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Are Language Barriers a Reason to Avoid Web Dev Outsourcing?

Since you’re here, you’ve probably realized your web development could be done by an international team, working remotely. Whether fractionally or completely, outsourcing employees to do development is a viable option for many agencies and corporations. The decision to do so is seldom clear-cut, however. Outsourcing presents a realm of new possibilities. But, of course, with them come risks. In this article, we’ll describe some of the pros and cons, or the upsides and downsides of outsourcing web development. If you want to be successful in building an international team of remote web developers, we hope this resource serves you well.

The Pros of Web Development Outsourcing

The obvious benefit of outsourcing employees is cost savings but there are less obvious benefits as well. These include the ability to overcome domestic talent shortages and bypass traditional hiring and onboarding processes, which can be problematic.

Of course, when evaluating potential locations to outsource from, costs have to be considered. Many foreign markets boast lower costs of employment. India, for example, is an enormous provider of IT services and support in part due to its low costs. Latin America is becoming an outsourcing destination as well. Nacho de Marco reports “a significant shift to Latin American outsourcing in the last decade, beginning with the most apparent reason for outsourcing: companies want to save money.” The article goes on to cite the 2018 Guide to Global Software Outsourcing Rates, which lists the costs of various technical positions across the globe. “Compared to North America, the prices in Latin America are significantly lower”, says de Marco.

In recent times, the US job market has seen some sizable skilled labor shortages. The web development labor market is no exception. Expanding your search overseas can be a workaround, and having a remote team means geography becomes less of an issue.

Further, a web dev outsourcing agency has talent sourcing expertise your organization may not have. In Tigran Sloyan’s article, the CodeSignal founder makes the case that traditional web dev recruiting processes miss talent that should at least receive an opportunity to interview. But sourcing talent is not your job when you sign up for help from an outsourcing agency. You can leave it to the specialists. Many outsourcing agencies even help with onboarding, to make sure your international team adapts to your operational style.

The Cons of Web Development Outsourcing

Outsourcing has some downsides. Knowing so is probably what brought you here. Scheduling, or business hour mismatches, are a common concern. Another is fear of backlash when domestic employees are laid off.

One of the most problematic downsides of outsourcing is the potential need to lay off employees at home, who will be replaced by remote web developers overseas. This tends to eat away at the goodwill the company enjoys, especially that of the laid-off employees and their families. It’s an important consideration. 

According to Panos Mourdoukoutas, writing for Forbes, outsourcing can help companies stay competitive “provided that the leaders of the companies who make the outsourcing decisions know what they are doing: they have a clear vision of where they’re steering the corporate ship, and a sound plan to effectively redeploy the funds they save from outsourcing.” In other words, he thinks outsourcing should be seen as a deficit that needs to be recouped by sound strategic decisions. One such decision could be hiring new employees at home as the company expands. Another may be investing in PR advertisements to inform the public about the company’s vision. 

Another potential downside of outsourcing is scheduling. It’s often best to outsource to a region in a nearby timezone. For East-Coast American companies, Latin America aligns well. Argentina, Brazil, and Costa Rica overlap with much of the American workday. Having a team ready to assist you and your clients when you need it is a key benefit. When your outsourced team can be on the clock at a reasonable hour, you get more done and your clients can get more help as well. 

On the other hand, sometimes it’s not necessary to outsource to the same longitude. There may need to be just a few contacts who meet with you during your business hours. These managers should be able to convey your information to their local team effectively. Most outsourced teams, as you’d expect, are well-adapted to working with people in far-away time zones. 

Is Language a Downside?

A multicultural team offers a range of benefits, most of which are thanks to the diversity of culture and different ways of thinking that exist in them. But multiculturalism, which increases with outsourcing, does bring up the question of language proficiency.  Research by Forbes Insights and Rosetta Stone found that 65% of executives believe their company faces language barriers due to its multicultural makeup. Most of them say the language barriers contributed to inefficiencies or decreases in productivity. 

However, that doesn’t mean they were not able to achieve their goals. Typically, conformance is key, meaning a product or service’s adherence to specifications is more important than communication that occurs during a project. “Serviceability” is another important factor of satisfaction, according to a dissertation by Song Hooi Min. Serviceability measures the accuracy and quickness of adjusting the product when it does not meet specifications. It’s easy to understand how that applies to web development, where meeting client expectations isn’t always simple.

Many professionals say working with remote employees who don’t share their first language was rarely an issue. In web development, it is typically not necessary for an entire team to be exceedingly fluent in the language of the client company. Instead, project managers and admins should make sure everyone understands the specifications laid out by the client. When the team is aligned, the project should be successful.

“I’ve worked with folks from all over the globe in my advertising career. I almost never have any trouble communicating. It seems like communication issues only come up when I’m on the phone with a foreign customer service representative, usually for something that’s not related to my work. Maybe those jobs pay less and are done by less-skilled people. But I think workers who are specialized in technical fields tend to be plenty fluent in English.” George Hancock, Digital Advertising Specialist

Develop Your Strategy to Maximize Your Satisfaction

The possibility of language barriers at work is intimidating. In the world of web development outsourcing, misunderstandings can be costly. Therefore, it is important to choose wisely when deciding on an outsourcing firm. It’s also a good idea to understand how your outsourced team will fit into your organization. 

The outsourcing firm you choose to do business with should offer some kind of assurance that you will be satisfied with your new team members. For example, replacing employees who don’t meet your requirements is helpful. The firm should also have a well-established recruiting system that sources experienced web developers who communicate well and who meet an  English proficiency threshold (or a target language threshold if you don’t do business in English). That might mean you pay a little bit more but it will be worth it. We recommend reading some reviews and interviewing a couple of managers at the outsourcers you consider. You can ask to preview some developer profiles as well. This will help to ensure minimal communication-related missteps after the team is installed.

As far as organizational structure, the key is understanding the scope of your relationship with your web development team. Does a project require constant interactions or will the interactions be few and far between? 

If a lot of meetings and conversations are necessary, working with a highly fluent international team is fairly important. Remember, however, that you don’t necessarily need to communicate with every member of an international team. Management should be a liaison between you and your team most of the time. When searching for firms, look for managers and team leaders that are fluent themselves.

Avoiding Language Barriers by Choosing the Right Region

The truth is that some countries have better English language education than others and that’s a big reason average proficiency varies from country to country and region to region. That’s why it helps to outsource to regions with strong average fluency. Outside of North America and Western Europe, countries like Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, and the Czech Republic have some of the densest English-proficient populations. But if you’re an American business looking for time zone alignment, the Latam region is your best bet.

Latin America has become a hot spot for IT talent. According to Forbes magazine “Latin Americans often learn English, and now Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, and Brazil have all surpassed China in English proficiency.” The author continues “I was excited to see that my native Argentina was home to the most proficient English speakers in Latin America.” If you are a company that is wary of language barriers at work, consider hiring remote web developers from Argentina. 

In terms of English fluency, Argentina has become one of the highest-ranked countries in the world. According to the World Economic Forum, it is the most English fluent country in Latin America and the only country in Latin America with a rating of “very fluent.” Read more about the Argentine outsourcing scene in our blog post here.

Summing Up

Before we go, a reminder. Even your best friends from childhood miscommunicate with you from time to time. Most university-educated professionals from abroad are prepared to communicate with you effectively. But it’s up to your outsourcing firm and yourself to vet their skills. While language typically doesn’t bring projects to a halt, it can lead to some inefficiencies. All companies, domestic and international, should strive to exhibit good communication.

Moreover, good leadership goes a long way to help a geographically separated, multicultural team accomplish goals. Communication is just one potential area to troubleshoot. With regard to it, solutions are typically easy to find and if necessary, a good outsourcer will designate another team member who is a better fit. 

In today’s globalized economy, outsourcing employees is commonplace. Most companies benefit tremendously from cost savings, infusion of cultures and viewpoints, and streamlined onboarding that makes expanding easier. With a solid strategy and an experienced outsourcing firm on your side, your outsourcing initiative will be a success.

If you are interested in learning more about how WeDevelop helps businesses outsource web development talent, contact us here.

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