What Happens When You Outsource Development


Outsourcing development is a relatively common practice: big companies have been sending development jobs overseas to contractors for years. But the results are not always exactly what you might expect. For many startups, the development work that they can do in house or locally (even with a crazy workload) can be dramatically better than what they can get by outsourcing.

What Are You Selling?

If you’re bootstrapping a technology startup, you probably have some serious technical skills. If that’s what you’re best at, why would you outsource doing that sort of work? Development is likely your core competency — the area in which you can outshine the competition. Handing off the ability to get ahead just doesn’t make sense on a fundamental level.

Furthermore, you care about your ideas. There are parts of running your company that are boring and it makes sense to hand those off to someone else. But actually executing the idea you set out to create is something that you need to stay involved in.

The Communications Issue

The ability to communicate with the people you hire is one of the most common issues in outsourcing. Even if you outsource to a country that officially speaks the same language you’re fluent in, communication difficulties are common. The differences in jargon and idioms alone can cause major issues, but when you add in the inability to easily ask questions if you and your team are in dramatically different time zones, communication seems impossible.

When Outsourcing Makes Sense

Just because outsourcing development work isn’t a panacea that will solve all your problems, there are situations in which it can work. In order to localize a project, handing it off to someone who actually lives and works in the audience you’re trying to reach makes perfect sense.

You can head off some of the problems that go along with outsourcing, especially if you can invest some time into creating an in-depth plan. It does take a lot of work, though, so make sure that outsourcing really is your best option before jumping into it.

Image by Flickr user Kuster & Wildhaber Photography

About Thursday Bram

Thursday Bram has been fascinated with technology and business since she was recruited to work with a startup focused on launching rockets into space in high school. She has started her own business, written for sites like CNET and GigaOm, and thought a lot about whether space flight or the web are going to wind up having a bigger impact on the human race.

  • Elias Parker

    Great quick read – thanks Thursday.

    There is an option that you don’t describe here, that has helped us and many companies to to ship more, faster, without compromising quality, caliber of work and company culture – our community has been calling it InShoring, or ‘enlightened overseas software development’. I think readers should know about it.

    For most of us in the software world, hiring at home or even hiring remote employees, means that at the very least you’ve custom-curated who’s on your team and you know that they also chose your team as their preference. We all do our best at ensuring that we’re hiring people that we can be confident will contribute to company culture and the caliber of work we expect and aspire to.

    Also, to most in North America, outsourcing is generally understood as engaging a vendor or contractor(s) that aren’t members of your in-house team. And using overseas talent is synonymous with outsourcing, right?

    So why do most of us use vendors/outsourcing when we’re engaging people over seas? Seems really contrary to how many of us operate at home doesn’t it? What about hiring directly overseas and extending your company culture instead of using someone else team and not investing in in-house knowledge?

    It’s worked great for us and now we’re helping other companies to do the same and not have to fumble on overseas-recruiting/administration/taxes/payroll/office-space. The results are clear as day – getting the specific people you actually want on your team, faster than you could in the North American job-market, not compromising quality because you’re not using some guy that a vendor mislead you to believe is a Sr./Lead developer, and saving a lot of money of money instead of wasting time.

    If the folks you’ve hired care about what’s being built and how they’re working together, the odds of success are always better – at home, remote or overseas.


    Elias Parker