Filed under General , work
I know of a lot of companies, local/national/international, that swear by outsourcing full projects. "You just pass on the work and watch the money roll in" they tell me. "It's so easy I don't even have to work 9-5". Ya, right!
We've dabbled with outsourcing projects a few times in the past and I have to say that it's been very hit/miss for us. It doesn't seem to matter how detailed a spec is or how easy a site is to code, the amount of additional time and energy that you pump into managing the project is so much that you would probably have been quicker building the site internally.
Initially we thought that perhaps we had just used a bad external team or that it was our fault for not nailing down a spec tight enough but time and again outsourced projects would miss deadlines or come back to us half completed which would require us to spend more time than we would have liked to get the project where it needs to be for delivery.
Recently we outsourced work for a small brochure site to a well known and respected ASP.NET developer. He has written a few books on .net and has great examples of finished work. "Not bad", I hear you all saying and I'll admit, we were all excited to be working with this guy too. The site itself was a 5 page site with a login area for existing customers to view internal company news, a gallery and a contact form for enquiry.
However, things did not go so smoothly for us. It became clear from the first draft of the site supplied to us that this developer did not test his applications or even read our spec. I'm sure he ran 'Debug' in Visual Studio to ensure that the site compiled ok but all he had to do was step through his project on our server to know that things weren't working. Forms would not save content, images upload were appallingly low quality, site logins didn't work, etc, etc. The site was even built using a different database platform than what we requested which pushed our delivery dates back.
The whole site was a disaster from start to finish. We did get to deliver a perfect working site to the client in the end but the length of time required to hand hold the external developer was way in excess of what we would have spent internally.
It's not all doom and gloom though. There is one area where outsourcing has been working well for us. Design to HTML companies have been very successful for us inside here. If you Google "design to html" or "PSD to HTML" you will find loads of companies that offer this service, usually for around $150-$300 for a few pages. However, to get the best value for money from this type of outsourcing, just like outsourcing a big project, you need to explain in very precise detail how you want the HTML to be broken up. It's also helps if you know at least a bit about web design so you can make informative comments on how you want your site to be working.
My tips for anyone thinking about outsourcing would be as follows:
- Don't think that because you're outsourcing you can sit back and watch the money roll in. You will need to hand hold and communicate excessively with your designer or developer working on your project.
- No matter high tight the spec is and how certain you are that it cannot be interpreted any other way always email your external team daily to check progress and see how features on your site are shaping up. If you do this right you will catch the smaller issues before they become massive problems later on for you. This might seem like project management 101 but you need to factor your time into the build of the site when costing up.
- Give yourself loads of time when dealing with external teams. Keep in mind time zones!
- If you do have any problems, or issues that arise from testing the supplied work, be courteous and polite. Of course it's frustrating and sure it made sense to you in the spec but there is never an excuse for rudeness. Plus you want to make sure that you keep your external developer happy so he/she will complete your project ;)
- Once a project is completed always be sure to change any FTP details or server access that was granted to the external parties.
Have you had much success with outsourcing? I'd love to know what the rest of you think about this area of web development and any tips for the rest of us that might save the hair loss!!