As a start-up owner you have to keep your overheads competitively low to weather periods of slow growth and provide your client base with competitively priced products/services whilst enjoying a reasonable standard of living.
To keep overheads low whilst accessing top talent, outsourcing is likely to be the best way to have your start-up’s software development needs met; however, as you’ve probably come to realise, opinions are divided as to what’s the best option for start-ups – in-house developers or software development agencies?
To give you an idea, here are a few of the commonly cited pros and cons involved in outsourcing software development or keeping it in-house by hiring fulltime software developers.
- In-house software development teams cost more
- Software development agencies thrive on innovation
- In-house software development reflects brand ability
- Outsourcing software development lacks long-term focus
- In-house software development increases workplace distractions
- Outsourcing software development offers greater flexibility
These pros and cons won’t be applicable to all start-ups, for instance if your start-up doesn’t operate in the tech sector outsourcing software development won’t affect your brand ability because you aren’t involved in tech.
Exceptions aside, there are likely to be as many notable reasons for outsourcing software development as there are for keeping it in-house; however, if you decide to outsource software development to an agency, make outsourcing work for you not against you.
How to Make Outsourcing Software Development Work for You
If you’re going to outsource your software development needs you need to make outsourcing work in your favour and that starts with a comprehensive understanding of what to look for in a software development agency and the outsourcing process you should follow.
The Ideal Software Development Agency
The ideal software development agency to outsource your software development needs to isn’t necessarily the most cutting-edge and innovative, nor is it necessarily the most cost-effective, what you should be looking for in an agency to outsource to is an all-rounder, one that’s innovative, cost-effective and knows how to communicate with its clients.
Top communication skills frequently top ‘most important’ lists when the topic of outsourced software development is brought up and not without good reason either. Good communication skills entail more than weekly or fortnightly progress reports; they entail much more – constant updates to keep clients in the loop with what’s going on.
The Process of Outsourcing Software Development
Once you’ve decided upon a software development agency it’s the process of outsourcing that will then play the most important role in determining the success of your outsourcing efforts.
The ideal software development process – this also applies to outsourced mobile app development – comprises five phases:
- The Discovery Phase
For the client, i.e. the start-up outsourcing, the discovery phase is a critical phase because it’s the phase in which they communicate the explicit goals they wish to achieve, their expectations of the agency, their expectations of the timeline and their expectations of the finished product.
If this is the first time you’ve worked with the agency you’ve decided upon, how well they respond to your expectations and how they communicate their expectations of you is of particular importance.
- The Scope Alignment Phase
This phase entails laying out the scope for the product and you’ll need to work closely on the details because after this phase comes the development phase and to mitigate problems requiring revisions everything needs to be made crystal clear – capacity, capabilities, features, options, etc. – everything.
Ideally you’ll have charts, diagrams and lists prepared for the agency so you can clearly communicate how you want your software to feel, look and work.
- The Software Development Phase
Although you’ll take a somewhat hands-off – not to be mistaken with ‘backseat’ – approach during this phase, you should be in constant communication with the agency and this is where top communication skills on the part of the agency really prove important.
- The Revision Phase
Communication once again plays an integral role in the revision phase because this is the phase where any issues with the software need to be identified and cleared up. If you’re working with an agency for the first time, how they react to your desire for revisions is of note and should affect your decision as to whether you want to work with them again.
That’s it – your software is ready; however, as many experts make a habit of pointing out, there’s no finish line where software development is concerned because it’s an ongoing process requiring maintenance and enhancement over time.
Most start-ups find outsourcing their software development needs beneficial, and as outsourcing works best when client and agency have a solid relationship that stands the tests of time, working with the right agency right from the get-go is often the epitome of the ideal outsourcing relationship.
Juliet Martin is a freelance writer for Feline Soft, an established software and website development house based in Bristol and London.