Learning To Work With An Offshore Software Developer

Every software project is unique. In fact, no two have ever been the same. But if you’re unsure of the best way to get started, the best place to look is at your budget. Next, you want to factor in your own resources. If you have plenty of money, then you can afford to lean heavily on an established firm that has capable staff in every area of a managed project. For most people however, budget is a concern for at least some portion of the development stretch. Many are wary of using overseas developers in order to save money. Sometimes this is the best option and other times it may be a waste of time and money. Watch our video to gain priceless insight into choosing the right developers for your project.

Video Transcript:

I’ll just brief you on my background. I have run roughly 40 projects over the last 20 years. Most of those have been offshore developments. The reason for that is a shoestring budget. I needed to make things work and I needed to get things off the ground, and I didn’t have the budget to work locally so I looked at overseas options.

Obviously I have a bias and I’ll declare that now. I do now work for Alliance and most of my development is now done in house with Alliance. That is an evolution and you’ll probably see through my project the reasons why I have come to that point.

How do I find great developers?

It’s key when you’re thinking about developers, not about what the options are but what the purpose is. What is my development for? Is it an MVP? So you need something produced very quickly and cheaply to prove a concept or to prove an assumption. Or is it mission critical? Are you developing something that your whole business is going to be revolved around? It depends on what it is as to what developer choice you should look at and what is an optimal developer to put on that project.

Offshore software developer

An overseas individual is a developer, a coder who is sitting somewhere outside of Australia. I’ve had experiences in probably about twenty countries, including Palestine, Bangladesh, India, China, Russia, New Zealand, the US and throughout various other Asian countries.

In terms of the development costs, you may be able to find someone at $25 through one of these countries versus $100AUD if you’re developing here in Australia. Just on the dollars, most of the developers will work in US currency. So although they may give you a fixed price, consider there are going to be variations in the currency, so your project may end up being more expensive or less depending on the fluctuations of the currency.

Pro: Obviously the pros are the cost per hour.

Con: You need to consider that any development project has a suite of staff who support it. We talked previously about a BA, about UX, about design; they’re all part of the development process. But you’re specifically talking about the development or the developer cost only. So although it seems cheap as a rate, the initial price, there are other factors that need to come into play in terms of the overall cost.

Con: In terms of my experience, it’s a temporary relationship. They’re not going to be an ongoing, long term partner in your business or in your development. If something better comes along, then you’re basically either shoved to the side or communication breaks down.

Con: It’s also slow, it’s extremely slow. This is what everyone faces in terms of an offshore software developer. No matter whether you’re talking at the level that I have done it, where you’re talking a few hundred dollars for a development, versus millions of dollars, it’s slow, it’s a slow process. You’re trying to overcome things like language barriers. You’re trying to overcome that interpretation of the specifications. They’re just producing slow codes. So the project on average would probably take 40% longer than if you’re developing with local development.

Con: You have to bring your own skills. So you have to bring the project management, you have to bring the BA and everything else that circles the developer.

Some of the great experiences were around the simple work. I engaged a Macedonian developer and designer. She was producing a 30-page digital magazine which was published on the iOS platform. That only cost me $200 a month. In relative terms, it would have cost me $4000 a month to do it in Australia. The quality I think was about 95% difference, so there was only 5% difference in terms of the quality between those prices. Once again, it is on the lower end of the skills scale, so for lower skills you get a great experience with overseas development.

On the other hand, if you find a good coding developer or engineer, they’re there for one of two reasons.

  1. Generally they’ve got a day job and they’re working the freelance type of work as extra pocket money.
  2. Or they’re using it as part of a learning experience. If they wish to learn a new code, they’ll see a job, apply for it, put in their bid, get that and use it as part of their learning experience. So you’re actually a tuition point with your project.

Overseas Firm

It’s happened to me probably three times in terms of development with an individual developer, and that is when they get good. They’re an entrepreneur because they want to work for themselves and then they realise after a while, I’m getting all this good work and I seem to be getting a lot of work. What I’ll do is I’ll put someone under me, I’ll employ someone under me. So they’ve turned into basically a small firm.

The moment that happens, and it’s happened three times, the quality drops. In fact there was one experience where I used a Palestinian developer and he was really good. He was smart and he was quick and I thought, this is the developer I’m going to have for life. I had a bigger project, it was a $20,000 project which I was doing for a Melbourne company. I said, let’s do this. We can do this together. This would be a good project to work on together.

It ended up that he actually sub contracted to an Indian company. We worked over the first couple of weeks to the point where he was saying, just talk straight to ST. Eventually he backed out of it. I didn’t talk to him and I spoke to ST. He just took his cut and that was it. You’ve just got to be aware, and I give him a pat on the back for being an entrepreneur and trying to grow his business, that the net result is that the quality drops at that point.

Con: So it’s a dilution of talent and you still lack the key staff. You’re still not going to get the project managers and BA and UX with that type of firm.

In fact often larger firms that take on overseas development, what they actually do is ultimately ship people from here in Australia over to the development factory to oversee it. That’s happened quite often, in terms of trying to get those skills in-house is to take their own people over there. That is the experience from some larger firms.

Local front to overseas firms

Offshore software development got a bad name in terms of late delivery and the quality not being there. They got smart and thought let’s send our salesperson over to these remote countries, including Australia, there are several operating in Australia. We’ll have a salesperson representing a software development company. There’s a local office and you can work with them. At the back end everything is still happening the same as the previous model, where all the development is still occurring overseas and they just have a front end and a shop front saying, we’re a local developer.

Pro: The one positive about that is you would potentially pay in Australian dollars. That’s about as good as it gets.

Con: Unless they are offering more services like project management and covering that well, you’re still getting the same low quality outcome as working directly with an overseas firm.

Your project deserves the right focus from the right talent. Whether this is your first software project or your 20th, managing resources and money will have an impact on the final product. The right use of affordable software developers can be the perfect choice for certain parts of a project, but could be the kiss of death if not managed right. Now that you are armed with the right motivation behind this tough decision, you can apply this to your project and decide on the best way to source your development team.

Let us help you reach your goals with your next software development project. Contact us today.