Onshore vs. Offshore Software Development: Which Is Right for You?
By: Nikki Dent
Do you have a development project coming up that will stretch your development team too thin? If you start looking for an outside partner to help with the work, you’ll quickly be faced with the choice to hire an onshore or an offshore development company. It’s become a topic of much debate, but we believe that there are pros and cons to each. Ultimately the direction that’s right for your company depends on your project and which of several other factors matter most to your business.
Before we begin, it’s important in any debate to make sure that you understand the terms. There are many different interpretations of the terms “onshore” and “offshore.” In this instance, we’re using onshore to refer to developers in your same country. We’re located in the United States, so in our case, onshore applies to other American development companies. Offshore refers to developers in other countries from your own; often those in developing nations.
The decision whether to offshore your development is one of cost/benefit analysis. Many companies choose to offshore based on cost alone. It generally is more affordable per hour to work with offshore development companies in countries with a lower cost of living than the US. Additionally, offshore companies often have large talent pools to draw from, so if you need a project staffed up quickly, they can have a team in place for you quicker than many onshore firms.
In that large talent pool, however, turnover at companies can be high and often developers work under a lot of pressure to turn work out quickly. When those conditions combine with a language barrier, often offshore teams and their partners have a difference in expectations surrounding quality. This can leave you feeling like that work you receive needs to be double checked by your internal team, which can be a major drawback if your team is already stretched thin.
Another consideration is that often, when using offshore teams, the work is being done in a different time zone from your own. Some companies see this as a pro, because between your internal team and the offshore team work is getting done 24 hours a day. However, this can also be a con if you were hoping for easy contact with your outside team.
Overall, offshore development works well in scenarios where the project is well-defined and easy to measure. For example, if you know you need your website page speed optimized, you can easily see if you’re meeting that goal. For projects that will require more trial and error and learning along the way, an onshore company might be a better fit.
If you have the budget and are looking for a true partner in development, then an onshore development firm is likely the better fit for you. There’s no denying that staying onshore for development will be more expensive per hour, but the work is often of a higher quality right out of the gate which can lead to cost savings over time. Working with an onshore development partner also tends to lead to less worry about the project overall, as the two partners typically will have the same standards for quality and the work you’ll receive is generally more consistent.
Today’s businesses move quickly, and often onshore development firms are more agile than offshore firms. Working in an agile way means that you can quickly pivot direction based on changes in the market or on user feedback. Being able to be flexible in this way is a known factor for success in modern development. Additionally, if your project is complex or a lot is unknown about it, communication around user feedback, testing, and adjusting scope based on your goal is often easier with an onshore team.
All in all, the choice between an onshore and offshore development partner is up to you. If price is the bottom line for your company, or if the project you need done is straightforward and predictable, then offshore will be a great fit. However, if you’re looking for a development partner with whom you can closely collaborate and need to work quickly to meet market deadlines, then an onshore firm would be the better choice.
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About Nikki Dent
Nikki is a technical copywriter for Aptera. With a bachelor’s degree in writing from Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Ind., she has been honing her craft of marketing copywriting for the past six years. In her role at Aptera, Nikki enjoys learning and writing about the technology and strategy at work across the company.