Outsourced development or in-house developers?

This argument has been going on for a while and there are numerous stories out there about the horrors of hiring software developers that you can’t breathe over as they code.

But times have changed, dramatically, and so has the average developer/customer relationship which means that using 3rd party software developers is becoming mainstream.

These brands have all used outsourced professional development companies, some may surprise you.

Now owned by Microsoft with 300M users - Skype used developers in Estonia to help build their business. 

Deutsche Bank has an outsourced development team based in Belarus for Big Data visualization algorithms.

Pedigree Chum, part of the Mars Group - mobile development in India.

Home-renting service; 60M users; 640,000 hosts; 25Bn valuation

Real time messaging platform; more than 1M users; over 3Bn valuation) - outsourced early development.

Owned by Oracle. Right from the word go they believed that the answer to achieving scale was to leverage local outsourced developers as they ramped up in new markets.

The trends for outsourced services is definitely on the rise. 

Global market size of outsourced services from 2008 to 2020 (in billion U.S. dollars)*

So if you are asking yourself "Should I build my own mobile development team or outsource?" we've tried to point out some of the pros and cons of outsourcing, whether for mobile banking apps, enterprise apps, ecommerce platforms, messaging platforms, bots, backends, front ends, games etc. 


The benefits of outsourced development

  1. Scale - Having to find a developer requires time or money for recruiters (and time), and then training. Instead you can ramp up rapidly with the right team, based on your specific requirements.

  2. Diverse skills - Technology is moving at breakneck speed which means that we often see customers having to let some of their in-house development teams go as the business’ needs change.

  3. Experience - Your team is learning on your product. Hiring the right development company with the right experience means that you learn from others mistakes and leverage their experience for your benefit.

  4. Local relevance/language - Its incredible how much local users differ in their usage of some technology elements e.g. lets look at US vs China 

  5.  US Website vs Chinese website (same brand, US version on the left, Chinese on the right)

Western messaging apps vs wechat - in the West buttons for example, the send button is up by the message, China mobile users are used to messaging apps with the send button in the keyboard.  (img. More Chinese Mobile UI Trends, Dan Grover)

Services (APIs) - Paypal vs Alipay for payment. Knowing which payment provider is dominant in local markets, and being familiar with their APIs can save a lot of headache.

  1. Speed - Dependent upon what you are building you may be able to add more developers to develop your product faster. Additionally you can get into quick prototyping rather than spending your days recruiting.

  2. Forcing you to define your needs properly - When you work with your own in-house team products sometimes evolve, and not always in a good way. Bringing in an external team requires more detailed descriptions to keep track of how you’re spending your money and what's expected. This process can ensure that there is a clear objective for software or mobile app definition, you could use this, initially developed for a mobile app but it works for defining any user facing software product - Building a killer app.

  3. Cost - Hiring an external developer and not having to have all the company benefits or dedicated office space can result in significantly cheaper development costs.

  4. Different Perspectives - Have you ever got into that cycle where you are convinced that your marketing message is clear as a bell but a prospective customer thinks you are speaking Martian? It can be the same with development, sometimes we get too close to our products and bringing a 3rd party can provide a great reality check.

  5. Mindset - Corporate culture is a powerful thing. Teams that have evolved from the IT department often struggle to meet the demands of today’s non-IT teams. They lead with security defining the agenda rather than defining a vision and finding ways to deliver whatever they can secure.


Outsourcing concerns and what to do about them

  1. Perceived lack of control - Developers have evolved enormously to meet the demands of a whole range of customer sophistication - from the start up who feels “exposed” when working with external parties, to the MNC worried about working with any smaller company. As a result many development companies have created extremely professional, robust systems, with detailed documentation, team structures, and communication methods to keep the project on track e.g. Asana, Slack and Software project  tools e.g. Jira, Pivotal Tracker.

  2. Quality - There is no question that the quality of developers varies dramatically, from the basic to the genius. That’s no different than for all kinds of services that you can hire, from accountants and designers, to marketing agencies and headhunters. 

    To protect yourself consider the following

    1. Get someone to check some of their code

    2. While there are some incredibly talented freelancers there is no recourse if things don’t work out, if they go on holiday or just disappear, particularly if you aren't experienced in technology so can't even check their code submits.

    3. Set up a series of measurable milestones

    4. Get a trusted referral from a company similar to yours

  3. The belief that one country’s developers are better - there are so many factors that go into a great development project - User experience, Design, Project management, Communication, Market adoption by users, Local relevance, Language, Technical skills, Industry experience, Size of team, Price, International experience etc. 

  4. Theft of code - Everyone is convinced that their idea is brilliant and that they are going to be ripped off by a developer but that isn’t their business and they are usually doing what they love anyway. So the probability is low, but, to protect yourself  make sure that the contract stipulates who owns the IP (overlooked all the time), and only work with those whom have reliable recommendations.

  5. Language barriers - Development houses know that communication is key so, if they are seeking work in a particular market their project managers will speak the relevant languages well.

  6. Distance - If you set up your daily stand up meeting, and regular prioritisations meetings e.g. weekly, and you use the likes of Skype you’ll be surprised at how little it matters. 

  7. Don’t know how to choose the right developer - "How do you find a great developer" is a question we get all the time which is why we built the AppBuilder as part of our app management platform - finding the right developers for your development needs - whether you need a small team or a whole ecosystem of developers. 


If you’re looking to find a professional development company for your project have a chat with one of our mobile experts. We'll find you the right developer from our global network of over 3000 companies.

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