If you have never participated in a custom software development project you may be wondering what to expect during the process. New experiences can bring uncertainty and concern, but custom software development projects don’t have to be intimidating. If you are not sure about where to start, then this brief assessment of how to approach the project and what to expect during the process will help you get your feet wet. At Dobler Consulting, we wanted to take the mystery out of the process with this simple guide to approaching a custom software development project, including some tips to bring to the table to expedite the process.
Custom Projects are Customized – Remember, a custom software development project is a unique experience. Each project will be tailored to the needs of the client and the software. One of the benefits of working with a professional development team is the expertise and flexibility they bring to the project. Be sure to openly discuss any concerns about timeline and any business practices (end of year, quarterly reports, etc.) that will be impacted by the project completion.
The Basic Steps – In any custom software project there are some basic project components that will be consistent. The general framework is as follows. Remember, one of the great benefits of a custom project is the flexibility, which means this framework is a guideline, but each project will be customized to the needs of the client and the requirements.
- Initial Meeting – The initial contact may be over the phone or face to face, but they should establish a communication rapport between the client and the developer. This meeting establishes the broad strokes of the business problem you are addressing and some simple scope assessments. The purpose of this meeting is to assess your compatibility with a prospective developer, so pay attention to communication during this meeting to make sure you will maintain a comfortable working relationship.
- Requirements – The first major phase of a project is the requirements gathering. This typically lasts between 4-8 weeks and assesses all aspects of your business requirements, software scope, boundaries, rules, and inputs. At the end of the requirements session you and the development team will have a good understanding of what the software will look like, and you will be able to estimate the overall cost of the project within about 10%. This doesn’t mean everything is fixed in stone at this point, but the overall picture should be clear.
- Prototype – After the requirements session, if you are comfortable with the project cost estimate, the next step will be a software prototype. These are non-functional “wireframes” of the software that will help all parties visualize the software to make sure expectations are clear. These click-through visualizations can show UI and functionality with impressive accuracy. These prototypes are much easier to change than coded software, so it is a valuable step in the planning process to ensure that everyone is on the same page.
- Phased Development and Implementation – Different development shops use various development methods that have very little bearing on the client’s side of the equation. More important that Agile vs Waterfall, is when you are going to start using your software. At Dobler Consulting, we develop and implement our custom software in phases so that you can start using the process enhancing, cost-saving benefits of the software as soon as possible. The development schedule is determined based on which pieces can most quickly bring you the most value. Each phase is implemented as soon as it is ready so that you can start working the new tools into your process right away.
- Turnover vs Support – We understand that things are constantly evolving, and your software needs are no exception. After the conclusion of a custom software project, ongoing maintenance, software support, and enhancements help to ensure that your software continues to provide the most value to your company. One of the best parts about commissioning a custom software project is the confidence of working with a trusted team who can be there to support the software as your business continues to grow and evolve. If you decide to maintain and support your new software in house, our team will take you through a full walkthrough of all aspects of the software. A true “under the hood” look at the components. However, instead of in-house support and maintenance, our team offers ongoing maintenance packages that ensure your software is continually maintained for optimum performance.
Ask Questions – If you have any questions about points discussed during any of the meetings be sure to ask for clarification from your development team. We are here to help you through the process and to make sure you go away with the best product for your circumstances. That is why it is essential to ask questions, communicate regularly, and be comfortable throughout.
Dobler Consulting LLC is a leading provider of database services, premier software development, and information technology support, servicing clients ranging from small businesses to FORTUNE companies across multiple industry verticals. To learn more about Peter Dobler and Dobler Consulting, visit our website: DoblerConsulting.com, or visit us on Facebook or on Twitter.