Working with small Software firm to develop product - What to watch out for!

Heylo folks, just signed up. There’s a ton of useful info in these forums. Thank You to whoever came up with the idea :slight_smile:

I am a software Project Manager who started off as a programmer. Have now decided to give up the nine to five and go my own by developing a membership based eCommerce website (ok ok it’s a dating site… with a difference. Errm :smiley: ). I will be working with a small time software company that sources it’s work off ELance and has worked mainly on Wordpress blogs, small eCommerce sites etc etc.

I picked a few firms that are based close to my place of residence and am in talks with them. Got to pick one that I think will have the capability to deliver.

The way I’m thinking of getting the project delivered is to be the onsite project manager for my project with them, and “hire” their resources - hardware, software and people - to make up my project team. I will be a one-man-client for an outsourcing firm and plan to lead the project to completion by paying for their resources. Eventually should the website make enough money I plan to branch off and move the codebase in-house by having my own software team. If it fails, I drop the whole thing and don’t have to worry about making employees redundant, getting rid of hardware etc - back to the nine to five (hopefully that won’t happen!)

Although I was a C++ programmer once, am no where close to having the expertise needed to decide on things like what languages to use on a web site such as this, how should the security be designed on it, should I use cloud hosting to save costs, firewalls, frontend/backend platforms - technical aspects of a project like this. I am afraid the small firm doesn’t have the experience either. They may have a few good/ok programmers (most of these outsourcing firms have one or two who know the ropes and a load of cheaply paid newbies), but I don’t think they will have hard core technical architects who can guide the web portal construction. They have never worked on something this big.

I am no millionaire and plan to start small. Release a bit of code, see if there is some bite in the market, any revenue trickles in, then release some more - add a few bells and whistles - and so forth.

The tips and answers I seek are to questions like:

What are the pitfalls to watch out for? Are there some aspects I should be focussing on when working with the offshore team in designing the website - something that should be looked at right in the beginning of the project? Like say the choice of design path that could later effect the speed & performance of the site. Maybe some particular database, security, design or programming related feature that I need to research a little bit more?

I don’t have a big team working on this and am a little anxious that we might miss something that would be obvious and simple to a big league, experieced development team.

Sorry if my post is long winded. This is my first attempt at soliciting this kind of information :slight_smile:

I look forward to hearing back from the experts in here!!

Read 37 signals ‘getting real’ immediately. Whether you agree with some of its highly contentious points or not, it’s thought provoking.

Personally, I don’t believe in outsourcing to downmarket firms, any savings are eliminated by the churn and waste of incompetence. If you must, then a competency test and a clearly explained specification with all the views, screens and user stories properly mapped out. I’ve yet to meet a web entrepreneur with an idea (and I’ve met lots) that has invested nearly enough effort in this aspect, which will be essential if you’re going to be working with confused people looking to cut corners.

Remember that a ‘cms and plugin’ fiddler -isn’t- a web developer. People tying themselves in knots trying to make wordpress into a flying car and sandwich toasting machine combined is an exercise in futility, yet there’s a huge amount of ‘development’ tries this kind of jazz. The people making it big? Their competitive advantage didn’t come from using the same set of cobbled together freebies that every other nickle n dimer is throwing lazily at popular, but already oversold, market areas.

You will need a clear competitive advantage approaching a saturated and long commodified market like dating, where large conglomerates are unshiftable due to huge marketing budgets, the revenue model is under serious threat, and CPA is high.


It sounds like you’re going down a path of failure rather than hiring accomplished software engineers capable of building web applications. While possible I find it highly unlikely that a firm that specializes in WP would be capable of delivering a web application. If they are building a web application on WP than well that is good sign of incompetence itself. Than again I don’t know the exact requirements but from what it sounds like you’re looking for a web application not a simple WP web site any script kiddie could churn out. Of course the WP crowd will tell you that anything can be built on WP and to that I say simply – no.

Thank You for the insights guys. Really appreciate it. Am reading “Getting Real” now. Looks good :smiley:

I have contacted a number of firms and obtained initial quotes for the work. Ball park estimates for time and money. I had them look at the features of competitor websites that I like and draw up a tentative list of tasks to be completed, giving me somewhat of a project scope. They did this for free, some of them did a pretty thorough job of it. Of course, before actually beginning the work I will have a proper inception with the Business Analysts, Designers and a senior programmer or two to come up with a detailed work breakdown structure of the product and sign-off the requirements.

I have had Skype chats with their technical leads. They seem to know what they are talking about in terms of complex website development. We spoke about using Amazon cloud databases to lower costs, what kind of SCM system they have in place, how do they do their testing, what would the roadmap for this work look like etc. Some of them appear to be somewhat of a software house and not just Wordpress code churners. They varied in size from 27 employees in one firm to 500.

With a range of budget estimates in hand, and having had a chat with their resident tech gurus - I now plan to conduct site visits to check out the development teams of the firms I am most impressed with. I will be working with them as the project manager for this work which should help me negotiate the cost down further. Plus, physically being present at the delivery centre, I can keep a very close eye on the progress of the work as well as monitor the output taking shape.

The general consensus seems to be that the beta site can be rolled out in about 8 weeks and following will be the technology specifications (development platform):

Design : HTML, CSS
Technology : PHP v5.3+, jQuery, AJAX and Javascript
Database : MySQL v5.0.4+
Framework : CodeIgniter

What do you think?

8 weeks is quite a long time and looks like you’re going to spend a lot of money. It would suck if you happen to pick a BS team and suck your money dry. If I were you, I’d cut down the deadline (with less requirements) to 2 weeks and hire 2 different dev team. Do not be their project manager as that will delay the deadline. Don’t even tell them that you hired another team. After 2 weeks, you should definitely know which team is superior and go with that. I honestly don’t think you should be project manager and be a customer at the same time. I don’t think a programmer can work efficiently. Instead, you should hire a local U.S. senior developer to do a quality assurance. I assume 4 hours a week should be enough. Mainly, he’ll go over the code and see if it’s in good shape or not. Good luck!!!