Imagine this: your company needs to create its own software, but they have no experience nor human talent to do so. What do you do? You have 2 options: recruit and train new people as your in-house development team, or hire an outside company to build the software for you. The second option is what development shops (or dev shops for short) are all about. In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know about outsourcing your software development. Read on to find out about different kinds of dev shops, qualities to look for in potential candidates, as well as best practices for a successful partnership.
What is a dev shop?
A dev shop is a company that provides software development services. They can either specialize in a specific niche, or provide a wide range of services. Dev shops are versatile: they can work with companies of different sizes, industries and needs. Their services include developing new websites or mobile apps, updating existing software and integrating it with other systems.
Understanding different types of dev shops
Depending on their location, there are different models of dev shops: local, offshore, and nearshore. Apart from obvious differences in proximity, each one of them offers its own unique benefits. Below, we will go through them one by one:
- Local (or onshore) dev shops are located in your country. It gives you more control over the development process, as face-to-face meetings can be held on a regular basis. However, this also comes at a bigger cost – companies from the US or Western Europe usually charge more for their services than their Eastern counterparts.
- Offshore dev shops are service providers located as far as on different continents. They are generally cheaper to hire and offer a wide pool of talent to choose from. They do come with some limitations, like possible differences in language (although if you operate in English, there shouldn’t be any problems if you decide to outsource from the US to Eastern Europe, for example), time zones as well as culture.
- Nearshore is a compromise between the two. This model of outsourcing relies on choosing a supplier from a neighboring country, which (in many cases) can bring budget savings but little to no issues with understanding one another.
Some businesses decide to hire freelancers. It’s an attractive solution as there are plenty of skilled software engineers on the market who are likely to be cheaper than hiring local dev shops. The problem is finding the right people – some freelancers tend to oversell their skills and experience and end up in a project that they can’t deliver.
Services typically offered by dev shops
Dev shops often not only specialise in building complete digital products, but also provide their services to clients who already started their development, or simply require additional dev bandwidth to support their in-house teams, including:
- dedicated SaaS development services,
- MVP development for early-stage startups,
- e-commerce and marketplace development,
- UX/UI product design and system architecture design,
- web development,
- mobile development,
- cloud development and DevOps,
- project management,
- as well as other bespoke software development services..
The benefits of outsourcing software development
Dev shops are popular for a reason. They can support start-ups as well as large corporations in software development by being a cost-effective alternative to hiring an in-house development team. Working with a dev shop is also a good idea because of:
- Lack of high recruitment and onboarding costs. Dev shops employ software engineers and specialists with expertise in different markets and technologies. It gives you the freedom of making rapid adjustments to the employed tech stack, without letting people go and having to deal with replacing them, which is a much longer procedure in itself. Dev shops can do that right away, simply by rearranging their development teams.
- Experience in building numerous digital products. When a regular business decides to build its own solution, it usually did it only once or twice before. There is a steep learning curve in product development and most dev shops learned their lessons after releasing tens, if not hundreds of different projects. That gives them expertise not only in technical aspects of software development but also in nuances of specific markets.
- Commitment to product quality. When developers, Scrum masters, or a designer in a dev shop are assigned to a client, that is the only software they will be working on for the next few months. They will be assessed based on performance in that product’s team, so it’s in their best interest to deliver the best results possible.
Depending on a dev shop, the benefits can also include additional business consultancy, access to potential investors, and marketing support. Depending on the client, these services can be very helpful or completely unnecessary.
Choosing the best dev shop
The competition between dev shops is fierce, which for you is both good and bad. Regardless of the industry or the type of software that you want to build, there are many to choose from that will provide the quality of service that you’re looking for. The downside is that in order to find them, you need to research and interview a lot of potential candidates. To help you find a dev shop that will be suitable for your project, you should consider:
- Specific requirements. You should first analyze thescope of work, your budget, and what kind of software it is you’re building. Then, you should think about what kind of service provider would fit your project best.
- The reputation and experience of your candidates. What you’re looking for is a dev shop that has worked on a project that has similar qualities to yours. Apart from what you can learn yourself, it’s good practice to interview the candidates and ask about relevant experience and case studies. Most dev shops openly share stories of their successful projects on social media or their blog. But in some cases, they are not allowed to share the details of a project publicly due to active NDAs.
- Pricing and payment terms. Partnering up with a dev shop is often dictated by cost savings, however, when choosing a service provider, you should never go for the cheapest one. The general rule of “if something is too good to be true, it probably isn’t” applies here. The cheapest dev shops can be the ones that tend to go for new clients, deliver half-baked software and then quickly move on to the next project. If the company has a brand reputation to maintain, they will be serious about delivering a high-quality service. This requires them to hire and constantly train the best talent in the business, which is then reflected in their pricing. If you want your software to be built properly, cost savings shouldn’t be your main factor.
- Their organization itself: their size, culture, and expertise. It will affect how they will communicate with you throughout the partnership. Also, you can look at how each dev shop treats its employees. You want to work with businesses that have good reviews from their employees as they are likely to deliver you experts that are motivated and productive, as opposed to stressed and underappreciated.
Finding the right dev shop is harder than it looks. The internet is full of stories about nightmare companies that didn’t deliver, despite raking in enormous fees. That is why it is important to take your time and talk with at least 3 to 5 potential suppliers before making your decision. Once that happens, you need to build a good relationship with them, to ensure that the outsourcing will be a successful endeavor.
A roadmap for successful outsourcing
Each project is different, so naturally, each partnership will be different as well. There are however some common practices that in our experience can help with maintaining a good working relationship between you and the dev shop of your choice. Here’s our 8-point roadmap for successful outsourcing:
- Implement Agile methodology within your company. Software development became incredibly complex over the last decade. In the past, it was possible to order a digital product from a dev shop and then forget about it until the release day. That approach known as a “waterfall” is dying out in favor of a more flexible methodology called Agile. The list of its benefits could serve as a topic for a long article, but the most important ones are:
- the development team better understands the project,
- you can check on the dev shop’s progress on a weekly or bi-weekly basis,
- the project can evolve during development if needed.
- Take care of UX/UI first. The graphic design of your software is not only about looking appealing to users but also about being functional. Ask your dev shop if they can add a designer with strong skills in UX/UI to prepare a mockup of your project for you to review and test before any development is done.
- Be precise about what you expect. Things like budget, timeframe, and features should be outright specified (and written down) before any work commences. This will help prevent any misunderstandings in the future. Some dev shops might offer product workshops, just like we do, which serves as a great starting point for a fruitful cooperation.
- Take ownership. If you are a person responsible for project delivery, don’t be afraid to act as a manager of your outsourcing partner. Some dev shops even go as far as including their clients as team members, called product owners. Ask questions frequently to make sure that the project is on track.
- Communicate on a regular basis. We made it our standard practice to add our client’s team to our Slack, so everyone can be up-to-date with an ongoing project work. This goes both ways – as a dev shop, we expect to get informed should requirements for the project change on your end.
- Have a “plan B”. Prepare for scenarios where things don’t go your way: the project goes over budget, the team misses the deadline, or doesn’t deliver on its promises. Chances are none of these things will happen, but if they do, it’ll be much easier to minimize the damage to the project.
How RST Software can support US startups in building world-class digital products
If you are looking to outsource your software development, you should be looking for a dev shop that matches the requirements of your project. At RST Software, we conduct product workshops to better understand our clients. We then match that knowledge with a range of services such as custom software development, UX design, and team augmentation. Click here to get in touch with us and find out if we’re a good match.