While there are a vast number of tools and software titles out there that cover a huge swath of business needs, it is entirely possible that there isn’t one that precisely suits your unique use case. Maybe you just need a tool that works with the other applications you rely on that helps you automate your daily tasks.
It is due to these kinds of situations that we offer custom application development.
Let’s discuss a few questions that you should ask any provider you’re considering for your own custom application needs.
Ironing Out the Details
There are a few important questions that you should ask any prospective developer, just to sort things out in terms of your expectations.
1) How will the project’s timeline be established?
Whatever the timeline is ultimately settled to be, it is important that the expectations are put in place from the very beginning. For instance, when the project should be completed, and whether or not this schedule is flexible to account for changes. This is also an important time to outline how the timeline will impact the cost of the project, in terms of the danger of scope creep.
2) How much time is available for the project?
Deadlines are of a crucial importance to any project, particularly one intended to streamline processes or otherwise benefit a project. You need to find a provider that can both deliver a quick turnaround or sustain an extended project over time—and that will keep you apprised of any changes that impact the timeline you’ve settled on.
3) Do you have any specializations, in terms of technology?
Without getting too deep into the weeds, there are a few different programming languages that could be used to develop an application. You want to be sure that your developer understands your needs and is able to design your application using the language that will most effectively meet them.
4) Who will own the software, and who will maintain it?
Just like any software or application, one that you have developed for your needs will likely need updates over time. You need to know that the developer will be there to assist you in maintaining and improving it. Without this maintenance, the software could ultimately fail or become a significant security risk, so it is important that such maintenance is carried out.
You also need to know a few things about the intellectual property surrounding the application. Namely, who owns it, and how exclusive that ownership is. Many software developers have a policy of keeping some license to the software they’ve developed, as it enables them to use different elements of it to improve later projects. While this will not likely influence you unduly, it is information that you may want to know.
Determining What You Need
Your developer should also be prepared to answer a few key questions to help shape the application they are developing for you, such as:
5) What is the intention behind the software?
Or, in other words, what problem or shortcoming is the software application meant to solve or alleviate? In order to fulfill your needs, your software developer needs to understand what those needs are. Bonus points if the developer helps you narrow the focus of the software to your core issue, as scope creep can easily complicate these projects.
6) Have you ever developed a similar software tool in the past?
Let’s face it—it’s better to seek help from someone with prior experience solving the problem you’re facing. When you’re seeking assistance, ask your prospective provider if they’ve ever tackled a request like yours. Similarly, the more experience a provider has in your industry, the better handle they should have on your professional needs.
7) Is this problem rooted in software—and if so, does a better solution exist?
While we certainly don’t want to discourage you from trying to solve your business’ challenges through technology, it is important that we acknowledge that not all of your issues will be software-based. Some problems may not be able to be programmed away. So, if there’s an underlying issue present, a new application might not be the right solution.
Furthermore, even if the problem can be solved through an application, it may not have to be if someone else has already done so. If a solution already exists, you may as well utilize that… especially if the existing solution does it better.
8) What impact would this software have on operations moving forward?
This one is pretty simple: what will the long-term benefits of this project be for your company? Any software or application that you have developed should have reaching benefits—otherwise, what’s the point?
9) Will there be a designated point of contact for my staff to reach out to?
Communication is key throughout the application development process, particularly between you and the developer you’re working with. To this end, it is helpful for you to have a single point of contact to work with whenever you need to reach out to them so one person is managing all of your needs. This is one of the big benefits of working with us as a managed service provider—we handle all the interactions with your vendors that you would otherwise need to deal with.
Vetting a Company
Of course, you also need to be sure that your developer follows policies that will lead to a reasonable service experience and ROI for you. For instance:
10) What does your success rate look like?
When you’re selecting a provider, it is important to check their track record. Ask to see projects that they have completed before, ask for references. Treat it as a sort of a job interview, and be discerning about your candidates.
11) How communicative will you be?
You may have noticed a pattern by now, but to reiterate it: you want your chosen developer to be as communicative and forthcoming as possible. You want to make sure that they keep you apprised of the status of your project at every step, and won’t hesitate to get in touch with you as the need arises.
12) How do you handle your project management?
On a related note, you’ll likely want to work with a provider that subscribes to agile project management—particularly as we’ve been promoting open communication so much in this blog. This feedback-based approach will be key to getting the outcome you want from your project.
Ask us about our custom application design services!