Outsourcing Oasis: three rules for outsourcing

Max Barrera · Apr 30, 2020 · Share:

Outsourcing Oasis welcomes Paul Miller CTO of Battlestar Digital to the show. A self-proclaimed nerd and Battlestar Galactica fan. Paul started his career on the business side of corporate America. He always was technical but didn’t feel he could work full time in tech without a degree in IT or development.  Finally, around 3 years ago he decided to dive in full time taking courses in react, node, and express. He was already in love with development but this sent him over the moon. 

Outsourcing’s three rules

Paul clues us in on what it’s been like working with developers in the Philippines and shares his approach to outsourcing - including where and how he finds developers.

Let’s jump into the highlights. 

Tactics for a successful outsourcing engagement.

Paul’s advice for not failing at outsourcing is simple set clear expectations right out of the gate. You have to clearly communicate your requirements and set up regular checkpoints to ensure deadlines are met. Make it a priority to speak with your development partner regularly. 

He recommends holding a 15-minute daily stand-up meeting to check-in and to help gauge progress when using the staff augmentation model and weekly check-ins when using a project based model.   

Rule One: Communication

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is not having a communication plan in place. Paul warns “If you don’t tell them what you need, can you really blame the vendor for not delivering?”  Set the expectation early and follow through. Paul says “We talk about communication so much it’s almost cliche but if you don’t have good communication nothing else is going to work.” 

How To Communicate In The Staff Augmentation Model - as a development manager, you already know what works. What works for developers that work for you directly will work for developers brought in through third-party vendors. Why wouldn’t it? Even 100%  colocated teams fail because of the things we talk about on the show. While outsourcing magnifies some challenges of managing remote teams it can mitigate others. Many times vendors have more experience than their clients - having built many projects across a range of industries. By inviting them to your stand-ups and sprint planning you benefit from their expertise and experience.

How to communicate in the project model - in a project model, you find yourself in a more traditional classic project management or waterfall model. You need to follow many of the same disciplines as project management like:

  • A weekly call with your single point of contact
  • Milestones
  • Risk mitigation 

Rule Two: Own The Requirements

You need to make sure that you’re fully documenting the requirements. Paul says“Your developer can do an awesome job, but if the user story is wrong, or if the requirements are wrong, it wont matter anyway” If you struggle with documenting requirements or need help writing user stories you’ll need to partner with a special vendor. Someone who takes the time to understand the business drivers behind a requirement. 

Rule Three: Path Of Escalation

Try to establish a single point of contact whenever possible, it’s important to have a single throat to choke. You don’t want to be bounced around by different people at your vendor when you need to get a problem solved. On the same token as a vendor, if something is going off the rails you need to know who from the client team is empowered to make decisions to get it back on track.

You also need to establish rules around how that’s going to happen. 

  • What channel do you prefer to use to communicate? 
  • How long will it take to get you to get back to me? 
  • What hours will you be available?

These things are important to establish upfront.

Experience with job boards

Paul and Charles start the conversation discussing their experience with onlinejobs.ph an online job board based in the Phillippines. 

Paul says “Something unique about Wordpress developers is the confusion between development and configuration.” Many “developers” know how to get you started and install plugins but can’t actually do much development. He went on to say you can look at the ID proof score to help determine if a developer is going to meet your needs. The ID proof score is assigned based on the documentation the candidate presents validating their past work history. A job board can be a good channel for sourcing talent but to use them effectively, especially when hiring internationally, will take some experimenting and time to get things right. 

Fore more of Paul’s insights on outsourcing – check out the full episode on the Outsourcing Oasis Podcast or listen below.

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"Outsourcing Oasis: three rules for outsourcing" was written by Max Barrera.


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