That’s not easy when there are so many moving parts and points of failure, and such a lengthy development life cycle.
Delays, cost blowouts and frustration are common with poorly managed custom software development projects.
So, we’ve delved into our knowledge base built up over the past 13 years of designing, developing, testing and implementing bespoke software to compile the following list of tips to help you navigate the process.
By following these eight tips for custom software development projects, you’ll overcome the most common pitfalls and be well set for success…
Understanding the software development life cycle
Before we get into the tips, it’s important to understand the entire software development life cycle.
This life cycle includes a series of defined stages, through which a software project must pass as it is developed and released.
Software is never simply “set and forget”. New versions and updates may pass through this cycle to ensure that the software continues to remain on track as it evolves.
These stages may vary slightly depending on the industry but remain fairly consistent regardless of the type of software project undertaken:
- Requirement analysis
- Requirement analysis
- Software development
- Software testing and quality assurance (QA)
- Deployment and evaluation
While these stages form the heart of any software development process, they don’t guarantee success.
For that, you need not only the requisite technical and project management skills but also a strong service element if the project is outsourced to custom software developers. How the development team communicates and interacts with the client is often what differentiates top software developers from the rest.
So, if you’re looking to outsource your software development project to an offshore team, make sure that they cover not only every stage of the software development life cycle but can also boast a track record that demonstrates a strong service mindset beyond the technical requirements of the project.
It’s not always easy to find such tech partners but if you know what to focus on in a successful custom software project, it should be easier to narrow down the candidates and reduce your risk…
8 tips for a successful custom software project
1. Fully understand the goals and requirements of the software
It sounds obvious but understanding what the software is designed to do (and for whom) is the first step in any development project.
We have listened to customers requesting a specific type of software that would not necessarily accomplish their goals or may hinder progress toward other wider business goals. After consultation, we recommended a different path that better served their needs.
So, once you understand the goals and the bigger business picture, you can start considering the details like the functionality required, mobile/web/desktop applications, and the best platform and programming language to achieve the desired results.
2. Find the right tech partner to deliver what you need
Assuming you don’t have the in-house resources to manage the software development project alone, the key decision you make will be the tech partner you choose.
You have a vision for your product and the tech partner’s job is to understand this vision, assess the scope of the work, and manage the project from start to finish.
That’s quite a commitment for an offshore development company, so you have to find a team that is willing and equipped to form a long-term relationship and manage every stage from needs assessment and ideation through design to development, testing and deployment.
The team you work with should be experienced and have a proven track record of managing the specific type of project you need (preferably in the same industry).
During the “discovery” phase, they should be able to assess the initial functionalities required, the platforms, the target devices, the target audiences, the available budget, and the project completion timeline.
Based on the specific requirements, the development team generally creates a preliminary prototype of an application or product with an estimate of the timeline and budget involved. This process can also help identify the risks involved in the project.
Both parties can then assess the feasibility of the software product and make any iterations before signing a formal agreement that outlines the terms of cooperation and the expectations of both parties before planning the development process.
3. Rigorous planning and preparation
Most people underestimate the time it talks to plan and prepare before the development stage begins.
Thorough planning helps the information flow efficiently from the start and ensures that your in-house people and the development team remain focused on the main goals. It should be integrated into the overall project plan.
Mistakes should be expected but if your project has been planned well, unanticipated issues will be like simple speed bumps that can be navigated without jeopardizing the overall success of the project.
Experienced developers will take ownership of the project and understand that taking shortcuts in the planning and preparation stage can come back later to bite them.
4. Continuously assess progress throughout the development stage
Continuous assessment of the progress of your software project should be maintained through objective oversight.
This will help you identify potential red flags early on, allowing you to intervene and correct situations before they threaten the integrity of the overall project.
Frequent meetings between the development team and your key in-house people/person can identify roadblocks and implement potential time-saving solutions as the project progresses. Think of these meetings as regular “health check-ups” for your project.
Experienced developers will suggest solutions to unexpected issues and improvements along the way, customizing and refining the project as required.
5. Maintain transparent communication and reporting
Clients should not be caught up in every detail of the project but do need to know what’s happening at each stage,
An experienced custom software development team should, as part of the collaboration process, provide regular reports and status updates to clients during the project implementation stages — not simply at the end of each stage.
Open and transparent communication channels will help to avert misunderstandings and general hiccups and maintain alignment between stakeholders throughout the project.
6. Remain agile in approach
Agile project management is a strategy used in many bespoke software development projects. It is well suited to delivering a software product with an extensive life cycle and requiring a highly collaborative and complex process.
An agile approach helps you maintain adaptability — a necessary quality given how software projects can evolve in many different ways when the development stages get underway.
Using modern project planning and management tools and being able to adjust and iterate as you go along is important for keeping a project on track and on time.
7. Test your software and tweak it as necessary
Once a project milestone has been met, testing is an essential step. A one-stop-shop custom software development team should be able to handle the necessary testing and quality assurance (QA) for you.
Your developer should place the end product in a solid testing environment, perform manual tests, prepare automatic tests, and simulate the behaviour of potential system users similar to the real user experience.
You should then have access to the full documentation of the testing process, ensuring that you can release the product with confidence and peace of mind.
8. Be open to improvements after deployment
During the deployment phase, apps should be published to Google Play and the App Store. Application installers should be developed for desktops/laptops and internet systems installed on clients’ servers.
It is important that your developer creates software compatible with different operating systems and platforms and be prepared to tweak and evolve the software even after its launch.
Very little stands still in tech and the “final version” of your software is not really a final version.
Sometimes, it’s best not to aim for perfection from the start and simply release a functioning version of the software before feedback and further testing prompt improvements “in the field”.
As your users’ needs evolve, so will your software. Industries, competitors, technology and government policy also evolve: these are all good reasons to remain flexible and adaptable after your software is launched.
Find a trusted bespoke software development partner
Even with the most stringent planning and preparation, custom software development projects rarely go in a straight line from the start to finish.
However, by working with experienced and trusted outsourced software development partners, you’re more likely to follow best-practice project management strategies and minimize risks and delays.
The above eight tips can help ensure that your project is delivered on time, within budget and with minimal unwanted surprises.
If you’re considering a custom software development project, please contact the knowledgeable, experienced and approachable team at Milo Solutions.
We align custom software development projects with the overall business direction and add real value to each business we work with.