Software Development Outsourcing: Dramatic Changes over the Last Two Decades

The Changing Landscape of Software Development and Remote, Freelance Work

These days, if you have an idea, you can put it into development within minutes by outsourcing to freelance software developers, small and medium agencies and large corporations alike. Allowing everyone to bid on a project levels the playing field. This means great ideas often win out over big budgets and it’s all thanks to the rapidly evolving landscape of skilled specialists in software development. Long gone are the days of needing multi-million dollar software development budgets and long-term contracts..

Let’s briefly reminisce on the last two decades and the major milestones we’ve seen in the software development industry…

Software Developer Outsourcing In 1998

In 1998, if you wanted to outsource software development, your choices were:

  • Hire one or more individual software development contractors.
  • Hire a consulting firm.
  • Lease software developers from an employee-leasing firm.

If a client had a large project, they would typically contact a software outsourcing company. From there, the client would work with the outsourcing company to create a contract that would include technical specifications, as well as schedules, costs and payments. Milestones would be established that would allow them to observe the progress of the software development and make adjustments as needed.

The above process was reasonably effective, but had its drawbacks, such as:

  • You were limited to the software developers of the outsourcing company.
  • You had to accept the project management and collaboration tools of the outsourcing company.
  • You depended upon the software quality tools used by the outsourcing company.

Software collaboration tools were more limited than they are today, and clients and consultants often depended on hard-copy documents, which could be cumbersome when compared to today’s cloud-based documents.

Software Developer Outsourcing in 2008

By 2008, Upwork.com had been in operation for five years. It was a web site that acted as a broker between those looking for software development services and those wanting to do software development work. You could go to Upwork.com and hire vetted freelance software professionals to design, document, and code your software project. It was also a place where freelancers could find work.

Additionally, software collaboration tools were improving, especially video conferencing tools such as Skype and cloud-based source-code control like Git.

Linus Torvalds developed Git in 2005 as a distributed source code control system. In 2008, Github.com was created, which allowed for cloud-based source code control for both source code and related documentation. As a result of this massive improvement in the software development ecosystem, you could hire freelance software professionals while you, your contract employees and your in-house employees could work from the same cloud-based repository.

This allowed for dramatic improvements in software development efficiency, letting corporations to track bugs, update specifications, and test your software as it was developed. Incremental testing of software became possible because, software committed to the Git repository had to be working code. Ifa software developer committed code that “broke the build,” it could be very bad for their reputation, which resulted in an increased quality of code being committed.

Software Developer Outsourcing in 2018

By 2009, Upwork.com was joined by Freelancer.com as a website where clients could find vetted talent to hire, as well as post where software professionals could go to find work as a freelancer. Today, there are a host of web sites, apps and online communities that are similar to upwork.com and freelancer.com as well as collaboration and communication tools like Slack which allow instantaneous updates and alerts to track task progress. Tools like Slack now act as a project manager and liaise for many small businesses that need to keep the cost of software development outsourcing as low as possible.

Software development outsourcing today allows a client, to access a worldwide talent pool, which is an incredible evolution from just two short decades prior. Compared to the previous methods of finding software development talent, companies today can easily vet developer skills through these vast freelancer ecosystems. This ease of access to freelance labor for small and medium businesses has further increased demand for skilled outsourced and freelance software developer labor.

To meet all of this demand the world needs an ever increasing supply of skilled, qualified software developers. If you are a software developer, opportunities abound to contribute with remote or freelance outsourcing work. Don’t yet have the skills to get the freelance job of your dreams? Well… if you want to be a software developer, there are even more ways for you to get the education and hands-on training you need to succeed. The best example we have is our own, the Software Developer program here at Woz-U. Our online, software developer virtual learning environment was inspired by the vision of Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple.