Getting out software on time is always a challenge. Having enough money to be able to recruit and keep top development talent is also a pain. And if you're not a tech co-founder, getting your product to market can become a nightmare fast.
I found myself with this challenge early on with Alumnify. And although I went to a coding bootcamp, my development skills were nowhere near what it took to be a technology leader of a startup. Not to mention that in the early stages of our startup, there was no way we could shell out the salaries that developers demanded. And when customers started piling up, time was not on our side. Our options were limited.
If you're in a situation like this, one of the solutions to consider is outsourcing. I've tried outsourcing many times, and mostly have experienced nightmares going through the process. Over time, I've learned three keys that have made a huge difference in the success of hiring a third party to build my software. Make sure you have these bases covered, and I promise you your outsourcing experience will go much better than most. A little preparation on your end can make a huge difference in the final result.
1. Have your own techie manage the project
A huge problem that I see in outsourcing is when a founder who has no technical experience tries managing the team. The problem with this is that you put yourself at a major risk of not getting the quality of work you want.
For instance, non-technical co-founders just look at the end product. They do not have the ability to go through the code that's written. Because of this, the outsourced company will sometimes take major shortcuts in development. This can cause major damage to your product's architecture. This means that when the product takes off, the company will have to rewrite the software. There's no strong foundation to build on. Poor coding practices can affect how the software is able to handle scalability. Imagine having your product go viral, only to have thousands of people have your software crash on them.
Another problem with not having your own techie managing the project is that you are subject to getting ripped off. Many of my friends have overpaid dev shops because they didn't realize how the process works. There was one time where my friend asked the development company he was working with to add in one extra field in his signup process. The result was an extra bill for two-thousand dollars. This is an example of what can happen when you don't have someone experienced on your end in charge.
To avoid this, get one person on your team who's a strong coder and put him in charge. Make sure he's assessing all the work being done, and that he is overlooking the entire process. You need this person to be more of a micromanager than usual, otherwise the end bill will get steep and your product will be poorly built.
2. Get your designs done before outsourcing
This point is a must if you're doing offshore development. One of the hardest things to overcome in offshore projects is not being able to communicate effectively. So many times we think the development firm knows that we want, only to then add in a bunch of things we never asked for.
The best way I've found to prevent this is to get your design work done in house. Go through every single screen, and make sure each one is exactly how you want it. You should be so comfortable with the designs that as soon as you hand them over you know 100 percent that's what you want. When you do this, it reduces the amount of interpretation the development firm has to go through. The more work you do upfront, the more risk you prevent with miscommunication. Also, getting your designs done in house can save you a ton of money. Outsourced companies love upselling design work, spending hours and hours on revisions. Avoid this and your wallet and sanity will thank you.
3. Don't be a feature creep
After you give your designs over an outsourced company, unless you made a huge error it's time to stop messing with the product. Delays in the process occur when you start trying to squeeze in extra features after development has started. This slows everything down, and everyone will be thrown off track.
Instead, once you hand over your project, step away. Get the software built and ready to bring to market, then make edits afterwards. Way too many companies die before finishing their products because they become feature creeps. Reid Hoffman once said, "If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late." Keep this in mind before you start interrupting the development process with more feature or edits. Get something to market to validate your hypothesis, then look to refine. Trying to get everything perfect the first time will cause you to have nothing at all.