Viva La Blog

A rant about the mobile content industry, from those who have been in the trenches

Developing Apps offshore – should you do it?

Interesting discussion currently going on in the cocoaheads Google group. Someone posted the excellent question: I wonder if anyone has had any experience working or getting phone apps developed by companies off shore. Are there any tips, traps or happy or sad stories etc

Personally I have always been skeptical of getting work done by an unknown team in a country such as India. While I am sure there are some excellent software companies over there, the sheer number of pundits implies that there is probably a lot of chaff surrounding the wheat, a lot of rough surrounding the diamonds, a big haystack on top of the needles….you know what I mean.

So as enticing as the bargain basement pricing might seem, is it worth it?

Here is what one reply in the Google thread said:

I’ve seen two projects outsourced to Indian software houses.

The first was a fixed price 3 month project that took 9 months to deliver. The price stayed the same, but overall the extra expense of having a full-time Tester on the job for 6 months longer ended up putting the project over budget.

The second project was various small routines and standalone applications in a larger suite. The rate was cheap – about $1000 per month. However, without exception everything they worked on had to be rewritten.

Here’s another:

the “traditional” model of off shoring to countries
such as India I have *never* seen work. Over the last 6 or so years
I’ve been personally involved in two Indian off-shored projects (both
with large, “reputable” Indian companies) and have seen another two
from outside (with friends on the project), all of them were
disasters, for various reasons. In each case, the code written in
India was thrown away & rewritten, in the last case I’ve seen, the
Indian team were simply not able to understand the problem domain.

It would be interesting to hear from those who have had good experiences where a project has been developed offshore at a discount price and delivered on time and to spec. In the mean time, in my biased opinion, I would recommend using an experienced local development studio for mobile application projects as the complexities involved may push the limits of the offshore model beyond breaking point, resulting in lost time, money and reputation.

Posted by David Kainer on March 30th, 2010 :: Filed under Uncategorized
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One Response to “Developing Apps offshore – should you do it?”

  1. JT Klepp
    April 5th, 2010

    David, I’ve had both good and bad experiences with offshore development. We had excellent mobile developers in Romania, but did so with strong project management oversight (which included frequent visits and actually leading the team). I have also had bad experiences, where delivering a project to a “black box” type of development methodology resulted in frustrations, cost overruns and delays.

    IF you are considering offshore, you either need a) someone you really know and trust in the company – so perhaps start with small projects to build that trust, or – especially if business critical – b) ensure that you have someone representing the company spending time at the offshore company’s site, both pre-project to evaluate, and during the project on a regular basis.

    Naturally, if the project is small, option b) could mean costs cancel out. But if the costs for the project are small, you are probably better off picking someone close that you can apply pressure on if needed.

    I do think the cost advantage is only one aspect you need to evaluate offshore development for, and it should not be the only one. Increasingly, developing in India and Eastern Europe is now getting close to rates you will get in western markets, so you really need to pick a partner for their expertise and knowledge as well, where cost should only be one aspect.

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