4 Questions to Prepare for a Software Development Project
Posted by: RFX STAFF on December 23, 2014 in business
If you’re in charge of cooking Christmas dinner for a family, you know that the best meals require preparation. Personally, I spend the week before Christmas figuring out what the menu will be and assembling a grocery list. Then I make a plan for my preparations the day before and even for what needs to be done and when the day of the event.
Software development may be something you plan to outsource next year for your company, but a large project takes a lot of internal preparation before you ever engage with a software development company. Yes, this is all information that you can gather during the project, but there are risks to this approach. You might identify needs late in the project which increase the budget. Or you may increase the amount of time a project takes by not having these questions answered ahead of time. So, for your best chance at project success, here are some questions you should answer internally before you talk to a programmer about your project.
1) What is the goal of the project? How will you measure success?
Software development projects can be expensive, so make sure you understand exactly what your project is trying to accomplish. Examples of project goals might be:
- Track a process within the company more accurately
- Decrease expenses (in time or money) by streamlining processes
- Increase sales by capturing more orders
- Automate a process that is currently manual
Once you have identified the goal of the software development project, think about how you will measure whether or not you achieved that goal. This may require reporting to be built into the project. Or it may mean that you have to take some time to measure your current process more accurately before you start the new one.
2) Who are the project stakeholders and main point of contact?
Save time by finding out who at your company has a stake in the success of the project. It may be a manager or team leader who is most concerned about making the project a success to make life easier for his or her team. It might be a c-level executive who is interested. Find out who needs to have a save in the project in order to ensure its success and get buy-in from them by making sure they are willing and able to devote time to the project. If they aren’t, maybe there is a subordinate or parallel team member who can do so.
You want to keep the number of stakeholders as small as possible, but large enough to represent all the interests in the company.
After you have identified the stakeholders, make sure you know who will be the primary point of contact with the vendor. This person will be spending more time than on the software development project and the rest of the team and they will be the ones who are familiar with all the aspects of the project and can answer questions from the vendor (either by knowing the answer or knowing who to ask).
3) How will the people who will be using the software use it? What do they need from it?
The people who will be using the software may or may not be stakeholders. Even if they aren’t stakeholders, they still need to have a voice in the project to ensure its success. Here are some questions you may want to ask them:
- What feature(s) does the software have to have in order to be useful?
- What features would it be nice if the software had?
- What technology will you use to access the software (i.e., a tablet, laptop, desktop or phone)?
- How will you access the software (i.e., over an internet connection, over a network connection, by installing it on your device)?
- If you are replacing an existing piece of software, what are the old program’s biggest flaws?
4) What is the budget and time line?
Sometimes you may be able to answer this question based on the estimates given by a vendor. You should probably be prepared to revise the answer based on their estimates in any case. But often, there is only so much money and/or time for a project to be completed because of the needs of the business. If this is the case, you are better off knowing this early on. If your software development company provides an estimate which is outside the range of your budget, have a discussion with them about how the project scope can be limited to reduce the budget. You may be able to leave out some of the nice-to-have features to get the project within your budgetary needs.
The bottom line
For most companies, successful software development requires a project to be on time, under budget and to meet the goals of the project. Taking the time to prepare internally for an externally-programmed software development can really increase your chances of recognizing and completing a successful project.