Outsourcing Web Development – Learning the hard way

There is nothing more stressful than getting frustrated at someone for not doing their job, have a row with them and then realising that there are half a dozen simple things that could have been done to insure that the project is completed on time and as required. I realise now why good project managers are so well paid.

I am now glad I studied economics for 3 years because it has helped me to understand that so many things in life are about punishment and incentives – the carrot that keeps the donkey going and the boot that kicks it when it goes astray. Let me explain…

Several months of paying 50% for the development of our site, we still do not have a finished working copy. I recently spent some time on a website called VWorker and while I have yet to use their services and see if they are any good, the infrastructure that the guys have set up on this community makes it so much easier to get work done.

The community has over 250,00 registered free-lancers and companies which bid on the projects people post. Within 24 hours of posting we have had over 20 bids to do our work with the cost ranging from $5,000 to $50,000. We see everyone’s reviews (something you can not easily do with companies you find when googling), and most importantly people are ACCOUNTABLE. If they agree to do the work within a month and they fail to complete the project within that time frame,  then you have the option to not pay a cent or give them an extension.

They let you know from the get go that only 25% of development/software projects in the entire industry finish on schedule (25% are never completed and 50% are delayed) and they reckon if we think a project will take 2 weeks it is more likely that it will take 2-to-5 times that amount of time.

All of our 20+ bids agreed to pay only a 10% deposit (and not the 50% we have currently paid) and there are requirements such as weekly feedback which make it easy to gauge how far along the developers are.

Incetives and punishment – a community that has both.

Overall, I can not wait to try out this service as we were really happy with a similar service (only it was for design and not development) from 99Designs. We got 19 designers to submit 59 designs for our new logo. After choosing the winning one we were also able to ask the winning designer to tweek the design to our heart’s conent. Check out our new DiamondsInAfrica logo below:

Global from Day One

What a crazy few months it has been, and all because we boldly decided that we would launch this business into the global market from day one – selling our products in any currency, any time and to any location in the world (with a few small exceptions).

When we first committed to our global approach I was certain that our flight and travel expenses would break the bank but the internet truly has made global commerce not only possible, but unbelievably easy as well. From incorporating a limited US business and opening a bank account there, to registering toll-free numbers in all our major markets – all of this was done from the comfort of my office.

I have also been calling customers from around the world using Skype and our very first client found us online from Serbia and made a detour on his way to a hunting trip in Namibia just to make a purchase in South Africa.

I have not been in the same room as our other two co-founders since April and yet we are all on the same page with regards to developments on a daily basis. Conference calls from our mobiles and bitesize e-mails seems to be all it takes.

There is only one last challenge I have to overcome with regards to the “think global” approach – that being reaching out to all our suppliers (spread across 5 countries around the world) and agreeing upon our terms of trade. This challenge begins today.

Apologies to any regular readers for the post drought of late, it seems the more I have to blog about the less time I have to blog.