There are significant advantages to be realized...which is the reason why they do it.
The question I get asked sometimes if smaller scale projects are worth while to warrant a visit.
The short answer it "Sometimes"..and it depends.
There are a few things which go into the evaluation of whether or not a visit can make a difference.
That travel in almost every case leads to second or even third world countries and cities which require connecting flights. As such the decision to travel requires a more significant investment as it relates to time and money.
Below are some of the considerations a small business owner with a smaller project might want to consider to decide if the trip is worth his/her time.
How long is the estimated time to completion of your project?
If the project is estimated to be completed within 6 weeks even a substantial overrun in time to completion might no be material to your business. If on the other hand estimated time to completion is 8 months..then a visit might make it more likely that the project will be on time.
How expensive is your project...and are you responsible for cost overruns ?
This might be the cardinal question...if your project is only 5k...even a 40 % cost overrun amounts to only a 2 k difference. From a financial cost/benefit analysis it might make no sense to visit. If on the other hand the project is spec'ed out at 100 k...a 40 % increase would add an additional 40 k in expenses. Avoiding the additional expense might make it worth your time to go.
When should you go and visit?
Assuming you have a time to completion numbered in months and a budget which, if there were a significant cost overrun, would make it economically feasible to plan a visit...you need to decide when you should visit. As a general rule..the earlier in the process you visit ..the better it will be. Your outsourced software development team will not get a lot of client visits. If you visit them you will l leave a definite mark on their thinking and they will be much more attentive to your needs for the remainder of the project.
Will my visit make a difference as it relates to schedule and costs?
The short answer is unequivocally ...YES. It will. I can assure you that there is a pretty good chance that you might be the only client visiting the developers that year. If you buy them a meal, perhaps some drinks...you can be assured that there will be a lot of goodwill created. The Goodwill will translate into more diligence as to your project, saving you time and money.
Do you have the time to go and spend at least a week with the team?
This consideration is something only you can decide. f you do have the time and like to travel to areas / cities which are usually not mainstream travel destinations...it might be a good idea.
Does it make financial sense to travel?
I briefly touched on it in consideration 2. There is obviously little point in spending 5k on travel if the total project is 5k. As such there is a relationship between travel expenses and expected benefits. There is though another way of looking at it...and a lot of companies are utilizing that strategy. An alternative way to look at the projects costs is to include travel expenses upfront in your calculation. The combined project cost and travel expenses then make up the Total Project Costs. If the total Project Cost is sufficiently below what onshore development will cost you..then u have found the economic justification for travelling to your Outsourcing Provider.
At the end of the day the decision to travel is an individual one every business owner needs to decide for him/herself. I can attest to the fact that it will be beneficial.
Some people like to travel...and some do not. I have a client which always makes it a point to travel overseas to visit the software development team. For him it is a vacation in disguise, fully tax deductible.
That reasoning might not appeal to other business owners...but if you do have the time and like to explore different countries..this is certainly one way to make it tax deductible. And this is often times all the motivation a small business owners need.