If there’s one thing I hear consistently from business owners, it is that their software developers regularly fall short of the mark. How? From budget over-runs, poor quality outcomes, failure to provide appropriate support after an implementation, or a project that just never seems to finish, the industry can appear rife with poor business practice, but it doesn’t need to be.
Below are 3 common mistakes (some of which we have made and learnt from ourselves) that you can avoid when dealing with a software developer in future. For each mistake, I also provide the secrets big businesses use to avoid them. In many cases, the solution may seem obvious yet so often they are not put into practice by either client or vendor.
It doesn’t matter if your project is a simple website providing information on services and contact details, or a complex web app automating departmental operations, your software developer must start with some kind of design. Good quality design can be difficult because design aesthetics are subject to many variables such as industry, locality, current trends, the hardware the software will run on, screen real estate available (e.g. mobile device or desktop monitor), specific business processes, graphic artwork, animation, how customised you want your interface to be…the list goes on. Dealing with so many variables can be very time-consuming and this is why design costs escalate so quickly.
What you can do:
A. Insist your software developer share their design along with their estimate, what assumptions were made during the design process, and how variations to the design will be handled if you are unhappy at any point.
B. Use pre-designed templates as much as possible with minimal customisation. There are many great templates available today that make finding a cost-effective option for your business a relatively simple exercise.
In some cases, your software developer might request that design be worked on together on a time and materials basis until an agreement on design is reached and a fixed price for the completion of the project can be provided.
No Quality Control Measures.
No one will deny IT is more technically complex and easier to change than any other type of engineering. So much so that keeping track of everything an IT system does or doesn’t do is next to impossible. When your business software does something you don’t want it to, we refer to this as a “bug” (aka defect), and “bugs” are even found in even the most popular business software products around (think “The Blue Screen of Death” in many versions of Windows). Too many “bugs” and your software will be rendered useless, and your relationship with your software developer can turn sour as costs to fix bugs escalate and the blame game kicks in.
What you can do:
A. Insist your software developer shows you how your system will be tested and how fixes will be managed during the design process.
B. Look for a defect classification schedule in contracts and proposals so you know what acceptable defect parameters will be to declare the product satisfactory
C. Ask what warranty and support agreements are offered and what kind of response and fix timeframes can be expected for different types of defects
Prioritising Engineering Excellence Over Business Value.
All of us suffer from BSOS (or Bright Shiny Object Syndrome), and it is easy to buy the latest and greatest in technology believing it will be the silver bullet to all your business woes. As IT professionals, it’s just easy for us to get caught in this trap also, and our excitement about what innovative product X can do for you will regularly spill over into a sales pitch. The reality is that leading edge technology often also means minimal implementation experience and operational testing, both of which result in client and vendor working to overcome a myriad of unexpected issues.
What you can do:
A. Ignore the sales pitch trying to inform you on what your problems are and how the product in front of you will solve them. You know the reality of your business better than anyone, so focus instead on prioritising your actual business needs, and on business software solutions that will solve them.
B. Ask your vendor to demonstrate their experience with the technologies they are recommending.
This list is by no means definitive, but it does go a long way to addressing major areas where businesses struggle to get effective outcomes with software developers. Follow this link for more information on davis.systems and what we do.
What are your thoughts? Are you a business owner and have another area where you have experienced difficulty with your IT supplier? Are you a software developer who has made these mistakes and others? Feel free to share your perspective. All constructive discussion welcome.