Common pitfalls of web development outsourcing

iRonin IT Team - Experts in software development
business, outsourcing

Many startups and younger companies who haven’t worked with outsourced teams before feel apprehensive about starting such a cooperation. They’re not wrong to be cautious - plenty of businesses have suffered the consequences of choosing the wrong partner, not communicating expectations right away, or simply receiving poor quality of service. If you’re about to hire a remote development team for a software project, keep these common pitfalls in mind.

Firstly, it’s not always the case that a remote development company needs to have bad intentions for your cooperation with them to be unsuccessful. Even good specialists with proper work ethic can sometimes deliver disappointing results through no fault of their own. Sometimes, it’s their lack of well designed processes and commercial experience that lead to disaster. This matters for two reasons. One, you can’t assume that a partner with the best sales pitch will serve your company’s needs. Two, it’s often possible to guide the web developers of your choice towards better and more effective cooperation (e.g. by asking them to follow specific procedures and establishing a good communication flow). This, however, puts a lot of the weight on your shoulders and leads to a partner relationship in which trust can be difficult to establish. You need to ask yourself whether you’re willing to take on such an additional challenge. If not, a less experienced technological partner may not be right for you.

Badly constructed outsourcing contracts

This particular pitfall is easy to fall into if you haven’t had the chance to look through several contracts for outsourced software development work. There’s a lot of more or less intentionally misguiding elements. Sometimes, it comes down to a lack of communication. The offshore development company may use terms that you don’t fully understand. If these things are not addressed early on, it’s easy to create a misunderstanding.

Other times, your technological partner might attempt to craft the contract in their favour, giving them some leeway in case of future disagreements. Pay attention to how the pricing is constructed - is it Time & Materials, or a full estimate for the entire project? What about the deadlines, licensing fees, and responsibility for delays? You have to keep in mind that the remote development team you work with needs to protect their interests. Trouble starts when they try to do so unfairly and at your expense. It’s often safest to spend some time on discussing your software development agreement with them, to make sure you’re on the same page.

Unrealistic software development estimates

Web application development services can be a tough sell. As such, companies providing them use various techniques to interest clients in their offer. Often, a development company will present an unrealistic estimation of how long it will take to develop an app according to particular specifications, and how much it will cost. This leads to the client developing expectations that cannot be met, and worse still, to planning the project budget and timeline based on incorrect information. As you can imagine, the results can be truly disastrous, and include huge delays, lowered code quality, as well as project failure.

Imagine browsing through several offers of different development companies. You’d be naturally drawn to those with the lowest cost estimates. Let’s say you chose to partner with that company. The consequences could be dire. Here’s the worst case scenario:

  • The team working on your project consists of inexperienced developers - their work is cheaper, but the quality of the code their produce is low, and the decisions they make harm your business goals.
  • The company doesn’t give you direct contact to each offshore developer, so you’re not entirely sure who’s working on your project.
  • The app doesn’t get finished in time, and when it launches, you’re faced with a number of bugs that impact user experience (increasing bounce rate and lowering conversion).
  • According to your original agreement, your current development outsourcing provider and his team have completed the project, so they aren’t available to help you fix these issues.
  • You need to find another remote development team, this time armed with the knowledge you acquired throughout the project.
  • You partner with a company that provides you with true software development experts. They inform you that the best thing to do in your situation is to rewrite the entire application, as fixing the existing version would be more costly.

The entire first stage of your project has been a huge waste of time and money.

Are web development freelancers and hired software engineering teams a means to achieve hassle-less project delivery? A similar situation to that described above can happen if you work with freelancers, or when you try to hire an internal development team without a background in current technologies and software development practices. These options seem cheaper at first glance, but they don’t come with the added value of know-how and experience top software development companies can offer. In these situations, there’s another thing working against you: the freelance developer you hire only reflects badly on themselves if they make mistakes. On the other hand, it’s in a web development agency’s best interest to let go of programmers who can’t meet their standards, because the company’s entire brand can suffer from their bad conduct. It’s a soft guarantee of quality of service.

It is, however, important to remember that sometimes, even well-intentioned teams of web developers and mobile programmers prepare unrealistic estimations. This can happen when they don’t receive (or ask for, as they should) enough data on app specifications, project business goals, legal or bureaucratic restrictions, or other factors that might impact development. It’s often worth it to take some time and educate your offshore software development partner on the specific requirements of your market and target group.

Sometimes, entirely unpredictable factors (e.g. changing laws and policies, competitors’ behavior, or new business goals on your side) can disrupt a good development strategy. In those situations, Agile practices can allow your team to adapt to change quickly. It’s possible that the initial estimation will turn out to be wrong, but the project will be delivered and its goals will be achieved without unnecessary losses. Also, make sure to properly communicate who is responsible for covering the costs of licensing fees, development and production infrastructure, as well as any other resources your app will require during development.

Low code quality

Ensuring high code quality is an extremely important aspect of a good software development process. It affects ease of maintenance and scaling, as well as effectiveness of testing, among other things. It’s also easier for developers new to the project to familiarize themselves with high quality code. As such, it’s almost never worth it to sacrifice code quality for speed of development. Even when you’re building a demo or an MVP, you likely intend to work up from that initial stage and enrich your project with more features in the future. You need a solid base of quality code to do that safely. If the web development outsourcing company you partner with chooses to produce code of lower quality for any reason, alarms should start blaring in your head, warning you of potential future trouble.

In fact, the actual pace at which an app can be built benefits tremendously from high code quality. If your remote team focuses on technical excellence from the outset, you’ll never need to refactor (rewrite) big parts or the entirety of your app. There will be no large issues or bugs, so time won’t be wasted on fixing them. Pivots, as well as scaling and developing new features, will be carried out much more quickly and easily. Remember that code quality depends on your software engineering team’s expertise and the internal processes of your software development service provider. Adding elements such as good quality assurance and code review to the development process can be a great way to produce faultless code.

Inadequate channels of communication

Establishing an effective communication flow is paramount to your project’s success, particularly if you’re using remote development outsourcing. Make sure you have access to all of the people on your development team - which includes direct contact with particular remote developers. Another thing to pay attention to is the types of communication tools in use. Ideally, you should have access to project tracking and/or management tools, and be able to see and affect what happens within the project. It’s no less important to have opportunities to talk to your team on a human level. Tools like Slack (with video calls) or Google Meet can be of great help, allowing you to build the image of each team member in your mind as a person, and not just the hands writing the code for your app.

A big red flag for any project is the lack of a communication schedule or framework. You should know who is responsible for sharing certain information, when to expect progress reports, or where to look for them. Many teams use an established framework, such as Agile or Scrum, that often includes specific types of communication strategies (standups, retrospectives, visual communication through a Kanban board). This is extremely helpful in ensuring that communication is transparent, uninterrupted and meets the needs of both the client and the development company.

Lack of post-launch support

Development doesn’t end the moment you launch your app - or it shouldn’t. Yet software houses sometimes close projects in a rush and move on to the next one, leaving the client with little to no support. If that happens to you, you might wake up the day after launch and realize your app no longer works, even though everything was fine the day before. And you have no one to turn to for a quick fix, since a new team would have to spend some time familiarising themselves with the codebase first. While your web development nearshoring services company might not be able to guarantee that the same people who built your app will also support it, all of their developers follow the same best practices and use the same internal processes. This makes it much easier for them to jump into each other’s projects. They will also deliver the same level of quality in their work, and do so without unnecessary delays.

Post-launch support should be included for almost every project, in our opinion. It’s an opportunity to fix bugs that only crop up with a certain volume of users, and to introduce efficiency improvements throughout the app. Remember that once your product goes live, you’re likely to see opportunities for new features your users would love, and realize that some features need to be scrapped or replaced. It’s good to have a strong and stable technological partnership in case you need someone to do that sort of work on short notice. A good partner will do everything in their power to have all necessary formalities already in place to be able to jump into a project almost immediately.

There are many ways in which a careless approach to starting work with a software agency can lead to disaster. Every new cooperation is a challenge, but a lot of the issues mentioned above can be overcome by partnering with a company that guarantees good communication and delivers high quality code, following current industry standards.

Want to develop an app with a trustworthy technological partner with extensive commercial experience? iRonin has provided technological support for companies in a number of industries, using web and mobile technologies, and launching many successful IT projects.

Author's Bio
iRonin IT Team

Experts in software development

We are a 100% remote team of software development experts, providing web & mobile application development and DevOps services for international clients.

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