The need for custom software can be as small as a website add-on or as complex as CRM Development. Custom software projects can be pretty complex, but the discovery and planning phase is without question the most exhaustive (and most important) of them all.
Custom Software: Getting Started
Considering a custom software project for your company or brand? Proceed with caution.
For starters, custom software brings a lot of risk for businesses--risk that may not be necessary. Many times, off-the-shelf software options offer a better solution to a business’s needs than custom software might.
If you’re considering custom software, it’s important to research off-the-shelf options, try them out and make a list of strengths, complaints and grievances that you have for each one. This will help you not only learn more about what you’re looking for, but it will also inform and justify your decision to opt for custom solutions. You can also bring this information to your lead web developer and communicate your desires more effectively.
Custom Software: Discovery and Planning
Building custom software is a lot like building a custom home.
There are a wide range of options, a variety of add-ons and trims, a number of capabilities, etc.
You wouldn’t want to end up a 6-bedroom house when you only needed two bedrooms, right? The same goes for custom software when deciding what you need and what you should leave out.
Before delving into all of the details, you’ll want to sit down with your developer, map out a project plan, and discuss constraints like timeline, budget, and functionality. Each of these things affects the other--it’s important to have them established before moving forward.
Once you have these base-line elements in place, you’ll want to begin the process of fleshing out the details and making sure that your expectations are both realistic and documented.
On the other side of discovery, you should have a specification document, or a project plan or charter. This document is like your home’s blueprint. It’s also the scope, and will serve as a legal document that defines what you are paying for and how your product will be delivered to you.
Custom Software: What Should You Know Before the Discovery Phase?
As you enter the discovery phase of your custom software’s development, there are a few things you should know.
One of the hardest concepts for many newcomers is the idea that no piece of custom software is ever truly finished. Technology is always changing (hopefully improving) and code standards are constantly updated. To keep up with these changes, your software has to be continually changed and improved, as well.
It’s not as simply as investing in a piece of custom software and moving on. If you don’t maintain your application and plan for updates, you’ve essentially given that expensive software an expiration date.
It’s not only your software that will requires updates and improvements as time goes on. Your expectations as a user will need to evolve, as well. As your users interact with your software over time, they may find ways to improve it. Listen to them.
In short: go into the custom software process with a mindset of continual improvement and evolution. It’s not set-it-and-forget-it. It’s an ongoing process that must change and move with your users, technology and time.
MVP and Agile Development
The coupling of MVP Development (also known as Minimum Viable Product Development) and Agile principles has become the standard approach in the custom software world for good reason.
The combination of these two systems allow teams to focus on smaller units of work, delivering agreed-upon iterations of the product over time. One of the biggest reasons for taking the agile approach is the nature of how plans change over time in custom software. In any business, priorities can shift as quickly as the span of an afternoon. Agile development embraces the flexibility needed to adapt with those inevitable shifts.
A Partner You Trust
Finding a development partner you can trust may be the most difficult part of your custom software journey. Don’t be afraid to ask for references and examples or to verify the information you’re given. Just because you aren’t a software developer yourself doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn more about the best practices and industry standards. A great partner will be glad to help you navigate that terrain.
If you think Plan Left might be a good fit for your custom software project, don’t hesitate to reach out.