Appsjunction Exclusive: Outsourcing vs Local Devs, Secrets, Facts, Myths, Dos, Don’t - how to do it right?

Outsourcing -  your favourite networking, #crowdfunding & freelancers platform, brings to you this "Appsjunction Exclusive: Outsourcing vs Local Devs, Secrets, Facts, Myths, Dos, Don’t - how to do it right?" guide. This presentation was first presented at 28th Aug 2014 Meetup by App Expert Navin Arora @navinarora

Don't we all know that outsourcing could be  a pain in the neck? Time zone issues, communication issues, ethics issues, cultural issues etc. But some still have mastered the art and are launching their projects one by one with the help of freelancers across the world. So what is that they know but you don't know. Read On….


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Outsourcing Debate

Facts, Myths, Dos, Don’t  Meetup London

28 Aug 2014

Presented by: Navin Arora

Chief Apps Consultant 

Myths about Outsourcing

• 1) Its very cheap always

• 2) local devs are better than outsourced devs

• 3) someone can do my weight lifting without me holding their hand

• 4) I can just communicate what I want over call and it will be done like I want

• 5) I can send my App concept in 10 lines and they will get the rest by telepathy.

• 6) I can get unlimited hours from them in fixed cost project. 

• 5) XYZ country has bad devs 

Facts about Outsourcing

• 1) Its not cheap, if its very cheap then you are probably hiring a headache

• 2) Outsourced devs are as good as local devs - human brain is same genetically, in fact usually they are more hard-working & less boozing types

• 3) You will need to prepare a pre-agreed process of working together, call schedules, use project & task management software like Producteev (mobile app too)

• 4) have sensible expectations, written frozen detailed specs & documents - its like house building contract - if you haven't asked for it, it won't be delivered, changes later will be costly. Change requests - CRs are often relationship spoilers

• 5) Your first experience with any xyz country will be bad - like first love - heart broken - mis-matched expectations. Work on it.

• 6) Outsourcing portal has all kind of devs as anyone can join. very fresher or low intelligent to highly intelligent and experienced – interview more & hire intelligently - be almost as sensible as deciding about a life partner

Dos & Don't - Part 1

• If you can't draw a picture (hand made wireframes) or write your requirements clearly in a document – STOP. Don't go for outsourcing as you only have a recipe for disaster, nothing more. Put some hardwork yourself and write down your requirements and make hand made wireframes using paintbrush or free tools like Balsamiq,, justinmind, Sketchy for iPad, Flinto etc. 

• don't engage any geeks  without written spec ready,

• don't be a mystery woman meaning don't assume they will ask you questions and find out about the spec in your brain, 

• geeks are not lovers ;) meaning they won't run around you, call you to make sure you are happy today, 

• they won't have time to figure you out – telepathy doesn’t work here

• Without detailed spec you will end up with arguments & issues on scope

• Even Local Sr. Devs would want detailed spec

• If you asked for a round button in spec/wireframe, you will get round not rectangle even if rectangle makes more sense UK wise – Devs consume information Objectively in Binary 0/1– not subjectively. They are not anthropologists. They don't know what us subtle or offensive color in your country. Specify everything, including colour codes.

Dos & Don't - Part 2

• Local or remote, if its your first time, there will be some learning required at your end too, to work with the geeks you are interested in - e.g. 

• culture adjustments, learn how to speak to them, grasp what offends them - devs in some cultures are sensitive and get offended easily on small comments. The most common mistake a first time outsourcing client does is he/she starts feeling like a boss and treats outsourced manpower as SHIT. Most often your first hires will leave your project after heated arguments. So don't do the same mistakes others have made before you.

• learn how to communicate changes and bugs. Don't sound too disappointed with bugs. That will show your immaturity in the whole process. Devs are not new to bugs. They live comfortably with bugs. Always remember that even Apple, Microsoft, Google etc also release security patches and fixes to world's most trustable softwares. No single software on planet is bug free. When you can't scold Microsoft Employees for a bug in your Windows then don't do that with your hires too. Learn to live with it. Report objectively with screenshots, steps to produce the bug and wait for the fixes.

• learn about timezone affects, local holidays 

Use screen sharing calls (free tools:, teamviewer, skype) more and email less - this one tip can save your relationship with devs and can fix 9/10 mis-understanding issues.

• Use screenshots (e.g. more to highlight changes and use written word less. Words often lead to confusion. Point to issues on screenshots using softwares like paintbrush and correct spell/font/height/width mistakes - this one tip can save your relationship with devs and can fix 9/10 mis-understanding issues.

Dos & Don't - Part 3

 How to choose the right devs: 

• Read Rating, reviews – never go for cheapest quote – You will get what you pay for.  Avoid more costs to fix the shit later.. Whenever someone around you complains about his/her outsourcing experience, in 99% of case the person would have gone for the cheapest quote.

• Do interview calls, Prepare Qs beforehand. 

• Give a test task first – something to check their delivery – and pay for it. Treat it like a house building contract. You can't get a window made free as a sample for your house.

• Ask for previous clients info - to double check 

• Finally give them a small first chunk of project with agreed deadlines and cost. See how it works out between you and them.

Most Apps need more than just 1 iOS guy. If you can afford, don’t engage a single iOS developer, if you need quality and peace of mind – engage a dev agency with a dedicated project coordinator who can understand your business requirements well and translate them into technical requirements, dedicated iOS devs, Web services devs, DB devs, QA & testing support, hosting support. 

Go for the ones which can offer some App Store Optimisation & post launch basic promotion support as well. Ones who can guide you in these matters. e.g. who built this awesome  portal.

Dos & Don't - Part 4

Point to note - this is most critical advice that despite of following all advice shared so far, there is no 100% guarantee that you will be happy – 

• Outsourcing is irrelevant here, its like going to a highly rated & reviewed restaurant, they cooked something which was standard for everyone everyday, but which was not as per your tastes. Point to understand - others weren't wrong, no one can please everyone, they just couldn't please you unfortunately.

• Just part ways decently and find someone else. 

Top Issues with 99% cases of bad outsourcing experiences  

• It was client’s first experience – remember first love theory – first love in 99% cases is immature love and leads to heart break but it makes you mature and wiser

• Poor written Spec. Always a pain point. Spoils relations even with good devs

• Bad hiring procedure or went for cheapest one – got crappy work done – then cribbed about the whole country (India, Russia, Ukraine, Philippines anyone, all are same)

• First experience – no process – didn’t know tools to correctly report bugs issues

• Used offending comms – treated outsourced devs like cheap labour, without respect

• No patience with inevitable missed deadlines and bugs in delivery. Anyone who has been through a house building or software building experience before would know that deadlines are just estimated delivery dates. Software building is not like a train on tracks or popcorns in microwave which will be ready in set time. There can be lots of technical issues and unexpected tech problems with new stuff as well as old stuff devs have built before because 3rd party APIs like facebook/twitter/paypal, SDKs keep changing/upgrading and new versions break things, deprecate old software calls and don't always work perfectly because they themselves have bugs. So grow some patience with missed deadlines and bugs. It is not uncommon for 1 month project to be finished in 3 months because of unforeseen tech issues. Sometimes during the development itself, Apple releases new iOS or new iPhone and hence suddenly things start crashing or more dev work is needed. As a client, you only lose patience & time but its the dev who has to bear the financial losses as they will have to somehow manage their 3 months of bread and butter in 1 month's worth of payment in a fixed cost project. That is why many devs are moving away from fixed cost model and would only signup a project on hourly billing basis. Which is exactly how big companies pay their own employees when they set out to build a new product. In technology space, most (99%) projects never complete on time and even big corporations like Apple/Microsoft have delayed their releases many times by months but their devs (employees) still get paid for every month they work on fixes, CRs and new functionality.

• When you outsource to a single dev or even to a small dev agency they are not like Microsoft or Oracle with an army of testers. In a typical enterprise level IT project, there are roughly same number of testers as there are developers. If you can't pay for a team of testers then please don't expect a bullet proof software. Every big app out there has bugs and get routine upgrades. Its better to accept this fact and live with few bugs in your app and constantly improve it.

• Treated developer like a bottom less coke – when he gave up doing it in fixed cost quote, called him “BAD”.

• Expecting an army like daily reporting. Expecting reporting even when there is no significant progress to report. 

• Most common reason is mis-matched expectations. Paying peanuts for the cheapest car in market and expecting Mercedes Benz sports model. Most often Freelancer's skills and QA are few grades below the Techies from Top/Good Institutions employed by big IT companies for a much higher salary. If you have budgets of 150K to 1 Million then sure go for bigger IT outsourcing companies with Quality Assurance and other procedures.  So please be sensible with your expectations. Rule of thumb, if you are paying anyone less than £10($15) / hr then he/she is not going to be the average freelancer. This rate is the basic minimum to get your stuff done at reasonably quality level. Expecting someone to build a whatsapp or facebook in $1200 is like assuming the freelancer dev lives on just water & air.  Agencies with better qualities of Devs & Project Managers cost more. A decent iOS guy in UK works on £500/day even if he is an immigrant skilled manpower from a country like India. So adjust your expectations when you get App/Web dev work done by Computer Science Grads/Post Grads in other countries on £80/day which is the basic minimum wage (equals to £8/hr + VAT) even a cleaner/sweeper gets paid in London. So please respect your devs. Don't demoralize them by cribbing about their work most of the time as mobile app devs are in high demand these days and they won't think twice to leave your assignment/employment.

Learnings from Outsourcing Experts:

• You will get better at hiring with 2nd/3rd attempt, so start with small projects – learn the art. Like buying a cheap car to practice driving. When gained confidence and experience, go for bigger money spend. If your first project's cost is significant then divide the project into 3-4 modules and pay for 1 module first.

• Hiring a dev is like arranged marriage – there is no courtship period to understand each other – expect lot of issues – increase tolerance and patience. First few weeks with be a critical period as first few code deliveries may lead to arguments, mis-understandings but will help you in learning. Eventually the troubles will fade away and both sides will get adjusted to each other's style of working and commenting/reporting. 

• You will develop a process which suits you, you will get better with docs and tools to make the comms correct and objective. You will report bugs and issues more politely, promptly and correcting using tools mentioned above for screenshots. You can also request the devs to use a free bugs & task reporting tool like "producteev" which comes with its own apps as well.

• Always remember that beginning of a project is very slow. There is nothing much to report while devs are just setting up things and progress will be slow initially as the backend coding takes time and only later devs can build some front end which can be shown to clients. Expect a weekly reporting and demo deliveries by Friday/Saturday. Expect more frequent comms later and get involved more via conf calls and screen sharing calls.

• In context of iOS Apps, always do remember that devs can only build the app for app store submission. After UAT (user acceptance test) from your end and upload to iTunes appstore, that is when they would usually expect their final payment. iTunes guys are notorious for their stupid, silly and highly irrational stubborn objections to features in your app. iTunes guys may ask for more information, or to add/remove features in app, or to re-do some functionality in some way. You can't blame devs if you asked them to build an app for selling animal skin rugs and your app doesn't get approved or if you forgot to add user reporting of bad content in your app. Please do your own research about your app's features, regional and legal approvals. If iTunes guys ask you to work on your app to fix something then expect to pay developers to implement that. Their job was done when you approved the app to be submitted to app stores. Any more work after that should be paid for. Many good App developers like  offer 1 month of post go-live bug fixing support FREE & included in their fixed cost quote. 

• U.S., Canada, Australia are top countries to have higher compatibility & tolerance with offshore manpower. Businesses and Entrepreneurs there are winning & moving ahead. They have learned to ignore small issues, learned cultural sensitivities, increased their tolerance and patience and learned the learnings mentioned here. If you always encounter problems with outsourcing then may be you are a product of your environment. Its time for introspection.

• Devs are same people for every client – if they have 2-5 yrs of ratings and 90%+ happy clients but you are unhappy – its time for introspection.

• Next time you hear someone cribbing about outsourcing – remember there are always 2 sides of every coin. In almost all cribbing cases it would be their first outsourcing experience and they would have gone for the cheapest quote which in most cases will be a school/college kid from India with no reliable ratings and reviews on freelancers, kind of portals. We recommend hiring a trusted App development agency like which can provide experienced English speaking Project Coordinators who can correctly translate your concerns/issues and functionality suggestions to devs and geeks in their team. A good agency should provide multi OS apps (iOS, Android, Windows Phone) for different screen sizes using the same backend code, good quality code with minimum bugs and do their best to deliver your expectations.

@navinarora @phoenixgmn @appsjunction

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