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The Ultimate Guide to IT Outsourcing in Balkans: Uncovering the Hidden Gem

Updated: Jan 15

Introduction

In the ever-evolving landscape of the tech industry, businesses are constantly seeking innovative ways to stay ahead of the curve. One strategy that has gained immense popularity is IT outsourcing and I have a great gem for you - and it's not just because I am from the Balkans myself...


A geographical map of the balkan countries - named and highlighted in colours

I've heard so much about Romania, Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and even written a post on the best countries to outsource to - but I wanted to let you in on a much better kept secret, well, its not so much a secret anymore, because the balkans have been growing in popularity ever since about 2017.


In this comprehensive guide, we'll take a deep dive into the world of IT outsourcing in the Balkans and why it's becoming an increasingly attractive option for businesses around the globe.


The Rise of the Balkans

Once overshadowed by larger outsourcing destinations, the Balkans are now emerging as a powerhouse in the IT outsourcing realm. Countries like Serbia, Albania, Bosnia, and Macedonia boast a really talented pool of highly skilled IT professionals. The region's strategic geographical location, cultural compatibility, and a robust educational system have contributed to its rapid ascent in the outsourcing arena.


The following list cover countries you should consider outsourcing to in the Balkans:

  • Albania

  • Bosnia

  • Bulgaria

  • Croatia

  • Macedonia

  • Montenegro

  • Romania

  • Serbia

Map of balkans with flags

The Talent Pool

At the heart of any successful outsourcing venture lies a talented and skilled workforce. The Balkans shine in this department, with a growing number of IT professionals who are well-versed in cutting-edge technologies and methodologies. English proficiency is high, and many developers in the region have experience working with international clients, making communication a breeze.


Cost Efficiency

One of the primary reasons businesses turn to outsourcing is cost efficiency, and the Balkans deliver on this front. While the region offers top-notch talent, the cost of living is generally lower compared to Western Europe and North America. This translates to competitive pricing for high-quality IT services without compromising on excellence.


Cultural Compatibility and Communication

Successful collaboration often hinges on cultural compatibility and the ability to communicate. The Balkans boast a unique blend of Western and Eastern European influences, making them a sweet spot for businesses seeking a harmonious working relationship. The region's strong work ethic, dedication, and commitment to excellence align seamlessly with the expectations of international clients.


A note on the strong work ethic - they do like to work, they do like to boast that they are in IT and work for global corporations (inflating their ego a bit) - but they do also have a strong culture of coffees and smoke breaks.


You have to consider that while the culture aligns to more western values of capitalism and making their lives better, the old communist spirit is hard to defeat, and it lives on, in cafes and bars - let your team have more team buildings, take them out for paid lunches and coffees, give them a random day off, or close shop after a half day - they love that stuff.


Time Zone Advantage

Time zone differences can either be a challenge or an advantage in outsourcing. In the case of the Balkans, businesses can leverage the region's proximity to Western Europe. This enables real-time collaboration, quicker turnaround times, and the ability to address issues promptly, fostering a more agile and responsive working relationship.


Now this time zone advantage might disappear if you are in Asia or the Americas - but it does allow for continuous development, as your developers end the day, the balkan devs can start the day, handing over work, continuing with development and feature releases or support.


All of the balkan countries fall in either GMT + 1 or GMT + 2, meaning companies from all over Europe: Ireland and The United Kingdom, all the way to Finland and Sweden can work collaboratively in the same time zones and synchronously.


Legal and Regulatory Landscape

Navigating the legal and regulatory landscape is crucial when outsourcing to a new destination. The Balkans, with its commitment to aligning with EU standards, provides a stable and transparent legal environment. Intellectual property protection, data security, and privacy regulations are given utmost importance, ensuring a secure outsourcing environment.


Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia are already in the EU and follow all data governance and regulations strictly, with the remaining countries still closely adhering to these sames standards, as many multinationals and large corporates outsource their technology requirements to countries such as Macedonia and Serbia.


Many Ukrainian developers, seeking shelter from the war in their homeland, have moved across the border to Moldova and Romania, equally, Russians and their close ties to Serbia, have moved over to Serbia to escape the conflict - so do be sure to check where the developers are based and that they have the necessary access to internet and office space.


Overcoming Challenges

While the Balkans offer a plethora of advantages, no outsourcing destination is without its challenges.


As mentioned previously, there is a communistic culture, which, you could optimistically call social culture, where developers enjoy cafes, lunches, smoke breaks and socializing with the team. This can be frustrating to new comers in the region, but don't confuse time with productivity and output


Communication isn't much of a barrier when the developers are from a major city in these countries, but with software development companies trying to find lower cost talent and allowing for remote work, they often go to smaller cities - and this talent, while equally capable technically, does lack the comprehensive communication skills of the larger city talents.


The Balkans has recently started to grow, in the past 5 to 10 years, as a result, this industry is new and growing rapidly, this has lead to less 'honest' work done by outsourcing agencies.

  • I know people with 4 years of experience, suddenly appear with 6 years when presented to clients.

  • I've seen seniors take on projects and when trust is built and the client is less observant, the senior is slipped away to new projects, to have juniors take over, maybe not causing delays (but that happens too) but definitely creating less than ideal features and outcomes, that the client pays for later with refactors


The balkans can be a wild west when looking at smaller outsourcing agencies, but it is these smaller ones, that have the hungry, the passionate and the enthusiastic developer, that will change your business.


The big companies, like Endava and Seavus are safe bets, but you know the teams there are also less hungry, and will just deliver good quality - they're predictable


It's the smaller ones, from 20 to 80, these are the excellent firms, but they are much harder to find - search for reviews on places like Clutch.co or look at companies they've worked with and ask for recommendations and reviews - Stalk their Linkedin and employees, its really worth the effort - because they will cost less than the big boys, and offer way more quality and service


Conclusion:

As businesses continue to explore new horizons for IT outsourcing, the Balkans stand out as a compelling option. With a skilled workforce, cost-effective solutions, cultural compatibility, and a commitment to excellence, the region is poised to become a key player in the global outsourcing landscape. By understanding the nuances of outsourcing to the Balkans, businesses can unlock unparalleled opportunities for growth, innovation, and success.

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