Improved tools and development frameworks have made building software cheaper and easier than ever. While that has led to all sorts of rapid innovation, it has also created an alluring trap, especially for early-stage, non-technical founders. What they often learn is that dev shops that are half the price are actually twice the cost in the long run.
Dev shops will sometimes pitch attractive pricing models based on the low cost to build software. Those prices are often built on a core assumption: relatively inexperienced developers (whether they are local, near-shore, or completely off-shore developers) can quickly build precisely what you want – fast and cheap.
Building exactly what you ask for – nothing more and nothing less – might be cheap, but it’s rarely the case that you can clearly identify and communicate every requirement up front. Common pitfalls people run into with outsourced dev:
Even if you’ve figured out that cobbling together your own team of freelancers at $5-$10/hour is probably a bad idea, you might find yourself looking at “hybrid” shops that claim to have access to a huge pool of international talent. It’s not quite as cheap as directly hiring freelancers, but not as expensive as working with a top-tier team. In practice, your local project manager is often just providing a thin veneer between you and the same cheap, inexperienced resources that you wouldn’t trust to build your app. Those developers aren’t getting paid any more, and they often sacrifice security, performance, code quality and scalability at every turn.
How do these places ultimately deliver? More time, more money. They rely on the sunk cost fallacy as a business model. You’ve already spent a decent amount of money, the problems and delays are often blamed on you, and the only way out is through costly change orders.
Are you sure you own your IP? If your “partner” has subcontracted out the development work to a third party, you may later realize that you don’t own the code or the intellectual property you thought you were creating. Or, you may own the IP on paper, but how comfortable are you that subcontracted workers in another country won’t just take the code to re-sell or create a copycat product of their own, despite what your contract says.
If the workers and governing authority are in another country, even if you have legal protections in theory, you have to consider whether you have the time, money, and resources to pursue international IP claims.
When you’ve found yourself backed into a corner with a bad implementation, you’re faced with a hard choice: is it better to salvage what you’ve built or start over from scratch? What you’re left with is all bad:
Most people who hire an outsource team don’t need code, they need a problem solved. An experienced team who understands what you’re trying to accomplish will do much more than build what you’ve asked for. It will feel like working with a partner that’s invested in your overall success rather than a vendor supplying you with a commodity.
A team like that will have people on tap and resources available in roles you might not realize you needed: a software architect, a user experience designer, a product manager, a strategist, and so on. You may have some of those roles covered internally, and you may not need them full-time on your project, but having access to all the resources you might need as part of a comprehensive, integrated, experienced team is often critical to long-term success of a project.
How do you evaluate whether you’ve found the right partner?
Some people get lucky – they hire a cheap offshore team and it’s a smashing success. But is that an outcome you can afford to bet your business on? At the root of most of the problems with outsourced development is dev shops that are focused on just two things: building software and doing the bare minimum to fulfill a contract. While a top-tier partner may have high rates, you often end up spending less money overall because they will focus on problem solving – building what you need, not just what you ask for.
Did you hire a team that didn’t deliver? Are you evaluating your options before you get started? Either way, we’re here to help. At Uptech Studio we partner with our clients to deeply understand what they are trying to accomplish and we have an experienced team with a proven track record that will help you get there. Do we have sharp product folks, create amazing designs, and write rock-solid code? Yep, that too.