The Potential Pitfalls of Outsourced Development

If you are looking for a nearshore agile team for a project there are some common problems to look out for, or you risk losing time and money. The short and sweet summary of these problems is: people aren’t always who they claim to be.

Body shops

An outsourcing body shop only cares about headcount.  They just want to get “warm bodies” in seats and maximize head count so they can charge more.  They are less concerned with matching skill sets, culture, and maximizing efficiency.  Our agile methods ensure that we have to get you high quality people, because you will be interacting with them every day.

Not Real Agile

We don’t have a monopoly on what ‘real agile’ is, but there are definitely some companies that are using the term for its good connotations and “buzz word compatibility” without really practicing any agile methods. There are quite a few warning signs that agile is nothing more than a buzzword for a company:

  1. Check to see if they have a process of getting rapid feedback on changes.  How often are they willing to show you the code? Will developers demo specific features for you on request, or do they only want to show you things in organized demo sessions?  The correct answer is to give you full access to a test environment and not to wait for the formal Scrum demo before showing you functionality.  They should also be willing to show you a couple of options, or regularly say things like “After the standup can I show you my solution/idea for this story?”
  2. See if they have standups.  Are the stand ups every day? Do they keep them short (15 minutes or less)? On skype or some other tool?  It’s important that these be actual audio or video calls, not just email standups.  They are intended to be highly productive and short calls for communication, coordination, and collaboration, not for detailed problem solving or boring status reports.
  3. Do they have small releases often? Can they release to production after every iteration?  Do they automate testing so that you can be confident in the code changes?
  4. Do they want you to send them a big requirements document up front, or are they comfortable with change?  They need to be comfortable with you changing requirements every sprint, or every 2 weeks.  If they want you to lay out the fixed scope up front, then they are not being realistic, and they may be more interested in contract negotiation than real collaboration.
  5. Do they use retrospectives for continuous improvement?
  6. Do they know about important Agile concepts?

Other Red Flags

There are some other things that you might want to look out for, depending on your business interests. We suggest doing nearshore agile in Costa Rica, but that doesn’t mean doing business outside of Costa Rica or without agile is going to turn out badly. Just be aware that outsourcing can have a lot of hidden costs, that can be mitigated through the use of nearshore and agile development. As always be wary of things that are too good to be true. Agile methods can produce amazing results, but that takes a lot of hard work from highly skilled and experienced teams like ours, and a good process of feedback from our business partners.