Software outsourcing is becoming more and more common-place in today’s digital world. Software outsourcing is the practice of hiring an external firm or individual to perform specific software development tasks or backlogs.
The process itself involves identifying that third party, delegating software development work to the chosen third-party, and then managing that resource or resources.
While outsourcing can reference working with another company that is within the same country as you, it commonly refers to working with developers from a different country. When looking
from a U.S. perspective, there are two common methods of outsourcing: offshore and nearshore.
Offshore outsourcing is when you are working with countries that are far away, typically separated by a sea or ocean. Nearshore outsourcing tends to be when you work with a neighboring country, or one that is moderately close to you.
Regardless of what route you go, it is important to identify the proper process in determining who the right partner will be for software outsourcing.
In reading this article, you’re in luck, because we’re going to walk through Aloa’s 6-step vetting process. Aloa is a network of highly vetted software agencies around the world.
Having vetted over 5,000 software agencies around the world, Aloa has only accepted about 12 to be within their network.
While this doesn’t include every step, as some of those steps are proprietary to Aloa’s methodology, this will include the majority and provide you with a roadmap that will make you successful in identifying your software outsourcing partner.
Below, we’ll outline the 6-step process, and then we’ll dive deeper into each one.
Aloa’s 6 Step Vetting Process: The Gold Standard
Aloa has been vetting software agencies around the world for over 5 years now. In those 5 years, they have developed not only a proprietary vetting system, but have perfected the variables to consider when identifying a Partner.
Those variables will start off with simply validating that a partner is reputable and then dive deeper into specific vetting practices that are unique to you and your project.
Step 1: Agency or Freelancer?
The first step in any effort to identify a partner for your software outsourcing journey is to determine whether you will work with an Agency or a Freelancer. While there are benefits to both, there are also cons. To keep things simple, let’s break it down as a list:
Benefits of an Agency:
- Flexibility. An agency has the bandwidth and ability to scale up or down as you need given their bench of talent. If you need to expand into a new technology or need to take a pause for 3 months and then pick back up, an Agency tends to have this type of flexibility.
- Experience. When you work with an agency, you aren’t just working with one developer, you get the collective effort of the entire team there. So, if there is a technical challenge, your resources have support.
- Relationship Focused. An agency tends to have a focus on building a long-term relationship rather than an individual contract. This mentality helps ensure that you aren’t working with a “penny pincher” or someone who will take your code hostage.
Drawbacks of an Agency:
- Cost. Agencies tend to be more expensive than a freelancer because you are paying the salary of the developer plus the profit margin of the firm. So, there’s a slight premium in the benefits that you will see.
Benefits of an Freelancer:
- Price. A freelancer tends to be a way cheaper route since you are working directly with the source. This helps eliminate any middle-man costs and gives you the cheapest path to development possible.
- Hungry. A freelancer is going to be hungry to keep a steady flow of work, so you can leverage this to your advantage if you can show the freelancer that you will have a steady stream of work.
Drawbacks of an Freelancer:
- Lack of Scale. A freelancer can only expand to their own limits. If you need a different tech stack or if your developer gets sick, there is no immediate replacement. You either need to wait for your freelancer to be ready (whether it be resting up or learning a new skill) or hire a new developer and on-onboard them.
- Time. A freelancer will require you to manage them since they don’t have a “boss” of sorts. So, it will be on you to ensure they are following the proper backlog and working to your desires.
- Contract Focused. Since a freelancer is working contract to contract, they tend to focus more on the contract and less on the relationship, which means that there is going to be less “wiggle room” in the resource bending over back to please you, regardless of scope.
At Aloa, we only work with agencies, not freelancers. Sometimes we will recommend freelancers if its a very quick and straightforward project, but other than that, we keep our Partner Network exclusive to agencies.
Step 2: UI/UX Design Review
The second step of the process is simply reviewing their design portfolio. This one is pretty straight-forward. If the agency or freelancer can’t market themselves to the world in an impressive way, you probably shouldn’t rely on them to do the same for you.
Even if the freelancer you are looking for is a backend engineer, they should still have an impressive visual that showcases what they can do.
You can do this by just glancing at someone’s website or portfolio. The magic question that we ask ourselves: Would I be proud if this were representing my company?
If the answer is no, move on. If the answer is yes, continue on to Step 3.
Step 3: Past Project Experience
The next step of the vetting process in identifying the right partner to outsource your software is to look at the actual work they have done, or in technical talk, their portfolio.
You should be able to see a portfolio of work that reflects their skillset, and this portfolio should impress you!
That is the key. A portfolio should include someone’s BEST work, so if it doesn’t impress you, don’t expect their actual output to be better than this portfolio of work.
The other thing that we do at Aloa is ensure that there are at least 3 U.S. based portfolio Clients. The sole reason here is to ensure that the resource has worked with a U.S. company before.
We do this for a few main reasons:
- If someone has worked with a U.S. company, that means that their English should be sufficient (or at least serves as an initial filter).
- U.S. culture is different from other countries, so it is important that someone has experience with our culture and understands U.S. business use-cases.
- We Americans work a bit differently. We can be impatient. We can be needy. We can be abrasive. This isn’t to generalize us in a negative way, it is to acknowledge our nature of doing business. We are incredibly passionate about our work, and you want to be sure that someone you work with is comfortable and ready to work with a passionate Client.
Step 4: Leadership Review
The next step of this process should only be relevant for you if you are looking for a long-term relationship. If you are looking for a one-time relationship or looking specifically to work with a freelancer, you can go ahead and skip to Step 5.
If you want a long-term relationship, it is important then that you speak to the leadership of the agency. This helps build a sustainable relationship.
Anyone can perform well once, but it is very difficult to perform well consistently. The secret to doing so tends to fall within the leadership.
You need to ask the leaders of the agency how they run their company. How do they handle difficult situations? How do they treat their employees? How do they train their employees? How do they pay their employees? These answers will give you insight into whether this firm is scalable.
If your developer gets sick, you want to know that you won’t be stuck in the mud. Likewise, if a developer isn’t treated nor paid well (in their local currency), then they likely won’t stick long and that will disrupt your development.
Work with good people, be a good person, and they’ll do good work. Do not forget this step, it truly is a game-changer when looking for a long-term partner.
Step 5: Industry & Technology Fit
The next step here is pretty straightforward. In finding the right developer, you want someone who has experience not only with your technology you need but also with the industry you’re in.
Let’s give an example using construction — my favorite example I have.
Imagine you want to build a bridge with brick and wood. You go to an architect who builds houses with brick and wood and say, “Hi Architect, can you build me a bridge with brick and wood?”
Could the architect do it? Yeah, probably. But remember, they are used to building houses, not bridges, so you’ll likely fall into problems and delays, spending more money to get the same product you could have gotten quicker and cheaper if you worked with someone who knew how to build one right away.
Make sure that whoever you are vetting has experience with the industry you are within as well as the technologies you have in mind. If you don’t have a technology in mind, ask the individuals you are speaking to for their opinion. Crowd-source an answer. See if one answer is more common than the others.
Step 6: Individual Interview
And last but not least, it’s the personal interview. Whether you are working with a freelancer or an agency, you should interview the developer who will be working on your project.
If you aren’t technical, it is recommended to ask a friend or acquaintance to join you for this call so they can help ask some questions and assess their answers.
Don’t just guess or go off of past experiences. Put in the effort, ask the right questions, and make sure that this resource is not only up for the technical challenge you are proposing but also that their conversation and working style aligns with yours.
So there you have it. It’s a playbook that works consistently. Does it take time? Yes. Is it worth it? YES.
A little more effort up-front can go a long way in your journey. If you need any help, or have any questions, you can always hit up Aloa and they can help you out in working through this elite vetting process.
About the Author!
David Pawlan is here to try and help change the world, one step at a time. Currently, David is working to help bring efficiency and accessibility to the software development industry in Aloa. Outside of Aloa, David is passionate about social justice issues, currently focused on working towards shrinking the racial wealth gap. David is currently living in South America as a digital nomad.