Editor's Note: This is a guest post by Alex Zubel at Digital Knights partner SoftTeco. SoftTeco has successfully completed over 200 custom software development projects using a highly professional team of software engineers to clients from the USA, Europe, UK and Canada. They use the latest and most efficient technologies to adhere to high industry standards and ensure seamless quality and performance.
Java remains one of the most popular programming languages in the world that can be used for building various software products, from web applications to complex IoT solutions. Considering the popularity of Java as well as its reliability and quality, company owners often struggle to find elite professional Java developers that will help them design and build high-quality products.
Faced with this challenge, many turn to outsourcing as a great way to expand the talent pool and find the perfect specialist for their project. However, in order to make such approaches a success, the management of an outsourced team of Java developers need to follow certain rules in order to gain the maximal value from the relationship.
The Do’s of Managing an Outsourced Java Team
If you’re going to work with an outsourced Java development team, you need to rearrange some of your processes so that the work goes in a smooth and hassle-free manner. Here are the key things to pay attention to:
Specify Your Requirements for Java Developers
Java is a general-purpose language that can be used for a wide variety of purposes. As a result, every Java-related project demands a very specific set of requirements for the developers.
Before reaching out to these developers, it’s important to create a competency framework and list down all the requirements needed for the specialist. This will significantly save time for all involved as it will help both yourself and any potential developers understand the fit required for the project.
A good job description usually includes the preferred number of years of experience, preferred technical and soft skills, level of experience (whether you need a Junior or a Senior developer), and a project domain. Including the description of a project and its domain is particularly important as outsourced Java developers may already have experience in this domain and thus can be a valuable asset to your company.
Test the Team’s Knowledge and Ask for a Portfolio
The biggest risk associated with hiring outsourced Java developers is getting a team of mediocre professionals with poor coding skills.
To avoid such a situation, always ask the team to show their portfolio and ensure they complete a test task. With this approach, you will be able to see whether the developers really have the needed skills and whether their code adheres to your quality standards. In Java software development, code review is a common practice so if your developers cannot understand the code of the outsourced team, you might be in trouble. And vice versa, if both teams understand each other’s code and your QA team does not see any major bugs in the code of the outsourced developers, then you can be more confident on future output quality.
Generate Code Documentation
Code quality is the cornerstone of project performance so it’s obligatory to have well-established processes designed to check the quality of the code produced. One of the most common ways to monitor the code writing process is through managed code documentation and comments. This allows for quick and simple review of the code, seeing what was done there and how.
Fortunately, Java already comes with advanced functionality for checking code quality. It has Javadocs which is the default documentation support, built-in tools that generate HTML output of the code comments and tools that supplement sequel diagrams. As for third-party tools, Java developers also typically have access to and use Maven, Gradle, and ANT for document generation.
It’s crucial that the development team uses the tools at their disposal for generating code documentation on a regular basis. Otherwise, there is a risk that serious issues will make it through to the final project, that could be problematic to fix in the future.
Establish Clear Reporting
Rule number one when you work with an outsourced team: establish clear communication and reporting processes from the beginning.
Poor communication leads to an array of problems: missed deadlines, misunderstanding of requirements, loss of control, client dissatisfaction etc.t These issues often damage a project and all parties suffer as a result. To eliminate such problems, you need to think about how you will maintain communication transparency, how much control you want to delegate to the team, and how the reporting process will go.
When you talk to the team before starting work, negotiate on the best communication methods, assign a Project Manager to be an intermediate between you and the team, and decide on the reporting method and frequency. Even if the team works by Agile (meaning, in sprints), you may still want additional reports to maximise transparency. Remember, ll of these elements need to be agreed in advance, or you risk starting your project in chaos.
Conduct Regular Testing
When developing a Java project, it’s crucial to regularly conduct unit and integration tests to validate the product’s security and ensure high performance.
Unit testing allows developers to test separate units (i.e. modules) and see how they work. Integration testing is usually conducted by testers and is needed to see how the whole system works in integration. Both testing methods are essential for Java project quality and are equally important.
Java developers typically use the JUnit framework for unit testing and SpringBoot for integration testing so its important any external developers are familiar with these tools.
Aim for a Long-Term Relationship
One of the most common mistakes that many company owners make is treating the outsourced team as a temporary “patch” for a current issue. Such an approach is fundamentally wrong.
The success of an outsourced project greatly depends on the team members’ loyalty and motivation. If you treat outsourced developers as temporary working force, it’s likely they will not be interested in optimizing your product or making any suggestions. On the other hand, if you show that you want to establish a long-term relationship and treatan outsourced team as an equal part of the project, it will greatly motivate the developers and may lead to their increased enthusiasm while encouraging the proposal of creative ideas and suggestions.
The Don'ts of Managing an Outsourced Java Team
There are certain rules to follow when working with an outsourced team - and there are certain things to avoid if you want to achieve a beneficial and reliable collaboration.
Do Not Limit the Use of Certain Tools and Technologies
Java is awesome because it has so many available tools for the developers to research and study. It is especially true for Java libraries: while many haveLog4j or Joda-Time at their disposal, developers often do not use them and miss out on the readymade solutions available. In addition,developers also waste too much time trying to invent something that already exists when there are tools available that could supplement the requirement in the first place.
Thus, when starting a project with an outsourced team, it’s important to specify the requirements for the developers' skills, without limiting them on the tools and technologies they can use.. By using the very best tools at their disposal, the team will be able to complete the project faster and deliver higher quality results.
Do Not Micromanage
Micromanagement is a flaw of many managers but you need to be especially careful with it if you work with an outsourced Java team.
Micromanagement creates an atmosphere of distrust, prevents innovation and, most significantly annoys the employees. Some may say: but how do I make sure everything goes in accordance with the plan if I do not interfere with the process?
There’s no doubt outsourcing is a tricky business and implies less control over the project for the company owners than in-house development. However, if you choose to work with an outsourced team, that means you trust these specialists with your project and are ready to delegate a certain amount of responsibility to them. So in the case of outsourcing, micromanagement would be a major obstacle, rather than a way to faster achieve the goal.
Do Not Opt for the Cheapest Option
In most circumstances, outsourced development services are typically known to be cheaper than in-house development. However, this does not mean you should choose e cheapest services when looking at the possible options and comparing prices. It’s worth keeping in mind, there are often pitfalls hidden in low price teams.
Experienced specialists with a proven record of experience will always charge in correspondence with their level of skills and knowledge. Price will also reflect the rates teams in different countries will charge, and the quality is unlikely to vary.
So to determine your best value option, without compromising quality, you can: do research and see what are the most suitable rate vs quality options are. In this search, you also need to consider the pricing method that you are going to work by: will it be fixed price or based on time & material? You need to estimate the approximate project cost in accordance with the developers’ rates and see which option will suit you the best.
One more thing: if you go with the cheapest option and the developers are not experienced enough, chances are high you will need to fix their mistakes and that means a double the budget spent on the project. So in the long run, it would save costs to go with a more expensive yet more reliable option.
Do Not Ignore Cultural Differences and Time Zone Shifts
Another challenge of working with outsourced teams is the time zone and cultural differences. Different cultures often require a different approach towards work and this has to be considered when choosing an outsourced team.
The first thing you should pay attention to is the level of English language among the developers. Because you will be regularly communicating with them and reading their reports, it is crucial that the team can efficiently communicate with you in English. Unfortunately, many outsourced teams have poor knowledge of English (while having excellent developer’s skills) and this has the potential to undermine the relationship’s success.
Another thing for you to keep in mind is the general attitude towards work. Some cultures are known to be extremely punctual perfectionists while others tolerate 20-minute delays and completing the tasks in the nick of time. So you need to look for a team that shares the same working attitude as your in-house developers and that will be comfortable for you to communicate with.
Outsourcing a Java development team is a perfect chance for any company to get reliable and experienced developers on board and enhance their Java project with skilled professionals. If you follow the rules mentioned above and organize all internal processes, working with an outsourced team will be no different from working with your in-house developers’ and will deliver equally great results.