.
Bonus Tip: Include an exit training session before the contract is to terminate.
As your project comes to a close with the consultant, ask the consultant for training on the completed system, including how to address bugs if they’re encountered. Be sure they go over all its elements with you. You may need some terminology defined, automations explained, etc. Make sure you have a full intuitive understanding of the work product.
For the most part, all of these ideas are things you can do to maximize the value of your offshore or nearshore software development contracts, without increasing your costs. You’ll just end up with a smarter, more agile in-house team which is that much better prepared for your next challenge.
At Jobsity, we use a “small batch” philosophy, aiming for excellence in every system we build. Contact us if you’d like to learn more.