Why On-Demand Development Can Be Such a Mess (and How to Avoid It)

For small tech startups, multinational organizations, and everything in between, hiring quality engineering talent is a top priority. One strategy that tech companies often use for development projects that require rapid delivery is outsourced development, in which they hire "just-in-time" talent to build apps quickly. For this reason, on-demand software development has become a global trend, with companies leveraging third-party development partners to speed up the development process.

However, this approach doesn't always deliver the desired results. In fact, there are many things that can go wrong. Common risks of on-demand development include quality hazards, breach of deadlines, insufficient infrastructure, scalability, vital information leakage, and more.

Let's explore these factors in greater detail.

Understanding the "On-Demand" Economy

On-demand development is the act of hiring engineers on an as-needed basis, typically in a contract-only capacity, in order to complete a specific project. These external stakeholders go by different names across the world: freelancer, self-employed, consultant, vendor, agency, and so on.

These team members usually have knowledge and experience in their respective fields. In the world of software development, the "on-demand" developer should ideally have the necessary equipment required to complete the project in addition to the experience required to accomplish the given task.

Tech firms are increasingly outsourcing a fair share of their projects. Let's take a look at the key factors which are driving this shift.

Why Do Tech Teams Hire On-Demand Developers?

Hiring a full-time, internal team to handle all of your development is a difficult task. Project requirements are highly variable and can undergo constant change. As a result, there are some potential advantages that prompt corporations to hire external resources:

Reducing business cost

It's the most immediate and ultimate benefit that your team can realize. Getting external workers on board means you are only paying them for services you want them to provide. Indirectly, it saves you from spending money on expenses like paid leave, training, benefits, and other perks of full-time employment.

Shortlisting on-demand hires is also much less resource-intensive compared to the interview process for traditional hires. There are multiple online portals that have turned the talent hunt process into an "online shopping"-style experience for just a nominal cost.

Rapid turnaround

Software development has a lifecycle that needs to be followed. However, such situations can some time get nasty. As a result, it's appealing for companies to have a helping hand outside the firm to handle such situations carefully without hampering the development process. On-demand hiring helps organizations to reduce their internal workload and free up their employees for higher-value tasks.

Outside expertise

Fulfilling the growing need for advanced skills and expertise in new and emerging technologies can sometimes be challenging. Moreover, hiring such people might pose additional hurdles when it comes to matching expected pay scales, immediate availability, and training periods to make new hires an integral part of the team. In these situations, hiring an outside specialist brings expertise to the company and provides fresh eyes to view the project.

Common Challenges of On-Demand Development

Freelancers usually have their own individual approaches to doing their jobs. Thus, they don't always integrate easily into existing teams or workflows. Let's understand the issues you may face as a software firm while dealing with an on-demand developer:

Onboarding demands

Irrespective of the developer's experience, the company has to get the new hire acquainted with project/product information and best practices followed internally within the team, which can take a considerable amount of time. Even once you've communicated the status of a project, you cannot be certain that an on-demand developer will abide by all of the requested measures to complete the given tasks.

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Unvetted developers

In-house developers tend to follow internal guidelines and receive regular performance reviews to ensure a desirable output from their work. However, a hired external developer receives no such oversight and can submit late or low-quality work with minimal accountability.

Insufficient internal processes

Managing multiple on-demand developers at a time can sometimes prove challenging, especially for inexperienced or unsupported managers.

Poor fit with the existing team

Hiring an external developer can be a straightforward process for the hiring manager. However, it usually doesn't include proper vetting to ensure that the developer will get along with the internal team members who also are a part of the project. Lack of mutual understanding, collaboration, and support can jeopardize overall work quality.

Security risks

There are multiple risk factors to consider when it comes to calculating security measures, such as confidentiality, following strict timelines, required infrastructure, and more. Often, external developers prefer to work at their own pace to complete the given task and could therefore be indifferent to certain regulations or requirements. If this goes unchecked, it can prove quite harmful for the development lifecycle and the project output.

What Causes These Issues?

Let’s take a look at the most likely triggers for the above issues:

Poor pre-assessment

Tech organizations often seek external developers due to time constraints and cost-cutting pressures. However, these factors can also leave inadequate time for managers to plan a strategy for properly integrating new members into their teams.

Lack of interaction

Sometimes, internal team members don't coordinate with external developers as expected and required, thus, resulting in a communication gap.

Different time zones

Imagine you have an external developer with a different time zone than your internal team members. It becomes difficult for them to connect, work, interact, raise concerns, or resolve queries immediately. In such cases, they heavily rely on email or chat, which tend to get ignored or received delayed responses.

How to Ensure That On-Demand Development Goes Smoothly

Every firm should conduct proper research into its agency partners to ensure smooth business operations and assess each partner's credibility, security, privacy protocols, data, and disaster recovery plans.

If you are hiring on-demand developers, you should follow certain standard protocols and consider a basic, standardized pre-assessment for potential candidates. You can think of it as a simple survey dedicated to gathering all the required information about your future hires, which can be used to calculate average risk factors and reliability.

Let's check out some different approaches that a tech company can consider for safe on-demand development hiring.

Best Practices for Hiring External On-Demand Developers

Conducting an extensive Vendor Risk Assessment (VRA) for third-party development resources is important, as it helps you anticipate the potential risks and safety measures that need to be taken before an external collaboration. VRA helps you identify and mitigate the potential risks that an external collaboration can bring to the project and overall business.

When conducting a VRA for either an agency or an individual developer, here are some key considerations that you should follow:

  • Consider the task you are planning to outsource carefully. Use the specific demands of the project to set your standards and eligibility criteria for any potential candidates.
  • Consider checking the profile of the candidate and their public reviews or references, which can corroborate their past achievements.
  • Take a reasonable amount of time to share your vision and expectations. Often, a descriptive explanation along with a simple example helps them understand your needs clearly.
  • Apart from emails and chat, allocate some quality time to interact with the candidates. In the current conditions of the pandemic, one could also opt for video conferencing as opposed to a face-to-face meeting.

Outsourced software development has gained in popularity over the past few years, but successful approaches are still being defined and perfected. We're mindful of this at Crowdbotics, which is why our managed app development experts offer regular updates, precise project documentation, and domain-specific expertise whether building from scratch or joining an existing project.

Although they carry some risk, short- or long-term partnerships with on-demand developers can be cost-effective ways to scale your team's output. If you're interested in partnering with vetted PMs and developers for your custom app builds, get in touch with us today.

Originally published:

November 11, 2020