Nearshore Plus: Balancing Cost Savings and Quality in Software Development

Written by

In the beginning (at least, in the 90s), there was offshoring. As manufacturers and call centers shipped their labor off to places closer to the other side of the Pacific, software consultancies pursued a similar, simple logic: US developers are costly, people in the other hemisphere aren't, and since more companies are offshoring, companies that resist the tides will be at a competitive disadvantage.

What seemed like easy savings at the time began to reveal its flaws fairly quickly. For one, there are opposed time zone differences. Communication sent from the US to the subcontinent is answered the next day, and it's not until the day after that that a follow-up reply is possible. Project calendars immediately double.

There's the high language barrier which often results in sputtering, frustrating communication for both parties, and more often than not produces something quite different from what the client had imagined they were getting.

And then there's the general opacity that comes with hiring people 10,000 miles away; it's hard to be certain about developers' backgrounds and capabilities until halfway through the project when you realize your app doesn't work.

So consultancies struck a compromise: They'd still move the work off US soil, but not so far — specifically to Latin America, where the developers cost less but work in similar time zones, generally speak English sufficiently that communication breakdowns are less frequent and less severe, come from high-quality developer programs, and don't live on opposite sides of yawning cultural gaps.

But that left out a key consideration: the clients themselves, who often want to meet face-to-face not just with the company's sales reps and CEO, but also with the technical leads and project managers who will be overseeing the entire contract, and who have a business culture to which people in the US are uniquely attuned. If those people are also in South America, then to the clients, they can feel like abstractions who still may as well be on the other end of the Pacific Ocean.

Nearshore Plus: The right balance

At FullStack Labs, we practice what we call Nearshore Plus. That means our team is a mix of US and Latin American designers, developers, and project managers. But every project, no matter its geographic mix, gets a US-based technical lead and project manager to ensure physical proximity and maximum communication.

Nearshore Plus hits the sweet spot. Clients save as much as possible on costs, but not past the threshold where they experience nasty surprises when the deliverable comes through. And even our Latin American developers and designers are all fluent in English, further mitigating any possible casualties of miscommunication.

We've seen it helps clients coming from opposite sides of the staffing problem.

Bestest, for example, originally tried to build their whole Instagram-style social polling app using a development team based entirely offshore. But they experienced missteps with communication and guidelines, resulting in buggy code, delivered behind schedule.

We took over the project by assigning a US-based Project Manager, two Colombian Software Developers, and a Stateside Quality Assurance professional. The React Native app we spun up brought in 16,000 users in just five months and is still in use.

Another longtime client, chill-n-go, faced the opposite problem: They had developed the web infrastructure for their entire wine-bag business using only onshore programmers. The result was a massive bill without the results to go with it. After racking up costs for months, the initial design for their product was barely complete, and the consultancy hadn't even begun to dive into the code.

We got them back on track by designing and building their entire site over again using a similar team make-up as Bestest: A Product Manager and a QA professional in the States, and a Software Developer and a Designer in Colombia. In six months, they had their site delivered and running, leading the company's president to remark, "Working with FullStack Labs has been one of, if not THE, best work experiences I’ve had in my life."

A solution for everyone

The problems facing Bestest and chill-n-go are common, but they're not universal to every company benefiting from the Nearshore Plus model. A client project typically falls into one of three buckets:

New Nearshore Software Development Apps: Apps from scratch, from design to delivery to maintenance, steered by US-based team leads and developed by our Latin American team members.

Existing Nearshore Software Development Apps: Support, code refactoring, and new feature design for existing apps created with a variety of tech stacks. From legacy updates to entire overhauls, we've done it all with our Nearshore Plus approach.

Nearshore Software Development Team Augmentation: Additional programmers or designers to plug into an existing project. Some clients looking for team augmentation will benefit from having another US-based presence at the helm, while others are just looking for a cost-effective support staff who can communicate with the existing team leads and only need Latin American coders.

Meet the team

Unlike offshore agencies who obscure the resumes of the devs on your project, our Nearshore team members are just as much the face of our company as anyone else. Any other questions about how Nearshore Plus works? We're here to answer any of them. Contact us and we can help you figure out if the approach is right for you.

Frequently Asked Questions