Outsourcing Custom Software: Is it wise?

The true cost of outsourcing custom business software can be difficult to assess as you begin to look around at your options. There are numerous opportunities to work with developers in foreign countries such as India, China, or Pakistan. While the quoted price may be tempting, it pays to weigh out your options carefully.

When Lexul was founded in 2014 as a company of one, it was necessary at times to outsource some smaller modules of a project to keep workflow on track. As the business grew, this became more common. For awhile this worked well while Eric was still the primary resource on the project and was able to manage the project centrally, but there were issues that began to come to light. But over time, we began to see the challenges.

What to consider when outsourcing custom software:

Normally, an overseas contractor will be purely quoting for the development of the software –  nothing more. They try to be as efficient as possible, but in all the wrong ways. They do not get involved enough to learn about the ins- and- outs of your company or consider your unique company processes in the design.

An overseas contractor can develop, often extremely well, a piece of code or software and deliver it precisely as requested. This sounds great, but it is actually where problems can arise. A developer not familiar with American industry or business practices will design quite literally to the letter, giving no consideration to aspects that might be assumed to have been included. They will design exactly what is asked for.

A prime example would be authentication. Say a user needs to reset their password. That’s assumed to be an easy process right? Normally, as a user, you would click a button that says “Forgot your password?” and a well written software will then send an email with a customized link to reset your password. Easy-peasy.

At Lexul, when setting up this feature we would also as a matter of course consider the need for an admin (high level user) to reset a password. With software developed overseas, small features like this are unlikely to be included unless explicitly stated. To us, and hopefully to you, this is very basic functionality. If basic things like this need to be considered, imagine expanding this out to the more complex needs of your business…a recipe for disaster.

Our [poor] Experience with Outsourcing

What became apparent with our outsourcing experiences at Lexul was that overseas development wasn’t capable of delivering the breadth and depth of usability required, without a level of monitoring or detailed specification. In our opinion, that far outweighs any benefit.

It’s clear that if a team of software developers find it a challenge to work with an overseas developer, a businessman with possibly no experience of software development or writing code is likely to find the whole experience frustrating and disappointing.

-Eric Ollis

We’d like to help you avoid that experience.

What are get getting a bid for?

All of our resources here at Lexul are based in the USA- where there is inherent knowledge and experience of local factors. When Lexul puts together a proposal for a project, that proposal will include three key aspects in every bid. 

  1. design of the solution
  2. the software development to deliver that solution
  3. maintenance and ongoing support

It’s extremely unlikely that any overseas bid will offer anything beyond the development of the software, leaving the responsibility on the purchaser to specify their exact needs. You are spending your hard earned money on this software – lets make sure it works for you. Many businessmen have been led to believe that an overseas company will save them loads of money, but usually it only means spending extra when they have to find someone in the US to fix the mistakes and rewrite, either partially or fully, the software solution.

Purchasing from a USA-based company will mean that your maintenance and support should be nothing more than a phone call away (and more than likely in the same time zone). Additionally, you’ll have the US legal system to protect your purchase if you have problems. There is little-to-no point taking legal action against an overseas company, and even if there were, the legal costs could pale in comparison to the project costs. 

In the past, we have spoken to prospective clients who have been considering a dramatically cheaper option for software (written overseas), but a deeper investigation can show the limitations. While we may be biased on this subject (being a US based development company), we want to deliver the best value to our clients and we believe there are many better ways than outsourcing to deliver that value. 

Don’t just take our word for it

Here’s additional opinions discussing the topic:

The Atlantic: Behind the ‘Bad Indian Coder’

Why I Will Never Feel Threatened by Programmers in India Cheap Overseas Programming

Forbes: Four Outsourcing Challenges (And How To Solve Them)

CIO: 15 risk areas of software development outsourcing 

Devops.com: Why Offshoring Software Does Not Work in the Agile Age

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