When it comes to offshore development, there is an important distinction between saving money and optimizing value. And the fact of the matter is that if you look at offshore development simply as a way of saving money, you may be missing some key considerations. After all, not all offshore development partners are created equally. From regional specialties to iterative development approaches, the overlooked benefits of offshore development can take your project to the next level (if, that is, you know how to vet which vendors are the right fit for your needs).
The US Myth
First, let’s dispel some misconceptions: While many talented tech and data professionals live in the United States, the U.S. is not the top country for certain specialties of developers. In fact, according to HackerRank, which compares countries’ software engineers based on their programming skills, the United States comes in at number 28. Furthermore, the need for web developers in the US far outstrips the supply. As USA Today notes, “the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that in 2020 there will be 1.4 million more software development jobs than applicants who can fill them. Schools and other tech education programs can't seem to produce candidates fast enough.”
H1 Visa, Level 1 Headache
Larger companies have tried to bridge the supply gap by investing in training programs (think Girls Who Code) for young adults so software development careers become more ubiquitous. This, obviously, takes time, money, and training that not all companies have to invest. On a short-term scale, some companies have tried to bring in highly talented international developers who can work on projects and help train other developers. The problem? H1 visas are notoriously difficult to secure — and are becoming more difficult every day. For these reasons, choosing an experienced offshore development partner is often the quickest and most efficient way to find the skills a team needs to achieve their goals.
Offshore Superpowers (aka International Specialties)
So, where do companies go to fill these positions? Well, looking back into HackerRank’s data, Eastern Europe and Asia are great places to start. Of course, choosing the right country to start with highly depends on your needs. For instance, if you are looking at algorithm experts, Russia has the highest ranking, but if you need an expert in Java, some consider Poland to be the top choice. And there is, of course, an economic benefit:
While Eastern European software developers have achieved great results and are renowned around the world for their high-quality work, economies of their countries still lag behind. This makes cooperation with software developers in Eastern Europe rather beneficial: you receive a high-quality product for a price that is lower than the average rates.
Asking The Right Questions
When getting to know anyone, asking questions to figure out whether or not you're on the same page is paramount. Vetting offshore development partners is no different. Elizabeth Gallagher, Chief Revenue Officer at Lineate, explains the considerations your team should make when choosing a development partner from a different country,
Managing projects across distributed teams goes way beyond finding the best talent. When you are considering offshore firms, we recommend asking questions about how potential partners maintain alignment on business objectives, how they approach communications (ideally it’s a mix of standups, weekly demos and frequent, iterative deliveries) and their approach to working with in-house teams who have their own systems and processes. Plus, inquire about the potential partner’s awareness of cultural differences and how they address them in the context of project work.
Breaking Down Language & Culture Barriers
As for the issue of language barriers, the English Proficiency Index, shows that many countries, especially in Europe and Asia, have a moderate to very high global ranking in English. Furthermore, according to daxx.com, “English skills among IT professionals are traditionally higher than the country’s average.” So, a language barrier should not be a problem. That said, if language differences are a concern or something your team has struggled with in the past with developers, be sure to check if the companies you are considering have some sort of counterpart office in the US. After all, companies that utilize a hybrid approach will have the expertise you need to complete projects alongside access to local teams with whom you can clearly and readily discuss your goals.
In offshore development, time zone discrepancies cannot be ignored. But if planned correctly, a teammate working on the other side of the world can be used to your benefit, not your hindrance. For instance, if a task gets assigned at the end of your business day, the offshore development team will work on it while you sleep. Plus, there are times during the day where work hours overlap, so chances are, regular contact and planning project-wide strategy sessions will be fairly easy. And as mentioned earlier, development partners who have offices offshore and in the US are more likely to understand the best way to manage projects across different teams and timezones.
Of course, finding a team — no matter where their developers are located — takes time and research. It’s important to consider all of the factors that go with choosing the right partner: your needs, the right communication plan, cost, and more. But, if you go into this venture with the idea of optimizing value, where developers are located will take a backseat to what it takes to get your project done (and done right).