Monday 8 March 2010

Offshore Development - Where are the landmines?

Choosing an offshore design and / or development company over a specialist agency based in the UK can potentially save thousands of pounds; but unless you have the expertise to manage the remote team and the technical know-how to perform adequate QA on the delivered product you may be setting yourself up for failure and wasted expense.

Benefits of Offshoring

  1. Price. Hiring developers in India, China or South Africa can be significantly cheaper. On average we have found offshore development to cost 30% less than hiring staff in London to do the job, but some of that saving is offset by the cost of a suitable project manager with technical know-how to ensure the offshoring process saves, rather than costs, money.
  2. A full team instead of just one resource. Most offshore companies now offer customers pricing based on time spread across multiple resources. You might get a part time project manager, full time developer, part time designer and test specialist in a package that is attractively priced. This is great. In fact, it is vitally important, but the benefit is negated if you use a specialist web design / development agency in London as their team will provide the same benefit - and often with more experienced, value adding resources that have a good understanding of your target market.

Disadvantages of Offshoring

  1. Timezone Differences A 5 hour (or so) time difference with India might not seem like a problem but adding up the delays in communication across an entire project development lifecycle can easily double the expected time required to deliver a completed product. You will be required to sign off on deliverables on a regular basis and any delays in that sign off will directly impact on the delivery date. Make sure you can afford slippages in your product or site launch or plan according to the likelihood that timezone differences will cause slippages.
  2. Language Difficulties Adequately communicating requirements and managing a project from start to finish with native, English-speaking developers and designers is a challenge at the best of times. Doing this with limited-English speaking teams can be a nightmare.
  3. Consistency Many offshore companies rotate resources between projects and one can quite easily receive a project that only just hangs together in both design and code consistency. While your website or product may appear to do the job, it is vital that you look under the hood and make sure the delivered project is reasonably constructed and easy to maintain. Our experience is that often this is not the case.
  4. International Experience Many designers and developers in the commonly used offshore countries have little or no international work experience. We regularly undertake projects that are fundamentally unfit for purpose but only because the designer or developer didn't understand the market in which the product or website was to be used. A good example of this comes in the form of e-commerce websites. The rules and requirements governing e-commerce (and in particular, payment processing) in the UK can be quite different to other countries, and often those requirements are overlooked and therefore render an offshore project useless - especially if maintaining or changing the code provided by the offshore company is a mess.
  5. Lack of Professionalism There is also a definite difference in professionalism between in-country and offshore providers. Ensure that you match the right resource with your requirements and don't just accept the offshore provider's recommendations. It really will help to have a specialist project manager consult locally to help you navigate the technical jargon that is thrown your way.

I have highlighted a few of the obvious benefits of offshoring your next design / development project and mentioned a few of the mines you need to avoid if you decide to do so.

If price is your only consideration then dealing with the risks associated with offshoring won't worry you too much. If quality, maintainability and time are your most important considerations then our suggestion is that you manage the risk of offshoring by contracting an experienced, local, technical consultant with experience of the process and project requirements to get the job done properly.

If offshoring isn't for you then contact us ( for an all-inclusive package that is affordable, unique and professional.

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