As the project initiator, and the one who funds custom software development, it stands to reason that the customer is the most crucial part of the development process, and why the Custom in software development is for Customer.
Custom software development means taking a customer’s idea and creating a product that they love.
This sounds so easy in words, but in practice, it isn’t. It isn’t just development that is required, but a whole host of other project related steps that need to be followed to reach a successful end.
The first and last task, and all other tasks in between must ensure that the customer is happy.
Firstly, why would you want custom software built?
There are many reasons, including that it is:
- Bespoke – tailored to fit the needs of your business.
- Scalable – custom software is more scalable than off-the-shelf software packages. When your business grows, your developer can continue to maintain the program.
- Cost effective – developing custom software will prove beneficial in the long run. In addition to no licensing of extra hardware, custom software does not require constant change or development and can be used without any investment for a long time.
- Integration – custom software development can operate with the software packages your business already uses.
Now that you have decided that you want some custom software built, you need to get the project started.
Define the project cost and timeline
Before development begins, you need to clearly define the following:
What cost implications are there for the customer?
How long will the development take? Obviously you need to be realistic in the time needed to develop a quality product, but you also need to take heed of the time requested by the customer. A compromise will probably need to be reached.
Control cost and scope changes
It’s easy to let software development costs run out of control. There are always more ideas that come up as a product evolves about how it might be improved and how it might be expanded. This can easily result in projects that continue indefinitely with escalating costs.
A fixed-cost, variable-scope approach works best to stop this runaway train. This means that the cost and timeline of the project is fixed at the outset.
Aside from controlling costs, this allows the customer to plan related activities, like product launches and marketing campaigns, around a fixed release date.
The scope is variable, because as the product is delivered incrementally, the customer has the flexibility to change requirements for any features not yet developed as no effort has been expended on these.
This allows the customer the flexibility to re-prioritize based on changing circumstances by re-ordering the product backlog according to expected return on investment (ROI) within the fixed cost and fixed time available.
Because highest ROI features are built first and completed before any effort is expended, the customer is assured of optimal ROI from the project as a whole. When the release date is reached, the final software is delivered and as each increment included working software, this will be a usable iteration of the software that the customer can implement and use in a productive environment to start realizing the returns on development investment.
At the end of the project, the customer can then decide whether further development in additional features would be warranted by doing a simple cost-benefit analysis.
Importantly, this approach requires discipline to stick to the agreed timeline and cost. When this is done, pro-active management of scope through backlog prioritization as well as in the minutiae of detailed requirements that are agreed within each sprint becomes more informed and intuitive. This allows working product, without unnecessary features or bloated scope, and with a high relative ROI to be delivered within the agreed time and cost.
To ensure that your development is on track, keep in regular contact with your customer.
Show them the development of the software on the agreed upon dates. If you need more information from the customer, ask them.
Don’t waste time thinking you know what the customer meant – clarify and continue with the development. The customer will be glad that you made contact with them. They won’t be glad if you miss a deadline.
Potential potholes in the development process with in-house development
There are bound to be challenges during a custom development process, and it is important to be aware of them to resolve these problems. Outsourcing is a great solution if your in-house team is not equipped to handle a project.
The problems include:
- Skills shortageThe team working on the project could lack the knowledge required to complete the task. This is common when an in-house team begins work on a project, only to realise once they are down the line, do they lack the skills to complete it successfully.
- Lack of planningProper planning is a necessity. Often it isn’t clear what the client wants from the software solution, or they want too many unnecessary features – without a clear vision of what is needed, both time and money can be wasted.The custom software should add value to a company, so it is important to work with a clearly defined plan to create this custom software.
- Uncontrolled costsCost estimates need to be defined at the start with the custom software development team, with a buffer added for any extra features that crop up during development. These costs should be monitored closely, and are linked with the time of development – you don’t want lost track of either of these.
- Not enough communicationNot enough clear communication is a deal breaker when developing custom software.The development of custom software needs communication – clear and regular communication between the client and developer are crucial to reach a successful end product.The client should be involved at each step in the process, to ensure that the software is created correctly, that the milestones are reached and any new features can be added.
- Missed deadlinesThese can break a development project. Having a schedule in place and taking note of the previous bullet points will help you reach your deadlines.Having a dedicated software development team in place with a step by step project plan including a timeline of when features must be created, time for in-depth testing and rework, will help reach rather than miss your deadlines.
Why you should use Xpedia’s custom development service
- Tailormade software suits exact business needs
- Agile approach for rapid development giving you optimal return on investment
- Upgrade and development roadmap under your control
- Integration with existing systems gets more value from what you already have
For custom software development to be successful, you first need to work with a customer’s big ideas, handle their money and worry about a schedule.
You’ve got to get all of this right if you are going to build great software – which is delivering what the customer needs, on time and on budget.