Offshore

asia.JPGI am currently getting a very large number of calls and emails from offshore companies in India. Either I am on some kind of list or offshore companies are concentrating more on mobile.

The thing is, I do all development myself. I sometimes recommend companies (offshore and non-offshore) to people but that’s the extent of it. Tellingly, of the ones I have continued the conversation with, none have been able to point me to contactable references for mobile work they have performed. They are all words and no proof. If you are thinking of offshore developers, see my previous thoughts on choosing a mobile developer. If you are an offshore developer, please don’t contact me unless you really have provable capability.

I am often asked by potential clients for my views on offshoring. I have nothing against offshoring and I often do feasibility studies for projects that end up being implemented offshore. I don’t mind as I am paid for the consultancy.

Development costs can be up to 1/5 of those of US or European developers. It’s a case of balancing risk against cost. It’s generally acknowledged that offshore projects need more management. You typically need to have a good grasp of what you want and what’s possible as you typically won’t get much advice. You are expected to be the technical expert on what you are trying to create. There can be cultural problems such as developers saying ‘yes’ to everything to please you rather than saying a difficult ‘no’ that would be helpful in the longer term. It can also be difficult to extract trustworthy time estimates. 

There are also problems, particularly in India, with high employee attrition rates. It’s not uncommon for the average employment period to be less than the length of your project. As an illustration of the scope of the problem, salaries in the first 6 months of 2011 of India’s IT services increased by 12% due to need to try to stem attrition rates of 20%. There’s also a trend for IT outsourcing companies to have a presence in clients’ countries in order to win work. All this is actually driving up costs for Indian contractors and making outsourcing a bit less competitive. Hence, you might try Russia, Eastern Europe or even Vietnam if you are looking for the very cheapest mobile development.

One tip I do have, especially for large projects, is that you don’t have to have an offshore developer do all the work at once. Also, you needn’t just choose one developer. Pick a very small, difficult part of your project and ask several developers to implement that. Use this to narrow down the developers and give the super-set of your project to the ‘best’ developer… or the experience might even make you re-consider whether offshore is right for you.

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