Outsourcing

Experience with Outsourcing Development Work?

Tamiz Ahmed Senior Mobile & Consumer Product Manager (Formerly at Google and Bleacher Report)

November 15th, 2012

Hi all,

I\'m in the process of researching the possibility of hiring a development
firm to build the prototype for my project. I\'ve come across a few options
from my various networks, but if anyone has had good (or bad) experiences
with specific firms, I\'d love to hear about them. Thanks very much!

Best,
Tamiz

Alexander Ross Head of Business Development at Verifide

November 16th, 2012

Personally, I\'ve used oDesk to great success but I definitely don\'t do fixed bid projects. Personally I feel fixed scope, fixed cost projects are a lose/lose scenario. Projects are always underestimated hours wise, so the vendor usually has to eat extra hours. At the same time, the vendor is put in a place where he is apt to resist any \'changes\'- whether these are differing interpretations of a written specification or actual changes which we discover in process. And no project is fully specified unless by the actual code itself. Until then you\'re guessing. Anyone doing agile or lean should see why this is bad.

I hire an individual programmer and usually meet daily with him/her. For some reason, often the first guy I hire I need to let go but the second is awesome but I guess the same could happen with local talent.

I also mostly hire Latin American or Russian developers. Both are much a better cultural fit for Americans or Europeans and, in the case of Latin America, the time zones aren\'t an issue. Not to seem like a racist but I actually delete all responses from India. I have worked with phenomenal Indian developers not on oDesk but feel they tend to work either for the big firms like Infosys, Wipro, etc or they were in the US. Apparently, the good Indian developers are not waiting for my puny project on oDesk. I\'m about 0 for 6 in trying Indian oDesk shops and usually get super spammy responses to my ad from Indian shops. Again, this isn\'t an indictment of India but is my personal experience. I wish it were different.

I use oDesk as a global labor pool and hire individual developers, not a company. I find that if I do an incremental wireframe (as detailed and annotated as possible) and hand it off that the process works for me. I do spend a painful amount of time on Skype calls, and there is some rework and occasional miscommunication, but do feel that I have guys at $20/hr who are as good as $120/hr locally. I would love to hire local guys, and don\'t necessarily like sending a job overseas, but can\'t afford to do otherwise.

For context, I do have a technical background, have managed software projects for a decade, and can do a passable job on the UX at the beginning of a project. But I don\'t think the process requires that.

And I\'m not saying this is the best or only way to do this. This is just my experience. I would prefer local guys who are fully onboard, but I do feel offshore developers might help people who are walking around bemoaning lack of a technical co-founder- you know who you are... ;)

Feel free to ping me if you have questions...

Cheers,
Alex

On Nov 15, 2012, at 3:17 PM, Shawn Burke <sh...@shawnburke.com> wrote:

Chris Sanchez Vice President, Startup Leader, IT Executive

November 15th, 2012

My best advice is that you own the process. By that I mean you know
better than anyone what you want and don\'t put all your faith into
anyone else. I\'ve been in start ups where development shops were used
and it can get contentious when requirements change, schedules slip
and your vendor tells you they need more money. At the end of the day,
development shops are mostly the same and your success will largely be
dependent on your vision and leadership.

Shawn Burke CTO, Buddy Platform

November 15th, 2012

Also, just in case it\'s on your list of options, I\'d caution against using
oDesk or the like.

Unless the work item is VERY well defined and objectively measurable,
you\'ll be in for trouble.

On Thu, Nov 15, 2012 at 1:12 PM, Chris Sanchez <sanchez.ch...@gmail.com>wrote:

Eric Rogness Technical Product Manager

November 16th, 2012

I agree 100% with Alex\'s points about working with overseas teams, though I prefer to develop a longer term, trusting relationship with a development team, rather than sourcing each project to a different firm. That would probably alleviate the frequent false starts experienced by Alex. The other side effect of that is not having to deal with idiotic price negotiations, exemplified by Indian contractors, where they give you a ridiculously high initial quote and then expect you to talk them down.

I also think that have some degree of tech in your background and being able to at least communicate on a nuts and bolts level with developers is a big advantage when dealing with overseas teams. Bottom line, these are all good strategies for getting stellar results from a competent overseas team. I have not encountered any strategy that will get you decent results from an incompetent overseas (or domestic) team.
~Eric
EricRogness.com(647) 297-7126

CC: sanchez.ch...@gmail.com; tamiz.ah...@gmail.com; founderdating@googlegroups.com
From: a...@presentista.com
Subject: Re: [FD Members] Experience with Outsourcing Development Work?
Date: Fri, 16 Nov 2012 08:39:49 -0600
To: sh...@shawnburke.com

Personally, I\'ve used oDesk to great success but I definitely don\'t do fixed bid projects. Personally I feel fixed scope, fixed cost projects are a lose/lose scenario. Projects are always underestimated hours wise, so the vendor usually has to eat extra hours. At the same time, the vendor is put in a place where he is apt to resist any \'changes\'- whether these are differing interpretations of a written specification or actual changes which we discover in process. And no project is fully specified unless by the actual code itself. Until then you\'re guessing. Anyone doing agile or lean should see why this is bad.
I hire an individual programmer and usually meet daily with him/her. For some reason, often the first guy I hire I need to let go but the second is awesome but I guess the same could happen with local talent.
I also mostly hire Latin American or Russian developers. Both are much a better cultural fit for Americans or Europeans and, in the case of Latin America, the time zones aren\'t an issue. Not to seem like a racist but I actually delete all responses from India. I have worked with phenomenal Indian developers not on oDesk but feel they tend to work either for the big firms like Infosys, Wipro, etc or they were in the US. Apparently, the good Indian developers are not waiting for my puny project on oDesk. I\'m about 0 for 6 in trying Indian oDesk shops and usually get super spammy responses to my ad from Indian shops. Again, this isn\'t an indictment of India but is my personal experience. I wish it were different.
I use oDesk as a global labor pool and hire individual developers, not a company. I find that if I do an incremental wireframe (as detailed and annotated as possible) and hand it off that the process works for me. I do spend a painful amount of time on Skype calls, and there is some rework and occasional miscommunication, but do feel that I have guys at $20/hr who are as good as $120/hr locally. I would love to hire local guys, and don\'t necessarily like sending a job overseas, but can\'t afford to do otherwise.
For context, I do have a technical background, have managed software projects for a decade, and can do a passable job on the UX at the beginning of a project. But I don\'t think the process requires that.
And I\'m not saying this is the best or only way to do this. This is just my experience. I would prefer local guys who are fully onboard, but I do feel offshore developers might help people who are walking around bemoaning lack of a technical co-founder- you know who you are... ;)
Feel free to ping me if you have questions...
Cheers,Alex
On Nov 15, 2012, at 3:17 PM, Shawn Burke <sh...@shawnburke.com> wrote:

Also, just in case it\'s on your list of options, I\'d caution against using oDesk or the like.
Unless the work item is VERY well defined and objectively measurable, you\'ll be in for trouble.

On Thu, Nov 15, 2012 at 1:12 PM, Chris Sanchez <sanchez.ch...@gmail.com> wrote:

David Albrecht -

November 16th, 2012

Outsourced development is really two different animals with the same name.
The key difference is who owns the overall effort of shipping the code.

In one scenario, you\'re hiring a company to get the job done, and they own
the process. You (the entrepreneur) communicate with a project/client
manager in terms of budgets, schedule, feature set, and other high-level
"executive" stuff. This model is expensive, but all the big shops use it
because dealing with micromanager clientzillas destroys productivity, and
is annoying. Think of them as a law firm: you wouldn\'t think of interfering
with the managing partner\'s work scheduling for a junior person/associate.
This model requires a high level of trust between the client and the
project manager, and costs a lot.

The other model is where your company owns the process, and you\'re hiring
an individual contributor to accelerate the effort. Most "job boards" like
Craigslist/ODesk work under this model, but you have to bring your own
management. I\'ve seen a lot of entrepreneurs without software experience
try to hire a bunch of devs because it\'s usually cheaper, and the project
ends up in flames because there\'s no coherent technical vision in place
(e.g. choice of hosting provider, database, code hosting, test strategy,
schedule, code quality standards, etc.) and the devs are all marching in
different directions. It\'s even worse when the developers aren\'t physically
colocated and don\'t know each other.

Just something to keep in mind. I\'ve used both models with mixed success.
If you have a software company already in place with triage, scrums,
standups, Github, etc., you\'re probably better off with the second. If you
have no idea what I\'m talking about, go with the first :)

D

On Fri, Nov 16, 2012 at 10:06 AM, Alexander Laszlo Ross <

Derek Dukes Business Development, Startups at Amazon Web Services

November 16th, 2012

Here\'s my take on prototypes and on outsourced dev shops.

You should always be thinking about this: will this shop deliver the work
faster and better than having an in house resource and what incremental
overhead will it take to make sure that happens.

Assuming you\'re building something that needs to stand out where \'design
matters\' (so basically any app) I\'d spend top quality visual and
interaction design first, ideally something that can be delivered as close
to working as possible.

From there this can become the spec for your first dev project for the
outsourced firm. In my experience this is the best way to move from product
concept to working code as quickly as possible.

Based on working with a variety of outsourced dev shops (dedicated, oDesk,
domestic, international) I\'ve figured out that there are only 2 ways to
work with outsourced dev shops: spec or speak.

The spec model works great If you\'re up for writing detailed product specs,
designs, wireframes etc. for EXACTLY what you want and how you want it
great, but you can\'t be as flexible. Additionally with the Spec model, you
have to make sure you and your dev shop use the same tools or have the same
expectation as to what is the intellectual currency you will be working in:
photoshop, ppt, keynote, stub code. Make sure their work flow is compatible
with yours.

The Speak model you need to find developers that speak the same product
language as you or really, have the same sense of style when it comes to
making a product. You can figure this out by looking at sample products
they\'ve built. This tends to show up in simple things in the product like
Registration forms, menus, when and how auto-complete is used. If you are
able to find a dev shop that speaks your product language, you\'re going to
get the \'force multiplier\' you\'re looking for out of your 3rd party dev.
shop.

- d

--
Derek Dukes | 415-828-5781 | @ddukes

Garth Johnson Sr DevOps Engineer at AllMediaNetwork

November 17th, 2012

I belong to worklist.net, and while I am biased since I helped to
build their technology stack, it creates an interesting option for
distributed development, which is why I wanted to help it get built.
It\'s different so I\'ll talk a little bit about it.

tl;dr; Pay for development by micro-milestone (or see the 1 min
youtube link at the bottom)

Worklist.net is a transparent development network. The freelance
developers are rated and reviewed by the project managers/founders
that pay them. Everything is open, you can see who\'s bid\'s where
accepted, how they communicate on tasks, issues, how many additional
changes where authorized, how well they work with other people in the
network, and scroll back to see the entire developer ecosystem, (The
chat and task history is browsable/searchable back to 2009)

You start there by funding a budget of which Worklist.net takes a 10%
up front service fee. They take care of paying the developer and
project managers, 1099 paperwork for US contributors, etc. How you
proceed is based on what you need.

You can just bid out large chunks of the prototype to an individual
developer or through a project manager who can run the project, using
other developers. You can watch it all happen.

Or, you can break the tasks down to micro/Agile/Lean steps/sprints and
accept bids for the next step only after you have each piece working.
"Change X text to read Y", "Add a new button". You don\'t have to
commit any funding beyond the next steps your able to describe.
Short, clear tasks can be very inexpensive and quick. Huge/vague
tasks will get more expensive bids...which might mean you should
negotiate (publicly is recommended)/clarifying the tasks or coming to
an understanding of what exactly is going to be delivered as well
until the scope matches the budget.

You can have the code reviewed by someone else (including only people
you allow/invite) before and/or after you test the feature. You can
also have multiple people review the code if you\'re paranoid or in a
compliance industry. When everything is finished and you mark the
task Done, those involved know they will get paid.
Repeat

You don\'t have to \'know coding\', as long as you can communicate what
you want clearly. Below92 who I worked for/with on the project built
the worklist and their first projects with PHP and MYSQL due to the
number of developers available, which can work well for some
prototypes. However they have developers with many skills and
talents. Lately they have been growing ios and android mobile
development.

You can host your code openly on their subversion repo or your github.
You bring your own private github if you want the code to not have
public review. They have a shared development environment or you can
provide your own server, however you then have to manage the accounts
on your own. They recently added public DevOps support. I
occasionally pick up some of those tasks on weekends, and I vouch for
the other 4 authorized DevOps (Dans, Leo, Stojce, Alexi) as
trustworthy.

If you do not have any technical skills, you\'re just as likely to
spend lots of money/time at Worklist as anywhere else, however the
transparency level available is a lot higher than just seeing a
\'portfolio\' of some projects (where you can\'t see how much money they
cost, how long they took, how painful the process may have been, or if
they actually ended up with what the clients wanted).

For those inclined, here is one of the founders being interviewed by
Kevin Rose bookmarked to where he talks about Worklist.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jg43s9yPsaIt=25m19s

or just the 1m14s worklist.net pitch:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60-iFFBl4Z4

It may not be a perfect fit for every one/project, at least there are
other options to consider.

Garth

Sridhar Alla Big Data Architect, Engineer, Trainer and Agile practitioner

November 15th, 2012

It depends on the technology but i use a company in India. They are good
with j2ee and all front end stuff as well as hadoop and solr/lucene etc.

If you want i can introduce you to the ceo you can discuss your specific
needs directly.

Check out www.tech-compiler.com

Regards,
Sridhar
On Nov 15, 2012 4:17 PM, "Shawn Burke" <sh...@shawnburke.com> wrote:

Anonymous

November 16th, 2012

The best results that I\'ve seen from offshore dev teams occur when the HQ
treats the offshore team as a center of excellence instead of as a
transaction. This meant giving the team 1) a sense of ongoing purpose (ie,
owning a portion of the roadmap), 2) periodic face-to-face time to gauge
the team\'s mindset, and 3) insisting that an ongoing training program be in
place. This worked for 3rd parties in Russia, India & Taiwan for me.

On Fri, Nov 16, 2012 at 11:44 AM, Eric Rogness <ericrogn...@hotmail.com>wrote:

Alexander Ross Head of Business Development at Verifide

November 16th, 2012

Sorry if anything I said seemed otherwise but I agree 100% on the long term relationships and trust. Definitely key.

I\'m curious what others\' experiences communicating with off-shore teams is. I\'m wondering how well non-technical founders in particular are able to communicate with an offshore team. I might be presenting on this to a group in January. Feel free to ping me away from this group if you have experiences...

Cheers,
Alex

On Nov 16, 2012, at 11:44 AM, Eric Rogness <ericrogn...@hotmail.com> wrote: