How to Efficiently Hand Off Projects to a Third-Party Developer

Handing over development projects to a third party can be a tricky task. Some developers will be masters, while others just aren't right for certain jobs. Some developers can develop high-end applications, while others give you buggy code that requires heavy testing and might take months to resolve. Before handing over a project, you should therefore be comfortable with the domain expertise of the developer you are working with.

In this blog, let's start by understanding why a development team might decide to hand off a project to a third party.

You're under-resourced

Taking on too many projects can lead to failed builds that can harm your agency's reputation. If your team has committed to delivering more work than it can realistically complete, then you can still rescue projects by handing them over to a third party to ensure good results for your client.

You're behind schedule

Often the deadlines given by a client are difficult to fulfill because of miscommunication, frequent changes in the code, or unexpected delays in development. In such cases, your team could find itself behind the agreed-upon schedule.

If you are running behind schedule, you can hand off a part of the project to a third-party team. For instance, an outside specialist might be able to build a given integration or feature faster than your internal team, leaving more bandwidth for you to knock out features that fall within your core competencies.

You face a skills deficit

If your team doesn't have the proper skillset required for a project, then you can hire a third-party developer who can do the task for you. For example, if the client is looking for the project to be developed in React Native and your team is exclusively trained in Flutter, then you can hire a third-party developer proficient in React Native.

You have a bad relationship with a client

You might have a client who is unhappy due to delays, cost overruns, or interpersonal issues. In such cases, you can turn to a third-party developer to get the project completed. For instance, if a client doesn’t like the way your code is written, and you don't see a reason to change your approach, then a third-party team that is more aligned with the client's preferences is a better fit.

Common Challenges of Project Handoffs

Finding quality development partners and handing over software development projects can be tricky. Even if you have scored a good development partner, things can fall out of place due to procedural errors.

Let’s take a look at some of the problems or pitfalls you can face.

Insufficient Documentation

Providing documentation is the key to knowledge transfer in development. If your documentation is not up to the mark or lacks necessary information, then blunders are ought to happen.

For instance, documentation typically consists of detailed scope and a feature list. If the client wants a particular functionality in the menu bar and the same is not clearly defined in the document, then it will be missing from the final product. If you want functionality to exist in the code, then you need to mention it in the documentation. It's as simple as that.

Changing Project Scope

Understanding the scope of the project is as important as the documentation. You should have a comprehensive understanding of the project's requirements, and those requirements should be fixed at the point of handoff.

Large projects often change as they progress. If these changes aren't captured and updated in scoping documents, then they will be lost during the handoff process. If, on the other hand, the project has been scoped well, with up-to-date project goals, tasks, costs, and deadlines, then the handoff will go smoothly.

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Poor Communication

In any project, communication is the key. As a result, you will need to create channels for clients to communicate their needs to the third-party developer. Passing the project off into the other team's hands is not enough. You should volunteer to pass along client demands to the new team, and you should also facilitate the ongoing exchange of information between your team and the new developers.

Undefined App Architecture

"Application architecture" describes the pattern and techniques used to design and develop an application. Ensuring alignment on an app's architecture is a critical step in any third-party handoff. You should have a clear plan for what pieces need to be assembled, how they relate to each other, and the sequence of steps required for that assembly.

On a managerial level, misalignment regarding app architecture can cause frustration and unnecessary delays. On a technical level, it can cause interactions between the application packages, databases, and middleware to fail.

Unclear Deadlines

Deadlines need to be agreed upon and adhered to. The most common cause of client unhappiness is blown deadlines. Thus, you must always establish a timeline within which the new development team can deliver.

For example, if the client has given you a month to develop an application, you can't allot the same timeframe for initial development, as you have to account for testing and bug fixing. You should always bake in some margin for unexpected delays and communicate likely deadline issues to the new development team well in advance.

Ensuring Successful Handoffs to Third-Party Developers

We've covered common challenges of third-party project handoffs. Now, let's address a few ways that you can avoid these negative outcomes.

Technological Improvements

A quality handoff starts with quality documentation. Project management tools like Jira, Asana, and Trello provide automatic documentation of all project tasks, including details such as their status, priority, and any questions or comments associated with each task. GitHub, of course, provide its own project board as well as a detailed history of previously merged code. Slack automations are another way to gather project data in a single, easily searched location.

Leveraging these tools and training your team to use them correctly can ensure that a new team will step into an organized project that is ready for action.

Operational Improvements

Consider your existing workflows and how you assign work. Could a new team step into this workflow, understand it quickly, and modify it to suit their strengths and preferred approaches? Creating a proper flow chart may make it easier to assess the full set of protocols that your team observes.

You should also define the roles and responsibilities of your team so that a third party can get their bearings as to each member's contributions. Consider items such as:

  • Key Roles: Judging the skills of each developer and assigning them appropriate titles is essential, and it can sometimes be more valuable to use conventional hierarchical descriptions like lead developer, staff engineer, or senior designer.
  • Communication: As discussed earlier, communication is key. You must organize regular meetings and conduct daily stand-ups.
  • Workflow: Identify tasks or processes that routinely cause delays and reconfigure them, with input from your team, to ensure that they run smoothly.

In-House Training

Improving the skills of your in-house development team is important. You can pay for them to attending workshops or online courses that will equip them with the latest skills. Maintaining an internal emphasis on code reviews and regular audits will ensure that any code bases you send to a different team will not catch them by surprise.

Manage Customer Expectations

If you're utilizing third-party development for client builds, then you will need to decide how transparent you should be about another team's involvement. If you would like to continue working closely with the client, then it's best to minimize the outsourced developer's access to key parts of the product and run all client communications through your managers first. However, if you're comfortable with the client developing a relationship with both you and your development partner, then it may be easiest to put them in direct contact with each other and only check in when needed.

Monitor Third-Party Developers for Risks

Be proactive in tracking the progress of builds and the performance of outside developers. Daily reports of the work should be created and handed over to your project manager. The project manager should then conduct regular analysis to be sure that you are getting reasonable production and quality out of your development partners. It's also a good idea to periodically check in with your engineering leads to make sure that their working relationship is solid.

What Projects Are Best for Third-Party Development?

The likely use case for a third-party developer is to hand off some projects and keep others in house. But how do you know which is which?

One simple rule is this: projects in which your development team is doing a good job need not be handed over. Anything else is worthy of consideration. Projects where your team is relatively new and have less experience, or where it's clear that your team might make some blunders, are ideal candidates for outsourcing. Keeping your client happy and app development on track is your north star in this area.

Apart from the client, you should also be aware of what kind of projects you can handle in general. Although it is usually wise to outsource projects that fall outside of your core expertise, you shouldn't rely on third-party development for projects that you have zero knowledge of, as you are ultimately responsible for the final outcome. Always have a clear strategy before accepting a client project and handing it off.

Observe Best Practices and You'll Be Fine

Handing over projects can be a great way to build your team and encourage mutual growth with trusted partners. Moreover, there will always be new technologies and work patterns that you might not be aware of, and you can accomplish more by relying on the expertise of others.

Crowdbotics provides managed app development services by vetted developers. Crowdbotics developers can work as part of your team or take over the entire project for you. Crowdbotics is experienced in a number of high-demand sectors, such as healthcare, finance, and defense. If you're interested in exploring third-party agency partnership possibilities, get in touch with us today.

Originally published:

November 13, 2020

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