When it comes to product development, a large chunk of businesses still get confused while finding a right offshore development partner to take on the colossal task of building critical software products.
When looking for an offshore product development partner, most businesses aim to achieve faster product releases, while maintaining high quality and low total cost of ownership (TCO). And with technology evolving at a break-neck speed, and new devices and platforms flocking the entire business realm, they face the challenge of finding a development partner who can provide them with the agility and resilience to meet changing business and customer needs.
On top of all this, you find hundreds of companies boasting of their expertise in offshore product development and assuring high returns on your investment. It gets as hard as finding a needle in a haystack.
So to make the process of finding an ideal offshore development partner a little bit easier on your nerves, I’ve compiled a list of 5 key factors that you should consider before making a plunge.
1. Product development DNA
First and foremost, the offshore development partner you are planning to hire should have what we call a ‘Product Development DNA’.
No clues what is a Product Development DNA? Let me take a moment to explain.
Product development runs through the veins of the companies with a Product Development DNA. These are the companies who are veterans in product development, who possess the required maturity, experience, and expertise in product development.
Therefore, while searching for a development partner who has product development DNA, look for the following capabilities:
- Expertise in core product development: When we talk about product development, most development companies have expertise in product maintenance and support activities. Look for specialized skills in product conceptualization, product design, documentation, and product modernization.
- Rich experience in managing multiple release cycles: Look for a team of developers who have experience in managing multiple release cycles across multiple locations, and who can quickly adapt to future product release requirements while meeting the needs of a large-chunk of end users.
- Deep domain expertise: Look for expertise in terms of number of development projects done and the time spent in the product development domain.
2. Expertise in all stages of product lifecycle
Imagine a scenario where you hire an IT consulting firm to conceptualize a product, then you hire a development partner to build the product, a testing partner to test the product, and a different vendor for product maintenance and support. Phew!
Hiring different vendors for different stages of product development can result in increased development cycles and reduced speed-to-market of your business critical applications. Therefore, look for a development partner who has expertise in all stages of product lifecycle.
By all stages, I mean not only from product conceptualization to product release, but also from product’s intro to the market till the product becomes obsolete.
Having said that you can still hire specialized development partners for different phases of product lifecycle, provided they have a good idea of all the phases.
E.g. if you have hired a technology consulting firm and a development partner, the consulting firm should have the capability to foresee the technological constraints that can arise during the development phase, and suggest the most feasible and relevant technologies to build the product.
Similarly, the development partner should clearly understand the context of technologies suggested by the consulting firm and build products that match functional as well as business requirements.
3. Rich experience of delivering software products
You need to understand that product development is a specialized field unlike typical IT services such as application support and maintenance. Product development differs in terms of release cycles, architectural complexity, domain expertise, testing, version management, and documentation.
In addition, product development requires experience in:
- Multi-platform portability to build for multiple platforms
- End-to-end product development cycle
- Management of multiple release cycles
One of the most important aspects of product development is managing multiple release cycles, and only experienced development partners can handle this efficiently. Therefore, a reasonable amount of experience in handling product deliveries can go a long way in ensuring successful product releases.
4. Compliance to Agile development methodologies
It goes without saying that agile methodologies offer far more benefits as compared to the traditional waterfall development methodologies.
Many organizations now prefer agile methodologies over traditional development approaches for these reasons:
- Agile development offers high degree of collaboration between the stakeholders and the project team.
- Stakeholders gets the added benefit of transparency through continuous involvement in iteration planning and review sessions.
- Agile development provides quicker and predictable delivery, where new features are added quickly based on multiple review cycles.
- There’s also high predictability of costs and schedule because of fixed schedule iterations.
In addition, agile development is based on the concept of breaking down the project into smaller manageable units, which allows project teams to focus on the quality of development, testing and collaboration.
5. In-depth technical expertise
You can’t deny the importance of technology in driving the creation of remarkable software products. Technological expertise is the backbone of product development and while finding a right partner to build your business-critical products, this is the one aspect you should never ignore.
With investments in technologies increasing, enterprises are looking to derive more strategic benefits and market growth from their key business applications.
In this particular aspect, look for outsourcing companies who have been adopting new technologies, and have substantial experience in delivering products based on those technologies.
Additionally, look for their partnerships and alliances with global technology leaders such as Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Samsung, etc. Accreditation with technology giants can assure that your development partner has access to latest technologies and the extended support from the relevant technology partners.
Myths about product development
While choosing an ideal product development partner, most companies have some preconceived notions or myths about product development, which might lead them to hiring a wrong partner.
Most organizations still follow traditional benchmarks to evaluate the perfect development partner, however, things have changed a lot in the past decade and the development partner you consider to be a right-fit for your product development initiatives might actually turn out to be a complete mismatch.
Here I’ve listed some of the most common myths that are prevalent in the product development domain:
Myth 1: Only big companies are good at product development.
Reality: You still might believe that ‘Big teams are better’, and the thought that hundreds of resources are working on your project might give you a sigh of relief.
But let me tell you this, “Too many cooks spoil the pie.”
According to late Harvard psychologist, J. Richard Hackman, “Big teams usually wind up just wasting everybody’s time.”
According to Hackman, larger the team size, higher the number of connection points to maintain. E.g. a team of 7 people has 21 connection points, while a team of 60 peoples has 1770 connection points.
These calculations are based on the formula: No. of links = N(N-1)/2, where N=No. of people
I would also like to add the “Two Pizza Rule” used by Jeff Bezos to determine ideal team size. He says: if a team couldn’t be fed with two pizzas, it is too big.
Myth 2: Once we define the requirements, we only need to build
Reality: Product Development is a specialized field and it needs specialization in all aspects of product development lifecycle to build a remarkable and successful product.
Putting all your energy, resources, and focus into one aspect of product development is not a wise strategy. Our pre-sales consultants regularly find themselves in conversation with companies who believe that if the concept and planning is top-notch, rest all will fall in place.
But these companies overlook the fact that unless the concept is well-executed, the product is bound to fail. Therefore, look for a development partner who not only specializes in all aspects of development but also implements each phase with equal amount of focus and expertise.
Myth 3: Customization is more profitable than new product development
Reality: Finding opportunities for reuse, identifying reusable components, adapting them to the current requirements, etc. may cost more than just developing from scratch.
I believe most enterprises who opt for legacy application customization can relate to this. One of the biggest problems customization poses is that after implementation the customization layer becomes highly rigid and fails to offer resiliency as and when the business requirements change.
As a final word, look for a development partner who has the ability to build core business applications that are critical to business operations, who has rich expertise and experience in all the phases of product development lifecycle, and who understands the importance of product customization to suit individual needs.
That’s what product development DNA is all about and that’s what you should look for in an ideal offshore product development partner.