Dealing with a web application development company for the first time can be a harsh experience for any customer. Even if you’re dealing with an experienced software vendor, the positive outcome is not guaranteed when you’re not ready to participate in the development process at all stages. Besides providing the development company with the list of project requirements, there’s a need for constant participation on your part.
In this article, we’ll consider the main issues that should be kept in mind by every customer that plans to cooperate with a software development company. Following this simple advice, you can increase the probability of positive outcome.
Define Project Requirements as Clearly as Possible
Despite the fact that this advice seems very obvious to be mentioned separately, sometimes it’s hard for the customer to define the exact amount of software project requirements that have to be formulated to reach the desired result. The more scrupulous the discussion on the development plan will be, the better product you’ll get eventually. After reaching the agreement with your software vendor, make sure that all stakeholders understand the need of following the plan during the whole project development process.
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When a customer formulates the project requirements, there are usually the following options to choose:
- Unstructured business requirements. In this case, all project requirements are formulated during the process of discussion between the customer and other stakeholders. Such process can take various forms. For example, business analysts from the software development company can conduct an interview. The results of such collaboration will help to create a list of project requirements to be approved by a customer.
- Structured business requirements. As a customer, you can provide the software development company with the business documentation that will help to answer the following questions: “Who is the customer and what business activities he’s involved in?”, “What goals does the customer want to reach?”, “What’s the problem with the solution that is currently used by a customer?” and more. Besides that, such documentation may include some additional info on stakeholders, product actors, and some key quality project requirements. For example, you can demand that the main page of your app should load approximately 300ms.
- Structured business requirements plus additional details. In this scenario, a customer is free to add more details to structured business requirements. Business requirements describe the main goals that allow a customer’s company to reach the competitive advantage in the market. Details, in turn, are related to the specific preferences of the end-user. To define such details properly, you have to involve some end-users that will utilize the application after it’s ready. For example, you can interview your employees to learn more about the problems they face during the working process and understand their expectations for the future software project.
Sometimes a customer already has an existing application that is not satisfactory for some reasons. In such case, it’s necessary to provide the development company with all the info on that solution and strictly formulate what changes should be implemented during the development process (app modernization, development and integration of a new module, etc.).
Clarify as Many Details as Possible
Even if a customer has provided a software vendor with the detailed list of project requirements, there’s always some obscurities that may appear during the project development process. Therefore, it’s important for a customer to feel free to ask clarifying questions at all project stages.
It’s important to stay in touch with the software development company and always be ready to ask or answer additional questions that may (and will) appear at some point. A customer must be ready to give clear answers as fast as possible to avoid delays in software development process and reach the best outcome.
Constantly Review Deliverables
Each stage of the software project development process provides different user-related deliverables such as user interface mockups, prototypes, intermediate versions of software, and so on. Besides that, there are some technical deliverables including documentation and source code, for example. As a customer, you should constantly check and approve these results of developer’s work.
Sometimes it may be hard to define whether these intermediate deliverables meet the initial customer’s expectations or not, especially in case it’s your first experience of cooperating with a software vendor. In such case, it’s possible to consider the opinion of hired independent reviewers.
Being fully involved in the software project and providing regular feedback during the development process, a customer motivates the development team to provide better results. Moreover, accepting low-quality deliverables, you can mislead the development company and impact the contractual terms and conditions. It a pretty usual situation when the software project requires being reworked at additional costs after the acceptance of intermediate deliverables.
A customer should meet the development team regularly to kick off development with high expectations. It may be pretty helpful to schedule weekly (or more frequent) video/audio calls with team members or stakeholders that will help to provide prompt feedback or clarify some questions that may arise during the work on the project. Also, it’ll be a good opportunity to ask the development team as many questions as you need.
Risk Management Is the Must
Every customer must spend enough time and efforts to deal with risk identification and management. Some development companies can be too optimistic which can lead to underestimation of possible project risks.
There is a certain risk on the customer’s side as well. If you hire a software development company from abroad, you must keep in mind that there may be some laws and regulations that are specific to your country about which your software vendor is not aware. Besides that, local industry regulations may change at some point leading to unexpected issues. Some of the employees of your company whose job is to track the current stage of the project may become unavailable during the development process. It’s the customer who should provide for plan B to be used in the above cases.
The first experience of collaboration with a development company can be a tricky thing. Besides the absence of knowledge that allows answering the obvious question “How to choose a software development firm?” there may be other factors. For example, without understanding the customer’s role in the project development process, you might not know what is expected of you as a client.
The main thing that should be kept in mind is that you shouldn’t let things go by themselves. As a customer, remember that it’s important to start participating in the development process long before the first line of code is written.
The phase of requirements gathering should include a series of interviews with your employees to formulate what results you expect to get. After the development process is started, the worst thing to do is simply wait for the software project to be finished. At all stages of the development process, a customer should monitor the process and check the deliverables provided by the development company. It will help to clarify additional project requirements and assure that the resulting product or service will meet your expectations.
Vitaly Hornik, the Chief Operating Officer of Delivery Department of XB Software, has commented:
When you try explaining your requirements and goals that you want to achieve, keep in mind that it’s impossible for another person to get the same vision as yours instantly. Therefore, some issues that seem to be obvious to you might be quite tricky to the business analyst that you’re dealing with. That’s the reason why you should make every effort to ensure that there are no unclear or undiscovered requirements. Since nobody can read thoughts in your head, you should discuss every detail related to the future project and your expectations. Otherwise, you can face undesirable time wasting and unsatisfactory outcome.