7 Secrets of Fruitful Cooperation with an Offshore IT Company (From the Insiders)
So, you have decided to digitize your business. But who to entrust this major challenge with? Assuming you are not going to transform your firm into a web-dev, you need third-party IT specialists. The practice is common nowadays. According to Deloitte statistics, 53 percent of IT functions are being already outsourced worldwide. After all, if it’s OK for Skype, Slack, Opera, and Facebook, why shouldn’t it work for you?
There are obvious advantages. First, you may save a tidy sum (estimations reach up to 40 percent). And this is not only due to the differences in hourly rates. Sometimes, only narrow specialists can predict the next technological curve which will lead to the investment disaster (mention all those technologies which went into oblivion just within a decade). Good developers deepen into the processes they digitize and have a corresponding expertise, so you get an external estimation of your business ideas, and valuable advice which may cost much.
Secondly, by expanding the search field, you get access to the best specialists and newest technologies all around the globe. And did you know, by the way, that chances to find a good IT specialist in the countries of Eastern Europe, such as Poland, Ukraine, Czech Republic or Russia, are pretty higher than in the USA, the UK or Canada?
Of course, there are risks. That’s why you do need to approach the choice of an offshore IT outsourcing vendor thoroughly. Based on the insider knowledge of the market, we propose you to pay attention to several factors that are crucial when dealing with IT outsourcing. Consider them — and your partnership with a remote IT team will be pleasant and fruitful.
1. Clear Vision Saves Much
You need to start with forming a clear understanding of what you will outsource and why. Navigate your objectives and timelines. Think what functionality your product should have. It is very good to consult a market analyst. Together, you will define your market niche and the demands of your target audience. Later, it will help to choose the most appealing design and make the functionality user-friendly.
Ideally, this stage is finalized with working out clear and precise requirements for the product. It will allow developers to better assess the scope of work and can save budget. Also, it will be easier to understand whether the exact outsource company has the potential to bring your ideas to life. Once you have clearly identified what you need, you can start looking for the right outsource provider.
2. Expertise Is Important But Not Always Obvious
There are thousands of IT companies worldwide. How do you find the one you need? You may start with Google search, as with many other services nowadays. But you should be ready to deal with dozens of pages.
You may also address such independent listings as Clutch, Top Tech Biz, and Appfutura. These platforms provide general information about the best IT companies, including prices and honest reviews. It is possible to filter results based on location, technology or your business focus, for example, Top European App Developers or Top 10 Logistics App Development Companies in Europe. They also give links to companies’ websites, and this is a precious source of information if you know what to pay attention to. And here are some options:
The site itself. Is it pleasant-looking? Does it have clear navigation? Does it provide enough information? Of course, it may happen that the shoemaker’s kids have no shoes, but it does tell much about the company’s business values.
Portfolio. Analyse the projects. Are there any from your industry? If there are websites, switch to them and check whether you like them. If there are mobile apps, find them in Google Play or Apple Store. Check the ratings, read the comments, download the app and estimate the design and functionality. And, of course, you may address the previous clients, especially if there are any from your country.
Technologies. If you are not into web development, it may be difficult to estimate the IT studio’s technical potential. What you can figure out is how broad its expertise is (in other words, if they have enough options to meet the project’s specificity). Good IT companies keep to the latest trends, broaden their expertise and invest much in developers’ education.
Team. Study the company’s infrastructure and quality certifications. It is important that IT vendor provides a full stack of services (including design, development, quality assurance, project management and support). Otherwise, it may turn out at this point or another that you need to find more vendors to complete your product.
Blog is a valuable source of information about expertise, values, workflow, and even language issues. Good companies try to be useful for clients and colleagues. So, a positive sign is when both technical issues and examples of their business implementation are covered.
It is also a good thing when the IT company is open for discussion and collaboration with colleagues. It means it has what to propose and is ready for public review. The best way to check it is to examine the contribution to opensource projects, for example, GitHub. It also helps to estimate the quality of code, which may be vital if you once decide to develop your business further. Though, there are things far beyond the code which should be taken into account.
3. Understanding Your Business Is No Less Important Than Code Quality
No matter how innovative your IT product is — it is only as good as rewarding from the business perspective. And good IT companies start from a clear understanding of your business goals. They may use impact mapping or other techniques to realize what business results should be achieved with the help of a product and how your customers are going to interact with it.
The IT team’s expertise in your field is valuable. But the ability to listen and ask questions is no less important. There are no two identical products, each business is unique, and there is no worse experience than dealing with hotshots who "know everything better". That’s why we at Stfalcon.com always start collaboration with our clients with a discussion of a business idea and go over the suggestions and preferences. The process may last from an hour to several weeks, but it’s worth it.
It is unlike to work with a big enterprise and a startup: they have different needs and procedures. So, check whether the outsourcing IT company of your choice has corresponding experience. Whether it has already worked with startups, or business corporations, etc. It will help to avoid a lot of misunderstanding in the future when it will come to decision-making or amendments.
Reliable and responsible IT outsourcing vendors will propose you to start with an MVP (minimum viable product) instead of immediate committing time and money to the final vision. It is especially useful in the case of startups: you can try your idea in work and adjust it according to users’ reaction. And you may start getting profit from your product at a much earlier stage.
4. Good Means Flexible
Ask about company’s workflow. Find out whether you will have insight into the process, what role you will be proposed, and how big your impact will be. Will you be proposed to participate or to “step aside and not to interfere”?
Experts recommend outsourcing to a company using agile methodologies, for example, Scrum. It means that the total scope of work is split into short iterations (sprints). At the end of each sprint, the team introduces a kind of a working version of a product or its part (design, layout, demo-version, etc.). So, you may continuously track the progress. Scrum doesn’t only provide transparency, it allows a prompt response to changes and augmentations.
Another important issue is whether the team is already familiar with outsourcing. This means that its members know how to work in various time zones, understand cultural differences and have the necessary skills to maintain seamless remote cooperation.
It is also useful to check in advance what risk management strategies the IT vendor applies. Think about the problems you might face in the course of the project and ask the vendor if they have faced similar problems before and how they managed (or are going to manage) them. You don’t want a total collapse in case of any unexpectancies.
5. Transparency In Communication Is a Key to Everything
Transparent communication is the most important aspect of IT outsourcing. At the same time, it is often overlooked. Without a clear understanding of who is dealing with your project at any moment and what stage it is at, you can’t be sure it is moving the right direction. It means you are floating on the high seas without navigation.
That’s why a clear communication plan is necessary. It identifies the most convenient means of communication, the frequency of calls, written reports or video chats (we recommend that they should take place no less than once a week), and contact persons from both sides. It also should include such points as availability (when both sides should be available for contact) and time for responding to emails and messages.
During the contacts, the vendor’s representative should be ready to report on the difficulties encountered, budget spent and progress achieved. Ask questions whenever you don’t understand anything. Stay involved and give feedback.
6. Quality Assurance and Maintenance
Quality assessment is indispensable. It saves you from 1001 small and big troubles when the product is launched. The more attention the IT company puts to it, the more reliable it is. We have already published a detailed overview of the important issues facilitating outsource product quality. Briefly, such terms as continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD), automated testing, and test-driven development should cheer you up when used by the vendor’s team.
As a minimum, here are the things a development company must examine and adjust before the product release: bugs, text and images, connectivity, battery and data consumption, and speed. But QA is not only about technical issues. It is based on the prediction of different variants of the user’s behavior and conviction that the product’s final goal can be achieved in any case.
Ask about maintenance and support services they provide. Don’t forget to include these issues in service level agreement (the document that spells out the costs involved, services provided, and things like response times, completion dates, etc.). At the end of the project, ensure that the code is well-documented and handed over to your in-house team.
7. Security Is Above All
Ensure that the vendor you’re going to work with is up-to-date on data security and compliance measures. These include:
- storage of sensitive data and encryption of any stored data;
- privacy issues;
- compliance with data security regulations, most notably the EU’s new General Data Protection Regulation.
The most common way to mitigate risks in the security domain is to sign a confidentiality agreement. It sets out the terms and conditions under which information is to be kept confidential. At Stfalcon.com, a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) is the first thing we propose our clients to sign in order to protect their rights. All members of our team also sign NDA when they are hired.
Other ways in which our developers ensure traffic security include:
- traffic encryption, which protects from data interception;
- employees directories encryption, which protects from leaks in case the equipment is seized.
We write the code individually for each project and follow the copyright law, so, you may be sure that no data will ever be duplicated. These are the practices reliable IT companies use to protect their clients, and you may use them as a guide.
We have analyzed the steps of reaching success when dealing with IT outsourcing. They include:
- developing a clear vision of your product;
- collecting information about the IT company of your choice and its expertise;
- ensuring people in the IT outsourcing company are ready to get into your business specificities;
- flexible workflow based on agile methodologies;
- transparency in communication;
- ensuring the IT studio provides multilevel QA testing and maintenance;
- following all necessary security procedures.
In 2017, Global Sourcing Association named Ukraine an Offshoring Destination of the Year. According to IT Ukraine Association, the country has positive workforce dynamics and high qualitative indicators. 74% of Ukrainian developers have a software engineering or other technical degree. This makes Ukraine the country with a great potential for IT outsourcing. We invite you for collaboration!
Contact us to ask questions, discuss your business ideas and terms of cooperation.