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Outsourced Software Development: Everything non-technical founders need to know

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November 2, 2023

Outsourced Software Development: Everything non-technical founders need to know

A simple guide for ensuring consistent, secure code when outsourcing software development in your start-up, so you can focus on building your business. When standardising code development you must consider the developers hired along with building, testing and maintenance of the software.

Outsourcing work in a domain that you are unfamiliar with can be challenging. When building a company, your time is finite which means tasks can quickly lose priority on your never-ending to-do list. The benefits of developing secure software are often intangible until you’re attacked. As a non-technical founder, it is challenging to quantify the unknown, which may further discourage you from spending time to tackle the task. It may feel like outsourcing this is the most suitable solution, as you would be handing over the reins to a qualified professional. It is not that simple. Outsourcing software development presents a double-edged sword in that it provides you access to valuable skills and resources to aid growth whilst potentially introducing risk, in this case, security.

Finding talented code developers

When outsourcing work, is it crucial to create a standard for your start-up for any developers that join, getting an understanding of the critical elements of a secure software development lifecycle.

No two developers are the same and chances are they have worked in a variety of environments with different levels of security standards (or none at all). Whether you outsource to an individual or a company, you need to be sure the code produced will be both secure and easy to maintain long-term. You need to create an environment whereby developers (permanent, contractors and temporary staff) are required to work to pre-defined standards to promote consistency and accountability. There are several reputable methods of software development and maintenance that can be used for creating an internal standard for your company. Once you have an internally created standard, you can create a job specification that you can assess individuals/companies against, ideally with a technical developer. Very soon, it will become obvious who meets your standards.

Building secure code from the Start

Standardisation is extremely important from the start as it will determine how easy it is to maintain the code in the long run. The most effective security strategy is defense-in-depth. Standardisation can be applied throughout the code development lifecycle as a way of adding layers of security to your applications, making it more difficult for successfully code-based attacks. It is possible to adopt or tailor existing code development methodologies like the Microsoft Secure Development Lifecycle to your start-ups’ needs or create your own. The method chosen is not too critical but rather taking the time to create a baseline for incoming developers.

Following secure software development best practices from an application’s inception is the best way to lay the foundations for building a secure application. Retrospectively fitting code with security features is more complicated and more costly than implementing security at the start. To prevent this, ensure that applications are secure by design and that security experts are included at key points of software planning. Secure by design is an approach to cybersecurity where risk is considered throughout the planning process, thus creating a more secure final product.

Testing the Code

Once code is built, it is essential to test it thoroughly both internally and externally. Testing internally is good for getting the developers to ‘check their own work’ which inevitably provides a learning opportunity that can be embedded into the company’s internal processes, but, external testing is more objective. Similar to how external accountants would audit organisations as an independent entity. External testing provides your stakeholders (customers, cyber insurance providers, management) with the assurance that the code developed has met acceptable standards and gives you an objective viewpoint.

Maintaining the Code

Arguably, maintaining the code is one of the most important parts of a business since businesses undergo constant change. You need to internally create robust and well-documented change management processes to ensure that change occurs with minimal disruption and developers that are well-versed in rectifying issues related to the code. Having a robust change management process will ensure that even if your workforce changes, there is no drop in the quality of your code maintenance. Processes must also include service level agreements (SLAs) for applying software updates, it’s important that when updates are released they are applied as soon as possible.

Outsourcing code development should be driven by standards set by the company to ensure that developers are aligned with the company goals and risk tolerance. Through this approach, developers can be held accountable for the security of the code they produce. Security is everyone’s responsibility.

If you still have questions, get in touch with us and check out the resources below:

  1. Top 12 Software Development Methods – Click here
  2. Secure Software Development: Best Practices, Frameworks, and Resources – Click here
  3. What is CVSS and How is it Important – Click here
  4. Secure Development Lifecycle: The essential guide to safe software pipelines – Click here
  5. OWASP Top 10 – Click here
  6. Learnings from Outsourcing Failures
  7. 5 Companies that lost millions after choosing wrong IT outsourcing provider – Click here
  8. Top reasons why outsourcing software development fails – Click here
  9. Outsourcing Failures – Click here
  10. Why You Hear About IT Outsourcing Failures and Why It Can Work for You – Click here

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