According to Outsourcing Today, 21 percent of outsourced web development projects fail, and that figure jumps to more than 50 percent with offshore developers. Here at Gigster, we have over 100 active projects at any given time and 93 percent of our customers come away happy. We’ve learned a lot about what leads to a successful outsourcing experience for founders. Here are our top three pieces of advice to help you get the best results from your outsourcing partner.
1. Choosing a Tech Partner — Do Your Homework
As the old saying goes: ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’ When it comes to outsourcing, it’s worth taking the time to select the right partner. Choosing the wrong partner is costly, time-consuming and soul destroying.
Some of these steps might be obvious, but they’re good reminders nonetheless. Following these six steps will help you pick a great outsourced development partner:
- Ask your friends in tech or professional industries for recommendations.
- See who they’ve done work for in the past.
- Ask the tech provider to provide you with references you can call. It’s not a good sign if they can’t provide you with references you can speak with.
- Take a look at testimonials and case studies. Try and contact these people to verify their experience.
- Ask for feedback or stories about the provider on Twitter (take responses with a grain of salt — they may be from competitors to the company you’re asking about).
- Ask the organisation how they have handled problems in the past. Ask how they would handle any problems you would have. This is counter-intuitive but asking about when things go wrong will tell you a lot about a provider.
2. Know Exactly What you Want and Communicate it
Having a strong vision for what you want to produce at the end of the outsourcing experience is crucial. You don’t need to know every last detail — products are shaped by the decisions you can only make during the build phase — but the clearer your vision at the onset, the better the result will be.
This is the North Star of your project and will simplify the decision making process. This includes knowing what you’re prioritizing for and what you’ve decided is less important. For example, if speed is a priority and design isn’t, the tech team will know they can spend more to work with faster technology and less on design.
Communicating your vision means describing it in exact detail: writing a comprehensive project brief, creating wireframes and mockups and getting on the phone with the tech team lead. You don’t need to write beautifully or design well, but you do need to know how to use some basic tools to get your ideas across. Even simple pen and paper wireframes will go a long way to communicate your concepts with the development team. If you’re new to wireframing, HeyDesigner has a great website wireframing guide.
3. Manage Expectations and Create Accountability With Schedules
So far, we’ve focused on the key steps before you hire a partner. What about after you’ve signed the contract? Here are some tips to help you keep an outsourced project running smoothly.
Work with your tech partner to create a schedule outlining when key pieces of the project will be completed. This will include milestones, making it easy to check progress against the schedule. (This is something we do with every project at Gigster.)
The schedule should also highlight key dependencies to limit unexpected roadblocks. For example, if design is being supplied by another provider, it should be noted so that it’s managed properly and doesn’t become a last minute blocker. Another example would be needing approval from the client before proceeding.
Make sure you also factor in other considerations that may have an indirect impact on the project. These include but are not limited to public holidays, the availability (or lack thereof) of key personnel on the project and contextual considerations like end of quarter reporting.
By doing this, you give both sides visibility far down the road and the ability to nip potential issues in the bud. This will reduce the stress and uncertainty that inevitably arise when tech projects aren’t as well planned.
The key takeaway here is to be thorough — whether in choosing a partner, fleshing out your vision for the project or managing the development process. Following our steps will help you dramatically increase the quality and outcome of your tech projects.
Gigster builds custom software on demand, and is backed by Andreessen Horowitz. Check out its website to learn more.