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4 Factors for Partnering with Offshore Development Teams

Make sure you have these factors checked off before working with an offshore team. 

Saving money is the biggest draw of offshore development. For this very reason, many of our clients at The Jed Mahonis Group (JMG) started building their mobile apps, custom websites, and dashboard tools using overseas development teams.

But after continually missed deadlines and bug-riddled tech, they have often had to start over.

It’s gut wrenching.

Having worked with many companies burned by overseas tech teams as well as a few teams who’ve had success with offshore developers, I see four key factors to making this development approach successful.

Factor 1: You Have a Technical Background

Or, at minimum, you have experience managing the development of a technical project.

Understanding the level of complexity for building each feature arms you with the knowledge of when your product should be hitting specific milestones.

One reason a project deadline continually extends is because the overall size of the project keeps growing. This can happen regardless of who’s developing your product, and it’s referred to as scope creep.

At JMG, we’ve found offshore development teams often act as a “yes” team. By saying “yes” to every feature request you bring them without discussing the technical and financial impact it has on the overall project, the scope of work expands significantly.

Having a technical background means you’ll also be able to tell if proper documentation practices are in place.

Because documentation is time consuming and overseas teams tend to run lean, their documentation generally isn’t thorough or well-maintained. Poor documentation can lead to problems establishing environments and getting the code to work for your next tech team.

Factor 2: You Have the Time and Resources to Test Your Product

Many overseas teams handle the development of your product, but not the testing of it.

This is one of many reasons why an offshore development team’s prices don’t compare to that of many local development teams. It isn’t apples to apples when you aren’t getting the same services.

It’s a good idea to discuss testing plans before entering into an agreement with any technical team, or this important process could become your responsibility.

Factor 3: You’ve Communicated with the Developer Who Will be Working on Your Project

Experiencing exactly how any time zone, cultural, and language differences will work before development starts can eliminate surprises along the way.

You should also be looking for a regular meeting and demos of the app periodically. No plan for frequent communication is a sign the project may not go well.

Factor 4: You Have a Reputable Resource

Overseas shops often prioritize workload based on which projects stand to make them the most money. If you aren’t the biggest paying project on their client list at any given time, your project’s progress could be delayed as they focus on someone else’s work.

This is another example of overseas teams saying “yes” to everything, agreeing to unfeasible deadlines, and leaving you with a product that’s either late or incomplete.

Independent review sites such as Clutch combined with recommendations from your trusted network are good places for finding reputable sources who meet deadlines and produce results.

Putting the Big 4 to Work

All of those specific factors need to be at play in order for an offshore development approach to successfully work.

If you only have a couple of these factors checked off, a less risky option is to not use offshore developers exclusively. Expanding your development team to include a mix of offshore and onshore developers is a good way to test the water.

A client of ours failed miserably when they first punted all development to an offshore team but is now doing well with a mix of a couple offshore development resources alongside someone on our team to manage the project and control the development (essentially serving as Factor 1).

Outsourcing the development of a digital project is a very strategic decision, and I’m happy to connect and offer guidance any way I can to anyone considering it.

Robert Bentley
Robert Bentley is co-founder and CEO of The Jed Mahonis Group (JMG), a mobile software development agency based in Minneapolis. Rob is an experienced iOS and Android app developer who oversees a broad spectrum of JMG’s operational areas. Rob is a serial entrepreneur (with equity in many local startups), enjoys cooking (check out @scottmahonis_cooks on Instagram), and wears shorts 365 days a year (he puts the "bold" in Bold North).