Onshore Vs. Offshore Software Development: How to Choose




Here at Devetry, all of our developers live and work in the United States. That makes us an onshore software development agency.

Therefore, you might expect this article to be a thinly-veiled attempt to convince you that onshore development is always the way to go.

Fire your offshore development team, you might expect us to say. Maybe hire Devetry instead?

That’s not really our style.

The thing is, offshore development can be great. It’s usually cheaper. It can sometimes be faster. Depending on what you need developed, it might actually be the better choice.

But if you don’t know a whole lot about software development, you probably don’t know whether you should choose onshore or offshore. So we wrote a handy series of questions that you can ask yourself about your development project to help you determine which option is best. Here’s our unbiased guide for onshore vs offshore software development.

How much communication/involvement do you need?

Communication with an offshore development team can be difficult, though not always. Often, the team itself will be in a different time zone – sometimes they’re working while you’re sleeping – and they may also speak a different language. The possibility for miscommunication and delay can increase (unless you have a trusted partner working as your middleman).

Onshore dev teams tend to be available to chat over Slack, over the phone, or even in person (if they’re local), and you can typically expect a quick response to emails.

Of course, if you don’t feel like you’ll need a lot of communication or be particularly involved in the development process (e.g. if you just need a quick turn-around on a simple project), offshore could be the way to go.

Is your project fully thought-out?

Because of the aforementioned communication issues, offshore dev teams work best when projects are already planned out. If you can hand over precise requirements that they won’t need to ask a lot of questions to understand, you’ll probably be happy with the outcome.

On the other hand, if you could use some help with the strategic planning for your product, you’re more likely to get that from an onshore dev team.

What are the long-term plans for your software?

Offshore development teams can be great at writing code and building successful final products, but they’re not usually the best option when you could use some advice on how to update that product, transition it to an internal team, and/or take it to market. They may offer some assistance but since they’re located in other countries, their expertise may be limited compared to what you could expect from onshore developers.

Do you have someone technical who can review the code?

Really, this goes for both onshore and offshore development – you should always have someone you trust who can look at the code base being developed and provide feedback on its quality. Otherwise you risk spending a bunch of money on a product that looks good on the surface but is full of bugs and/or security vulnerabilities under the hood, and refactoring the code to improve the software’s nonfunctional aspects gets even more expensive.

That being said, working with a local onshore team can be easier in this regard, since your trusted code reviewer (even if that person is you) can more easily communicate with the developers to ask questions and perform quality assurance testing alongside them.

How technically-complicated is the project?

If your project is pretty simple, the cost savings from going offshore are likely to be small. You can probably find inexpensive onshore teams that could turn around straightforward projects affordably.

As a project becomes more complicated, the need for ongoing communication and sophisticated QA increases. The differences between onshore and offshore development widen, making it more worthwhile to do your research and be sure you’re making the right decision.

What’s your budget?

The most obvious question when considering onshore vs. offshore so we saved it for last. If you simply can’t afford the higher rates of onshore developers, offshore is likely your only option, even if the previous questions all point you towards onshore.

Lower costs are often the main reason companies choose to work with offshore teams. It doesn’t necessarily mean lower quality, nor is it certain you’ll struggle with communication issues. You can get a great product from offshore teams – just be aware of the potential challenges as you make your decision.

And, of course, if you happen to decide that an onshore development partner might be what you need, well… We’re a pretty darn good one.