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How to successfully outsource IoT software development

We’ve all heard how the internet of things is taking over the world, but what has its impact been on software development? It means today’s product expectations are higher than ever. Users want products that are feature-rich, can be accessed remotely, are easy to upgrade and offer solid security. Take the medical device industry, for instance. There is a proliferation of wearable devices available now that help us monitor and understand patient behavior. Making sure these devices and the data being collected from them are secure can literally be a life-or-death task. This means software projects are becoming increasingly complex and require more expertise than ever. For some companies, that has led to outsourcing either some or all their software development.

So, what are some reasons you might outsource your software development? As programming becomes more complicated, it requires specialized skills. You may not have in-house expertise and it can be time-consuming, difficult or expensive to hire. Most companies tend to specialize in either cloud/mobile applications or embedded software. You might have embedded developers, but are working on a mobile application and they lack the skills necessary to execute the project. Or maybe you do have qualified developers in-house, but they are tied up working on other projects. Outsourcing is a great way to get the technical strength you need when you need it without adding to your headcount.

How do you find ‘the one?’

Once you’ve made the decision to outsource, how do you decide which software development company to choose? It’s important to remember that the quality of your software ultimately depends on the provider you hire. The first step is to determine exactly what you need and ensure any providers you consider have the applicable engineering expertise versus general software development experience. It takes a different skill set to develop a GUI than, say, a database.

Understanding the desired product features will allow you to determine what skill set your software provider needs to successfully complete the project. You should look for developers who have successfully developed products at least as complex as yours. Similarly, if you’re looking for a quick prototype versus a production build, find a company with a pro.

Next, it’s important for a provider to understand not only the technical requirements involved in building your product, but also your business processes. A provider should be interested in what you are trying to accomplish, what problem your product is trying to solve and how their role impacts the overall project. If a company is focused on trying to fit your project into a cookie-cutter offering, that should be a red flag. A good developer will approach each new project from ground zero and build a truly custom system that meets the project’s objectives. Think of it as building a partnership versus “buying” software.

But it doesn’t end when the code is written. Always ask potential providers about QA and testing. Testing is a critical component of the software development lifecycle. Even the best programmers introduce bugs into their code. Developers that don’t have a rigorous, defined testing process in place cannot produce quality software.

Relationship goals

Once you’ve found your ideal software development partner and you’ve signed the contract, now what? Like any relationship, there are some fundamentals that will determine its success.

Communication is key — and it’s a two-way street. Sharing project background, goals, objectives and a clear plan will help your software provider understand the big picture and may determine the best approach to delivering a solution that will best fit your needs. On the other hand, your provider should provide regular updates on their progress, inform you of any schedule changes and be willing to discuss their processes with you. Open communication on both ends ensures the product you expect is the product they deliver.

Honesty is the best policy, so no budget hiding! Both parties need to be upfront about cost. Your budget will determine the approach your developer chooses and the final features of a product. Cutting corners at this stage can add technical debt to a project that will take five times longer to fix in subsequent stages. Be prepared to collaborate and compromise on the final deliverables and what you are willing to spend.

Outsourcing software can help a company innovate and grow. But it’s important to take the time to find the right partner for your organization. Look for a company that has the technical aptitude you need, cares about your business objectives and is open to honest communication. Finding a qualified, reliable software partner you can trust can be the start of a valuable relationship.

All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.

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