Can you save loads of cash from offshoring?

Photo by InyuchoIs offshoring your development as good value as it seems?

I’ve had a pretty manic week sorting out a website that had been left half finished by some offshore developers (an awful situtation to be in).  The code was in a bit of a state and our client’s client was keen to get it live. It took a lot of hard work, gnashing of teeth and late nights but we managed to get it live yesterday.  Thanks to our hard work, our client has managed to regain the confidence from his client and turn a rocky start into what looks like good long relationship. 
It was very satisfying for us and I was glad to be able to turn it around.

Obviously our client doesn’t want to be in that situation again and asked us how to avoid it.  My answer was to come to us in the first place next time but I’m not sure that’s the best answer I could give!

I’m not sure what lessons can be learned from this.  The obvious lesson would be to to never use offshore developers but that’s not a fair point of view.  I’ve worked with and managed Indian developers in the past and technically they’re very good and the quality of their work is pretty good too.  We get three or four phone calls a week offering offshore developers for around $100 a day – amazingly cheap.  However, working with offshore developers does require a very good level of commication and management on your part – something I learned the hard way after hours of frustration and days of micro-managing.

Software development is a tricky business at the best of times but only communicating via email and telephone definitely makes it much more difficult that speaking to someone face to face.   In my last company, the general approach was to bring the developers over from Bangalore and put them up in a UK hotel – it ended up being cheaper than pure offshoring – I think that speaks volumes about the difficulty of effective offshoring.

So what am I saying?  Offshoring can work but be ready to spend much more time managing a project, writing emails and supporting documentation than you would if you were dealing with the developers face to face and be ready for things to go wrong.  Factor all of that into your plan and then decide whether offshoring is still viable.