Managing an MVP Outsourcing Project

This is a post in our series about outsourcing a digital Minimum Viable Product to test the viability of your idea with real customers. This could be a good read if you're looking to build an MVP for your startup or enterprise.

In the previous post we went over some key points a solid outsourcing contract should cover. This post give you tips & advice on running the actual project.

There are many ways to run a successful outsourcing project. Some principles, however, hold for most projects. I've put down some key ideas here to help you tackle your project.

Build relationships

Building good relationships with your developers and designers will make or break the project. You will want to personally know the people working on your project. You should talk with each one to ensure they are on board with your vision. Having a good and easygoing relationship will ensure they will not keep you in the dark when there are problems - which are sure to come up in any project. You want your team to be open and upfront about problems so they can be sorted quickly.

Depending on the type of partner you are starting your work with, they might have a project manager manage your resources in their end. This can be riskier than building real relationships with the actual people, who are doing the heavy lifting in the project. Adding more layers will slow things down and you risk suffering from the broken phone effect where the extra layer of communication changes the message on the way.

In some cases, you might have a team of developers who need a manager because they don't understand your business or do not speak your language. Then there's no choice. But in that case, you really should consider another option/team.

To build relationships you need to communicate well. Meeting your team and treating them to a dinner can be a powerful way to start the relationship. If this is not possible, try to arrange for a personal call with each member. Remember to give your team feedback and praise when appropriate.

The larger the project is, the more critical it will be to retain the people working on your project. Developers are not cogs in a machine. Having to replace people WILL slow your project - no matter what your outsourcing partner says. Also, the quality of work suffers greatly when there is no ownership of the code. You will want to keep your team together.

Remote work & communication

When you are outsourcing your MVP development, it is likely you are working with a remote team. Below are some best practices on successful remote work:

  • Get to know each person, it will make remote work much easier
  • Ensure sufficient timezone overlap (min. 2-4h would be best)
  • Use project management software to stay on top and monitor progress (Basecamp, Jira, Trello, Asana... anything that works for you)
  • Have set communication channels (e.g. Slack for day-to-day communication, Skype for meetings)
  • Communicate asynchronously, interrupting developers every time you want to ask something will cost money & frustrate your team

Work process

You should ensure an open and interactive development process. This means that you should have access to the product being built from week one. You don't want to close yourself from your product and hope that all is well. You need to be involved in testing and using your future product. Have your friends and associates try it as well.

This enables you to see progress and help your team iterate on features as they are being built. It is much more efficient to fix things the moment they start going wrong.

Also, for usability testing on the cheap, you should let your mother and father try your product. This is a surefire way to find and fix a lot of usability problems. :)

Choose popular & opinionated open source technologies

Choosing popular and opinionated technologies is especially critical for product owners with no technical background as you cannot evaluate your vendor's technology choices.

  1. Popular and open source means that you should have sane technologies and no vendor-lock in.
  2. This will make your MVP more approachable for your own future team. Finding developers with relevant skills will be much easier.
  3. A strongly opinionated framework (e.g. Rails/Ember/etc.) will ensure that most choices regarding architecture are dictated by the framework (safer)
  4. These frameworks often let you build faster as the focus is on business logic and not on configuration.

You can find some inspiration at TechStacks.

With these tips, you should be have a better chance to outsource your startups or entreprises MVP. :)

ps. If you’re REALLY serious about outsourcing your MVP and want to maximize your chances of success & save a lot of time, you should check out our Flightplan: MVP Outsourcing Course.