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18th February 2022

The Complete Guide to Outsourcing Software Development in 2022 

The Complete Guide to Outsourcing Software Development in 2022

Contents

When you’ve got an embedded software development project on the horizon, your project manager is usually faced with two main options – hiring an in-house embedded software engineer or outsourcing software development to a 3rd party. 

Neither option is inherently right or wrong. What you do need to decide, however, is which option is right for you – and only you. Naturally, this decision will be based on a range of factors specific to your organisation, but there are some more general points to keep in mind. 

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Why Outsource Your Software Development Project? 

In a post-pandemic world, remote working is not only possible for most businesses, but in many cases, it’s desirable. This means the previous consideration of having staff on-site is less of an issue.

This is especially true when it comes to software development, where an on-site presence isn’t strictly necessary. According to a survey undertaken by DevOps.com, 86% of developers are now working 100% remotely (vs 19% prior to the pandemic). And because of this, companies are more open-minded about outsourcing software development to a 3rd party.

One major reason that an organisation may turn to outsourcing is simply because high-quality software engineers are hard to recruit. The skills shortage is well-documented, with software developers amongst the most in-demand professions.  

Because of this, many businesses don’t have the specific technical stack requirements in-house. Outsourcing, in this situation is therefore less complicated, with fewer, and much more efficient, making a project manager’s life far easier. 

There’s also the scalability factor. If an internal software development team is pre-occupied by other projects, it’s hard for an organisation to scale up and down at pace. In this situation, more development staff are required immediately, making outsourcing is a great way to help plug that shortfall. 

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In-House vs External Development: The Key Factors 

Value 

Cost will undeniably be a factor for any project you undertake – that’s the practical reality of business. However, it should never be the sole driver behind your decision-making. 

Instead, assess the value you’re getting, whether it’s with an in-house dev team or an external one.  

Cost is a false economy – what might seem reasonable or extortionate depends entirely on the future value of the work to your business, but also whether you’re capable of doing it in-house. 

If you don’t have the skills internally, then outsourcing code development may offer better value from a cost vs ROI point of view. 

Reliability

What are customers saying about your prospective embedded software engineering partner? And have they worked with businesses in your industry before? 

Online reviews, and of course case studies, are a decent way of measuring these reliability factors. 

But also, don’t be afraid to ask questions of an outsourcing company. Make sure that the team you’re proposing to outsource your software project to, can meet your needs fully and ensure a smooth time to market. 

Quality of code

One major area of contention is whether your outsourced software engineering partner writes high quality code. This can be tricky if you don’t have an individual in your organisation with a software engineering background.

There are a range of best practices and coding style guides out in the wild, including MISRA C, the Barr C Standard, and PEP8 for Python – however, these are notoriously difficult to follow for those not already fluent in the languages. 

As a minimum, your software code ought to be clear and maintainable. You might also consider asking whether your prospective embedded software engineering partner uses best practices such as test-driven development 

Ultimately, plenty of developers could produce a software package for you, but if they lack experience in the field of software your organisation requires, your product is more likely to end up with numerous bugs and sluggish performance. 

In short, the difference between a talented software engineer and an average one can significantly alter the quality of your final product – and a botched job will cost you more in the long term. 

Communication

How does your potential partner communicate with their customers? 

Because of the nature of technical projects, it is essential that communication channels remain both open and available. When outsourcing code development, look for a partner who uses collaborative tools as part of their regular day-to-day business. 

Organisations that use Slack workspaces, Microsoft Teams, or GitHub projects are a good sign. But also ensure that they understand fully the scope and needs of your software project. 

Certifications & Quality Assurance 

What compliance measures does your potential partner have? And, most importantly, do they have the certifications to back up their claims? 

Independent certifications such as ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management Systems will demonstrate their ability to deliver projects in line with statutory customer satisfaction and regulatory requirements.  

Meanwhile, the ISO 27001:2013 certification shows that the business you propose to work with meets all the ‘requirements for establishing, implementing, maintaining and continually improving an information security management system’, as well as ensuring that risks to information security are dealt with in the appropriate manner. 

Whilst these don’t guarantee the quality of software work, they are reassurance that your software development partner takes security and quality management compliance seriously.  

Post-Development Support 

If you don’t have a software engineer or developer on the staff, it might be a good idea to discuss post-development support with your prospective partner.  

For example, at Ignys, we offer S.A.M. (Support, Advice, Maintenance) which is designed to give customers speedy access to our software engineers for advice, troubleshooting, and minor updates. 

Solutions like this are a great option in the immediate aftermath of a project, providing organisations with the necessary agility to make changes on the fly, and to ensure things run smoothly post-launch. 

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Whether it’s for recruitment, or selecting an outsourced engineering team to work with, make sure you perform your screening properly based on these criteria.  

5 Reasons to Outsource Software Development 

1) It’s (usually) cheaper 

Being cheaper isn’t always a bad thing.  

As previously discussed, it’s all about getting the best value for your software project, at the lowest price. And outsourcing to an embedded software vendor or consultancy is generally cheaper, for a handful of reasons. 

Firstly, you don’t need to worry about recruitment costs.  

According to Glassdoor, the average cost for recruitment in the UK is around £3,000. But with software engineers commanding higher salaries than the average, you’re looking at more than this sum – sometimes as high as £14,000 per hire! 

Then factor in sickness and paid annual leave, as well as the associated training and retention costs, and it all begins to add up. And if hiring a software developer doesn’t suit your long-term business objectives, it makes no sense to saddle these costs. 

But again, it’s always worth emphasising – never just go for the cheapest option. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. 

2) Zero retention anxiety Embedded Software Turnover

Because of the skills shortage in software development (and the wider technology recruitment market), retention has become a massive issue for businesses. In fact, according to a LinkedIn survey, the turnover for embedded software engineers is as high as 21.7%!

Perhaps you’ve managed to negotiate the fraught and often-expensive environment of recruiting a software developer, but can you keep them? The skills shortage means that there are a queue of software houses and design consultancy firms waiting to hoover up your talent if they become unhappy, or simply wish to find a new challenge.  

And the last thing you want is your talent leaving in the middle of a software project, or in the worst case, even for a competitor. If you’ve hired for a short-term project, there’s always the risk of your engineer having one eye on the future – which is completely understandable. 

Ideally, you’ll be investing in training anyway in order to keep your developers’ skills sharp. But amidst the wider backdrop, training opportunities are a necessity to prevent stagnation and frustration over lack of growth opportunities. 

Outsourcing software development alleviates these anxieties purely because you’re paying for their time, rather than their future. Retention concerns lie with their boss – not you. 

3) Depth of experience 

Outsourcing to reputable, well-established software development experts means you can call upon on a wider team with a diverse skillset. 

Many software engineering projects require the use of multiple languages, from the embedded C in your microcontroller, to the Python user interface to your SQL database. A diverse team can deliver this kind of project with ease. 

Regardless of the nature of your project, outsourcing software development to a 3rd party widens your breadth of experience to call upon. Just make sure that you outline your needs and verify their technical stack prior to agreeing to any work. 

4) Scalability 

If your project poses the possibility of increasing in scope, you need to be able to scale up accordingly. Likewise, you might need to scale down. 

But as previously noted, hiring additional software developers is time-consuming and costly, making it almost impossible to pivot your resources in an agile manner. 

On the other hand, outsourcing software development to a dedicated 3rd party allows your organisation to benefit from straightforward scalability. Additional engineers can simply be provisioned and reassigned to your project where required, without the need for hiring, onboarding, or training. 

5) Time 

Time is money; simple!  

Utilising the time of an external software development team means your own internal team can focus on other projects, give more time to your customers, and work on their own long-term goals. 

By outsourcing software development, you can simply agree a formal range of SLAs (service level agreements) with your external partner, giving peace of mind that they will deliver within the agreed timeframe. 

Red Flags to Watch out for 

By this point, you’ll have a solid idea of what constitutes a good external software development team.  

However, there are a few red flags that you need to look out for. 

Underquoting 

Unfortunately, some of the less scrupulous, more sales-hungry teams will seek to underquote you from work, and then charge additional fees further down the line when the job inevitably falls beyond the scope of work quoted.  

This will cost you more in the long term. 

If you’re not certain on an approximate pricing for the work required, then the best way to avoid this is to get a handful of quotes from different providers.  

Obviously, certain aspects of development can lead to projects falling beyond the initial cost. It happens – especially if the scope changes throughout the project. But if four of your five prospective software teams are quoting your project at circa £50,000, but another can do it for as low as £20,000 then it’s likely too good to be true. 

One-man bands 

There are plenty of talented developers out there but working with a single person – or a one-man band – raises a lot of issues. For a start, there are no contingencies should this person fall ill or cannot complete the work. 

It’s also likely that they’ll be working on projects other than your own, so you’re less likely to be a priority to them. 

There’s also the fact that a one-man band cannot get a 2nd opinion from a colleague in the way a team of software developers can. This is particularly important when it comes to the software testing stage – tunnel vision can be a real problem for developers working on the same project for a long time. You’re more likely to run into bugs or critical issues. 

And of course, one person cannot have the breadth of experience of a fully staffed team. 

Verify who owns the source code 

Many a time, we’ve come across companies that have had software developed for them, but the only product they receive at the end of the project is the executable binary file. 

This means that if you require changes to the software in future, you’ll be forced to either return to the original developer in the future – or pay another individual to reverse engineer the product, which is likely to cost far more time and money than the original development project. 

To avoid this, always get a guarantee that the source code will be released to your company. 

Lack of experience 

Does the software development company you propose to work with actually have any experience in the area your proposed project is designed for?  

For example, if the team you’re planning on working with has a wealth of experience in web frameworks, it won’t necessarily mean that they’ll be capable of designing a wireless home thermostat. If they’ve never worked on embedded software before, then your embedded software project probably isn’t a good fit. 

Skills are transferrable, but a team with experience in the right areas will understand the requirements, pain points, and ideal solutions for your project if they’ve worked on something similar in the past. 

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Remember – there are no silly questions. Ask your prospective software engineering team all the questions you need answering. It’s essential that you know that they’re reputable and up to completing the task to a high standard. 

Conclusion 

Outsourcing software development is a fantastic option for businesses that want flexibility for their project, without taking upon the burden of recruitment and retention. 

And in a world where work can be performed remotely with ease, your options have only expanded in recent years. 

Just make sure you’ve chosen a software development house with a great reputation, a strong understanding of your needs, and the technical stack required to perform the job to the high standard your project deserves. 

Any questions? Stuck with an unreliable software development team? Just want a 2nd opinion? Email an engineer at enquiries@ignys.co.uk