It is no secret that the UK technology industry is suffering a skills gap, and an estimated 756,000 skilled workers will be needed across Europe by 2020. As a result, not only are organisations struggling to recruit the right expertise, but the costs are escalating – especially in key software development skills. When the impact on the business of stalled projects due to the loss of key members of the development team can be devastating, is the in-house development model really the best approach?
Nick Thompson, managing director, DCSL Software suggests taking a step back and looking more closely at the challenges associated with realising a strategy that has you developing your own software team, as the reality can be somewhat different to what you may expect.
Successful software development is not a one or two person job, as such, there is no short–cut to building a good development team. It is a difficult and complex process, taking years for an organisation to attain the correct blend of skills and expertise, a timeline that is simply not an option for small businesses looking to for an operational win to gain competitive advantage or startup companies with a quick go to market deadline.
And then there is the cultural fit to think about. Developers need to work as part of a team – are they team players? Do they buy in to the specific development processes of that organisation? Many developers are perfectionists which sounds great in theory, but is useless in practice – the software will never be good enough, never ready to be deployed. A pragmatic attitude is essential; plus an understanding of the importance of a standardised development process.
Of course, recruiting the right individuals is just the start. What happens to this key development when a team member is head hunted or tempted away with a promise of more money? The only option is either to offer a huge salary hike in order to retain the skills, or hope to quickly recruit a new developer with the ability to pick up and run with the project.
The reality, as many organisations will attest, is that staff turnover can significantly derail critical developments – which is why many end up being held to ransom by developers who recognise their intrinsic business value.
And money is not the only temptation; for many developers there is a huge fear of boredom. Variety of projects is key – something that cannot be offered by most organisations, particularly those with a business model focused on the development of a single product.
So what are the options?
The ability to build and retain the critical mass of skills is where bespoke software development companies have an advantage. Project diversity ensures staff have that essential variety; while access to a large group of like-minded individuals creates a peer group sharing information, knowledge and experience. They are usually also able to achieve higher retention levels than the vast majority of in-house IT teams.
And it can also be cost effective as the organisation only pays when services are required. There are no additional recruitment costs, no problems associated with an under resourced team, or risks of being held to ransom to get the software delivered. Just a contract, a defined set of technical resources, and a clear deadline – it is a very different model.
And it is a consistent model. A bespoke developer will have the critical mass of employees, the wide range of analysts, architects, developers and testers with experience on diverse projects. They will all be working to clearly defined guidelines and standards; and projects will be clearly documented.
Critically, an organisation is not buying a specific individual resource but an end to end development model that will deliver the specific solution. And that is, essentially, the key. Successful software development whether to drive operational efficiency or create a new product is measured on output – and organisations need to honestly assess whether the speed, quality and consistency of the output can really be delivered in-house.