So you’ve decided to invest in custom software development for your company. Great, now let’s get down to business! It’s important to stake out the scope of the project as early as possible, because this provides the base upon which timing and budget will be built. Project scope means a description of the goals and deliverables of the custom software development process, down to every feature and function. Once the tasks are outlined, deadlines and costs can be calculated.
All this might sound daunting to the uninitiated, but broken down as follows, it’s quite simple, really.
In Broader Terms: What Do You Want Your Custom Software To Do?
Every business needs software solutions to be able to work efficiently. Content management, e-commerce or accounting tools – you name it. Look at how your current systems support your daily operations, and zero in on the problematic areas. Which tasks are difficult, time-consuming, or even impossible at present? How do you want these systems to evolve to help you achieve strategic goals over the next few years?
Remember: the point is to boost productivity and increase cost efficiency. People often fall for fancy tech features they’ll never use, or complex systems fit for various purposes, least of all their own. Cut through the frills, and be explicit about your expectations.
More Precisely: Product Requirements?
This is where we’re getting into the thick of it. Determine what functions and features you require for the solution being developed. There must be some specific elements to be built into the design, otherwise you wouldn’t have chosen custom software development – what are these? Are there any branding guidelines or technical criteria to follow?
Next: Business Process Requirements?
Process requirements describe how users will engage with the software and how it will interact with other business functions. You want an e-commerce setup that enables customers to validate voucher codes, and calculates tax deductions before billing? Or a timesheet system that’s seamlessly integrated into your HR database? You get the idea.
Inevitably, various stakeholders will take part – some throughout the project, others at specific stages. It’s best to pin down who’s in charge of what, to make sure responsibilities don’t overlap. Otherwise, this area can get murky, with assumptions being made, fingers being pointed and stuff not getting done.
What’s In, What’s Out?
It’s also crucial to document what will not be done. Skip this seemingly superfluous detail and you’ll end up with assumptions again: expecting tasks to be carried out that were not budgeted or scheduled. On the other side, programmers might get tangled up in nice-to-have features while neglecting essential ones.
What If There’s a Change?
Everybody dreads the so-called “scope creep”, when a custom software development project grows out of proportion, calling for new features, requiring more time and resources than expected. Defining the scope in advance goes a long way to prevent this. Still, due to the ever-changing, unchartable nature of both software development and business, it’s sometimes inevitable to make adjustments. This is why agile methodologies has been invented in the first place. It’s best to agree on an adaptive protocol that both the commissioner and the vendor can follow in case modifying the scope of the project becomes necessary.
For more information about the requirements phase of your project, read as well: Software Requirements for Non Technical Managers