There are quite a few reasons companies might choose to outsource web development, including lower costs, constraints in hiring, and impending deadlines. While outsourcing the creation or redesign of a website is a solid strategy, it’s not a shortcut—jump into outsourcing unprepared and you may find its benefits suddenly stretched thin.
The most common outsourcing problems—going over budget, missing deadlines, and souring relations—can be avoided by taking time to examine three things before you outsource: 1) the project; 2) your company; and 3) where the outsourcing company fits into this.
Know The Project
When outsourcing a website, whether new or revised, think in terms of what it should do, not just what it should be. Consider what would indicate a successful project, whether it’s traffic, conversions, sales, or certain kinds of customer feedback. A clearly stated goal will give the outsourced team something to work toward. When they know your vision, they can also apply their expertise to provide recommendations for reaching it.
Of course, the steps to reaching the goal are important, too. In addition to the goals and indicators, you should be able to clearly define the scope of your project. Having a well-defined scope that covers everything you need for success will allow you to avoid spending extra on supplementary work or missing deadlines because of unmet requirements.
A thorough understanding of both objective and scope will also be useful in prioritizing what needs development. After all, launching a simple but functional website that hits your targets, which you can improve later on, is a much better outcome than an embellished website that doesn’t get things done.
Know Your Company
Even if your project is suitable for outsourcing, there’s always the chance that your company’s setup will make it difficult to put into practice. It should be noted that outsourcing requires surrendering a lot of control. For the uncertain, there are two questions that can help assess readiness: 1) have you removed the red tape? 2) can the processes run themselves?
Whatever your internal bureaucracy might be like, it’s best to keep your outsourced work out of it. If everything they submit has to go through multiple rounds of revision and approval, you’ll simply waste the time that outsourcing could otherwise save—and if you’re paying by time rather than output, you’ll end up wasting money, too. Delayed approvals can be especially harmful in web development, which require work on certain aspects to be done before further work can proceed.
That said, you can’t just tell an outsourced team what you want and leave them to it. Striking the balance means you should have clear processes and documents—but that once these have been laid out, both sides should be able to function simply by following these.
Some basic issues to cover include communication channels, point persons, checkpoints, and matters of information security. Be sure to document these in nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) and service level agreements (SLAs). You can also set processes with your outsourced team—again, respecting the degree of autonomy they need—to allow things to move smoothly once the ball is rolling.
And, of course, be sure to research on them to make sure they have the capability to get you what you need according to your standards.
Where Outsourcing Fits
Each company has their own process and preferred mode of communication. Meeting halfway through all of these is the key. Both must equally adjust to better suit the project. Here are a few things to consider when adopting a common process: 1) tools; 2) communication channels and checkpoints; and 3) point persons and decision-makers.
Agreeing on tools is important because of the cost in money (most high-end software and platforms come at a price) and in time (the more complex, the more time it takes to learn). Weigh these against the scope and duration of the project and consider when it’s better to learn to use new software or to request that the outsourced team adapt to yours.
Some of these tools will be communication or project collaboration tools. Sorting those out will go a long way to smooth communication, but it won’t be the only issue to tackle. Schedule regular checkpoints for keeping tabs on your outsourced work and designate point persons on both sides for any issues that need to be raised between those checkpoints. When everything is coursed through the right people and the right channels, work becomes much easier and more efficient.
Finally, have someone who can make decisions for the outsourced project. As mentioned earlier, lengthy and roundabout approval processes can throw a wrench in your work. Having dedicated decision-makers for the outsourced processes can keep things from grinding to a halt. This also ties up with having designated point persons who can relay any decisions made.
It may take some adjustment at first, but aligning both sides of an outsourcing arrangement is the best way to guarantee success and maximize time, resources, and expertise.
If you’re unsure of your own readiness to outsource, you can always revisit each of these points—the project, your internal policies, and your processes—and see if you can adjust one to better suit an outsourcing arrangement. You could also try a pilot project to see if it’s viable in the long run.
For more tips on successful outsourcing, download our eBook.