Today we hear that Boeing (BA) outsourced a lot of its testing to developers in India for under $10/hr. They have denied that this code was involved in their 2 recent crashed airliners; however, this must make you think. Are companies like Boeing on your favorite freelancer site picking up developers like you? The answer is NO. However, as an individual who has worked for everything from startups to fortune 500 companies, i’ll give you some insight into the whole contractor game.
The fact is, everyone is doing it. Oh you didn’t know? The issue is that no one is an expert at it. They may say they are but they are lieing. What’s happening today with social media is that you are hearing more when companies screw up with software and often times contractors were involved. Its impossible to pay everyone California developer rates of +$100,000 USD, so we have a booming industry that will never end, to support these companies at a cheaper rate. In the end, win or loose, the executives usually benefit from this. It tends to trigger their bonus’ before the issues are found, low development costs, supposedly great development time, etc.
Who Hires Contract Developers and Why?
Every company developing software products probably uses contracted staff at some point in the process. Its very difficult to have, design, development, testing, and maintenance all under one roof and all being produced well. Some may argue differently, you should use your common sense. How many times do you see one company do everything well? Major banks get hacked regularly, do you really think that’s something they are an expert in?
The truth is, whether its for cost cutting or genuine lack of expertise, contracting development work has been part of software development since the internet. Probably before too but definitely not as prevalent as today. Now you can hire someone across the globe and have them integrated into your team within a day.
Does it make sense to hire a contractor? The answer is that it depends. Lets take english speaking contractors as a simple example. In South Africa, England, and Belize, they may all speak english but chances are they are very different people. The ways in which they use english will be different and their personalities will be very different. Having people from these 3 regions work together will be more difficult than just time zone differences. Now imagine a situation where you are choosing people from a country where english is not their first language. We haven’t even begun to talk about the logistics of keeping all of these teams on the same page yet.
That’s right, there are major companies with thousands of employees who work only on contract work from large corporations who actually sell stuff. These companies will lease a developer to a company for a period of time, or sometimes for a particular project. These types of contractors typically only work for one contractor at a time
This offloads the responsibility of benefits and training from the hiring company. It provides the contracting company with the ability to focus on growing great workforces. The contractor need not physically be in the same location as the client. In fact, many companies follow a term known as chasing the sun to constantly develop, test, and release code 24/7/365
You are probably getting freelancer help from sites like freelancer.com or upwork.com. Either way, these are freelancers who you typically hire for a particular project. The website where you found them makes a profit for making the connection. It would be silly to hire workers only on their platforms once we have created a working relationship. Nevertheless, its fairly normal for people to remain on the platform because of safeguards like escrow payments
These types of freelancers can range in price and talent. The difference here is that you are betting on the platform to properly vet talent via reviews and identity checks. However, we have found that this should be taken with a grain of salt. Veteran freelancers usually figure out ways to game these systems and avoid bad reputations. Its more effort on your behalf to find a truly qualified candidate.
So in short, yes, you should hire contractors for your software project. Yes, your favorite software company is outsourcing aspects of their platform to outsiders for development. No, there is nothing you can do to fight this trend. However, there are many road bumps and pitfalls to this route. Managers need to be aware of the differences in their staff and plan for the productivity issues that are inevitable to follow. The biggest mistake any company can make is to count a physically disjoint contractor as a whole person. That makes no sense since you will need to hold their hand on some aspects, no matter how smart they are.