What is Involved in a Custom Software Project?

JP Lessard June 7, 2016

Here’s what to expect when commissioning your own customized software.

When most people think of software, they think of a boxed product like Microsoft Word, the default word processing software application for most individuals and institutions. SalesForce, Quickbooks, and Photoshop are other software options that are often purchased for more specialized use.

Custom software is the antithesis of those boxed software products. When you take on a custom software project, the point is that you’re not just using a CD or a downloaded file to run an application on your computer; you are working with an experienced company to develop software that works specifically for your individual needs.

If you’ve never commissioned custom software, the experience will be a new adventure. Don’t be afraid: we think the process should run smoothly! Here is what to expect when going through a custom software project.

Spend Lots of Time Planning

Your current software is inadequate for your needs, and you’ve been planning what to do about your issue for a while now. Finally, it has become a make-it-or-break-it challenge. You NEED a way to fix your software issue ASAP, so you are commissioning software development.

If you want a system that works differently than what you have now, you need to plan for what you need so you don’t end up with the same thing in a different package. Ask yourself: What do you have now? What have you tried before? What does your ideal solution look like?

At this point in the process, it’s also important to determine what you need right now and what can wait. As you’ll see later, your software will evolve and change, and functionality can be added at a later date. What do you need it to do now that will make your processes and systems better?

Don’t forget to involve others in your planning, especially your staff. The people who will work with the software day in and day out likely have insights into what functionality would increase productivity and give your business a competitive edge.

Talk to the Experts

When you commission custom software, you are basically hiring management consultants. Instead of working with your staff or your books, they are working with your software and systems. If your company has worked with management consultants before, you’ll be able to picture the relationship with your software vendor, and you’ll already know the way to vet companies you’re considering hiring.

You may be wondering if you should hire an additional staff member (or two) and have your internal IT department handle software—and if that would save you money over commissioning software through a dedicated technology company. In many cases, IT departments don’t specialize in software development, and hiring a single developer won’t yield the results you want quickly or even as accurately as you’re expecting. A software development company who has experience customizing projects in your industry is likely the best choice.

Once you hire experts, get to know the team. Do you have a direct contact you can call when you need them, or do you always get routed to someone else? Who do you go to for questions? In addition to a project manager, you should know the developers on your project and feel that they can answer your questions about the functionality and the final product. You should also know there is a team working for you— and you specifically.

Launch Your Beta Version

Almost everyone gets nervous as the launch date approaches. Does the system have the functionality you want? Will your staff actually like it and use it? The only way to alleviate your fear is to launch your beta version.

At this stage, software installation will be complete, and you’ll also get onsite or over-the-phone guidance on finishing the installation and updates on your end.

This version will be fully tested by trained beta testers and fully functional—ready to work from day one. The best test, though, is when your own users get to further test the system and provide feedback based on exactly what they need and how they use it.

The reason the beta stage is so important is because it’s the best way to plan for the updates in the next step.

Deploy Frequent Updates Early in the Software Lifecycle

After the beta launch of your software, you will inevitably want to add some additional functionality. For the first few months after release, these updates will occur at least once a week, and more often every few days.

Your software consultant should be in constant communication, obtaining feedback from those at your company that may be necessary to make your software truly custom. The reason you went with custom software in the first place was to create a system that completely meets your needs. A boxed solution is either missing functionality or has too many unused elements to be an effective option. Your project manager will work with you at this stage to identify any bugs in the system or staff desires for functionality while maintaining user experience.

Continually Improve and Adapt

While your weekly updates may become more infrequent in the future after your software is fully optimized, your software isn’t really done. It’s always adaptable, which is part of the benefit of a custom software project. In the coming months and years, your software can pivot to adapt to new changes in technology, best practices, and industry competition.

Finally, get ready for your software to give you a competitive advantage. Whether your solution gives your staff increased productivity or allows customers to better interact with your company, custom software sets you apart from the competition.

Fulfilling your software dreams

 

Unlike purchasing off-the-shelf software, you aren’t just buying a product when you commission custom software: you’re embarking on a journey. Once you’ve begun your software project, we’ll keep working with you to make sure your software remains the best way to fulfill your technology needs. We can add elements, optimize user experience, and troubleshoot any issues.

At the same time, we’d love to develop a comprehensive software technology plan for your business. If your HR department needs a candidate portal, you likely have other business functions that can be addressed with customized software.

With over 8000 projects under our belts (and an over 99% implementation rate against an industry average of 87%), we have experience helping companies develop a comprehensive vision – not just for their software design, but for how software can help their business grow and thrive.

Miles Technologies has developed and honed the custom software process for small and medium-sized businesses based on years of research and experience, and, of course, our dedicated and talented team of over 160 technology experts. Contact us to find out how we can help you accomplish more for your business today.





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