May 14, 2020
January 21, 2020

How To Get Offshore with award-winning talent in 2020

A few sentences into this article you should feel an internal “yes” to your choice to keep reading.

It’s a relieving feeling like you hit Google’s “I’m feeling lucky” button when you searched “best agencies to work with 2020?” managing to articulate your anxieties on remote hiring into a productive search query. A great start actually.

Step One: Understand.

The main reasons for seeking offshore talent be it for mobile app, web development or other engineering projects are as follows.

Cost-effective

Companies pay 2-3 times less when they outsource software offshore.

Wider talent pool

Seeking offshore means gaining access to many more developers than you could within a 100km/mi radius of where you park your tush at the office.

Niche expertise

No matter how specific your task or project, the offshore development industry is growing so fast that you can find virtually any services you seek. Cloud computing, fintech, blockchain, machine learning, IoTs, whatever you need - exists offshore. Full-stack development, mobile app development, testing neural nets, on and on and on.

Declutter brain

It helps your in-house team focus on core competencies aka  what you hired them and put a stop to random tasks getting frisbeed at them. (did you know frisbeed was a word?)

Focus on Your Main Business Operations

Outsourcing work to an offshore agency takes a load of managers to find, vet, and yes, manage overseas software developers, preventing burnout and reducing churn. HR will thank you.

If you are running a business in 2020, you need to get comfortable outsourcing work unless you're willing to sacrifice the quality of your deliverables.

Offshore agencies know that being unable to meet you in person puts them at a disadvantage and work hard to establish trust and communication. Their work and references are the vetting you start with.

Let’s put the main anxiety trigger to bed before we continue.

Time Zone Differences

This annoyance can actually be an effective force of productivity if you plan it right. Let’s say you’re based in New York, hiring a team in Ukraine will mean a 7 hour time difference. By the time you wake up, the team will have been working for half the day and will often have work for you to review over breakfast. That’s an excellent start to a productive day.

Unfortunately, working with a team in India shifts the clock 10 and a half hours in the opposite direction. You’ve just started your day as your developers are about getting ready for bed. That lack of synchronization can be stressful and in many cases cause project lags.

Now that we’ve covered the why. Let’s go over the how.

Step Two: Reverse Engineer

Start with your desired outcome and articulate your needs into a concrete set of deliverables.

These are your scope, your requirements, whatever you want to call them.

Be as specific as possible with your criteria as this will help the agency provide a more accurate estimate for times and costs of service.

We created a doc to help you make sure you’ve got it all in hand before you engage any software development firms.

Of course, you want it fast, good and cheap, but you’ll have to choose two of these.

Fast and good software won’t come cheap. Cheap and fast won’t be good. Pretty simple.

Define your goals

Come with questions, this is an excellent opportunity to get a sense of the team’s level of confidence and experience with your specific task.  Here are some things you should be checking off on your first (skype) date with an outsourcing agency.

First, the Litmus Test: Has your team done this exact thing before? Y/N

Prior Projects

  • Is the work showcased something you’d be happy to have for yourself?
  • Is it relevant to your project?
  • Is the main expertise of the team, exactly what you need for your project?
  • Which companies have worked with them before ?
  • How long did it take to build?

The right agency will make you feel ok about not being in the same room as you ask these. You will see and hear clearly that they are listening and processing your words

Problem Solving

This is where you ask all the technical questions to make sure you are speaking to an agency that is best capable of fulfilling your request. Best to have a technical co-founder with you or your head of development if you are not a software developer yourself and aren’t sure how to interview one.

Budget

Remember how we said you need to pick two, out of the fast, good and cheap selection? Well, you are outsourcing to cut costs among other things but this should never be at the risk of compromising on quality. Disregard the cheapest offers and take caution with fixed price agreements.

Spending your budget on quality will save you a lot of headaches down the line. A lot.  

Cultural differences

The main thing to note here is that you will encounter key differences between people you work within Europe vs China. Edward T. Hall introduced the theory of high/low context cultures back in 1976 but it is extremely relevant to working with developers across the pond.

Low context culture

  • Direct, simple communication aka say what you mean and mean what you say
  • Value transparency and expect honesty regardless of consequence
  • Rely on hard facts and evidence to guide future actions
  • Rely on and expect written communication

High context culture

  • Rely on non-verbal cues like body language, facial expressions, tone of voice
  • Mostly non-confrontational, less direct.
  • Declining an offer or rejection of any sort will interpreted from non-explicit communication.
  • Collectivistic. The group has an identity and members don’t wish to stand out individually as much
  • Stricter boundaries. It is important to belong to a particular group
  • Uncomfortable and not as receptive to pivots and change

Now that we’ve identified some of the cultural factors that play a role in your decision, pick your top 5 software development agencies and start interviewing.

*If you’re hesitating to pick your top 5, put the culture/team factor aside for a moment and go back to their portfolio of work.

Step Three: The interviews

What to look for when interviewing software development agencies

The two most important things you are looking for are clear communication skills and competence. Communication skills and competence.

Communication

First, remember no one is great at everything, that’s why you’re outsourcing in the first place, so take a closer, more critical look to any agency that answers yes to every single thing you ask for.

Establish expectations,  it doesn’t matter if they are stellar Solidity coders if what you need to build is a coupon chrome extension.

Secondly, evaluate how you feel after speaking with the team.

Did you feel better after discussing your objectives with the team?

  • How long does it take your main person to get back to you?
  • How many of your questions were treated like a Y/N? Vs Discussed strategically

If you haven’t go back to step 2. You need each agency on your “maybes” to be experts in that specific field your project lives or dies by.

It doesn’t matter if they are stellar at mobile if what you need is a neural net.  (even if mobile stars are willing to build it, say no!)

Giving up Some Control

Ask a candidate software development agency what the hardest problem they’ve ever had to solve. Knowing they’ve tackled things as complex or more complex than your project will put you at ease and giving over some control over the process.

You want to strike a balance between letting your outsourced software development team take over the project’s day to day while you stay involved and routinely updated on progress lets say weekly.

Pay attention to the level of energy people have. You can hear it in their voice. Are they passionate, excited about problem solving?

Look at their git. Are these people doing things they happen to be great and passionate about? What do they work on and build for fun.

If you pick a top agency you will be able to see the degree of quality they look for in their own employees. Look at who works for the people you want to hire.

Are they sharp to detail,  excited by your project, passionate to exceed expectations because they love a challenge?

Competence

It is fairly common for a client to be asked to pre-fill a questionnaire before scheduling a call  - this is a good sign and competence indicator.

This helps them identify the information they need to discuss the project in an efficient manner saving you both time.

Note, a software development agency, like a top 5 software agency in Ukraine will not work with a client that responds “ASAP” when asked, “how soon do you need this?” on a questionnaire

A software development agency’s class can be gathered from even a handful of details. It’s noticeable in communication, from how well they address your concerns during the interview, answer honestly even if the answer is “we don’t know”.

A great agency will have clear terms and gladly go through and explain the cost breakdown for their services.

Ask your interviewee the following questions and see how they respond.

Readiness.  Where are the pitfalls and challenges on a project like mine? How will you overcome them if/when sh*t hits the fan?

Arsenal. How many (insert tech/programming language, adobe program whatever) people do you have on your team?

Visibility. What will I have access to during the project? ex. GitHub repository, time reports, and Instant messengers, like Slack?

Clarity: Who is my contact person? How will I reach you?  When can I contact you? How often will sync ups happen?

Assurance: What happens if I am not satisfied?

You can assess the competence of a given agency by how you feel after speaking to them in detail about your project, including budget and timeline.

Questions should always come up early in the hiring process.

It’ll save you a lot of stress down the line.

Competent Software Development Teams

  • Overcome bottlenecks and forks in the road
  • Adapt quickly to pivot when/if requirements change
  • Take a strategic approach to problem-solving
  • Work in an agile manner
  • Go with the solution that is the most cost-effective use of resources

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