Five Common Problems with Offshore Contractors

outsourcing software development offshore common problemsWhen it comes to software development, some companies may choose to outsource projects to an offshore contractor that may promise the best quality for the lowest cost. Oftentimes outsourcing seems like the most affordable route to go, especially when it comes to obtaining custom software development on a budget.

However, outsourcing software development is not without its problems. In recent years, many companies have experienced their share of challenges when choosing to work with offshore software firms. A lower price tag doesn’t always ensure a high quality product, and overall project management varies significantly between offshore contracting firms.

5 Common Problems with Offshore Contractors

When a company is considering a contractor or firm to offshore its software development needs to, an assessment of potentially problematic issues should addressed before making a decision. Here are five common areas of concern that present challenges to many U.S. companies working with offshore software developers:

  1. Communication – For the majority of countries that host offshore development centers, English is not the main language. The language barrier may be problematic, especially for projects requiring regularly communication and a high level of detail.
  2. Time difference – Working with a contractor in an offshore location where there is a major difference in time zone may make email communication difficult and phone communication almost impossible. If you are in a development environment where regular, ongoing communication is important between onshore and offshore team members, working with an offshore team located within a U.S. time zone may be advisable.
  3. Differences in business practice – Developers in an offshore development center may have a completely different outlook on standard business operations due to the business culture of the country.  This may lead to different assumptions about the way a project needs to be managed which may cause confusion and frustration.
  4. High turnover rates – In many countries that host offshore development centers, the IT field is known for turnover rates as high as fifty percent.  High turnover rates result in lost project knowledge and expertise. This can have an impact on project efficiency, velocity and quality.
  5. Poor coding quality – Some offshore locations may be behind in technology and development practices that are needed for the project at hand.  Poor or sloppy coding can ultimately lead to a disappointing end product, resulting in frustration and wasted time for debugging.

When it comes to outsourcing custom software development to offshore locations, the reduction in cost may seem like the ultimate advantage. In the long run, it may be especially important to consider a variety of offshore options before settling on one. Finding an offshore partner that is located in a similar time zone and has high rates of English fluency may be important, especially if you are operating in an agile development environment. It is also helpful to ask about employee retention and technical aptitude to make sure the quality of the code you receive meets your standards and expectations.

3 Trends in Offshore Software Development

World technology communication concept. Globe from tablet pc. Touch pad interface collection.Offshore software development is something that has grown increasingly popular over the past 20 years. Many companies are turning to overseas talent in order to spread their bandwidth, access hard-to-find skill sets, create better software faster, and lower overall costs.

It is not uncommon for companies to not only need software development help to create new products, but to also seek out capable technical staff to maintain programs that already exist. While there are many benefits to working with offshore employees, success relies heavily on things like day-to-day project management, overall communication skills and employee retention.

Nearshore software developers working for IT outsourcing companies are responsible for many tasks including custom software, web design, project documentation, information architecture, QA testing, and fixing issues or bugs as they arise. Because the idea of offshore software development is becoming increasingly commonplace, it is helpful to understand some of the important trends and changes happening within this growing industry.

Here are 3 significant trends influencing offshore software development:

  1. A Turn Towards “Nearshore” Help: In the beginning, many companies were looking for offshore technical talent in countries located on the other side of the world. These offshore software developers were often from places like India or China. Now, many companies are realizing that there is an enormous amount of technical talent much closer to U.S. shores in places like Latin America. Many Latin American countries, including Costa Rica, are proving to offer an excellent nearshore alternative to more traditional offshore outsourcing.
  2. Increased Daily Communication Between Team Members: In the past, the waterfall approach to software development was most popular. This meant that offshore developers would often work individually to create the assigned project. Then, they would deliver the finished piece of software. All of this often happened without a lot of regular, on-going communication. In more recent years, the shift towards the agile methodology for software development has made regular (even daily) communication between US-based and offshore developers more important. This is becoming increasingly popular and easy with the use of helpful tools like Skype and Google Hangout.
  3. Building Long-term Relationships: Many software development companies are increasingly focused on long-term or ongoing work, rather than short-term “project-based work.” An increasing number of offshore IT outsourcing companies are looking to develop relationships with U.S. companies who are looking to grow with an offshore partner, rather than simply seek assistance sporadically. Choosing an offshore development company that places special emphasis on the importance of regular project updates and daily communication may be necessary, especially when using an agile approach.

These three trends described above are driven by a variety of factors, facilitated in large part by the growing popularity of agile software development. The agile approach features a different leadership style focused on collaborative, self-organizing, cross-functional teams. This approach also emphasizes the value of testing throughout the development process so that product changes and adjustments can be more easily implemented during development.

Given the success of the agile approach, it is perhaps not surprising that it is creating significant changes in the nature of offshore software development. It is likely that technology trends and innovations will continue to drive future changes in the way that many business processes are conducted, in the realm of technology, and in other areas of business too.

Mobile Development Design Mistakes

Mobile app user on a tabletIn today’s world, it’s not uncommon for an individual to own a mobile device such as a smart phone or a tablet. In fact, according to data from the Pew Research Center, as of January 2014, nearly 6 out of 10 American adults owned a smartphone while more than 4 out of 10 had a tablet computer.

Smart phones and tablets function through the use of applications that allow users to navigate and complete various tasks in order to ultimately make life easier. Not all apps are created equally. Some serve very basic functions. Others can be highly complex. And some are meant for plain old fun and games. The life and success of a mobile application depends heavily on the design, paired with the overall user experience.

Due to the growing popularity of mobile applications by people who use smartphones and tablets, a recent boom in the application software business has dramatically increased the need for talented developers. As advances in technology rapidly change, so does the need for improved mobile applications that better suit users’ needs and interests. Developers and designers are increasingly pushed to produce better and better products.

Three Common Mobile App Design Mistakes to Avoid

As with any software development project, the main goal is to produce a great end product. Developing a mobile application is no exception. Minimizing mistakes in the mobile development process will ultimately help produce a great end product. Follow along to learn more about three common mistakes mobile developers should avoid when developing a new app:

  1. Lack of Responsive Design – A mobile app is very different from its web counterpart. The interactivity and user experience for mobile applications can vary due to the intention of the user. Often times, users have a distinctive reason for using the mobile application compared to the web page. Designing a mobile application that does not scale to fit the screen of any mobile device is a huge mistake. Implementing responsive web design to make sure the application can run with ease across multiple mobile platforms is a sure way to increase user satisfaction.
  2. Self-Beta Testing – The mobile application is all about the user experience and the ease at which users can navigate the app. Beta testing is an essential task for any development project, especially mobile applications. Some developers make the mistake of beta testing their own products to work out bugs and fix any usability issues that may have occurred in the project. Self-beta testing may provide a limited perspective of the future user experience. Using beta testers for an application can give insight to the development team about the problems users may experience with the app. The more an application is tested by users, the better chance it has at making it in the competitive world of mobile apps.
  3. Image Overuse – Mobile applications rely heavily on the use of images and layouts that are aesthetically appealing. When developing a mobile app, sometimes designers will implement too many visual components which contribute to slower data loading on the mobile device. Because mobile devices have a lot less real-estate than a PC or laptop, overuse of images (paired with users who rely on data from wireless providers compared to cable or Wi-Fi internet) can drastically reduce app loading time. When developing a mobile app, designers should make every effort to decrease visual components as much as possible in order to speed up loading times and improve the overall user experience.

The success of a mobile application ultimately comes down to the overall experience of the user. Good apps are easy to navigate, with straightforward functions. Design flaws and mistakes in the development process may result in a disappointing performance outcome for a mobile app. To maximize the success of an app, the mobile development team needs to make sure the user experience is the top priority for the project.

What is Scope Creep and How to Avoid It?

avoiding scope creep“Scope creep” is a term that is commonly used in the world of software development.  It describes an unfortunate phenomenon that sometimes happens during a project. When changes to a project are continually requested, significantly altering the original project plan, scope creep is likely occurring.

While scope creep can happen with one major change request to a project, more often it happens quite subtly with many small change requests. Over the course of time, what appeared to be minor changes begin to accumulate into more significant shifts in design and plan. Not only does this often change the project time frame, but it also typically affects the budget, too. With added resources needed in order to make changes and adjustments, it is no wonder that scope creep is sometimes considered a project manager’s worst nightmare.

Avoiding Scope Creep – 4 Helpful Tips

Since scope creep can wreak havoc on any software development project, it is helpful to think about ways to minimize or even avoid it before it ever happens.  Here are a few things a project manager can do to reduce the risk of scope creep.

  1. Make sure your project is clearly defined. Projects that are not clearly defined are sitting ducks for scope creep. Before you begin any software development project, make sure you clearly articulate the necessary objectives and goals of the project. This includes clarifying exactly what is and is not included in the project. Stakeholders, managers, team members, and anyone else involved in the project should have a clear understanding of the project scope.
  2. Clarify your deliverables with as much detail as possible. It is helpful to create a document that clearly details what will be created, who will create it, and when it is expected to be complete. Adding a more detailed description to individual deliverables is beneficial.
  3. Have a clear process to acknowledge completion of deliverables. Sometimes referred to as a “baseline,” it is helpful to have a clear way to determine when a deliverable is complete. Without this important benchmark, it is easy to unknowingly fall victim to scope creep.
  4. Implement a clear change request process. Scope creep is much less likely to happen when a clear change request process is in place. A change request, which includes documentation of the need for change, provides a way to document times when a shift in project scope occurs.

While it may not be possible to completely avoid scope creep on every software development project, it is possible to do things to reduce the risk of it occurring. Scope creep is not only a problem for the software developers working on a project, but it is also a source of great frustration for project stakeholders, managers, and others.  In the end it can lead to wasted time, money and other resources, while also generating considerable frustration.

Striving to limit the risk of scope creep is an ongoing yet worthy effort for the entire software development team.  Having clear and detailed project goals, deliverables, and a process for requesting changes, is the first step to avoiding scope creep. Working with experienced project managers who are understand all the facets of project planning and management is also beneficial. In the words of Basil S. Walsh, a banking and insurance executive during the 1930s: “If you don’t know where you are going. How can you expect to get there?”