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Success with custom software

Chief Technology Officer, ScienceSoft


Looking for software to solve your particular problem, you may surprisingly find that no out-of-the-box application suits your needs. But custom software seems a frightening alternative as heavy investments are inevitable. So, how can you increase chances for a successful outcome of your custom software project?

Success with custom software

Points to consider ordering custom software

To succeed with custom software, find out how you can influence the software development process. Study the following aspects that are under your control.   

Increasing outcomes

Custom software provides a good opportunity to improve your business outcomes provided you address the development process properly.

Start with prioritizing features you want to see in your software. It’s reasonable to implement the core features first, postponing those with lower significance. This way, you can release your product earlier and start benefit from it. After that, you may gradually add other features improving your software. By getting user feedback on the go, you will be able to avoid expenses on the implementation of unnecessary features.

It’s vital to integrate your new piece of software with the existing systems as much as possible. For example, you need new financial software, but your old system already includes digital payment processing. Integrating your custom software with the existing solution you save time and effort required for the implementation of a separate payment processing module.

Getting results quicker

Custom software development may take months or even years. Luckily, there are some ways to accelerate the development process to get the results quicker.   

Make sure your project follows an optimal software development model. The two most commonly used models are Agile and waterfall. Agile supports early product delivery by creating a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) with the core features necessary to satisfy users. The other features are gradually added in every iteration. Users assess the MVP and provide their feedback, which allows the project team to focus on improving the features most welcomed by them. Besides, Agile allows changing the software requirements easily at any project stage. The waterfall model is a good choice if you do not plan any changes to your project. Modifications are quite painstaking and time-consuming in waterfall, which may lead to late project delivery. At the same time, waterfall is easier to use. It’s a perfect choice for small projects where requirements are very well understood.

Define important project milestones and document them in the contract. A milestone represents a completion of a major step in the project that requires allocation of a certain amount of time, resources and effort. Suppose, you commissioned the development of your customer portal. Your project milestones may look the following way:

  1. Project started.
  2. Requirement gathering completed.
  3. Development completed.
    • Order placement
    • Order tracking
    • Claim settlement
    • Technical support
  4. Testing completed.
  5. Product delivery completed.

Set a target date for completing each milestone, and you will be able to control the project team’s performance. This is especially useful if the team works under the Time and Material (T&M) pricing model where the overall time they spend on the project is not fixed. Monitoring whether they manage to meet each milestone deadlines helps reveal any attempts to prolong the project flow.

Assuring sustainability

Sustainability implies that the software functionality you use today will be available in the future and will continue to be improved and supported in the future.

The first thing you should consider is the technologies your software is built on. To get a product that can be used without any significant investment for a long time, use technologies that will not get obsolete in 1-2 years. This way, you will avoid the necessity to revamp your software completely later on.

Choose a reliable vendor that is ready to provide you with support and maintenance from the technical team familiar with the development process of your product. They will assist you in resolving any troubles quickly and efficiently. On average, software lives for 5-10 years, so fix the corresponding maintenance period in the contract.

What may cause troubles to your project flow is poor code quality. It makes testing and bug fixing longer. More than that, adding new functionality becomes more difficult and error-prone with low-quality code. Besides, new developers will find it more difficult to get started. So, discuss the code quality you need for your project with the project manager before signing the contract.

No matter how capable your project team may seem, you should avoid vendor lock-in. Keep ownership of the source code. This way, if you change the vendor, the new vendor will not have to start the development process from scratch.  

Reducing costs

Although software development costs may grow far beyond budget, there are some ways to control them.

The longer the project flow, the higher software development costs. So, make sure the project team chooses an optimal software development model and meets the project milestones to do their best to keep to the planned project duration.

You can also reduce your expenses commissioning software development to the companies located offshore, for example, in Europe or India, as their employees usually have lower labor rates compared to those of the US specialists.

Make sure the project team devotes enough time to assuring the software quality throughout the whole development process. Bug fixing at earlier stages is significantly cheaper than doing it at the last project stages.    

On top of all, ask the developers to design the software to work seamlessly with the hardware you possess. This will help you save on extra hardware costs.

Mitigating risks

You should address several risks while ordering custom software.

One of them is lack of budget, which may be caused by numerous reasons. For example, too many features may be missed at the beginning, which results in low software value. Trying to improve it, the project team may face a shortage of funds to implement the required functionality. The way out is wise financial resource distribution and reserve funds for unforeseen expenses. Besides, ask the project team to adhere to the budget allocation approach you’ve chosen from the very beginning.

As for technical risks, beware of systematic redistribution of the developers to tasks unknown to them. This may cause errors in the code and impede project flaw. So, make sure that the specialists’ redistribution in the project team is reduced to a minimum. Otherwise, the project structure, source code, and documentation should be transparent enough to make it easier for developers to switch to their peers’ tasks.

The project team may lack the necessary competence and experience in the customer’s domain. This may result in low software quality and prolonged project flow. To timely reveal the project team’s incompetence, you should monitor their performance by setting milestones and checking whether the team is able to meet them. You should also fix in the contract how often the developers will provide you reports on their progress on your project or apply any other means you consider appropriate for making the vendor responsible for their performance.

Remember to always document your requirements to the software. Otherwise, you risk not getting what you requested and having no grounds for claims afterward.

Summing up

To make your custom software bring you benefits as soon as possible, prioritize features and ask the developers to integrate the custom software with the solutions you already have. To get results quicker, chose the software development approach that suits your project best, setting milestones to control the project team performance. To make your software sustainable, make sure that it is based on modern technologies and fix maintenance period in the contract. To reduce project costs, pay particular attention to the project team meeting the time limits and assuring software quality throughout the development process. Do not neglect risk mitigation measures as they can help prevent budget overrun and ensure high product quality. Address these issues systematically to ensure smooth flow of your software development project.

Need to deal with a challenge in software planning, development or maintenance? Leverage the qualified assistance of our specialists to get the results you aspire to.