When you finally decide to invest in a new software application for your company, one of the most important decisions you’ll have to make is whether to use a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) product or engage a software development company to create custom software for you.
There are many advantages to custom software. It’s made to perform precisely to your organization’s specifications with no superfluous features. You have complete ownership of the application and it’s built to be easy to scale for your future needs. But there are disadvantages too, including the cost and time involved in development.
Additionally, when you contract a software development company, you must ensure that the completed project meets your expectations. Some software delivery metrics you might expect include functionality, usability, and maintenance. But there are others you may not have considered, such as responsiveness and scalability. Unlike many software developers, BairesDev holds itself accountable for a wide range of metrics, including those described below.
Simply put, the custom software you’ve just invested so much time and money on should reliably perform the functions you need it to. While user testing and project meetings should give you an idea of functionality prior to project completion, you should measure the functionality of the finished product against the original goals set out during the planning phase.
For example, if you agreed with the developer that your software would be able to run customizable reports, yet the final application only allows users to issue standard reports, then the end product doesn’t provide the functionality you expected.
Speed and Ease of Use
The application must be quick enough for users to perform the functions they need to execute with no delays. This is especially important if one of the big reasons you’ve hired a developer to create custom software is that your company is having efficiency issues. The last thing you want is for your new application to slow you down even more.
Additionally, the user interface (UI) must be accessible and intuitive, meaning users should find the application easy to navigate. Ideally, they should be able to use it with little to no training. Telltale signs of poor UI include buttons in awkward locations, links that go to unexpected destinations, and difficulty with navigation.
Chances are that you and the other users of the app will access it through different devices, so it has to look and work great in all of them. That means a website may look very different on a laptop screen versus a smartphone. Responsive design isn’t just about looks, though. It’s also about usability, such as when a field worker needs to be able to easily input data while an office worker using the same application must be able to easily run reports.
The following video describes factors software developers consider when creating a responsive design:
You pay a lot of money for custom software development, so you don’t want it to be obsolete in a couple of years, forcing you to go through the process all over again. Rather, the application should be able to grow and expand along with your business. The more scalable the software, the greater its value and cost savings over time.
For example, a business may have a need to run analytics from certain sources. As it grows, the number of sources may also increase, and the software must be able to accommodate those additional input streams.
All of the above issues should be checked with testing, not just when the project is complete, but throughout it. Testing is critical, especially if the software is customer-facing. By providing applications or websites that are secure and easy to use, you contribute to a positive customer experience (CX) which, in turn, boosts your reputation and customer loyalty.
On the other hand, if faulty software is part of what you offer, your reputation and sales can quickly diminish.
By the time you make the decision to hire a custom software developer, it’s likely you need the work done yesterday. This item is one of the most important software delivery metrics because a delayed or over-budget project can have a negative ripple effect on your business. Prior to starting work, your developer should create a high-level project plan so you can see the completion date as well as important milestones.
Also critical is that it’s completed within the budget agreed upon at the start of the project. As you seek a custom software developer, look for one that is willing to provide a fixed-bid quote so there won’t be any surprises when the bill arrives.
Training and Documentation
Good developers will involve employees in the development process, which means they may become familiar with the application by the time it’s done. Still, it’s possible that not everyone who needs to use the application will be involved in the process from start to finish, so it’s important for your software development team to provide thorough training for the application they develop for you.
The training can take place in person, via video, or through an online course. Developers should also provide detailed documentation that employees can refer to later as part of their offering.
Did you know that maintenance costs for custom software can exceed development costs? That’s because software may need to be refined, modernized, or updated for security reasons after it’s completed. While software developers make every effort to create the application or website you need, your business could change in such a way that you need additional or different features.
You may also need to update the application to make it compatible with other systems you’re using, such as a new operating system, or to make it more secure based on new cyberthreats.
Done or Done Right?
Making the decision to have custom software developed is just the first step in the development process. You and your developer must discuss requirements, plan the work, test the software, and, finally, use the resulting product. Yet, just because the project is done doesn’t mean it’s done right. Be sure to refer to the software delivery metrics above and use them as a checklist to ensure you get everything you need from your new application.