5 Problems with outsourcing in tech

Outsourcing sounds like the wholy grail to most business owners, especially around the tech world. What seems like low pricing and flexible work force seemingly on tap. However there is a darkside.

The issue often with tech is the understanding of what it takes to create something in the tech world. What often seems substantial is minor and vice versa what seems like a minor change can be a month long escapade of hell and tears for your tech staff. So the question becomes if it is hard to manage and keep local staff productive how do you monitor and keep the honesty factor for anyone offshore!

Managing the productivity and honesty of outsourced tech staff can be hard for the skilled let alone the tech newb or noob. To be honest it is hard to keep up with it for the tech manager to.

Here are 5 of the most common issues of Outsourcing.

  • 1) Accountablity

    When you have someone in working in your office and they screw up. They will have to deal with there mistake face to face. There is no not answering skype, phone or emails when it gets to hard. There is no disappearing into the interwebs of mystery. Because of the disparity of accountiblity everything can appear to be great with your outsourced workforce until something goes wrong. Then you may find they disappear leaving you with a huge mess and know one to fix it.

    I commonly see this with outsourced website builds. Everything was great then there was what seemed like a small issue and then it got hard, then they disappeared. What compounds this is developers often do not like following in others foot steps. Consequently often the remedy recommended by the incoming developer is to start from scratch again. Therefore all your savings just went out the window.

    Also there nowhere for you to go if there is a grievance or issue. If a developer is local you can go can call them easily, visit them, send them a lawyers letter, take them to mediation, take them to court or if it is straight out fraud get the police involved. Try do this with someone in Lativa.

  • 2) Skill, practice and resources

    There are highly skilled tech people all over the world. The thing to remember is highly skilled people commonly work remote and thus there is little difference in their pay rate from country to country. So when you are hiring someone with a lower pay rate you likely are getting a less skilled person or company.

    Less can mean self taught (yes there are legends out there who are self taught) or on the job. On the job experience can be less too. These problems exsist locally to, but everything is amplified when hiring offshore and cheap.

    Compounding this skill level are the amount of resources available. We often forget many of these outsourced workers are in third world countries. All power to them, but it is foolish to think they are sitting in front of the latest high performance PC or MAC, operating on enterprise licence software producing the best product available. Consequently, $20 p/hr can be much less productive than someone local at $40 p/hr.

    Realty is, it is likely they are working on something cobbled together from scrap on free linux software on a dirt floor. Even worse sometimes. One clients website we discovered had been coded on an old nokia phone. As impressive as that was, there was no way this outsourced worker could create what we could or have the checking tools (many of which are only available on subscription for more than $200 USD p/mth or more).

    Furthermore things like power, internet connectivity can also be major factors. If your outsourced worker can't connect to the internet s/he can't work for you regardless of their skill level.

    Speed is also an issue. If they can't connect at a good speed, when ever they need to upload/download something it may take days instead on minutes.

  • 3) Who is actually doing the work

    How do you even know who is doing the work. You hired Bob, but bob is actually just a front for a team of 5 people. You wonder why when you tell bob something explicitly and he acknowledges it. The next day he seems to have completely forgotten.

    Also you are letting Bob into all the backend of your website or server. Is Bob honest? or is he setting up a back door and malware so deep into your software it'll never be found. Don't be so naive to think there aren't people struggling to survive in other countries that see the wealth of your business and can't be tempted to be a little corrupted. Greed can do bad things to good people.

  • 4) Productivity

    This is one of the most common scammers for outsourced workers. They pray on the naive and trusting. If you don't understand what their doing and how long it should take on average, taking into account their equipment, you are ripe for scamming.

    Assuming that job took 40hrs instead of 10hrs 'because there was some issue' is the first clue. Them asking to work offserver is also a great give away. Now this isn't uncommon for developers to do this. However developers often do this so they can work on many different projects at the same time also.

    Working off server is the perfect cover for them to cheat on their hours. One of the favourite scams is to have many people outsourcing the same developer at the same time. No one truely knows what is going on and instead of earning $10-20 per/hr really their getting 10x clients x $20 p/hour.

    This is a very common scam. Places like elance and upwork say they have processes in place to stop it. But to anyone with half a brain their checks are very easy to trick. A set price can get around this, but it doesn't stop the outsourced developer from coming back to you and putting their hand out for more money to finish the job when they feel like it. Because their is no real accountablity they can walk away leaving you with a mess or nothing at any stage.

  • 5) No recourse

    So something has gone seriously wrong and the site has ground to a halt months later after completion. If your developer is in Australia, firstly most developers would be straight in to fix it without question. Failing this you can take them to court or use some other consumer recourse method of justice. If this happens with an offshore outsourced worker you could be left in deep trouble with nowhere to go. You can forget about goodwell and structured eskgrove websites ones the money is paid you are on your own.

    For large scale websites you may not even realise you have a major major issue for months down the track until you have a big enough user base. By that time your outsourced workers could be long gone.

    Final thoughts:

    While I have used outsourced workers many times of the years. I have been burnt so many times by staff in general I cant count. Consequently if I do outsource it is always only in small stages of projects and never the whole and never ever relying solely on the outsourced worker.

    There are great staff all over the world, but the easiest and often by far the most productive ones to manage are local. Consequently, be super careful and if you can't complete the task yourself don't even go there.

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    Senior Developer at Mebsites on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. Mebsites is an acclaimed Magento and Custom Framework Web Software coding house.
    Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia Website