Software Outsourcing Challenges: Paying for Bad Experiences

Software Outsourcing Challenges: Paying for Bad Experiences

This is PART 4 of a blog series that details software development outsourcing risks and challenges. Go back and check out PART 3: "Software Outsourcing Challenges: No Skin in the Game".

Software development is always on the cutting edge of technological advances.

It’s the foundation that allows us to design tools that make our lives easier and stay ahead of the game. But developing is far from easy. And honestly, sometimes it requires outside help.

Even though the number of software outsourcing development has skyrocketed in the past few years, the overall quality of work and level of customer satisfaction hasn’t. Low costs, communication issues, language barriers, and poor quality of deliverables became the curse of the outsourcing industry.

We want to change that.

With over 15 years of experience in software development, our founding team has experience both from the perspective of an agency as well as a client.

🧭 We’ve received vague requirements (and given vague requirements).

🍒 We’ve dealt with picky customers (and been a picky customer).

🐛 We’ve complained about bugs to suppliers (and been the ones fixing bugs).

To put it simply: we’ve been on both sides of the fence. This has given us a unique perspective to understand the drivers and motivations behind clients and agencies when it comes to problems with outsourcing software development.

How Paying for Bad Software Development Services Became a Norm

Back before the Internet was a thing (I know, hard to imagine for all you early twenty-somethings), being a consumer meant you had to put up with the occasional bad experience.

There were no social media to complain to, and no review platforms to warn others. You just put up with it.

Got a bad haircut? Complain to the manager all you want, but you’re still stuck with a bad haircut.

Bought a new car only to find the engine held together with rubber bands? Too bad, you already signed the contract.

Found a hair in your food? You can complain to the manager and warn your friends not to eat there, but the restaurant will continue getting customers.

But then the internet came along and democratized consumer voices. Suddenly, every business on the planet was backed by hundreds if not thousands of customer reviews.

Yelp, Google, Amazon, and other platforms normalized the concept of relying on user-generated reviews to help us make better-informed purchases.

We as end customers almost stopped paying for bad experiences.

(Speaking of bad experiences...check out our article about Buyer's Remorse)

Now, the idea of review-driven decisions has extended to the digital outsourcing industry. Visit Freelancer, Upwork, or any other freelance platform and you’ll find endless profiles of ready-to-hire workers all backed with a star rating system and client reviews.

Yet somehow, this review and rating system has not translated gracefully to the software development industry. While the above-mentioned websites can connect you to individual developers, they don’t work as well for those trying to outsource their software development needs to a fully equipped agency.

The Trouble with Software Development Rating Systems

Take Clutch, for example, one of the leading platforms for finding B2B development services. Pick any service type and sort the results by rating and you will find that out of the hundreds of search results, the lowest possible ranking is 4 out of 5 stars.

How is it possible that thousands of businesses all have a perfect 5 star rating, with the lowest possible score being 4 stars?

It’s an unrealistic rating system that doesn’t allow for any nuance. When you look up a restaurant on Yelp or Google, notice how they use a decimal point rating system. A restaurant with great food but slow service might hover around a 3.8 rating.

One of my favourite local cafes has a 4.2 rating because, despite their excellent coffee, they don’t seem to care much about keeping the area clean. All this is to say that it’s important to allow nuance in a rating system.

So what’s up with everyone on Clutch having a 5-star rating?

  1. Generally speaking, businesses tend to be more forgiving when rating fellow businesses.
  2. Since Clutch isn’t anonymous, the person giving the review has their name, business, and address right there next to their review—so they tend to hold back on unfiltered honesty.

As a customer, you lose the possibility to objectively assess the quality of your potential outsourcing partner: the code quality that was delivered in the previous outsourcing projects, the agile methodology they were using, and how their remote team dealt with the different time zones, for example.

How to Find a Good Software Development Agency

It’s highly unlikely that any software development agency or a freelance developer with an ultimately perfect rating will turn out to be as perfect in every aspect, with every project.

I'd be particularly mindful of hiring a "perfect" agency or developer when outsourcing an MVP development in case you are an early-stage startup owner:

This makes finding a good agency hit-or-miss, with a high risk of paying for a bad experience.

Remember that coffee shop analogy? In the outsourcing world, it means that instead of having to sip and grimace your way through a lousy cup of coffee, you’re out thousands of dollars with a bad software development team.

So when you’re trying to find a good agency for software development, here’s what you as a potential customer can do to mitigate these software outsourcing risks:

  1. Research. Research. Research. The talent pool is large. Find out everything you can about different agencies across several review platforms.
  2. Call them. Ask to talk to someone from the development team, not just a sales representative. Try to find out about their know-how and approach to a development process.
  3. Ask for referrals. Any agency worth their salt will be delighted to give you referrals from previous software development projects and for the individual team members.
  4. Ask for a workshopping session. Once you think you’ve found the perfect match, do a workshop with them (they probably charge for this, but it’s worth it). This gives you the opportunity to really see how their team does project management, run sprints and deals with miscommunication.
  5. Get a trial phase. Most software outsourcing companies will offer a trial phase of a couple of weeks to a month if you ask. Here at Softup, we even have a completely risk-free development plan.
  6. Ask around. Ask a friend, partner, or acquaintance who understands the software development process for their input.

Finding a reputable, reliable software development partner shouldn’t be difficult but sometimes it is, especially if you are pressured by the market, investors, or other stakeholders with aggressive business goals.

Even when hiring a software development company under the pressure of delivering the next milestone ASAP, never trade on quality assurance and key project requirements.

Nuances of your business model, state of the in-house team, and tight product development roadmap might create additional requirements for a successful IT outsourcing.

I can help you with your individual case and make sure you know what to ask your future outsourcing software partner.

Read next: Software Outsourcing Challenges: Vendor Lock-in