Categories
Technology

Top 8 Reasons Why Outsourcing Product Development is the Right Choice

If you are someone who runs a business, leads an emerging startup, works at a managerial position, or are experimenting with a new idea, you will agree that the one thing in common is the tendency to maximize innovation and growth with optimal yet pocket-friendly services at your disposal. Many decisions are driven by this tendency and one that has been symbolic over the years is the dilemma over in-house vs outsourcing product development.

In-house vs outsourcing product development – what does it look like?

In-house product development 

Traditionally, businesses developed and designed their own products in-house from scratch.

This process includes market research, conceptual design, product engineering, prototyping and maintaining machinery or other tools. To achieve this, organizations either hire staff with expertise in each of these key areas or make do with the staff they already have on the payroll. 

Outsourcing product development

Outsourcing product development means hiring a party outside a company to perform services and develop products that traditionally were performed in-house by the company’s own employees and staff.

It includes services ranging from establishing product and technology strategy to UX design and custom software development and ongoing product iterations. Each party/agency offers different services and specialities to help clients turn their ideas into reality. 

Many businesses find in-house development effective and dodge outsourcing product development for many reasons such as:

  • A feeling of an inability to control and manage the development process
  • Fear of the loss of security and intellectual property ownership
  • Worry that the innate company culture and perspective that gets baked into products will be missed by an external agency. 

However, times have changed. 

Deloitte’s 2020 Global Outsourcing Survey pinpoints a clear progression towards outsourcing. Firms are likely to learn to accelerate outsourcing as they learn to collaborate in a world where speed, quality, flexibility, and cost are more important than a physical location

Besides, COVID-19 plays an important role here, in dispelling the idea of a close-knit working environment and the necessity of an on-site availability of resources for a trusting and efficient business. Remote working culture is being embraced and encouraged and this is likely to lead to an increase in outsourcing.

Overall, outsourcing decisions will play a significantly more strategic role in short-term resilience and long term growth.”

Deloitte’s 2020 Global Outsourcing Survey.

A lot of factors drive the decision- making and it may sometimes boil down to ‘it depends’. But, let’s look at the key benefits to figure out why outsourcing is right for you?

Benefits of outsourcing product development

why outsourcing product development

1. Multi-disciplinary expertise

Developing a product requires multiple diverse activities such as:

  1. Product management– Deciding what the product features are
  2. Technology leadership – Outlining a technology strategy that grows with the product
  3. UX design– Designing a fantastic user experience
  4. Crafting a technical design
  5. Technology architecture– Security, and interfaces
  6. Development – Developing the product using different languages for front-end cloud, mobile apps and so on
  7. Quality assurance– Testing the product and deploying this to production (DevOps)
  8. Growth marketing– Growing the product and managing sales

Any company, whether a startup or already established, is hard-pressed to have all of these disciplines and expertise readily available to dedicate to the new product.

This is where product development agencies can help.

When you outsource your product development by hiring an agency, you are working with professional experts who have in-depth knowledge about the disciplines, emerging market trends, design practices, software stacks, and methodologies required to enable a collaborative multidisciplinary workstream to come to fruition.

Usually, an agency offers multiple services. For instance, you can approach an agency with just a brief idea, problem statement or a vision and you have the access to an entire package of services ranging from UI/UX design, CTO level strategy, architecture, product development, quality assurance and DevOps. 

Thus, you can call it your one-stop solution for your technology-related needs.

2. Instantly onboard a great team

All successful products have great teams. So, your product should have a great team to have a chance of success. But therein lies the challenge. 

Let’s face it. Hiring talented people is a challenge for any company. Hiring talented people who work together as a rock-star A-team is a long drawn out process with multiple misses before a hit. 

Engaging a good product development mitigates this problem. In a matter of hours, you will have a solid, experienced and proven team with diverse skills working on your product. 

This team can have dedicated members working on your product 100% of their time or it can have part-time members coming in only when their expertise is needed. Moreover, you can ramp up and ramp down the team on short notice. 

Imagine getting the value of high-power CTO or architects or UX designers only to the extent desired. These roles play a big part in the product in the initial stages and then are needed on a part-time basis to monitor and mentor. 

Why bring on dedicated employees when you can outsource and get as-needed, on-demand expertise that knows how to work together as a team?

3. Single-minded focus 

In the early days of a new product, in-house teams typically consist of people sourced from other, active projects. Very often these are people who are now multi-tasking. They continue to pay attention to their existing active project and are partially focused on the product.

Competing priorities and pressures of multiple responsibilities mean that you never have the full mindshare of the people who make up your in-house team.

This often leads to bad decisions, time slippages, slip shop implementations and long term technical debt. This may hamper your product’s ability to break through and achieve success.

Wouldn’t it make sense to have a fully focused team working on your product? 

Outsourcing product development provides this. The outsourced agency’s team is fully focused on your product since that’s what they are engaged to do. You get the benefit of not just their expertise but also their full attention. 

Good agencies will produce program and project reports and status updates on a weekly basis so that you are always in the know and able to make informed decisions, keeping control while having a single-minded focus from your outsourced team.

4. Product – success mindset

A successful product goes through multiple iterations. The original concept or feature set may not be the one that clicks with their users.

Thus, it is important to start with a minimal set of features (minimum viable product or MVP) and, rapidly, put it in front of your users.

Now, let the user’s behaviours and usage patterns drive additional decisions on what is working, what needs tweaking and what needs to be discarded. This is called a product-market fit. 

Your team needs to be tuned into this approach. The idea is to minimize the cost of each learning iteration so that you can have multiple iterations in the product budget. 

A good outsource product development agency brings this mindset to the table. The team should help evaluate what’s in the MVP, what decisions should be made for experimentation versus what decisions should be made as building the longer term foundation.

The team should be able to quickly change directions based on user usage and learnings. In other words, the team needs to be nimble.  This product success mindset is critical to the success of your product.

5. Speed to market

Once a product idea takes shape, it is critical that you get a version to market as fast as you can.

Being able to deploy a fully functioning team rapidly, with the right expertise, the focus and the product iteration methodology is your best bet to get your product to market in the fastest time. 

This speed to market is a huge advantage in engaging a good product development agency. The alternative is to set about hiring a rock-star internal team which may result in a longer process. This long process takes away from the actual iterations that successful products have by having real users use the product and learn from their behaviours. 

6. Cost reduction 

According to a key finding of the Deloitte Global Outsourcing Survey 2020,

“In past, many people in the industry stated cost reduction as a secondary benefit behind other objectives, such as increasing agility or improving the quality of service. However, in 2020, results show a sharp increase in the number of organizations giving priority to cost reduction, and in the face of a likely pandemic-induced global recession, this number will get higher.”

It might seem counter-intuitive, but the recruitment and retention of product development employees may cost the organization much more than hiring a capable outsourcing company or partner. 

With outsourcing, you get very talented resources working on your product only to the extent they are needed. 

For instance:

  • A part-time CTO gets you solid technical strategy and leadership without having to pay an arm and a leg and parting with a chunk of stock options.
  • You can tap into multiple technology architects with expertise varying from machine learning to high volume, low latency systems, to choosing technical stacks at the cost of less than one full-time architect.
  • UX designers can come in and help create the experience design for each release without having to be retained as full-time staff.
  • Teams can scale up rapidly and scale down when not required.

Add to this an offshore component and you have real cost advantages. This not only broadens the scope of talent on the team but also strikes the perfect balance between skill and rates. You get tremendous cost reduction and productivity using a product development agency to build your product.

7. Free you up to focus on your core business

The core parts of your business include business strategy, allocating funds, marketing, sales, product management and product development. 

Why not get a team to handle the most time-consuming aspects such as product development so that you can focus your mindshare on the core business? This is a recipe for a successful product.

“The important thing about outsourcing or global sourcing is that it becomes a very powerful tool to leverage talent, improve productivity and reduce work cycles.”

Azim Premji

8. Intellectual property protection and generation

One area of anxiety with outsourcing your product development is the protection of intellectual property. However, with a good product development agency, this fear is unfounded. Good partners have solid agreements that spell out how they manage the client’s intellectual property.

The key parts of this are:

  1. Intellectual property that the client brings in is secured and protected (through operating practices such as VPNs, secure laptops, access control and so on, and contractual agreements with the client and with the employees who have access to the property)
  2. Intellectual property created by the agency within the course of performing services is owned by the client. The agency even helps in filing patents and copyrights.
  3. Any intellectual property brought in by the product development agency is clearly articulated and the client is provided with a royalty-free perpetual license or an option to not use the IP.

In other words, not only is your IP secure, you actually get a boost in creating new IP with talented teams.

Key takeaway

Most businesses assume that cost reduction is the only key benefit of outsourcing product development. Consequently, they end up taking the longer route to success and lose out on the numerous benefits.

Outsourcing product development has its pros and cons like every other practice. The cons can be summarized into three major concerns which include – feeling of loss of control, fear of security and IP ownership and fear of loss of company culture.

The answer to most of these concerns can be found in the numerous benefits discussed in this blog and in your choice of an outsourcing partner.

Thus, finding an outsourcing partner that is in line with your vision is crucial for your success.

Ignite solutions as an outsourcing partner:

We’re design-thinking product development experts, enabling entrepreneurs to build their concepts into a successful business and convert their ideas into launchable products. We offer UX Design, CTO-as-a-service and Product Development. Your product strategy, your vision, and your goals matter to us and we’re in it for the long haul with you. We take full responsibility for our work and also feel a sense of ownership towards your product. We’ll go the extra mile to ensure you succeed.

Categories
Technology

Tech Stacks: What they reveal and what they conceal

A tech stack is the set of languages, tools, frameworks, and utilities that are used in the development and management of a software system.

Tech stacks provide a glimpse of a product’s philosophy and architectural approach. This is an invaluable tool to attempt to reverse engineer how the team operates.

However, tech stacks provide just a glimpse. By relying too much on them, we may wrongly judge the robustness of the system. People can write lousy software using the most modern technologies and tools. Similarly, people can write awesome software using slightly dated tools.

Don’t judge software by its stack alone

What the technology stack does not reveal is how the problem is being solved. Teams take clever approaches to architect software for scale, for extensibility, for performance, for fault tolerance. By itself, the tech stack does not provide insights into these.

We come across engineers who thumb their nose at specific technologies. It is more interesting to examine what has been built on top of these specific technologies. You may find awesome frameworks and solid architectures that will be a pleasure to learn and to work with. Don’t judge software by its tech stack alone.

Tech stacks for architectural analysis

When we engage with a client, we spend quite some time thinking about what are the objectives the client is trying to solve, in the immediate future but also in the longer term. We pick a stack that is most likely to minimize technical debt for the long term.

Very often, the client already has a techology stack selected. We analyze this to tease apart how the software has been architected and then we adopt and adapt this tech stack to their future needs. We still bring in our frameworks of devops, of multiple environments, of automated QA, of collaboration to bear. A change is recommended only if significant technical debt needs to be paid back.

Our preferred stack

Ignitesol's preferred application and data tech stack
Ignitesol's preferred business utilities and tools

Here’s our preferred tech stack: https://stackshare.io/ignitesol/ignitesol though we are working in multiple other technologies including NodeJS, Angular, AngularJS, ReactNative, PHP, ExtJS among others.

Categories
UX Design

UX design practices that will ensure your product’s success

Great ideas make great businesses, so if you’ve just had your million-dollar spark, congratulations! So, what’s next? As we’re sure you are aware, taking a product to market is complex: your idea needs to be fully conceptualized, tested, refined, built, launched, marketed and iterated. In our experience of bringing several products to life, we’ve found that the entire product realization process is anchored by one element: the UX design

Creating a user experience that delights is key to the success of any app or website. After all, your product is as good as what your customers think of it. You want your app or site to be easy for them to navigate, the functionality to be clear, for them to be confident of their actions, and for them to make this app or site part of their regular use. Bottom line: if customers like what they see and find it simple to purchase and use your product or service, they’re likely to keep coming back and will recommend you to others. 

With a bit of focused effort, you can create a UX that sets your offering apart from competitors.

What’s good UX practice, and how does it help?

A capable development agency will have a workflow in place that focuses heavily on UX, keeping the design as the central focus to build cost-effective solutions for you. To do so, it’s important to integrate UX design into the development process at every step:

Bringing the concept to life

The initial role of UX design is to capture your ideas and give them form. This gives you a glimpse of what’s to come, and is also useful to share with stakeholders within the business, investors, and future users.

Our design for a next-generation integrated business phone service enabled our client to generate a lot of excitement at an industry trade show.

Planning the MVP

Think of the initial UX designs as a concept car. Their purpose is to capture your product vision and give you a visual representation of your ideas. They inevitably result in discussions, disagreements, and iterations. Technical teams look at the design and start thinking about languages, platforms, architectures, APIs, and what data can be captured for analysis. Marketing teams begin planning how and where to market the product. The product manager works with the teams to outline a long-term vision and, more importantly, the immediate MVPs.

Innovation for a new kind of cart and shopping experience for a vending machine automation product.

Gaining early validation

Often, technical teams will create quick prototypes that allow users to interact with the UI. Tools such as Flinto aid in creating interactive UIs that can be tested with users or shown to investors. These sessions result in more iterations on specific UI screens or pages.

A complex security algorithm was designed with a user-centric approach and prototyped to obtain validation.

Building the product

The UX design morphs into detailed UI specifications for the MVP. Every pixel can be accounted for; there is no room for confusion or no design decisions by developers. Tech teams tease apart the UI into reusable components that solve functional needs while keeping an eye on the future vision.

Detailed designs help the development process.

Checking for pixel-perfectness

Next, UX designers use the built software to ensure that what was made is exactly what was specified. The UX design and UI specifications are compared against the actual software.

Every pixel matters. What gets developed is checked with what was designed to ensure absolute correctness.

Launch

Once the MVP is released, data starts coming in, and new features are planned. Once again, the UX design is updated, and the cycle repeats.

Succeeding iterations improved the product tremendously.

What you should ask your product development agency 

When selecting an agency to develop your product, be sure to choose one that cares about UX and has the expertise to back them. You want to find one that understands the importance of UX design and follows sound practices to weave it into all stages of product development. Some questions that will help in the selection process:

  • Do you take a design-first approach to your product development methodology?
  • Do you have on-staff UX designers who can deliver designs that are at the intersection of UX and technology?
  • Are your UX deliverables detailed enough that developers can create pixel-perfect apps/sites?
  • Is your definition of the UX design inclusive of items beyond the UI?

Agencies may have their own methodology, but the idea is to gauge what value the UX holds in their design process to aid you, your users, and the developers. If they check all these boxes, you’ve got yourself a winner.

Read about how we approached our own internal product UX design with a mix of empathy and design-thinking.

Building a new customer-facing product, or looking to revamp the UX of an existing one? We’d love to help! Get in touch

Categories
Strategy

Startups: Find and focus on your core value

Here’s a journey of many an entrepreneur. A kernel of an idea is formed. A bit of validation is performed. And the basic product is defined. It’s an exciting time. Almost immediately, the idea creator starts envisioning the multiple additional ways that the product could be used. Features start adding up and new target demographics are considered. The creator is continually thinking about the various ways that this product will be used. It’s in her thoughts during the commute home, in the morning shower, and pretty much all the time. Very soon, the product is doing lots of things for lots of people. The focus on the core value proposition is lost

What may have started as a tool to help realtors keep track of clients is now selling real estate online and helping with the closing settlement. Maybe it will also help with the new home furnishing and furniture layout. Design services will be provided. It’s all happening – here’s the one-stop real estate offering for buyers, sellers, realtors, and pretty much everyone else.

This is a trap. We’ve just got seduced by our own intelligence. And in the process, we have lost sight of the original offering that was to have added value. Startups need to focus on their core value they are offering their customers. Keep the following points in mind:

  1. Small is beautiful: Find the smallest offering that truly, fundamentally adds value. Find your core that you can build on. And then focus only on that. Discard any and all other auxiliary offering ideas.
  2. Execution beats ideas: Build the kernel of the idea. Build it in the simplest possible way to validate the core value. If necessary, fudge the backend.
  3. Shut up and ship: Get this offering to the market. Analyze the usage data. Interview the users. Validate (or adjust the core) but keep it small and focused.
  4. Don’t get seduced: Every additional feature, target user demographic or use case increases complexity and cost non-linearly and should be ruthlessly discarded unless it can prove itself.

At Ignite Solutions, we face this with our entrepreneurial clients all the time. In fact, we routinely advise our startup clients to narrow down their focus. This helps conserve valuable resources such as funds and speeds up time-to-market. This also helps them launch and iterate their offering.

What about you? Are you guilty of expanding the reach of your product before proving out its success or do you have a razor-sharp focus on the core value?

Categories
UX Design

Why User Experience (UX) is much more than UI

The UX is defined as how a user feels about engaging with your brand, before their first interaction, during all their interactions, and what they take away after their interactions. Do we end up delighting the user, leave them feeling meh or do we let them down? Very often, people use the term UI design interchangeably with the UX design. But in reality, the UX is more than just the UI.

The UX design of webpages, web apps, and mobile apps distil all these aspects explicitly in the design of the UI and the interactions for the user but also implicitly in the messaging and experiences that connect to the user before, during and after a visit or a transaction.

Positive user experience leads to solving the need that the user visited your web/mobile app, increases your brand perception and value in the user’s mind, encourages users to share their success with your brand, and all-in-all drives business success.

Here are the components that our UX designers routinely think through for any project. Some of them might be obvious but others may surprise you.

First Impressions

How does your UX strike people the first time they interact with you (and sometimes even before they interact with you).

  • Your Website This one is so obvious that I don’t talk much more about it.
  • App Store Descriptions The challenge here is: Can you convey the absolute key reason your app should be downloaded in six screens or less”? Our UX designers work closely with the product owners to fine-tune the screenshots (or pseudo screenshots with key messaging) that appear in the App Store (or Play Store) descriptions.
  • Onboarding For apps, this is a crucial component. Do you need a quick, clever way to describe your app to someone who has just downloaded it? Don’t expect the person to know what your app does just because they downloaded it.
  • The OG Tags What your users see when your app or webpage gets shared or when it appears in Google searches. This, often, is the first impression potential new users will get about your app or service. Make sure this is designed well and it leads people to the right point of engagement in your website.

The UX of the App

UI UX design of an app

This is what is meant when people think of the UI/UX of the app or web app. Here’s how we look at these parts:

  • The style guide: In addition to the obvious items such as logos, colors, and fonts, the style guide covers elements that consistently appear on the site such as
    • How to represent information hierarchies?
    • How much content is optimal for certain descriptions?
    • When to use certain callouts or alerts?
    • Types of calls-to-action and their representations.
UX extends beyond UI
  • The UI design: Of course! This one is obvious. Our UI design specifies the complete layout (for various mobile and desktop form factors). All interactions and any animations associated with these are provided in detail. Reusable design elements are identified to aid consistency of expectations. These are all provided as high-fidelity designs with the visual design elements completely specified along with the layout and the behaviors.
    The UI specs are augmented with specific additional functional specifications important for the UI. For instance, the validations for the fields or access control to certain sections of the app/site.
    In short, the UI design provides a detailed set of specifications for developers to produce pixel-perfect UIs (leaving nothing to interpretation).
  • Error messaging: Let’s face it. Most users will make some error or the other. Oftentimes, it may be UI field level validations (they didn’t enter a valid email address). Sometimes it may be a more complex issue (they are attempting to perform an invalid action). Or, it’s just that the server is unable to process the message. A good UX provides the user with a distinct visual explanation of what is wrong, why it’s wrong and conveys in the next action they should take. Our UX designers not only design the error experience but also validate this in the developed site/app.

Other Touchpoints

Email template
  • Email templates and content: Your app or web app will likely be sending emails to your users. Typical emails are email address confirmation emails, welcome emails, transaction confirmation emails, and, possibly promotions, monthly summaries or similar. This is an important touchpoint to your users and part of the pull to bring user’s back to the app. The design of email templates is considered part of the overall UX design and we routinely include this in our design outputs.  Equally important: what happens when a user clicks on any call to action. It should be clean, bring the user to the right context and, ideally, pre-fill any information required to complete the action.
  • Notifications: In-app, as well as push notifications, should be pity and caring about the user’s attention as a precious resource. The UX role here is to not overdo these. Notify only when necessary and bring the user to the right point in the app.
Notifications
  • Feedback mechanisms: In-app feedback mechanisms are important to obtain real, tangible input from your users. A lot of 3rd party services provide this feature. Integrate these well into the overall UX of your app.

Talk to us if you would like a comprehensive delightful UX design for your product.