When outsourcing software development, mistakes can come with a large price tag. As software development isn’t cheap, to begin with, these mistakes can derail an entire project. Here are the top 8 mistakes you can avoid making during software development with an outsourcing company.

1. Insufficiently Researching

Thorough research is critical. Instead of Googling outsourcing companies and choosing the first, understand pricing, ability, skills, and platforms before committing to a company.

When researching a company, make sure to:

  • Pull from a wide variety. Ask your friends, fellow business owners, or mentor what companies they do and do not recommend. Make a list, and add the top 3 Google results to it.
  • Read websites carefully. Take notes. Make sure you have a good view of what they can do compared to what you need.
  • Send emails. Communicate with your top choices, asking for portfolios and pitches. If it feels like you’re being a nuisance, know that they want your business, and are willing to show that they are the right company to do this for you.
  • Read customer reviews. These can be found in a variety of places, including Yelp and Google. While these often need to be taken with a grain of salt, if there’s nothing but bad reviews or stories that confirm your worst fears, it may be a sign to go elsewhere.

2. Choosing Cost Over Quality

Getting things done within budget can be difficult. We often search for a cheaper option to make sure we stay within budget. Unfortunately, we get what we pay for. Choosing a lower-cost firm may mean receiving a lower-quality result. Often, paying extra means paying less in the long term.

To avoid paying twice, consider:

  • Sitting down and determining the 3 most important qualities. What is most important in your product? Speed? Ease-of-use? Compatibility? Make sure that whatever firm you go with will excel in these 3 areas.
  • Comparing quality VS cost between 2-3 companies. Are the services similar? Are the prices similar? What are the differences?

3. Not Requesting Portfolios

The best way to see what a company is capable of is to request a portfolio. Most companies have a profile of work they have done, or of examples, they’ve done to show customers. Seeing these can assure you of the quality of work you’ll receive, as well as whether the company is capable of the work you require. Without a portfolio, you have no proof of quality.

Confirm quality by:

  • Requesting a portfolio be emailed to you, or shown to you in person if there are confidentiality concerns.
  • If a company will not show privileged information, ask for the contact information of a company they’ve worked for in the past. Asking for this reference can show how good at communication an outsourcing firm is. If they can’t find a single former customer to give them a good review, that is a red flag in itself.

4. Lacking An Expert

Businesses will engage an outsourcing company because they don’t have the in-house capacity to do the work themselves. The danger that arises here is a lack of communication, expectations, and lack of understanding of the final product.

Without someone who understands the various jargon and requirements for your project, the outsourcing firm you work with may not be able to get a clear picture of what you need. This can lead to miscommunications. It’s also important that you have someone who can evaluate the project at various steps to confirm it’s heading in the right direction.

To confirm the project is heading in the right direction, consider:

  • Hiring an in-house expert or consultant. Have an independent contractor who can translate IT language for you and communicate your needs to your outsourcing firm. While this may feel like another expense, it will save you time and money when you get exactly what you paid for.
  • Asking for periodic updates or tests. As your firm creates more functionality, ask to see it. This is instrumental in quality control as well as a course correction if there’s something not right. Better to catch it sooner rather than later.

5. Paying in Full in Advance

While it’s common for large projects to have an upfront payment to secure services, paying in full for a project before any work has been completed is dangerous. Other than the obvious threat of no work being completed, surprise additional fees may appear that weren’t covered by the full payment.

Pay for what you get by:

  • Confirming legitimacy. If a company insists on full payment upfront, make sure you do more research. Confirm with another source that this is normal, and get everything in writing.
  • Suggesting a deposit. Offer a deposit for the beginning of work. This is standard practice and should be easily accomplished.
  • Suggesting milestones. Create a contract with your outsourcing firm. Once certain milestones are reached and approved, another payment will be made.

6. Accepting “Free” Extra Work

All businesses are on the lookout for value-add services. If an outsourcing company offers additional services for no extra charge, it can be tempting to just accept the offer. However, this can come with hidden costs that don’t appear until later. Some outsourcing firms will also sub-contract this kind of workout, meaning you have no idea who is working on your project at any given time.

Accepting free work isn’t all bad- it can be a legitimate value add from the outsourcing company. Before agreeing to anything, ask questions:

  • Is this a service you offer in-house?
  • Will I be charged for this later?
  • Can I have it in writing that I will not be charged for this?
  • What are the implications of doing this or of not doing this?

7. Misunderstandings and Miscommunications

Outsourcing is frequently done between cultures. This is a great way to ensure a diverse program that will be understood by a wider variety of people. However, pay close attention to communication during the planning and execution stages. Language barriers and cultural barriers can lead to misunderstandings that are time-consuming and costly to fix later.

To avoid language and culture-based miscommunication, consider:

  • Sending emails after phone calls to confirm information. Having things written down not only serves as proof of agreements but can also be run through translation software for clarification.
  • Finding someone bilingual who understands the other culture. This person can help you understand taboos and tendencies that might otherwise lead to disagreements.
  • Using pictures, diagrams, and graphs to clarify things. Pictures, hand gestures, and shapes are a universal language that even people from the same cultures use to communicate more effectively.

8. Undervaluing Communication

Under-communicating is a real threat to productivity. Failing to ask or answer questions can lead to misunderstandings that can derail an entire project. While working with an outsourcing company, don’t be afraid to offer lots of feedback and ask questions. The only way to be sure something is done right is to confirm, confirm, confirm.

Communicate clearly and often with the following suggestions:

  • Consider instituting weekly meetings. These can be held in-person, digitally (Zoom, Skype, GoRemote, etc.), or on paper (Emails or project management software). This gives dedicated time to be sure everyone is on the same page.
  • Send emails with bullet points. Set clear expectations of all the information you would like. Bullet points make information easier to read. Once you receive a reply, tick off your bullet points with the replies you received. If anything is missing, send another email asking for those questions to be answered. This clarity will solve problems before they become problems
  • If conversations happen verbally, send a follow-up email. Having things in writing can serve as a reminder, a clarification, and proof.

Research and Upkeep

When looking for outsourcing companies to complete a project, it’s crucial to choose the correct firm. Once a good fit is contracted, ongoing checks and balances need to be maintained to confirm the product will fit your needs. This is important to avoid mistakes that can cost time and money to correct.