If you need to outsource a software development team, whether the whole team or just part of it, you’ll need to find the optimal outsourcing provider. Your partner should be able to quickly build the right team of the right size and retain it right through to the end of the project. They should also be able to give advice on the best organizational model and the most appropriate legal framework for the services provided.
How your company, as the client, interacts with your outsourcing partner at the very beginning is the foundation of your project’s success. That means having the clearest possible picture of the final product. Your partner should take the time to understand what your project is about to make informed decisions on all the details before any development team members are chosen.
A clearly defined project scope can also help you to decide which model will be optimal for your project—whether the software house will provide developers to join your in-house team or if they will provide a dedicated development team. The hybrid model is also possible, where the roles on the team are clearly delineated between you as a client and your outsourcing partner, and the proportion of in-house employees is no more than half.
Optimize the size and composition of your software development team
Just throw a bunch of software developers together in a room with a project description, and sometime later a complete solution will result, right?
You know that’s a silly idea.
A development team needs a project manager and well-chosen software engineers who know how to work together using their soft skills. You also know that the more clearly you know what you need a software development team to do, the better the solution that results. As a client, that means taking the time to flesh out your ideas and needs in as much detail as possible. Even if the end product isn’t, or can’t be, precisely what you imagine it to be, the details will greatly improve the teambuilding process.
Risks related to team size
If you fail to define the goals up front, you face the risk that your development team will be too big or too small. Too big represents a cost, as you’ll need to retain team members who, at least at times, have no role to play. Too small may result in a compromise where team members are pressed to take on tasks they are not experts at. Or, the partner has to do sudden, last-minute recruitment in the hopes of finding the expert the solution requires.
There’s also the risk that due to unforeseen circumstances, a development team member will have to drop out before the project is finished. A quality software development company will have other software developers ready to jump in and join the development team at fairly short notice in order to minimize disruption to project progress. To help with this, the software house should be taking steps to raise the skill level, and broaden the talent stack, of its employees.
The right outsourcing model
If you’re considering hiring an outsourcing company, it’s because you know your staff don’t have the right skill stack to build an in-house team for your project. That company should be able to honestly help you determine which outsourcing model your project and your timeframe needs—a hybrid team or a dedicated development team. Factors to be considered include whether your management will have time to manage project setup or to manage a hybrid team, and how willing you are to accept any financial risk as a result of project setbacks.
How fast can your software house build a development team?
Three or four months? Sometimes. A “body-leasing” company will certainly take that long, at least.
How about six to eight weeks?
Such an optimal time frame is possible with the right software development company.
It comes down to how large the staff is. A well-managed software house has the resources to retain its software developers (more on that later) and organize their work effectively, greatly minimizing or even eliminating the necessity to find and hire developers.
That way, the project manager is more in the know about each team member’s skills and personality, and can plan out when each person starts tasks on each project.
Of course, hiring software developers is a constant process. A software house that is always recruiting developers, engineers, and project managers can ensure that it will always have the staff it needs for the next project it brings in. But advertising a vacancy is only the beginning. Of course, the interview and any testing process must be done carefully, without undue hurry. The final step, though, is training and upskilling, as mentioned above. The software house knows what skills are most in demand, and consistently looks ahead to see what skills are likely to be useful in the near future.
How does your prospective partner manage its teams?
It’s been said that venture capitalists would rather invest in a good idea brought by a great team than in a great idea brought by a mediocre team. You may not be investing millions of dollars, but the risks are the same—you need a software house that can manage its development teams effectively.
So, ask some questions when you’re meeting a potential partner:
- Do they have all of the software developers the project will require? If not, why not? How much time will it take to hire the necessary developer(s)? Your project will get off the ground much earlier—as early as 6 weeks—if the software house has an existing team and doesn’t need to hire a development team first.
- What steps do they take to retain their software engineers and team managers? A foosball table and a fitness club membership are not serious answers to this question. A good software house will take retention seriously in order to maintain the high quality of the solutions they create.
- What is the policy when a development team member resigns or is forced to take a long-term absence? Here is that other measure of a quality software house—they will have backup options available to them: software developers who they can assign to your project as quickly as possible.
- What does the onboarding process look like? How is a hybrid team integrated? The key here is information—everyone should have as much information as possible in order to not only play their part, but be able to collaborate and share ideas, whether in the office kitchen or in response to an offhand question on Teams.
- How do they ensure that the entire team shares a working environment? Obviously, the software house supplying your hybrid team should adapt to your environment by using whatever communication and coding tools your side is familiar with. Even in the case of a dedicated development team, though, which especially nowadays might not be centralized, you’ll want to know that the whole team is working in the same environment.
- How do they monitor the team’s efficiency? What steps are they willing to take when progress is not as it should be? This is not to say that you want your team to be micromanaged. Rather, there should be an effortless dashboard system to track milestones and completed tasks, and someone who monitors the dashboard and provides feedback when necessary.
The legal side of things
The IT outsourcing contract might seem like the final step in your hiring process, but the wise client will ask about terms early in the process. If you leave it till last, you might find yourself stuck in a sunk-cost frame of mind, unwilling to back out even though the terms of the contract are less than ideal.
First, find out if your partner will offer a contract on the quoted time and materials model. This is the model that allows you the greatest amount of clarity. A well-written contract embodies the way the work is organized, so that if project management communicates well, everyone on the team knows what is expected and when. Finally, at the end, the QT&M model allows you to only pay for the functionalities that meet your requirements and have been accepted.
You should also seriously consider asking for a framework agreement, even if you envision just a one-off project, because this form can save you time (and money, of course) later if there are reasons to work with the same software house again.
Other legal issues to consider
Also be mindful of what your needs are in terms of security, confidentiality, and copyright. These issues can be discussed, and decisions can be made, early in the hiring process so that there are no unpleasant surprises later.
Finally, be a good client and agree not to recruit the remote team members. A clause to this effect should be in the contract as a mere formality.
Whether you choose to hire a dedicated software development team or to hire software developers to join your in-house team, there will be benefits to your company and your software project. To recap, these are your main considerations:
- What’s the right size for the team, and what specialists does it need?
- Will you outsource the entire process to a dedicated team, or do you only need a few additional team members?
- How fast can your potential partner build a team for you and get the project started?
- How does the outsourcing company manage its teams and retain team members?
- What legal framework does the company offer?
A good project manager can ask the right questions and help you flesh out your ideas in order to create an optimum development process. The outsourcing company is well-practiced at hiring software developers in their area, so they know what expertise their software developers have and what expertise is available to them.