Many custom software application projects fail. For large organizations, the ramifications can be incredibly uncomfortable to their bottom line. For small and medium sized businesses, an expensive tech failure could mean the difference between staying in business and closing up shop. So what does the average business owner need to know before they implement their own custom software application success? Let’s explore this below…
Behind the Velvet Curtain
Most people think that the average technology company is comprised of software engineers, tucked behind computers all day; hashing out code. Many people envision a cross between hackers and tech geeks, using computer genius to create amazing projects full of bells and whistles that will excite and amaze. This is only partially true.
Of course a major part of working with a technology company will be the tech. The code behind the software is vital to making all of the gadgets and gizmos function as needed. However, tech projects based solely on technology are bound to fail.
Failing to plan is planning to fail. Custom software application success comes from much more than just the ones and zeros. It is about the organization, communication, planning and management.
Software development, at its core, is about managing thousands of little details; implementing them into a software platform that offers the best solution to a problem for YOUR company. Success comes when you follow proven steps. What are those steps? Let us show you…
The Six Steps To Ensure Custom Software Application Success
Step 1: Get Your Internal Team Together
Custom software applications are an investment for any company. There is another, often forgotten, the cost associated with creating a custom software piece… the human capital required to make the project a success. Companies that devote the appropriate human capital internally have a much greater chance of success in terms of implementing their project on time and on budget.
Large projects may require a small team of people whose second focus, apart from their day job, is to assist with the development of the software. Depending on the size of the project, this could include a project owner and representatives from IT, marketing, etc. Given that these projects are often so customized to a company’s needs, it makes sense that this would require regular communication with members of the internal team to ensure success.
When companies fail to allocate a dedicated team to the project they often find lapses in communication lead to missed deadlines. Time is money! Create a dedicated internal team to communicate with the external software development company to save both.
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Step 2: Get Your Plan Together
Once the internal team is in place the next step is to pull together a plan for the project. Before you can really begin, your team should be able to answer the following questions about your project.
- What is the core purpose of the custom software application?
- What functionality does it need?
- The budget for the project?
- What is the timeline for the project?
The team should also narrow down the demographic for the software. The more information the team can pull together about who will be using it and how they will be using it… the better. This is good advice for both internal applications and external, consumer driven applications.
Constantly referring back to the application’s core function and users will help to prevent costly bells and whistles that may look cool, but have no practical application. Throughout the project you should always be able to point to any function and ask yourself, “How does this serve my core function?” and “How will this be used by my core demographic?”
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Step 3: Get Your External Team Together
Once the internal team has its initial plan put together, it is time to seek out the right software development company to help you tackle your project. This can be a big undertaking, but don’t let it scare you.
Go with the company that can answer ALL of your questions in a manner that makes you feel comfortable… before you sign a contract with them.
Neither the internal nor the external team can implement a successful software development project on their own. The right company will view the relationship as a partnership with your company. Take the time to get to know them. What does their track record look like? How many custom software application success projects have they been a part of? You need to know that they will be there in future years and they are not a fly by night operation.
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Step 4: Visualize Your Project
Once you have chosen your external software development team, the real fun begins. So much of the hard work in bringing a software project to fruition is about navigating the scope of the project, in the context of the timeline and budget. A good software development team should bring their own experience to the table, and apply that experience to your existing plan.
Putting together a detailed plan is important, but not the only step to ensure that everyone is on board. As anyone who has ever had any interaction with another human being can attest, sometimes people can have a very different perspective on the same thing. This is where visualizations can really help to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Some people may call it wireframing, while others may call it storyboarding. Whichever method you prefer… it is best to get all of your plans fleshed out. The purpose of this step is to map out every button, every form, every piece that will make up your custom software application. You might be surprised at the efficacy of this step in rooting out superfluous additions to your tech. It can also highlight any inconsistencies in your communication.
Take for example a contact form. It is simple enough to require one, but what does that mean? What type of information is required? Where does it need to go? What does it need to look like? There is a myriad of options and good communication ensures that the options make sense for the project and help to make sure that everyone understands why each option is implemented.
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Step 5: Take A Good Hard Look At Your Happy Minimum Product (HMP)
Together, the two teams should hash out the Happy Minimum Product (HMP), also know as an MVP – Minimum Viable Product. This is the product that everyone is happy with… that is not overly complex… that meets your business needs… without a ton of bells and whistles.
This is a deep dive into the plan that the internal team put together. This is a vital step that will help to set the expectations for both teams. Your internal team should come to the table with the target audience and the minimum functionality that your software needs in order to be considered successful. The external team can then apply their experience to architect the application, build an implementation plan and timeframe, and set responsibilities and deadlines for all involved.
After this step, the scope of the project should be absolutely clear. If step two is the rough road map, then step five is the detailed version with every pit stop, refueling and scenic point of interest mapped out along the way. At the end of this step, both teams should have a clearer picture of where to find success on the project with a map to guide the way.
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Step 6: Communicate. Communicate. Then Communicate Some More
This is where the rubber meets the road. Hit the gas and don’t let up. Make sure everyone is doing their part with weekly or biweekly check-ins and previews of the software. You shouldn’t allow a month to go by without checking the progress of the software against the roadmap to make sure you are on course.
The most important step throughout the development process to ensure custom software application success is open and clear communication. There is no detail too small, no perspective too unimportant. In order to successfully navigate the complicated job of custom software development, it is crucial to make sure that everyone is on the same page. Simple ideas can mean many things to many people.
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The Bottom Line…
Building software can be hard. It is the culmination of thousands of details coming together. Don’t let this scare you though… many companies before you have succeeded. The results can launch your company to the next level. Establish a team, put a plan together, select the right development partner flesh out your HMP/MVP and communicate, communicate, communicate.