Why I Will Never Outsource Software Again

I am writing this to share some horror stories that are still on going that resulted from relying on foreign coders. I will admit this does not represent 100% of all outsourced development companies (how could it?) but to anyone thinking about undertaking such a product, buyer beware. These places, which can be found on Elance or even from posting a craiglist ad in this country, will taken on just about any job and say yes to anything – regardless of whether they can accomplish the goal. Don’t be fooled by the drive to save money. It is better to pay more once than pay less 1000 times. Hopefully this can serve as a warning and save some very promising entrepreneurs the headaches I have dealt with over the last few years.

A little more than a year and a half ago my team and I started working on a great idea, a location based chat application. What would eventually become Echo was originally designed to be a website. We chose to go the mobile route because, at least for a location based application, there was so much potential in using new technology (e.g. the smartphone) to bring new functionality – user location – to “old” tech ideas – the chat room. One problem – none of us were coders.

We met with several developers. We finally selected a company based in New Hampshire. Turns out the company misrepresented how it operated. Instead of doing all coding on site, what we assumed was this guy’s apartment, all the work was secretly shipped out to India. Now I know a lot of things get outsourced to India but coding should not be one of them. The work was unreliable, full of bugs, and worse off when we finally found out the software was being built in India and tried to contact the developer, he was no where to be found. There was just no control (and impossible to find any) over a developer thousands of miles away who could take off and do whatever he wanted to do.

Eventually we parted ways with this sham operation. We found a company based in New Jersey who was willing to take on the project. This technical chop shop – Rapidsoft Systems – looked legitimate on the surface. Many big contracts, run by a computer science professor who used to head up development for many big companies and was himself Indian (we thought this would at least make dealing with the outsourcing process easier). He was able to diagnose many of our problems right away. So far so good. The project would be forwarded to his team in India for work.

What followed was probably the worse experience ever. Developers quit or were fired on a regular basis so there was no consistency in the team. Every few weeks or so we would come to realize either that the team had changed entirely, or that several key members were gone. This meant that either (a) we had to re-teach the application to a new set of people or (b) even worse, coders with no idea what was going on were being left to play around with our application.

We tried to leave several times but met resistance along the way. Despite numerous revisions and issues fixing basic features, they were committed to finishing/dragging us down with this application.

It took 8 months to convince them to give us the code. This was only after they tried to bill us for work we did not request, sent internal emails asking developers to take longer and list phony work orders so they could try and charge us for more (funny thing is that the developers who realized this was wrong sent us these emails), and generally were disagreeable as a whole. As it if couldn’t get any worse, the code we received was complete garbage. Over 450 error messages, improper implementation of several features that made it guaranteed to be rejected by Apple and a non-scalable back end that would have been sure to leave us dead in the water down the line.

A horror story to say the least.

Having invested both time and money into this project I am committed to finishing it but wanted to make sure my mistakes were not in vain. No promise of saving money is worth dealing with foreign developers. Pay more upfront and get someone local, with experience, who actually knows what they are doing – it will save you money in the long run and more importantly it will save you time.

p.s. – anyone who knows a developer in nyc looking to get on board with our team we are always looking, message or comment their info


Update – 5/16/2011

Following the comments from our manufacturing software guy bellow, I did some investigation. I contacted some people at Rapidsoft to see if anyone knew who this person was and whether he actually had hired them 3 times in a row to do a project. No one could verify this information. While I do agree with some of what he said, I now wonder what his connection to the company is. It appears there may be some shadier motives prompting those comments.

Also in the meantime other sites have picked up on Rapidsoft’s shoddy work and several other companies have verified and validated by complaints. Looks like it is not just my project that was damaged but that this is on ongoing practice. See the links bellow for more detail.




About clevis1

Christian Levis is the creator of EchoFriendly, a location based chat application for the iOS. He is a graduate of NYU's College of Arts & Sciences and holds degrees in biology and English along with a professional certificate in marketing. He also a graduate of the Fordham University School of Law, and deeply concerned about privacy and the impact that social media has on intellectual property. Christian is also a jazz pianist. His favorite band is Steely Dan. His favorite book is too hard to choose. He enjoys seafood but not really lobster and drinks more coffee than is probably healthy for a normal human being. You can find him on Twitter @echomeback Or on Facebook as...Christian Levis
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13 Responses to Why I Will Never Outsource Software Again

  1. Lisa says:

    Good luck – I’ve been through similar horror stories PLUS when I was out of work this past summer, I thought I’d take to doing freelance graphics as I had done in years past. With all of the outsourcing going to India for sub par work, many potential clients basically wanted me to work for about $4 an hour or less.

    I hope we all realize that when we pay “Walmart” prices, the local people stop doing it and we end up with what we paid for – quality-free products.

    • mapager says:

      I wish I had known before. If I learned one thing from this its that you’re better off paying more for a good job than you are trying to save money. This project has cost me more time and money in the long run than it would have if I just bit the bullet up front. Oh well. If you happen to know any good designers/programmers looking for work I’m trying to keep a running list now to avoid this in the future.

  2. Andrew Morton says:

    I can clearly see that like many people trying to outsource, you don’t want to pay for the work, and always looking for getting more work done without paying for it. You could have opted for American developers but you didn’t because you wanted it done cheaply. Right? I am a Director of Software at a manufacturing company and have had great success in outsourcing project using the very company that you mentioned. They did 3 projects for me and I had absolutely no problem. Most projects fail because of feature creep and unrealistic expectations since some people have no idea that software development costs money and you have to be flexible. Instead of finding faults with outsourcing company, you need to blame yourself that you expected too much for too little money. You failed because of your greed and/or the inability to pay for the legitimate work. If you were willing to pay or negotiate for additional features in good faith, I am sure you would have launched the app by now. I doubt that you will ever find a free developer that will fix your problems because if it was that simple it would have been done long ago. In either way, you have to pay as there is no free lunch for anyone.


    (ps: I don’t know why you would name any company on a public forum – it is rather immature. Did you learn in the law school about not to trust just the one side of story?)

    • mapager says:

      I am not sure why you are so defensive of Rapidsoft’s shoddy work in this case. You assume that I am lying or trying to unfairly discredit them for something that was my fault. I am not. That is why I see no problem in naming them in this post. I do not agree that it is immature. Rather, by providing this information, and informing people of my situation, others can either (1) avoid this entirely or at least (2) know they type of people they are dealing with before hand. Consider it a review of their service. What good would that be if no one knew who I was talking about? We don’t use anonymous reviews in any other field, why is software special?

      I am glad your projects worked out. I am not suggesting that Rapidsoft has never been successful in completing a project. I would actually assume the opposite. My point is merely that in this case their conduct was unprofessional and unreasonable. I fail to see how anyone can disagree with that. Regardless of whether you think I am lying, there are certain undisputed facts that make what I am contending very reasonable. I will point out some of that again bellow.

      I agree with you that software development requires some flexibility. No matter what industry you come from, whether you are a software developer or a painter, estimates are flexible targets. But this flexibility should still be within reason. I do not consider it reasonable when a company estimates that a project is going to cost X dollars and take Y amount of time and then comes back, after the work is done, to ask for 3X for a project that took 3Y times as long. This applies in other contexts as well. For example I would be equally upset if I hired someone to paint my house, agreed to one price, and when I got home from work at the end of the day, they tried to charge me 3x as much.

      I resent you implying that we did not want to pay for the features or try to negotiate in good faith. We spent a long time working on exact specifications with the president of Rapidsoft and the initial team that started on the project. When we agreed to a feature set, that is what we expected to get in exchange for the price estimated, plus or minus reasonable variance. That sounds pretty reasonable to me. In fact, we would have been willing to discuss issues, or the possibility that Rapidsoft underestimated the job (which they late told me that they did) had they brought the issue to our attention prior to doing “additional” work. In my opinion, and I assure it is not because I am cheap, when we agree to a feature set that is included in the price. It makes no sense to me why later, after the work is finished, someone should come and ask to me to pay additional money when there was no discussion prior of any extra hours, resources, or work done beyond the scope until after it was already finished. This is the same as the good old story where your neighbor comes along and paints your fence while your gone, then asks you to pay for it. We generally don’t expect people to pay for work they didn’t agree to. I may not have wanted the developers to do x, y, or z, had they spoke with me first. When I am not consulted on work that is done, I find it unreasonable to expect me to pay for it.

      I chose to outsource the project, not because I wanted to rip people off, but because I was looking for a balance between quality and price. You are right, it is much cheaper to do work abroad than here. You clearly seem to like that as well since you have hired Rapidsoft 3 times to do work at what I would bet is a significantly lower price than if you paid American developers as well. The fact that they are outsourcing does not, however, give them a license to do a crappy job. I expected the work would be held to American standards, not some back ally Indian coding equivalent. But you cannot tell me that software which, now that I have the code I can tell you for sure, was developed in violation of Apple guidelines, full of more than 400 errors (and that just what the compiler detected), that was never tested by a single person there, is a good job. That I will not believe. Knowing this now, I hope people at least think twice before working with these people because what you see, is not what you get. And no one should have to pay for crappy work, no matter where it’s done.

      • Andrew Morton says:

        Hey Dude,
        Thanks for taking my comments positively. The real trick of good outsourcing experience is recognizing unrealistic software estimates or quotes which often comes in a competitive bidding. When I get a very low quote, to me it means that the developer has misunderstood the scope of work completely. Hence I will point out if I see a very low estimate since that will lead to failure and resentment later. Therefore, even though I could hold every developer to the time and cost they put in the contract and in their quote, I am willing to let them discuss genuine needs and software difficulties (I actually build 10% bonus payment in my internal budget for timely completion and offer that to the team without them even asking.). As a software professional, I know when to accept changes in the scope of the work and when to agree to pay additionally for the work that may not have been considered earlier. That is the only way to outsourcing Nirvana. You can’t take rigid lines because the fact is 99% projects are underspecified and vague to begin with. So, be flexible and renegotiate for your own sanity as no ones to see a project fail, and you will be happy as I am.

  3. Disgusted says:

    I totally agree with Clevis (Christian Levis). I too had a nightmare dealing with Rapidsoft Systems. So much so that I’m taking it to the next level and preparing for a class action suit against them. In the last few months I have come across several bad reviews on the Internet as well hearing from those who recently visited a website I designed outlining their shady business practices. Here’s my initial review and a link to my review website: http://www.rapidsoft-systems-bad-review.com

    Beware of Rapidsoft Systems And Mobisoft Technologies For Your App Development

    In My Opinion:

    • Rapidsoft Systems operates unprofessionally.
    • The CEO made rude comments in e-mails.
    • You should refrain from doing business with this company.

    Pre Contract:

    • Rapidsoft Systems did not completely research the feasibility of my app’s development.
    • They made promises they could not keep.

    Post Contract:

    • They used spoken English in a way that I could not understand.
    • They made misleading and conflicting statements.
    • They deemed a key functionality “unfeasible” half way through the development.
    • They failed to provide an adequate solution to the unfeasible functionality.
    • They claimed to have developed working builds, but failed to provide builds that actually worked.
    • The CEO refused my request for a refund and claimed I still owed the company money.

    Let’s face it. Creating an app by using a development company in the US can be quite expensive, especially compared to companies’ offshore whose pricing is very competitive. Better yet, down right cheap!

    Like me, you’ve probably done your due diligence in researching these offshore app developers and probably found one you’ve liked. Great reviews, maybe you were even shown some of their apps found on platforms like Apple, Android and BlackBerry.

    After an exhaustive on-line search for a company who could develop my app at an affordable price, I ended up unknowingly being sucked in by a company in India called Rapidsoft Systems and their sister company Mobisoft Technologies.

    Yes, I expected there to be a slight language barrier, but initially did not think it would be a problem. Boy, was I wrong! I also assumed that their development skills would be on par with the US. You guessed it, another bad assumption on my part.

    In the beginning, I was communicating with someone at Rapidsoft Systems named Manny Srivastava. He was probably the worst of all of them when it came to answering my questions. His English left a lot to be desired and he only answered about half of my questions. I tried writing them again and this time was contacted by the CEO of Rapidsoft Systems (Dr. Brijesh Kumar, Ph.D.).

    I liked the fact that Mr. Kumar had a Ph.D. and had worked in the industry for many years. He answered all of my questions in a complete and reassuring manner. After spending considerable time looking over my wireframe documents he assured me that my app could be developed. He was prompt, courteous and more or less promised me the world with regard to developing my app. I eventually signed a contract with Rapidsoft Systems for a price tag of just over 8K. I felt very comfortable at that time.

    I should add that there were actually several contracts drawn up as there were many mistakes made by Rapidsoft Systems in the first few drafts. In retrospect and prior to the signing of the final contract, there were so many red flags thrown up at me, but for some reason I could not see them.

    For Example:

    • The fact that Rapidsoft Systems had only developed a few apps for BlackBerry (the chosen platform for my app).
    • Because of my dealing with Manny Srivastava, I had asked Mr. Kumar that I not work with Manny Srivastava for obvious reasons. However, when I read the initial contract, my point man for the commercial side was listed as Manny Srivastava. Not a good sign.
    • There were also mistakes in the pricing and which phone my app was to be developed for.
    • There was also a question regarding T&M (Time & Materials). I had asked Mr. Kumar: “Am I to understand that I will still have to pay for T&M if the app should fail and cannot be rectified?” His response was “It is a standard clause…if a particular feature cannot be implemented because of absolute technical difficulties then we will either suggest alternatives or advise you to cancel the project. Only one case has occurred like that in nearly seven years.” (Another huge red flag missed…this by the way is exactly what happened to me later on in the apps development…).

    According to the final contract, my project manager was to be Himanshu Sharma. However, over the course of time I received updates and comments by several people including Mr. Sharma. On the surface this may seem harmless, but hearing from as many as four different people only added to the confusion. Most of the time I not only had to deal with a horrendous language barrier, but often times found all of them contradicting each other and/or providing information that was far less than accurate.

    The sample builds that were sent to me over the span of many weeks had always contained flaws. Again, as sample builds you may find this to be expected, but when they told me that a particular feature worked just fine on their end, but not on mine, well, you can see how that would add to my frustration and concern. At one point when I questioned why a certain feature was not working, they informed me that the feature in question was all of a sudden “unfeasible”. Needless to say I was outraged at hearing this. Especially when this particular feature was a key element to the functionality of my app. They even went as far as implementing a ridiculous work-around without first running it by me. They made several futile attempts at a work-around, but in the end, nothing was acceptable to me as all of their attempts compromised my design.

    When all seemed lost and I realized that they could no longer develop my app per my specs, I wrote Rapidsoft Systems and gave them their required 30 day notice to terminate the contract. Shortly after the 30 day period I heard from Mr. Kumar. He stated that I was not allowed to terminate the contract and that I was to be held responsible for the balance of the contract which was another 4K. I retained an attorney and was advised of my rights under the law pertaining to the contract. I learned very quickly that I was well within my rights to terminate the contract and in fact could sue for the 4K I had already paid them.

    In Conclusion:

    This company has been an absolute nightmare to deal with. I feel that I’ve been taken advantage of from the start. I do not believe that this company is in the business to provide good customer service, as this was hardly the case with me. In my opinion, Rapidsoft Systems will promise you the world and say anything to get your business. They certainly didn’t spend enough time initially determining whether my app could be fully developed. If they did, they would have seen that their development skills weren’t up to the task. No, instead they led me to believe otherwise and unfortunately it ended in a disaster.

    I do not recommend this company to anyone looking to have an app developed for market. My advice is to pay a little more and shop locally within the US. Your chances are much better if you do.

    I would suggest the following before signing a contract with anyone:

    • Fully research the company you’re looking to hire.
    • Scour the Internet for reviews.
    • Check with the Better Business Bureau.
    • Make sure the company has developed several apps that can be found on your chosen platform.
    • Check the ratings of the apps you do find.
    • Make sure that the company has a full understanding of your apps functionality and can fully develop it per your specs. Get that in writing!
    • Run the contract by an attorney and make sure that you are fully protected against mishaps.

  4. Bill Price says:

    They delivered my companies three very difficult mobile apps, and a data analytic portal. No problem in any of the work – I gave them freedom except basic specs. They all delivered fine to me with minimum intervention. I will give them 5*****.

    I have dealt with all kind of companies, the real problem comes when people expect too much without willing to pay for it.

    • clevis1 says:

      My issue with Rapidsoft was that they over promised and only later said they were unable to deliver. Things may have since improved but my experience was still very bad.

      I cannot believe they were able to deliver very difficult mobile apps for you with a 5 star rating. The code I received at the end of my dealings with them was horrible. It was not only a mess visually but full of obvious errors. In terms of quality of software engineering I’d give them a 2/10. It was just amateur work.

  5. Disgusted says:

    Hi Christian,
    Sorry, but you were duped. The post above by Bill Price was actually sent by Brijesh Kumar of Rapidsoft Systems. It’s unfortunate that he feels the need to sink this low, but this is who he is.

    Take care.

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