Yes means no, cheap means expensive, if they say they will do everything you ask, they are worthless — that’s the crazy world of remote development teams in a nutshell. Follow our advice to find a team that will actually deliver.
So, you are considering hiring a remote development or design team, or someone is encouraging you to do so. However, you’ve heard many stories about trouble caused by remote teams, about so-called “development hells”, or projects that didn’t go as planned because of the lack of engineering or management skills. What should you do? How do you find a team that won’t make you a statistic like these sad anecdotes?
Countless articles have been written on the topic, which means that it’s both a difficult one and important. This post is quite different from others. First of all, it is based on a webinar we conducted for the founders an VC’s of some of the most promising startups from Silicon Valley.
Secondly, SwingDev has worked as a remote team for dozens of companies for over 8 years, so we’ve seen it all. Finally, we won’t try to convince you that our company is a solution to all of your problems, because no company will check all the boxes. Pinky swear!
1. Remote Development Team: What to Look for
The relationship with your team is like a marriage. The dating and honeymoon phase are always great, but in reality, you need a partner for tough times. Tough moments can always happen. Software development is not a bed of roses, and you need the right team to support you.
Judging teams by their technical abilities is always a part of the equation, but you should also trust your gut. First calls and arrangements with your potential team are crucial:
- Check if they understand you. The best developers can build amazing products, but they are no use if they build the wrong thing.
- See if they “get” your product and business. Are they interested in your long-term vision and curious about the industry you’re trying to change?
Understanding your business is even more important than having experience creating similar apps. If you plan to make a dating app for dogs, look for someone who puts effort into getting your idea and grasping what makes it unique. In some cases, the lack of industry experience can even boost a team’s motivation, as they are captivated by the concept and have a fresh approach. For a company with 10 dog apps in their portfolio, it might be “just another project”, so don’t expect daily bursts of creativity.
Where do you look for a good team? At first, put Google on hold and start by asking people you trust. Ask your VCs and other founders for recommendations. Online review sites are also a good source of information, but don’t believe everything you’ll see there. Firms can pay to be ranked higher, and some of them exchange reviews to boost their ratings. It’s a nice starting point to look for companies online, as it helps to narrow the search by selecting a team size or location. Remember though, take the extra step — go deeper and do some more research.
Marketing materials can also be deceptive, but case studies, the size and scope of recent projects, or even the tone of their online voice should give you an idea of what you’re dealing with and if it’s a good fit.
2. Remote Development Team: How Much Should You Pay
When you’re buying a product, you’re usually looking for the best price. You know how much you pay and what you’re getting. Unfortunately, it’s a completely different story when it comes to development teams. The hourly rate is not an accurate indicator of what you’re going to get for your money. Heck — it won’t even give you a clue on how much you will ultimately spend.
Teams that seem more expensive are generally more experienced and skilled. Such teams are more productive, and will probably make smarter decisions — especially during the first phases of development. Deciding on a tech stack and designing solutions from the ground up takes experts. These things are nearly impossible to change later, so if something goes wrong, fixing it may take much more effort and money than building the MVP.
Moreover, cheaper developers may not be as good at optimizing the costs of services. We were once rescuing a project that we got after another team. In just 4 weeks, we lowered the Amazon Web Services bill by 80% — that gave our client $5 million of savings a year. Yes — they were wasting $5M USD a year just because they hired “cheap” developers.
If you’re ever in doubt, look at your internal team and ask yourself a question: do you hire the cheapest employees or do you want to get the most qualified? It should be the same with an external team — you can’t afford the “cheap” option.
3. Remote Development Team: What to Avoid
So, you’ve found a promising team. They have almost every possible framework in their stack, and during the initial call, they assure you that they will do everything you are asking for. If that wasn’t enough, it turns out that they find all of your ideas amazing! It has to be a match made in heaven, isn’t it? Well, it’s not — don’t fall for it.
It is tempting to go with a team that immediately accepts everything you say or give you an estimation within a day. If you’re serious about your product however, treat it as a red flag. Don’t look for the “yes-men” — avoid mindless code monkeys who are doing their job without asking any questions, and companies that seem to be good at too many things. In this business, Swiss army knives are practically non-existent.
If a company says they can do anything at any timeline and at any budget — they are lying. In most cases, they are just trying to pull a bait-and-switch. With the money you spend, and the work done on the project, it will get more difficult for you to switch from them every day, no matter how low quality their services are.
The best team for you may not fit into the standard definition of a “great first impression”. People who refuse to estimate the project based on a brief description and can say “no” to things don’t seem easy to cooperate with, but are actually honest. They want to build a good product, not just squeeze money out of you.
Even at SwingDev, we are great at some things, but we are not specialists at others. If we are not the right team for a client, we refer them to another company that may actually be perfect for their needs. That’s how it should work.
Take Your Time to Save Time & Money
Yes, choosing a team is difficult, but when people aren’t satisfied with working with a remote team, it’s mostly because they don’t take the steps we described above. It’s crucial to put time and effort into finding the best match for your project.
It’s simple: if you need butter, don’t grab “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!” from the shelf just to save some time. You’ll surely believe that it’s not butter, and it will cost you a lot. If you choose well however, the external team can be better and more convenient than an internal one.
The second part of this article, in which we focus on managing teams working remotely, will be published soon. In the meantime head over to our YouTube channel if you want to watch the whole webinar:
And if you have any questions regarding this article or remote development teams in general, write to at firstname.lastname@example.org or via our website.