Many companies rely on out of the box software to run all, or at least many parts, of their business. As companies evolve, however, this software often cannot meet their needs to streamline workflows and improve productivity. Their complex business rules simply outpace their native out of the box software. They need something more robust to handle their workflows.
Custom software solutions are the obvious next step, but companies may pause at this option because of pain points that arise when creating or using custom software.
These pain points can come from different sides of a project — the project team or the business team. Both share the burden of challenges related to implementing custom software.
Pain Point 1: Unclear Communication
As a developer, my point of view primarily stems from the standpoint of the project team. Typically, we developers are not great communicators. This can be a significant struggle when working on large development teams that must communicate effectively during development. The struggle becomes magnified if your team is spread throughout many different time zones or includes offshore developers.
Solution: Work with Experienced Project Managers
Having a project manager familiar with the primary technology platform your project implements keeps lines of communication open and developers on task. Even better – ensure your project manager has a good understanding of the technical conversations that can occur amongst developers in the project team. If a project manager has a good technical understanding, they can provide key input to find solutions quickly and efficiently during squabbles between developers on how a project should unfold.
A knowledgeable project manager becomes even more of a necessity if the project is large and complex. These projects can create many headaches for everyone involved. As requirements are gathered and handed to the development team for implementation, the hope is a direct translation of requirements to logic. However, as project requirements expand and the project gains complexity, the singular list of project requirements can become too intricate for the developers to consume. Instead, the teams should break down requirements into several smaller, more manageable stories upon which to expand.
Breaking requirement lists into consumable stories allow developers to work on features simultaneously and rapidly release features.
Pain Point 2: Perceived Cost
Many businesses hear “custom software solution” and immediately worry about cost. Custom software can range from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars and can take anywhere from six months to multiple years to be fully implemented.
Solution: Tighten Up Estimation Early
A good ballpark estimate starts with a requirements-gathering phase and provides a range of best to worst case scenarios and therefore effort expected.
All stakeholders, or key decision makers, should meet and determine necessary features during this stage. If the ballpark estimate exceeds the desired project budget, stakeholders can review the defined requirements and identify features critical to a minimal viable product and those to implement at a later date. Making these decisions about requirements before the project moves to the development phase ensures the project stays on time and budget.
Pain Point 3: Perceived Project Length
Businesses also worry about how long they’ll have to wait for a finished implementation. Custom projects, no matter the industry, can stretch out over months. When companies decide they need a custom solution, they often need it right then and there and don’t want to wait months to implement it.
Unfortunately, shooting for the low end of the project estimate while also trying to meet deadline commitments is easier said than done.
As the development phase progresses, requirements often expand. As new features make their way into requirements, this “scope creep” inevitably pushes the estimated delivery timeline. Many of these issues stem from common perceptions about software development. For example, what may seem like a simple addition to project stakeholders can be a significant coding effort for developers.
Solution: Involve All Stakeholders
To eliminate scope creep and ensure critical features are included during the initial project requirements phase, involve all stakeholders from end-to-end of development. They have the best knowledge of how the process works and what they’re looking for.
Don’t forget about end users! Key decision makers may call the shots for project details, but the end users will vocalize their current struggles in the solution itself. They can help solidify the validity of the requirements defined by key decision makers. These team members can also expose any disconnect between back and front-end consumption of the product.
With their involvement, you can better plan for features that would typically require scope additions during development. This allows you to build a more complete scope of the deliverable project from the beginning. Their insight increases the accuracy of your project and timeline estimates and benefits everyone involved.
Investing in Custom Software
A custom software solution helps address many business needs that an out of the box software solution can’t. The investment requires a great deal of communication among everyone involved and discipline to stay true to set requirements.
Having a project manager streamline conversations between the project team and the stakeholders dissolves communication issues inherent with complex systems.
Identifying well-defined requirements gathered from all stakeholders prevents scope creep, project delays, and budget overages.
Don’t let these common pain points hold you back. Once you put these processes in place, you can tackle increasing efficiency in your business with custom software.
Have questions? Our team may be able to answer them and provide direction. You can start the conversation here.
Soliant Consulting develops custom software solutions for small and large organizations alike. Our team delivers custom web applications, Salesforce solutions, and FileMaker implementations to drive business growth.