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PCA vs. Offshore Development

In the 90's and 2000's, outsourcing software projects to places like India, Russia, etc. were all the rage.  Today, most experienced professionals view off-shoring as "good from afar, yet far from good."  Depending upon the nature of the project, off-shore developers can either offer significant cost-advantages, or serve as a recipe for disaster.  If you are evaluating off-shoring an important project vs. engaging a US-based firm, here are several important considerations:
  • Specification Detail — If your custom software project is 100% fully-specified, right down to smallest level of detail, and your requirements leave zero room for judgement or interpretation, then off-shoring can provide a cost-effective alternative vs. paying US engineering rates.    If your requirements however are the least bit incomplete or vague, and critical thinking is required, then perpare yourself for a very frustrating (and expensive) experience.
  • Engineering Quality — The quality of most off-shore engineering practices is hit-and-miss.   Producing a highly-organized code base using proper engineering standards that are readily accessible by new developers, and cost-effective to maintain and extend over time — this is usually outside the skill sets of most off-shore development organizations.
  • Project Communication — Effective communication is by far the most critical success factor for custom development projects.   Poor, ineffective communication is where most off-shore resources consistently fall down.   Expect to take ten (or more) attempts to get something right, due to disconnects in cultural and basic communication skills.
  • Critical Thinking — Most foreign cultures do not promote challenging the status quo, or questioning authority.     For example, the word "Yes" in many foriegn cultures does not mean they agree with you; it does not even mean they understand what you are saying.  "Yes" simply means they heard something bounce off their eardrums, and are simply being respectful by acknowledging your remark.   Critical thinking is a must-have for many custom software solutions, and if you need a partner to do what your business needs (not necessarily what you ask for), partnering with a US-based engineering firm is always your best option.
In short, if you have very well-scoped need, with a complete and highly-detailed set of requirements, and a project manager who is available and dedicated to "ride herd" on the off-shore development team, then you may have a good candidate for off-shore development services.  If however any of these conditions are not true, you will likely end of paying more in the long run; or worse, get half-way into your project before the best option is to pull the plug.  If you do manage to find the rare high-quality off-shore team, be prepared to say Good-Bye to them at any point during your project, because loyalty to your business is usually not a primary concern outside of the US.
  Off-Shore PCA
Requirements What you ask for What you need
Communication Skills Poor Excellent
Service Fees Foreign rates US rates
Critical Thinking N/A High
Responsiveness Low to High High
Time-to-Market 3x 1x
Coding Standards Hit-and-miss Best Practices
Overall Risk High Low
Due to the many advantages that PCA offers vs. off-shore development, we are often able to deliver BETTER SOLUTIONS, on a FASTER schedule, and at a LOWER TOTAL COST.