How Outsourcing Can Solve Technical Debt

Technical debt has become widely prevalent nowadays. Since technology is constantly evolving, many businesses have to choose between acquiring new solutions or sticking with tried-and-tested ones. No right answer can be given to this hard choice. But even though debt sounds threatening for many, it doesn’t always have to be.

What exactly is technical debt?

It can be defined as the cost of future works; it occurs when companies focus on solutions that are more accessible and well known than a new solution that would be useful longer. Although the former might be helpful for a moment, it won’t be in the long run. This is often associated with a shorter life span of such solutions, for example, due to a lack of ongoing manufacturer support or development and updates.

What are the consequences of technical debt?

The most common and what most companies fear is a delivery delay. The higher the delay, the higher the cost. 

This is something that no companies want. Another big flaw of technical debt is that the longer it takes, the harder it is to repair and the greater the costs of doing so. It may cause the project to underperform, or in some cases even lead to its complete abandonment. That is why you need to know both the causes and possible solutions of technical debt.

Outsourcing may be one of the wisest solutions in this scenario. We will show you why that is the case, and how to tackle outsourcing when technical debt occurs.

Can outsourcing help with technical debt?

Yes, it can. There are three potential scenarios when technical debt can be either minimized or eliminated with outsourcing.

#1  If the technical debt is due to a lack of staff 

Staff shortages are common, especially if you need highly qualified experts in a narrow field. They can be hard to find, and even harder to hire. Also, a new project may arise without sufficient time to conduct a structured recruitment process. 

Because of this, outsourcing can be incredibly useful. You will save the time needed for recruitment and relieve your employees as well. By outsourcing you can delegate many tasks outside the in-house team, which not only helps in terms of time management but also makes your employees more effective. 

Outsourcing the staff as a whole offers another advantage – people from outside have a different perspective on many aspects, including investment in new technologies, for example. With this approach, you might be able to minimize your technical debt or even avoid it completely. External employees may also have knowledge from prior collaborations that can assist your decision making.

#2 If the technical debt is due to a lack of knowledge

We don’t know everything. As a consequence, when a project comes up, you may need knowledge that exceeds the scope of your abilities. Outsourcing specialists makes sense in this case. This solution is also sensible when it comes to one-off cooperation, especially if it involves lots of knowledge, experience, and, therefore, employment costs. If your company typically does not work with the type of project in question, then hiring a specialist to handle it would be a lot more expensive and perhaps unprofitable in the long run.

Outsourcing specialists might be more knowledgeable about numerous industries, and often their services come at lower prices. Plus you’ll save a lot of time on that knowledge and get great results thanks to the specialist’s insights.

With outsourcing, you can hire specialists who excel in narrow areas, but often aren’t as proficient in dozens of broad projects. Therefore, it wouldn’t be a good idea to hire them full-time. This kind of specialized knowledge benefits the project greatly and ends up protecting it from the consequences of technical debt.

# 3 If technical debt is of concern and you need to reduce its consequences

Each new project presents a new challenge. If you know early on that technical debt will be on the horizon, you can prepare yourself.

This is not about hiring an entire team from the outside, but rather choosing a consultant who can tell you about what to do, which solutions to try, and which ones to wait for.

A type of outsourcing brings not just a dose of professional knowledge but also a fresh perspective on given issues. People often follow the patterns which are most comfortable for them to follow. Hiring an outside consultant can help you overcome these challenges and make decisions you wouldn’t have made yourself.

As a result, outsourcing is a good way to avoid some of the consequences of technical debt and to save some money. By getting other peoples’ perspectives, knowledge, and experience, your company can benefit a lot!

How outsourcing has helped overcome technical debt: success stories 

Here are some real-life examples of how outsourcing can be beneficial for overcoming technical debt. Outsourcing can be extremely beneficial to businesses, as proven by these stories.

WhatsApp

For the past several years, this application has helped many of us keep in touch. Their entry into the market was not expected to be such a huge success. After some time and an even faster-growing popularity, Facebook purchased the app for $19 billion.

You can see that a lot was at stake, so people hired to work on the application had to demonstrate their skills, knowledge, and experience. Where did WhatsApp find such experts? In Russia. The decision was made to outsource Russian developers in order to cut operating costs and avoid technical debt, and it worked out. The costs were actually much lower than without outsourcing, everything was developed on time without creating or worsening the debt, and, as time went on, several of the developers even moved to sunny California.

Google

Even this search engine giant outsources specialists. Because Google believes people are its foundation, they do not limit their hiring to one continent. Nearly every department outsources someone, whether they’re an assistant or an IT specialist. The largest scale of outsourcing is email support for Google Ads. Having such diversity is what enables Google to fit into the global market so well. 

Operating from the US, it would be difficult for a company to provide such high standards of customer service in Europe. Keeping the different time zones in mind, it is virtually impossible and would definitely contribute to technical debt. In that case, it would be better to outsource and perhaps later open your own branch. 

Slack

Slack is a popular communication tool for many companies (including those that outsource). It underwent beta testing in 2013 before being launched. 

And guess what? A third-party design company served as the beta testers. 

In this way, the tool could be prioritized more effectively, preventing over- or under-investment – technical debt, in other words. 

Due to an independent company’s expertise testing Slack, its creators were able to get an honest opinion and important tips that would have probably been overlooked – and even such details could have then contributed to creating technical debt.

Skype

Skype, especially now that remote contact is crucial, is used every day by many. 

Following the acquisition of Skype by Microsoft, the power of outsourcing in Eastern Europe was appreciated for avoiding technical debt. Lots of development and IT structure projects took place in Poland, Ukraine, and Estonia, and that contributed to making Skype so easy to use.

There are many specialists in this part of the World who are willing to work for lower salaries than professionals from, for example, the US. In this case, outsourcing helped overcome potential technical debt arising from higher costs of development or slower progress in the implementation of new technologies. 

To sum up

As you have read in this article, outsourcing can offer some sort of relief from technical debt. It might help you avoid it completely, but it may also reduce its effects if not. Outsourcing can take many forms, depending on what your organization needs and which solution seems most appropriate for it. 

You see, even major companies outsource and it’s something that surely helps them reach the top. Does it pay off? Yes, definitely. 

We have learned from the given examples that it pays to hire people from all over the World. You never know where the talent is hidden. No matter how big a company is, outsourcing may bring additional value to the organization and help it overcome technical debt.

Author

Daria Karasek

Marketing Hero at Scalac. I strongly believe in creating opportunities rather than waiting for them to come. As befits Scalac team member I'm a hard worker, I always try to do the right thing and have a lot of fun! I'm an awesome friend and content writer, in that order. When I'm out of the office, I love to cook delicious Italian food and play board games with my friends. #boardgamegeek

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