Our first app & its hurdles
As we were gathering our notes on our first app idea, prior to us taking the knowledge in-house, we contracted off-shore developers with the potential of one day making them a permanent part of the family. Extensive research on reviews, recommendations and portfolios, we settled on a tender of sorts.
Our lawyer drafted our NDA, and armed with our written business in-hand, we begun our first ever project. We are not embarrassed to say that we had (and possibly still do) have a great deal to learn. Unfortunately life is not always a rosy as we would like it to be, whether in our personal lives or academically and professionally. We thought we were able to translate our idea into a tangible product. If we understood it, why couldn’t the developers? Unfortunately we quickly reminded ourselves that although many can create a piece of software, this needs to come with the management of the business processes, functionality, user experience and other guidelines. Although we were being reassured that all was understood with each and every milestones, almost a year into the making, our final product that we had originally envisioned was far from what we thought. The thing that humoured us the most is that the bits and pieces in between each of the milestones did not seem far from what we thought, and the “little” aesthetics and functionality bugs would be easily addressed. Once the product came together, we were devastated.
Despite our efforts to get things rectified, there came a point where we were left in the dark, and no further communication came back from our so-called “developers”. Our initial capital investment went down the drain, much like a forgotten crisp packet in the pantry only to be re-discovered after the expiry date. So we hit the books, the forums and a few online courses.
Another lesson learnt from the initial project was the time difference as well as the language barrier. Despite us being from different cultural backgrounds, it can be difficult to explain business matters in a form that may not come natural to another party. Combining this with non-asynchronous communication due to time differences can be the very potion for a quid-pro-quo of a potentially failed project.
The reason this was a sacrifice for us, was not only the financial aspect and time virtually lost, but it was the fact that we felt we were starting to lose a race to potential competitors. Furthermore, both of us had full-time jobs, so coming back home at night to work another few hours as well as on weekends was indeed a struggle. Yes, many others are or have been in a similar situation, but hey, no pain, no gain, right?
From our various negotiations in business, we are learning that outsourcing, although seemingly a wonderful thing, can also be quite a dramatic and negative experience. Handing over a project to a “non family member” can seem daunting, so our recommendation is to be thorough in your research of partners and contractors. If you believe there are things that can be developed or designed in-house, and time is not of the essence, perhaps consider keeping a project in-house for the critical parts, and outsourcing only the required components if at all possible.