Best Practices for Successful Development Agency Outsourcing
Outsourcing of web and mobile development projects is very common worldwide and continues to increase year on year. This outsourcing can be done between companies within the same country, for example, a creative or marketing agency outsourcing the development phase of a project to a development company. Alternatively, it is done cross-border, where companies in more established regions such as Europe, North America, and Australia outsource to an emerging country like South Africa.
There are numerous benefits of outsourcing which have been widely documented. Our company, Elemental, has been appointed as the web design & web development agency for many outsourced projects from local and international agencies. Through these projects and experience, we’ve established many factors that must be considered and implemented to ensure that outsourced projects are successful.
SCOPE OF WORK MUST BE CLEAR
Before a project starts the client generally has a clear expectation in their mind.
This is where project documentation comes in. Whatever needs to be developed needs to be documented thoroughly, in a clear and concise manner. This can be in the form of custom website designs, wireframes, flow charts and functionality & technical specification documents.
Without solid documentation, the outsourced team will need to fill in the gaps themselves, which often leads to them building the wrong thing or a misinterpretation of the client’s vision and ultimate expectation.
⢟ INVOLVE THE DEVELOPMENT TEAM AT AN EARLY STAGE
It is extremely important to treat an outsourced partner like a true partner, getting them involved in the project from the start (even in the project planning and discovery phase) is highly beneficial as they have a greater understanding of the bigger picture and the client’s expectations.
One of the key areas where it is vital to involve the development team is when reviewing designs before sending them over to the client. This is to ensure what the lead agency are designing is possible and within the scope. If adjustments need to be made, they can be done quickly and early.
⢟ CONFIRM TIMELINES/RESOURCES FOR THE PROJECT
Informing the development team of the timelines and the final deadline of the project as early as possible ensures that the outsourced partner:
a. Is able to meet those deadlines and;
b. Have the resources available to commit to the project.
⢟ DON'T OVER PROMISE (RATHER CHECK WITH THE TEAM)
Occasionally when lead agencies are dealing with clients, they are asked questions about features or functionalities and what is possible or not. Trying to impress the client by providing a hasty answer can be detrimental to the project, as what they’ve promised is not possible or extremely complex and requires a lot more development time and an increase in the project cost.
A better approach is to review and discuss these requests with the development team and then revert back to the client with the correct feedback and implications if applicable. The client will understand and appreciate this process, even if it takes slightly longer.
⢟ COMMUNICATE CONSTANTLY
Communication and project management are imperative between all parties of the project, to ensure its success. Project management ensures that the project is managed and kept on track with all parties being informed of progress, through online tools such as Trello, etc. by the Project Manager(s).
Should there be any delays, changes in scope or other factors that impact on the project this should be communicated as soon as possible.
⢟ ENSURE ACCESS DETAILS TO APIs, TOOLS & SERVERS ARE PROVIDED UPFRONT
Certain projects need integration with third party APIs and tools, for example, payment gateways, booking engines, version control platforms (GIT / Bit Bucket, etc.).
These APIs, tools and servers require permissions to be setup and access.
It is imperative that these systems are setup and that access details are tested and provided well in advance to ensure that the project is not delayed by lack of access or incorrect details.
⢟ DISCUSS & CONFIRM SUPPORT AND MAINTENANCE UPFRONT
Support and maintenance are necessary for the majority of web projects and campaigns. If support and maintenance are required for the project that is to be built, it is best to discuss and finalise the terms of this service as early as possible so that the necessary agreements can be drawn up, signed and the systems setup.
⢟ ARE ANY DIGITAL MARKETING ACTIVITIES REQUIRED TO PROMOTE AND DRIVE TRAFFIC TO THE WEBSITE/CAMPAIGN OR WEB APPLICATION?
The lead agency could very well take care of the digital marketing initiatives, however, if this is not the case and these activities are required, like the support and maintenance, this should be discussed as early as possible and finalised prior to the launch of the project.
Outsourcing web and mobile development projects allow agencies to quickly scale up when needed and increase their service offering. By doing so they are effectively able to ensure that their client’s needs are met and that projects are successful.
There are of course risks with the outsourcing model, but working with a credible, experienced and capable web development agency, they are able to mitigate these risks and take advantage of outsourcing.
The best practices documented in this article go a long way to further ensure the success of projects and to maintain a healthy relationship between all parties.