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February 22, 2021

Spotlight on Vietnam:  A Software Outsourcing Market On The Rise

There’s a trick to crossing the street in Vietnam. You step off the curb and walk in a slow, deliberate manner to the other side, letting the traffic swarm past you like water flowing around a rock. It’s a very Bruce Lee  kind of experience.

There are eight million motorbikes in the capital of Ho Chi Minh and the amount people carry on them is extraordinary, whether it’s three or four family members or a pile of goods stacked up to the sky. The city is colorful and chaotic, but somehow it all just seems to work. That’s the Vietnamese way: smile, put your head down and get it done.

One of the fastest-growing economies in the Asia-Pacific region, Vietnam is relatively new to the global software outsourcing game, but it feels like a country on the move. Tremendous strides have been made relatively quickly, thanks to its expanding middle class, developing infrastructure and an economy that’s externalizing to primarily Western markets. Vietnam also has a uniquely strong economic and strategic relationship with Japan.

Before COVID-19 shut down the borders, I was in Ho Chi Minh (formerly known as Saigon) to visit three potential partners as part of the Accelerance vetting process, taking a close look at their operation and facilities, conducting interviews and validating English competency among staff in leadership and customer-facing roles.

Two of the companies were led by US expats, and run in a very familiar scrum or agile development style. One had only 50 engineers, while the other had a team of around 500, but both workspaces were open and well-lit, including the requisite kitchen and gaming areas. 

We partnered with both of them, although the larger one was later rolled into another company, which resulted in an operation too big and bureaucratic to serve our clients’ needs. When it comes to size, there’s a sweet spot we describe as big enough to scale, but small enough to care.  

The third company, run by a Vietnamese local, worked from a much less modern building and was priced considerably lower. The team’s English was extremely limited and their professional credibility was based almost solely on their various tech certifications (security, process and so on). Good for Asia-to-Asia compatibility, but not necessarily a good Asia to US approach. 

If you wanted a small software job done at a cheap price, they might be a viable option - assuming you have requirements and specifications detailed at the lowest level. But if you’re expecting to develop a collaborative cultural interchange, they would not be a good choice. That’s why we often look for outsourcing companies with Western leadership, because they understand the target market.

At Accelerance, we work with outsourcing partners all across Asia, and what we saw in Vietnam was consistent with our wider experience. The engineering teams were skilled, respectful and hard-working, but we didn’t encounter a lot of ad-hoc creativity or pro-active consultation. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, but you won’t tend to find a cocky Vietnamese tech leader saying, ‘No, this is the way you should do it.’ They’ll ask politely, ‘How would you like it done?’

We made the most of our brief time in this extraordinary country, visiting temples and historic sights on a scooter tour of Ho Chi Minh, stopping at an open-air market for pho (the fragrant noodle soup that’s become known as Vietnam’s national dish). 

But the real highlight was a full-day trip to the Mekong Delta, where we traveled by motorbikes, riverboats and bicycles – exploring a brick factory, a coconut grove where families processed every part of the fruit for value, and many small neighborhoods amongst the heavily forested inlets abuzz with daily life and commerce. 

Outsource with Confidence with Accelerance

Accelerance travels the world to simplify your search for the best offshore companies – and we’re impressed with what Vietnam has to offer. 

Visiting your software development team in person is invaluable to building a good working relationship. With international travel restricted indefinitely, you can have confidence that Accelerance has completed on-site vetting of all the partners in our global network as a key part of the certification process. Virtual meetings and collaboration tools also make it possible to work smoothly and efficiently across the miles.

If you’re interested in outsourcing your software development, contact Accelerance to find out more.

For the latest analysis on outsourcing opportunities throughout Southeast Asia and South Asia, check out our 2021 regional guide.

Andy Hilliard

As CEO, Andy leads and advocates for the globalization and collaboration of great software teams with companies in search of talent, innovation and a globally-distributed extension of their engineering function and culture. Andy founded the ground-breaking nearshore software development services company, Isthmus Costa...

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