Your Role as a Client in Software Development [When Outsourcing]

Let’s say you are building a house. You go to a construction firm; the Civil Engineer and Architect will ask you questions like, how many rooms you want for your house, how many floors, what kind of style etc. 

After penning down your basic requirements, the architect will need to know about your vision – how you want that home to look. Your vision of how you want your home to look will give the architect inspiration to build you your dream home. 

After the engineer has gathered the materials and the architect has made the blueprint – they will create a 3-D image of your home to give you a glimpse of how it will look. This is done so you get a chance to view your home and see if it is what you want it to be.  

Then hands-on work begins.

Analyzing the aforementioned – you can see that the role of the customer is obligatory in almost every step of the process. 

Similar is the requirement when a customer goes on to purchase custom developed software. Software developers are the Civil engineers and architects in this case. What the customer wishes for and has as a vision, the developers will convert to the product. 

Customer Software development is not a one-stop shop. The customer has to be an active participant in the development process:

#1 Information gathering

Simple economics says that there are no boundaries to desires/wants – in the case of custom software development, concrete expectations must be established. 

As the company that builds the software for you, our job is to ask the right questions from the development point of view. 

As the customer, one has to ensure that every requirement is highlighted and a detailed agenda is provided to the software development company. As a customer – you have to tell your developers what your vision and mission is with the introduction of this software for your business – why is it important for your business? How is it supposed to help? 

This allows for developers to identify the best road map to bring your requirements to life. 

#2 Outline of the project

When a customer reaches out to software development companies – the first order of duty is to evaluate and analyze the business structure and understand the  software requirements that are desired by the company (customer). Only after the customer gives the go-ahead, is the project taken any further.

In this stage, it is essential for the customer to get together with some members of the team – and even a few customers or vendors to evaluate if they’ll be affected and to think about the different ways you can use software to improve your business.

This stage is key to kicking off the software development on the right foot. If the customer doesn’t provide enough attention to the on-going process, then there are chances of things getting messy later on. If errors happen to creep out in such a preliminary stage, then it may lead to overhead costs, delayed delivery or worse, pull-outs.

As developers, we can help prompt ideas, thoughts, and help make your vision more concrete by understanding the requirement and putting all of those needs or concepts together in a way that works.

#3 Detailed Introspection

Here the customer must show the developer his foresight. Whether it be in person or on paper. The customer needs to explain to the developers why they are looking to invest in a custom software application and what purpose it’s meant to solve. It is useful if the customer makes detailed documentation of their foresight. 

Some things to consider as a customer: 

  • Document the ‘what’s’ and the ‘whys’.
  • Analyze the basic business structure, the services they provide, the achievements, and the pitfalls.
  • What is the challenge or problem the software application is solving?
  • An outline of the basic features required in the software.
  • The advantages/profits expected after the implementation of the software.

If the customer has a team of technical professionals in his/her company who are well-versed and have a good eye for detail for the required features, then we recommend for them to prepare documentation that covers the above mentioned points. 

#4 Management introspection

Every task or project should have a clear vision and outcome to work effectively and serve its purpose. 

When it comes to the development of a software application, the customer should clearly lay down the outcomes of the organization to the custom website development services providing company. 

The developers need to be able to get a thorough understanding of what the intended expectation is from the customer. 

In order to fulfill all the above process, much introspection is required in the root level i.e. meetings with the employees. They are the ones who will be able to give a more detailed analysis of the problems and also give their take on how they need to be fixed. 

#5 Types of features

As a customer you need to evaluate what features you seek out of the software application. 

There are two main types of requirements as far as a custom software development company is concerned: nonfunctional and functional. 

Functional requirements are features and functions that the user can see in the final product. They create the core functionality of the product and include operations users perform with the expectation of a specific output. 

Nonfunctional requirements are qualities users don’t necessarily see but that the client needs the product to have. These may include security, reliability, performance, flexibility, reusability, scalability, low cost, storage, accessibility, and so on. 

A customer needs to set a priority of what they want in their software based on their time and budget allocated to building a custom software. A few things to consider: 

  • “Must have” requirements: those that the product cannot operate without
  • “Should haves”: preferable features that expand its functions and are subject to debate among the client’s management,
  • “Could haves”: of less importance, good-to-have additions,
  • “Wish list” requirements: would be fun or innovative additions, but they are unrelated to the product’s core objective.

By having a clear priority on what’s most important for the functionality of the software development, a developer can structure a clearer plan to deliver the product at the earliest. 

#6 Assessment/ Feedback

Once a software development company is hired and the above mentioned initial tasks are carried out, a timeline is established by the developers.

During this timeline, the developers deliver many prototype models to the customer for their assessment and review. The aim is to make the customer go through various technical elements of the whole process and ask for an evaluation.

With every review of the customer, the project inches closer to completion. Active participation of the customer in this process makes the product meaningful.

Many new clients are very excited about the process of brainstorming new applications but aren’t as prompt when it comes to providing feedback. This leaves a software development team guessing about the best direction to take when moving forward.

The customer should use the review sessions to provide detailed and thorough feedback when reviewing design layouts, feature lists and beta versions of the software.

The more a customer has to say during the development process, the fewer revisions and delays will be left to deal with when the application is to be released.

With delays and set-backs, a customer has to keep in mind – the developers will have to redo the work correcting the errors and mistakes which have been made in the end product due to the negligence of the customer. As a result, extending the timeline and budget. 

Final Word

The saying goes “customer is king” and a king must know what he wants. The same goes for software development. It’s important for customers to actively take part in the process of development to ensure the investment you are making in the software improves your business needs. One can just hire a development team and say “get the job done – this is my business” – but the results may not be what the customer has in mind, leading to repeated corrections and delays in the launch of the application. 

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