The Costly Myth of Low-Cost Software Development

Frank Zinghini

Founder & CEO

I always cringe when I see clients treating their software development like a commodity instead of a high-end service. We’ve had clients who drive their cars into a dealership and think nothing of paying $150.00 an hour to have it serviced. But when we quote a similar rate to develop an app that’s critical to their business, they say, “I can get it done in India for $37.00.”

I know trouble is coming for those companies.

Years ago, we had a client who decided to sign a deal with a huge, well-known software company in India. The client began laying off their old employees and they let us go, then they brought in the Indian software developers. It took a while for them to realize they weren’t saving the money they thought they were. They were spending less per hour, but overall they paid at least as much to get a lower-quality product that was behind schedule. (We are now working with them again, along with some of their former employees.)

When you treat software development as a commodity, you always get burned. But there are ways to make sure that doesn’t happen to you. Here are four of them.

1. Hire a Partner, Not a Vendor

Your software developer should start by learning everything they can about what you want and need. They should partner with you to get a whole picture of your vision for the product and the project. When you go offshore, you’re basically renting someone hourly that will do what you tell them to do. If you tell them to do something that doesn’t make sense in the bigger picture, they’ll never really understand that.

This Indian company initially impressed their client by bringing in a bunch of really good developers. But before long, they began switching them out with less experienced developers, still charging the same rate. After about two years, there was a much lower-quality set of people working for the client. That’s not somebody who’s treating you like a partner. They’re taking advantage of you for greater profit. Product quality and taking care of the customer weren’t their major concerns.

2. Make Sure They Understand the End User

Hire a software company that cares about not just taking care of you as a client, but understanding what the end user is going to need, and taking care of them too—even if they never meet the user. That’s the core value that Applied Visions was founded on—we’re always thinking about what’s presented to the user and how they get their job done. Then we build software that fits them and their process of getting things done.

3. Get a Developer Who Considers Workflow

A lot of other developers think about making the app pretty. It should be visually pleasing, but more important is the impact on the user. When you put this in front of somebody, what work do you want them to accomplish? And what are the steps that they use to get there? Our goal is to build the software so they don’t need to learn new steps and go through different hoops than they’re used to.

The gaming industry gets it. They build the interface so all of the pieces you need to play the game are easily accessible. There are heads-up displays and little icons around the screens that you can grab quickly and easily, instead of flipping through 14 screens to get to the one you want. Even though we rarely build gaming apps, we alwasy keep these principles in mind. You want to make the user experience as efficient as possible.

4. Hire a Product Builder, not a Rental Company

Too often outsourcing is the equivalent of a rental agency. Typically it’s a large firm that takes the approach of “we have people who can develop software.” But when you come to a high-quality software developer, you’ll discover a company that cares about what the end product is. They’re not there to rent people out, they’re there to make the best end product for the people who use it.


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