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Ask Slashdot: Is Outsourcing Development a Good Idea? 403

Posted by timothy
from the is-vi-better-than-emacs? dept.
New submitter penmanglewood writes "I am a developer at a small IT company, and we primarily make software and games for the education market. I used to work with a team of developers, but for reasons outside the scope of this question, my boss and I are the only ones left. My boss says that our new strategy is to use outsourced developers to do the 'monkey work' for us. To me, this sounds like a bad idea. Do we give the developers access to our internal libraries? How will they be able to work on parts of our product without having access to our repository. I could think of a hundred more objections, but maybe I'm looking at it the wrong way. Is there a smart way to outsource development, or is it just a bad idea?"
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Ask Slashdot: Is Outsourcing Development a Good Idea?

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  • Just remember (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 17, 2012 @01:35PM (#40030179)

    You get what you pay for. There's a reason those outsourced programmers are so cheap. They don't care about you, or your project, and they don't have to maintain it when it breaks.

    • Re:Just remember (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TheRaven64 (641858) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @01:41PM (#40030289) Journal
      Actually, the problem is that you often don't get what you pay for. The most important think when considering outsourcing is to work out how you are going to evaluate their work. If you don't have a mechanism for rejecting bad work, you'll get bad work. If you're doing off-site code review with people several time zones away, you may find you're spending more time doing code review than it would take you to just rewrite it from scratch...
      • Re:Just remember (Score:5, Interesting)

        by elgeeko.com (2472782) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @01:54PM (#40030541) Homepage
        We do a lot of out sourced work for other companies and our customers tend to be very happy with us and many of them come back to us for follow up projects. We're also not cheap, in fact our fees are rather high, but so are our standards. We're located in the mid-west and the vast majority of our customers are within our region, but I've been known to hop on a plane and fly to the coast to finalize a deal or to reassure a customer that we're real people doing real work. Your first sentence says it all, you get what you pay for. As for the time zone statement I think it depends on who you're outsourcing. There have been times where we've outsourced some of our projects in order to meet deadlines and we've established solid contacts with several Individuals in Bangalore and I've found them to be an absolute treat to work with. If someone is going to outsource the most important deciding factor shouldn't be money or location, it should be skill. Any good development firm is going to have a list of previous satisfied customers that should provide a solid reference, if they don't then you shouldn't take the risk unless you're willing to accept sub-par work for sub-par pay. If someone is looking for "cheap" then that's exactly what they'll get.
      • Re:Just remember (Score:5, Insightful)

        by multicoregeneral (2618207) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @02:22PM (#40030949) Homepage
        I started outsourcing awhile back when I needed to be in two or three places at once, and the work was too much for me to finish on my own. Initial experiences with it were awful. Just really bad. The work was terrible, and I had to shell out cash for things that never got done. Initially, I ended up doing a lot of rework. My first thought was that the language barrier and cultural differences were an issue.

        So I engaged with Google translate, broke projects up into smaller pieces, and communicated in shorter well thought out sentences. Also, for cultural reasons, they almost never tell you when they fail at something. So you have to actually instruct them to do so, or they will leave you hanging, or worse, spinning their wheels on the clock for days on the wrong thing.

        If you're doing something complex, you're going to want to stop, break it up, and explain it exceptionally well. Otherwise, you're virtually garaunteed to lose money.

        That said, I don't think outsourcing is so bad these days, once I've gotten the hang of it. Now that I'm accustomed to it, I don't offend people as often with bad jokes (never tell jokes), and the work gets done with close to an 80% satisfaction rate. I recommend it, but there will be a learning curve.
        • Re:Just remember (Score:4, Interesting)

          by bhcompy (1877290) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @02:55PM (#40031479)
          Well, outsourcing and outsourcing to a foreign country are different things. Most people I know of that outsource development just outsource to small local dev houses
        • Re:Just remember (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Lonewolf666 (259450) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @03:05PM (#40031637)

          If you're doing something complex, you're going to want to stop, break it up, and explain it exceptionally well. Otherwise, you're virtually garaunteed to lose money.

          Good point, and the "break it up, and explain it exceptionally well" translates to detailed and clear specifications.

          In my experience, not every organization is able to create those. Actually, my experience as a developer is more along the lines of being given a vague goal, producing a prototype, and then people would play with said prototype and start producing change requests. Which tends to developing the project piecemeal and with plenty of feature creep.

          If your company is capable of writing good specifications, outsourcing may work for you. If it is of the "vague goal" persuation as described above, stay far, far away from outsourcing ;-)

          • Re:Just remember (Score:4, Interesting)

            by msobkow (48369) on Friday May 18, 2012 @08:59AM (#40039995) Homepage Journal

            Some developers need specs that are so detailed you may as well just write the code. When I work with a developer, whether in-house or outsourced, I expect them to come up with the implementation algorithms from high level specifications. The only time I've ever included a detailed algorithm specification was when there was a legal requirement for a particular style of calculation to be used (the financial services industry.)

            However, my experience has been that most outsourcers will send their senior staff to your meetings and to collect requirements, and then turn loose a horde of poorly trained junior programmers when it comes time to write the actual code. The senior people you respected at the design meetings are "too valuable" to write code, and rarely get involved beyond the specifications.

            But this isn't a new problem. Just look at the long and failure-littered path of large projects over the years that have hit the news involving firms like EDS or Anderson Consulting. Offshoring adds time zone and language barriers, but the whole consulting industry has a history of bilking customers by billing out intermediate and senior rates while paying juniors to do the work.

            Several posters say "You get what you pay for."

            That's not necessarily true. That's why such firms have been sued for failure to deliver in the past.

    • Re:Just remember (Score:5, Informative)

      by wisnoskij (1206448) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @01:54PM (#40030545) Homepage

      Yes and No.
      Labour is cheaper in other countries and this does not mean that they are worse workers or unqualified.

      But it does mean that you will necessarily be working with people who care less about the finished product and who you have almost no oversight of.

      They might be working two or more jobs at the same times, and even if you are paying them for 8-12 hour days they might only be working 4 for you.
      There will likely be a communication barrier, my old boss used to spend 4+ hours a day trying to explain what he wanted our outsourced team to do the following day.
      Also, being an entire world away they can hold your code hostage. You will probably want them to constantly unload their work to servers you have absoluter control over. Because the last thing you want is for your relationship with them to break down and for them to refuse to sent you their work thus far.

      • Re:Just remember (Score:5, Informative)

        by jedidiah (1196) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @02:05PM (#40030745) Homepage

        When you outsource, the labor is working for someone else. They aren't your employees. They are employees of OtherCorp. The labor will do nothing that doesn't benefit OtherCorp. They don't care about you or your company or your product. They will not lift a finger except what is spelled out in your contract with OtherCorp.

        They are not your employees.

        • That is a simplification. They should care about your product for the same reasons that people working direct for the product care: it is their job and they want a paycheck.

          • by Skapare (16644)

            Should. But this is indirect. Workers care first about their paycheck, which means caring about their job. And that means making sure the company succeeds. The company succeeds when it makes a substantial profit, so workers try to make the company a substantial profit. This happens by doing a good job at programming, or at least making it look like a good job in the short term, because in the long term, no one cares.

          • by timeOday (582209)

            They should care about your product for the same reasons that people working direct for the product care: it is their job and they want a paycheck.

            It's not just money. On a day-to-day level, a lot of motivation is interpersonal; when you rub shoulders with people, you don't want to let them down (and then have to face them). This is a very powerful "tribal" instinct that people have. Of course it can be neutralized by bad management even when people are co-located, but I think it is harder (though agai

      • Re:Just remember (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @02:31PM (#40031069)

        In my experience, yes, they DO care less than our in-house developers. Also, consider that your project managers often don't know just too exactly yet just what exactly they will eventually need.

        Your in-house programmers know that they will have to patch and maintain what they create today, which only means more work but not more pay to them, so their primary goal is to deliver what you will actually want in the end (and, given experience, they also know already what your departments usually forget or omit) so they can minimize their work.

        Your outsourced team knows that they will have to patch and maintain what they create today, which means months or years of add-on contracts so their primary goal is to deliver what your specs say even if they know exactly that you'll need something else, too.

        Question for 100: Which behaviour is better for your company?

    • by hoppo (254995)

      Not only that, you only get what you pay for, for that billed hour. The billing rate of an offshore developer may be half what you would pay someone in-house, but you get billed 4x the hours.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 17, 2012 @02:22PM (#40030947)

      Hi, I am Bob from Texas. I think you are becoming to be unfair to Indian programmers. Indians work diligence at programming trade and have many skills of which may be offered. First place, they speak fluency English. Also, they make for hard work for modest pay. I think you should be finding them to be good workers with code of great significance.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 17, 2012 @01:37PM (#40030219)

    ...as if your the last two left, there isn't a company left - it's time to pull the plug. If you can't perform the service / provide the product you were created for within the organization, or even get it started - then you are just conservators of a bunch of assets, waiting for the right time to call it quits; not a software development firm.

  • Answer: (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @01:38PM (#40030235) Homepage Journal

    No.

    Thank you. Next question?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I think anyone who's ever tried it lives to regret outsourcing. Programming is not "monkey work".

      • by dynamo (6127)

        That's a damn good point there.. If the boss things it's monkey work he should hire actual monkeys and see how they do. My guess is that the experiment will show he is not fit to manage.

      • by PIBM (588930)

        Not every company even lives to regret it..

        • by hendridm (302246)

          Not every company even lives to regret it..

          Indeed. The bigger the corporation is, the more likely they are to thrive on wasted time, money and resources (and promote an environment where budgets/positions must be justified or lost).

    • by sortadan (786274)
      I'd revise that to a 'Probably not'.

      I've had 4 separate projects with 3 separate companies outsourced, 3 to Indian companies, and one to a Russian company. Two of the 3 Indian outsourcings were for testing of a product, and this is the one case where outsourcing can possibly work in my experience (1 of the 2 experiences was less than a total waste of money). What worked was having a liaison in-house that was available to talk to the dev team here, and work out how the product was changing daily, how the
  • It's Always Tricky (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @01:39PM (#40030247)
    You need to balance your workloads with the project timeline. If the two of you can do it on time and within your budget, then you should try to do it yourself. If not, you'll need to spend quite a bit of time managing the individual(s) or company that you outsource your project to.

    If your internal libraries are proprietary, you'll need to be smart. Don't give away the source code - just the compiled libraries. If you need to issue temporary licenses for the libraries to run (if your code requires licensing), make sure they are for 'dev versions' so they can't be used for release versions.

    There are lots of reasons to keep development in house, but if you can't do it all yourself you nee to pick your developers well. Make sure you get references and that you check all of them. Make sure they provide references for several years back so you can see if they tend to repeat the same mistakes.
    • by fermion (181285)
      It seems that all of this stuff goes back to the granddaddy "The Mythical Man Month", which just gets magnified when outsiders are included in the equation.

      I recently worked on a project. Was basically given two month and a small sum of cash. It should have been a simple thing to do except for several severe mistakes.
      1) The deliverables were doubled a week after I was introduced to the project. 2) The layout of the deliverables were significantly changed after I had completed a layout, three weeks aft

  • In short term, yes, there is a cost savings that occurs. In long term, you will lose out on quality of your product or support. Most major companies with outsourced development are feeling that pain. The company I work for lost well over 2 million dollars in the last year due to the inadequacy of the offshore development teams we had. Some of the larger tech oriented companies, like HP are slowly moving their important development back to the US because of this. HP just brought around 200 SAP development jo
  • ...are local.

    They don't have to work on-site, but you'll find it incredibly difficult to manage the process properly without being able to visit them at will.

  • Sell the business (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Animats (122034) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @01:40PM (#40030275) Homepage

    Try IGDA, the Independent Game Developers Association, and find a team with a track record of a game roughly similar to, or better than, the one you want. Give them participation in the deal, so they get paid a basic price plus some fraction of sales. This will encourage them to make it good, not do a half-assed job.

    Rent-a-Coder and Freelance will not help. I've never been able to get good work from there for anything above the trivial level. (I once wanted screen scrapers written for state corporation registries. I'd written one for one state, and wanted someone to write the other 49, each state being different. No joy.)

  • Insource 'em instead (Score:4, Interesting)

    by i.r.id10t (595143) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @01:41PM (#40030295)

    Why not try creating a non-paid or minimally paid internship?

    • by garcia (6573) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @01:56PM (#40030583) Homepage

      Why not try creating a non-paid or minimally paid internship?

      As an IT manager, we do something similar to this. We hire recent college graduates with basic skills we're looking for (Excel and basically programming exposure) and train them to do the work we need to have done.

      Now, while this works for our business and our model, it does take time to bring people on board who are not accustomed to the language we use and bring them up to speed. Depending on the timeline of the projects on hand and the time availability of those who would be working to bring associate level programmers up to speed, it may not work in all instances.

      I have a close-knit team comprised of experience professionals willing to train entry-level people to do the work both during crunch times and lulls. Both myself and my guys have the desire and availability to do this and we hope that it will continue to serve us well.

      YMMV.

    • Non-paid internships that do work that would normally be done by a paid employee, or that the employer derives a benefit from, are illegal under the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act [dol.gov] See in particular item #4.
  • by berashith (222128) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @01:41PM (#40030303)

    If monkeys can do it, then just outsource it to them . I see a huge lack of perspective just from that idea alone.

  • by ehiris (214677) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @01:41PM (#40030305) Homepage

    "Monkey work" looks exactly as if monkeys have worked on it.
    If you want a high quality product, the world is pretty flat as far as cost.

  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @01:42PM (#40030325)
    If you are a developer, and your boss thinks programming is "monkey work", I'd be looking for a different job, right now.

    I know that's not the question you asked, but that's the answer I have.
    • by Barbara, not Barbie (721478) <barbara,hudson&gmail,com> on Thursday May 17, 2012 @02:04PM (#40030715) Journal

      If you are a developer, and your boss thinks programming is "monkey work", I'd be looking for a different job, right now.

      I know that's not the question you asked, but that's the answer I have.

      Absolutely 100% the right answer.

      Because you're next no matter how it goes.

      It will go badly. And then there won't be the budget to fix the problem. Whose fault is that? Well, let's see ... the First Law of Business Physics is "Sh*t always rolls downhill." Since it's just you and your boss, guess who's at the bottom of the hill?

      So you will be blamed for the failure.

      Some problems are intractable - they cannot be solved under the given conditions and constraints. This is one of them. It's way past time to leave. Try to contact everyone else who's left, tell them you're ready to jump ship and would appreciate any assistance they can give.

      If the boss complains when you tell him that it can't be done, tell him you want a big raise. What's he going to do - fire you? Then he's out of a job as well. He's already looking around for another opportunity anyway ... the minute he finds one, you're dead in the water.

    • If you are a developer, and your boss thinks programming is "monkey work", I'd be looking for a different job, right now.

      I know that's not the question you asked, but that's the answer I have.

      Oh, c'mon. Have you never heard the term code monkey? I often have cool new features and challenging problems to work on, but you know what? The vast majority of the time I'm doing boring, easy stuff, that nevertheless needs to be done. I can't afford to just solve the complex problem and then say, "and the rest is trivial" and stop working.

      It's not a derogatory term. It's just a way of saying that he wants to outsource the things he doesn't feel like should be a problem, even if he can't interact with

  • These situations rarely work out well, but you're going to have to deal with it for now or find a new job. It sounds like you're going to have to think about how to organize your projects for outside development. I'll let you in on a little hint that will help you: Your software libraries aren't worth as much as you think they are. If you have specific pieces that are outright trade secrets, lock them down, but don't be overprotective of your product as a whole. That should be handled through contracts
  • Absolutely! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @01:42PM (#40030335)
    By all means, hire strangers who get paid in advance and have no personal stake in the outcome.

    Who fights harder, people whose country is being invaded, or the mercenaries doing the invading?
    • Fighting harder is not what is important. What matters is fighting better, and that will usually go to whoever is the best trained and has the best equipment.

  • by OneC0de (1851710) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @01:43PM (#40030339)
    The company I work for is going through the same thing (roughly). We've tried to run an in-house development staff, but talented developers who don't expect six figure salaries are few and far in be-tween. In the last 3+ years we've launched 7 in-house applications that have helped us quadruple in size (revenues, profits, and employee size). Within the last few months the owners asked for another 7 projects to be completed, and to start renting out our systems to potential clients. They did not want to hire any more developers, and tasked me with outsourcing our development. They want the work done in 1-2 weeks compared to 1-2 months. So far, our outsourcing replies have all been $10K+ and 2.5 months estimated time, for one of our smaller projects. Looking forward to reading the responses on this one!
    • by h4rr4r (612664) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @01:59PM (#40030643)

      So talented employees with valuable skills want fair pay?
      Shocking!

      Why are they willing to pay managers like that but not those who do actual work?

    • by dynamo (6127) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @02:00PM (#40030657) Journal

      Consider yourself screwed. You are being set up.

      Let's see. Over the last 3+ years, 7 apps. Then in the last few months, they asked for 7 more, and also to start renting out your systems. They don't want to use the in-house staff, instead they want to have you take the blame for not being able to do a job in 1-2 weeks compared to what I assume you in-house staff estimated at 1-2 months. The outsourcers are quoting even longer, at 2.5 months.

      You can quit, you can wait until things fail and take the blame and consequences, or you can stand up to these idiots demanding that you find someone willing to promise to do the impossible for small bags of money.

  • Outsourcing doesnt have to be to a foreign country, it happens all the time. There are organizations with big IT departments that choose to pay outside company to do the work. Is that a good idea? It depends, as with everything. You have to realize that you will spend much more time on specifying and verifying the implementation of requirements, interfaces, etc. than if the developers were in-house. If you don't do that then you're going to fail. This increase of specification cost, is due to communication
  • by cryfreedomlove (929828) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @01:45PM (#40030369)
    Your new job is to manage outsourced developers doing 'monkey work'. They will do it badly and you will have to pick up the pieces. There is a huge shortage of strong developer talent out there. Therefore you should have little trouble finding a new job that is a better alignment with your passions. If it were me, I'd be looking to leave the company you are at now.
  • Don't do it (Score:4, Informative)

    by codeToDiscovery (2597559) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @01:45PM (#40030377)
    We have an offshore team in country [X] working on feature work and bug fixing on our enterprise level software product [X]. It is a horrible nightmare. Offshore creates more problems than they solve, they don't respond to explicit direction, they double, triple and sometimes quadruple bill while simultaneously producing very small amounts of actual work. We finally had to cut off their access to source control, and all check-ins have to go through an onshore dev for approval before it can be integrated. We are letting them go in the next week or too. But seriously, it can really be a waste of time and money for all involved.
  • by w_dragon (1802458) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @01:46PM (#40030395)
    Ask yourself this: What are your clients paying you for?

    Now, whatever you do, don't outsource that!!!

    If you're really good at designing games that meet your clients needs then it may be worthwhile to outsource the actual development of the game once it's designed. In my personal experience this is unlikely, as the design and coding phases tend to be highly coupled, especially in smaller companies. Likely you don't create detailed enough design documents for an outsourced team to fully understand and execute your vision.
  • by cdrguru (88047) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @01:47PM (#40030409) Homepage

    First off, if your company was in business to make wrenches, would it be smart to pay someone else to make wrenches and just sell them? Or, would it make more sense to be making wrenches better than other people and sell those? See, one way you are a sales company that isn't making anything and the other is you are actually making something. Same goes for software, trust me.

    For a software company you might have some old products that could be pushed off onto some other folks for maintenance. Or, you could consider outsourcing accounting and bookkeeping. But outsourcing the core product(s) that establish your identity for the future is ... well, madness.

    The basic problem is the folks you outsource to are looking for a paycheck and have little interest in a product. You, on the other hand, count on a product as a way of surviving into the future. To tie yourself to some folks doing this with little supervision (and don't kid yourself, there won't be anywhere near enough) for the future isn't going to work out well. I have heard of this with a number of organizations and while they can get some cheap development done, it is generally something that simply needs to be redone on a crash basis when customers start noticing defects and quality problems. Also, you will find a lot of outsourced development done exactly to specs - and done in a virtually unmaintainable manner. It does exactly what was specified, no more and no less - but to add some new feature takes a huge amount of effort because there was zero flexibility written into the code.

    Yes, having developers in house is more expensive, no doubt about that. For things that are not critical to the business at hand you can outsource and get reasonable results - it may have some problems and may not be as flexible as you would like but you can live with it. Core product functionality on the other hand you better have a lot better control over and instill quality and flexibility in the development team from the start. Can't do that remotely when the team changes every week - which is common for such arrangements.

  • Initially, this will save a few bucks. Remember, that what ever you give to someone off shore will become public domain in very short order. This unfortunate reality has been brought to you by every schmuck company that sent programming work to China expecting to gain sales of their software in China.

    While cheaper, once you leave the US you no longer have protection for your IP. China does not care about the US patent system, nor does India, Vietnam, or hell even most of Europe. Do you have patent's in

  • The other side... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by roninmagus (721889) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @01:49PM (#40030451)
    I'll come from the other angle. I'm a consultant developer full-time. In order to be successful, don't keep the guys at arm's-length. Yes, they will need access to core libraries, and anything else that will make their project successful. You will need to put in place adequate agreements to protect your IP, however. Set milestones for them to reach, and have regular (but not overwhelming, once a week should do) contact with the developer to discuss their progress. Verify they will be using technologies that you are comfortable with. The consultant knows better their own work-pace than you do. Allow them some leeway to set their own development schedule, making sure that it fits in with your ultimate deadline. Often, you will not be their only client. It's tough as a consultant to make everyone feel special. I often have 3-5 projects I'm juggling at a time. Of course, you will need to get the warm and fuzzies that they are devoting adequate time to your project, but try to get a feel for their existing workload as well before moving forward with them. Just my two cents.
  • First, if your boss thinks the programming is "monkey work" then you're already in trouble right there.

    With only two of you total, and only one person even potentially capable of reviewing outsourced work, you personally are going to spend all of your time attempting to integrate not-quite-compatible or not-quite-complete or worst not-quite-right pieces that you get from outside. If what you're outsourcing is self-contained pieces you may have more luck, but even there unless you're simply contracting some
  • by DaveGod (703167) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @01:50PM (#40030475)

    I'm curious, if you're outsourcing development what is it that the business actually does?

    I mean fundamentally. What is it your company offers your market? What value does it add, if someone else is doing the work? Why wouldn't customers cut out you, the middleman? How does it control everything that matters - supply lines, production, IP, quality, direction, and so on?

    An organisation is just that - an organisation. It doesn't fundamentally matter what's in-house and what's out, as long as it's organised i.e. controlled. However, it is dramatically more difficult when it's outsourced.

    Consider say Apple. It outsources production but retains everything else internally. What it has outsourced can be very heavily controlled because it's all extremely highly specified and those specifications are of a nature well suited to contracts.

    • Why wouldn't customers cut out you, the middleman?

      Because they don't want to do all the work the middleman does. They don't want to write the spec. They don't want to monitor progress. They don't want to do the testing and validation. Etc... etc...

      My wife's company looked at "cutting out the middleman" for the vertical package that runs the company - and recoiled in horror when they found just what it meant to be dealing with the end developers.

      Not to mention the end developers weren't p

  • My advice (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @01:51PM (#40030487)
    As an IT professional with over 25 years of industry experience, I can tell you that if you outsource you need to be very explicit about what you expect them to do and what deadlines there are. VERY explicit. You can expect no thinking outside the box. I'm going to give you an example. Let's say that due to some mistake on your part that you asked them to build you a car that blows up and kills everyone inside when you turn on the ignition. You would hope that if you did that that the outsourcing party would contact you and say "Did you REALLY want us to build a car that blows up when you turn on the ignition and kills everybody inside? Because that is exactly what you asked for." They won't. They'll either shrug their shoulders and build your death car or they simply will assume that maybe you have a very good reason for asking for a death car and it's not their job to question it.

    The quality of work you get from outsourcing is arguable. I work for a Fortune 300 company who I am unwilling to name, but I can tell you that we outsource some programming to our employees in India. We're pretty selective about what we give them, but they do good work. However, the vast majority of the workforce there is not given our most crucial tasks to implement and those continue to be done in our US office. I would say that easily less than 10% of the programmers we have who actually live in India are allowed to work on truly critical tasks for us. Finally, do note that if your software needs are proprietary and a competitor might pay to have access to your code, there is absolutely nothing you can do if someone in a common outsourcing county is willing to sell dumps of your code for cash. Laws are very weak in those countries and they are always in favor of the locals rather than "rich foreigners". In a worst case you'd actually have to outbribe the judges in the country to get any justice.
  • If you're a company that CAN do something and you fire all your workers that do that thing and then outsource that function your company now can't do that anymore and you must outsource indifferent to the economics. Of course you could rehire those people and build that department up from scratch but that will take years to get right so you lose a lot if you outsource ALL of a given department.

    If you outsource half of everything across the board you retain a little more flexibility. Your company hasn't lost

  • If you don't think that the reason your company doesn't have a development team is important to this question, you're wrong.

    You will not get better results by outsourcing development. There are *different* issues with outsourcing. You still have to manage them, define concrete requirements, run independent test/QA, deal with the legal contracts, handle 13.5-hour timezone differences (which makes meetings a royal PITA), etc. I'm not an accountant, but when I add all of those costs up, the $20/hour saved ma

  • by Alex Belits (437) * on Thursday May 17, 2012 @01:53PM (#40030517) Homepage

    'monkey work'

    Leave. Now.

  • by Xiver (13712) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @01:53PM (#40030523)
    I wouldn't usually say this, but you need to update your resume and start looking for a new job. Its only a matter of time before he realizes that he can outsource you too.
    I've seen the follow three scenarios play out, usually its number 2.

    1. You find cheap professional quality developers who are available for your entire project cycle and do excellent work. Do they have anyone that can do your job?
    2. You find cheap developers who hold it together long enough for them to find a better job. You'll really know your in trouble when you're on your third or fourth set of developers and the project appears to be going backwards. Ends in disaster.
    3. You find cheap developers who can't find a better job and stick with your project for the entire cycle. Ends in disaster.
  • You are talking about outsourcing the core focus of your business. That is a big fat no. If you have a store and you want to sell things online, contract, outsource, whatever. You make your money on the margins of your merchandise.

    If your business is making software, you are outsourcing your core business model. That is a recipe for disaster.

  • I have always thought of IT as a department within a company that does a particular buisness.

    Does this mean that the OP's company performs outsourced IT tasks for companies too small to need dedicated IT staff? In this case outsourcing (not offshoring) seems quite reasonable as long as it is to someone you have a good line of communications to with well defined and measurable goals.

    Now, outsourcing isn't some magic powder you sprinkle on to a project to suddenly make it more cost effective. Keeping with th

  • You probably already know this, but it sounds like your boss is basically an asshole.

  • If you can keep people within your grasp so you can yell into their faces, maybe it could work.
    If it's a distance- how often do these things work? How many stories have we read about all the problems of outsourcing distantly.

    Though it sounds like you have some more underlying issues here that may need to be examined, also. And don't forget that unless you're reviewing every line of code, you're placing a LOT of trust into these "code monkeys" who will have no loyalty to you.

  • Does your boss do the book keeping or does he hire someone external to do the work?

    I am a freelance Perl programmer and companies do outsource to me. Outsourcing is just letting an external developer (in this case) do (some of the) the work. If you don't trust them with your code, you're looking at the wrong people. Outsourcing is not necessarily going to eLancer / rent-a-coder et al and trying to find people willing to do 1000 hrs of work for 20 USD.

    By the way, nice attitude does that boss of yours have: '

  • Whether outsourcing IT or software development is a good idea depends on what business you are in.

    If you are in, say, the Baked Goods business, or the Tire Manufacturing business, then outsourcing either or both functions is probably a good idea.

    If you are in the Software Development business, then outsourcing software development is probably not such a good idea. It would be like a bakery outsourcing the baking to another bakery. If they do that, then why do I need them? Why shouldn't I just go to
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I've been through outsourcing at two companies, and it just doesn't work, especially for smaller groups. I could see it working if you have a large team, you have some repetitive, cookie-cutter development tasks, you've done this task a million times yourself, and you know exactly how to give the task to someone else. And you already have the tests to verify that the product actually does what it is supposed to do. And you have managers already managing that same work internally. This just isn't you.

    I stron

  • Xmas? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Jezza (39441) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @01:59PM (#40030647)

    Isn't this like asking turkeys to vote for Christmas?

  • What a strange place to ask this question... unless you're just looking for us to cooborate your already fixed opinion. Of course Slashdot thinks its a bad idea; this place is full of programmers who don't want to see their jobs outsourced. Might as well ask oil executives their opinons on solar energy and alternative fuels.

    (Of course, someone will now contradict me by posting in favor of outsourcing. We're not just geeks; we're contrary Slashdot geeks...)

  • Whether you're outsourcing development central to your line of business, or whether you're outsourcing route work that is not a core competency.

    Organizations that outsource core competencies dissolve rather quickly, because essentially the only value they provide is as a virtual organization that resells a service some other firm provides. One of the primary things I learned in B-school is: you never, ever outsource core competencies. But, you're crazy not to look at outsourcing the rest of the work.

  • the logistical problems you raise (access to a shared repo, internal libs) are non-issues. there are many ways to resolve these issues ... although it may mean new tools and processes for you.

    as to whether it will save your company money / get the product out faster, that depends on so many factors that it really can't be answered. how "monkey" is the monkey work? will you get a good team off shore? how good are you at managing them? how well structured and documented is the project now?

    at the very least, y

  • Run away ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @02:04PM (#40030719) Homepage

    I used to work with a team of developers, but for reasons outside the scope of this question, my boss and I are the only ones left. My boss says that our new strategy is to use outsourced developers to do the 'monkey work' for us.

    You have no hope in hell of keeping a product going. You have no way of enforcing your deadlines. You're basically middle-men who may or may not be able to cajole your supplier into doing what you need when you need it.

    The projects I've been on that have used outsourcing usually required a fair amount of management to get them to do well-defined tasks to spec, and deliver that on time and working as expected. What you're describing sounds like it simply can't work.

    If what you do is primarily make software, and your boss calls that the "monkey work", then you're screwed. That's not really a strategy which is going to work, which means your small IT company will implode in a while

    Seriously, what is left for you guys to do? Collect the money and laugh all the way to the bank? What value do you guys add at this point?

  • I've done a bunch of consulting for the K-12 public sector and I have to say that educational software is some of the most poorly thought-out software ever (from an IT Admin's perspective).

    Much of the software's installation guide goes something along the lines of "go to each computer and put in the disk", making deployment a massive headache. Those that actually come with a networking component usually require Everyone/FullControl permissions on the server share because the software was coded with the ass

  • It sounds like you are concerned about the code base walking off and so you are going to try and limit access by exposing only APIs. Your outsourced programmers will be hamstrung by the restrictions and unable to review the mechanisms behind the APIs. What then? You'll be spending an inordinate amount of time on support unless you get some damn good outsourced programmers and have much better comments than most.

    I can't picture many scenarios where this would be a more cost effective or productive alterna

  • ANY change in organizational technique will have a learning curve if one is not used to it. Rather than focus on a good-versus-bad response to the outsource question, merely point out that it will likely take a few years of practice working with an outsourced team before there is a payoff even IF it's the "right move" in the long run.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @02:16PM (#40030853)

    Allow me to add the CISO's view.

    We have a very good and very eager development department where I work. Despite that, the powers that be decided to outsource a very critical online application development to a third party who has allegedly more experience with this kind of online presence than our developers do. I say allegedly because of what transpired.

    The project started roughly a year ago. We built specs and I added my security requirements as usual. I didn't hear from the project manager until November, despite frequent inquiries. In an in-house development, I could have marched over to the developers (which is not the "due process", mind you, but I could actually do it!) and ask them for progress reports. I can not do that in an outsourced development where I am fully dependent on the project manager and his ability (or, in this case, lack thereof) to give me progress information.

    In November, I was informed that the project is not quite on track but it HAS to be rolled out in February. By that time, I did neither have any beta (or at least alpha) that I could even remotely start to define security tests for, nor anything else, not even a final content sheet. Of course, I did write my usual reports about it, but that only covers my ass, it does not give me a more secure project. In a nutshell, I don't have a problem with that, but my company does!

    February came and I still did not have a finished product in hand. Security tests for a project this size takes at the very least a period of a month, considering that I have to hire auditors, have them conduct audits and compile and evaluate the results. And that doesn't even include necessary fixes yet. In short, to make this whole security process even remotely sensible, I'd have to have this product in hand at least 2 months before the intended launch date. In an in-house development, I can at the very least get the unfinished product and define the testing parameters, maybe even hire an auditor and have him test the almost-finished product instead so we can at least launch with some semblance of security.

    In the end, we launched a completely untested product because the launch date could not be postponed. I wrote a report, detailing that I could not test it and hence are not responsible for any failures, which was nice for me (hey, I don't have to do my job and are still out of any obligation), but it's a catastrophe for the company should the product prove to be insecure, gets hacked and we lose a ton of critical information, both internal secret information as well as customer data.

    This is what's my horror when it comes to outsourcing. You depend even at C-Level fully on your product managers without too much of a chance to reach down the chain and yank it.

  • Outsourced is Risky (Score:5, Informative)

    by scorp1us (235526) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @02:16PM (#40030855) Journal

    On a professional note: I've been on a few teams where parts were outsourced, as we shook our heads in sadness at what got delivered. Now I lead the outsourced efforts, and things are much, much better.

    On a personal note: I routinely use elance.com for small project help.

    It's all in how you do it.
    1. Do not go for the lowest bidder. Go with subject matter/platform experts.
    2. Do not allow them to exercise any discretion. I mean do not leave any platform decisions to them. They will make decisions on what's best for THEM not YOU.
    3. Thoroughly review their work in a regular basis to prevent surprises. Yes, this means MORE work for SOMEONE at your office. But you won't have to pay X people for multiple years, just a few months.
    4. Don't outsource work that will take years bring them in house.
    5. Don't expect it to be cheaper or faster. But you can expect that more work will be done. If you did tip #1 correctly, you'll get it don better than you an do. And that alone is worth it.

  • Then, -- come on folks -- you know the answer is No. How many times do we have to go through this?

    Now, if you "make games" and you outsource it -- Well, then you don't actually "make" shit, you're just worthless idea men. No wonder everyone bailed. You can outsource art / assets, but not the codebase (that's just daft).
    Offsite Coder: Herp! Imma make U a gaem enjun, for thousands and U kan maek meeeluns for it! Iz prommis not be violating any IP law of my country. Derp!

    There are thousands of indi

  • by sesshomaru (173381) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @05:10PM (#40033689) Journal

    You know, instead of outsourcing the "monkey work, " they should bring in actual monkeys to do it.

    They could pay them in bananas!

    Unless, of course its not actually "monkey work" and rather something that would be better done by hiring competent software professionals.

  • Monkey Work (Score:4, Funny)

    by Ukab the Great (87152) on Friday May 18, 2012 @12:07AM (#40037557)

    My boss says that our new strategy is to use outsourced developers to do the 'monkey work' for us.

    I don't think this strategy is successful for producing great software, but given enough time your outsourced developers might write Hamlet.

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