By Damien Scott and John Jenson
Imagine this: you’re tasked with building an application with front end development components. You find a solid offshore firm that has amazingly low rates, so you go for it. Since using an offshore firm means that your new team is only awake when you are sleeping, you have to make several adjustments to the way that you would normally manage a project.
This means hours of drafting long emails and shaky conference calls, with long delays that cause people to talk over each other several times. Thirty minute meetings take an hour and a half, and you become exasperated from straining to listen on the phone for 90 minute intervals. After crawling into bed at 12:30 AM several times, you start wondering if using the offshore team was worth it. Soon enough, you are already 2 weeks behind schedule. At this point, the perfect user experience you were hoping for is the least of your worries, and you just want to get something that works.
Sound familiar? The advent of web-based apps with rich UI has led to a lot of demand for front end development capabilities. As more companies try offshoring, they are finding that offshoring the development of applications with a complex UX is a far more challenging process than anticipated—and one that creates many opportunities for error.
New onshore development centers, which offer mixed teams of UX and front-end consultants, are an alternative solution. In this article, we’ll discuss 4 situations when using an onshore front end development group can actually save time and money, while helping to ensure a quality user experience.
Offshoring is On the Way Out, while Onshoring is Gaining Traction
Think offshoring your development work is cheap and easy? Think again. The advantages of outsourcing are quickly vanishing:
- The cost of offshore IT work in India and China is rising by as much as 25 percent and is expected to only increase.
- Experts estimate that the amount of outsourcing services will drop by at least 15 percent through 2016.
- The job turnover rates in India alone are significant—over 25 percent per year, according to McKinsey & Company
Furthermore, many IT capabilities aren’t easy to move. Financial regulations often demand that certain classifications of data, like bank records are processed in home markets. McKinsey projects that 25 percent of all IT service tasks will remain onshore because skilled software technicians can be found and deployed efficiently.
It’s also obvious that coordinating with offshore teams can simply be a frustrating experience. These frustrations include:
- Language barriers
- Lag time on calls making natural conversation or debate impossible
- 10 to 12 hour time zone differences
- 12 hour turnaround cycles on email communication
Strong communication is key to the success of any project, and the lack thereof can make even the best teams completely ineffective. With all the barriers to communication that offshore teams suffer from, the outcomes can vary anywhere from just plain slow to complete failure.
The values of success over failure, quality over merely functional, maintainable over impossibly unstable, have all been underrated. The total cost of building and maintaining software has been ignored, and companies have become a little too focused on the upfront build cost. If offshoring has not proven advantageous in terms of time, cost, and convenience, consider the following parameters for deciding whether an onshore development center is right for you.
4 Situations Where You Should Consider Using an Onshore Front End Development Team
1. My Application is Complex
Today, many web and mobile applications incorporate:
- Modern frameworks
- Complex UI frameworks
- Complex visualizations
- Large data sets and records
- Integration with many back-end systems and services
Factor in coordinating the creation of complex applications with team members who are non-native English speakers located on the other side of the world, all done through Skype, GoTo Meeting, email, or video chat.
Working with offshore teams is more of a hindrance than a help. Take into consideration delay time on calls, not understanding an accent, or having to talk at inconvenient times. People will talk over each other. Something as simple as an email between offices could take a day or more to respond to, affecting the overall efficiency of the process.
—Head of Development at a global financial services firm
Given all of the complications of working with an outsourced team, do you really trust that you’ll get the results you want? The successful implementation of complex applications is hard. It requires people that are trained to work with world-class designers and translate their designs into workable, engineered interfaces.
2. My Budget for Technical Expenses is Limited
The most popular reason to try offshoring is to save money. However, low hourly rates alone do not guarantee that a project will come in on or under budget.
Rather than focusing on individual rates, consider the overall cost and efficiency of a blended design and development team. These teams can consist of a UX designer, a visual designer, and a front-end developer who already know each other and understand each other’s disciplines. This enhances collaboration and transparency, as well as reduces the need for close management and constant check-ins. When choosing consultants for your CX, UX, and development needs, employ an approach that will ensure your partner’s capabilities and approaches are a good fit for your organization.
More importantly, this type of team is budget-friendly. Mixed teams—consisting of senior-level developers and those with less experience—can blend fresh ideas with experience and oversight into a cost-effective model. This provide a competitive total cost of ownership versus offshore alternatives.
3. I Need to Increase Project Velocity and Improve Quality
Teams that are physically together with access to onshore resources, native communicators, and in the same time zone can provide a quicker turnaround in projects with better quality.
Many companies find working with a local, onshore development team more trustworthy than working with teams that are entirely virtually located. Having people co-located is reassuring because you know the developers are actively managed—and they benefit from cross-chatter and collaboration opportunities.
Behind the scenes, the developers are pushed through rigorous software development standards. Technical leaders work with teams to ensure quality and consistency of deliverables, as well as adherence to technical standards. Working with a co-located team that stays up-to-date on best practices results in better quality applications.
4. I Need to Ensure that the Implementation Delivers a Quality Experience
Organizations invest heavily to understand the needs of their user population, identify and prioritize requirements and define a highly engaging user experience and visual design to meet those needs. Finding the right team (with experienced front-end developers) that can translate the design into a quality application are necessary to achieving this goal.
Working with an onshore team provides greater accessibility and transparency, and optimizes collaboration between the development team and your in-house development team. Increased proximity also enables greater levels of collaboration between the design team and the implementation teams, allowing for rapid refinement of the design direction throughout the delivery sprints.
What if your internal team is distributed? An onshore team can function as a seamless extension to your internal team, whether it’s centrally located or distributed. All the advantages we described—increased efficiency, quality and velocity—are easier to attain with an onshore team, whether your own team is centrally located or distributed.
Over the past decade, many organizations have tried to offshore the development of complex web and mobile applications to save money. After finding that quality and speed were compromised, while anticipated savings never materialized, these same organizations are now moving front end development back onshore, particularly for complex, mission-critical applications.