Questions to Ask When Buying Custom Software
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Key Questions to Ask When Buying Custom Software

Laura MacPherson February 28, 2019

Custom software takes significant time and investment to build and deploy, so you don’t want to make a rash decision. You need confidence that you’re building the right solution for your needs and hiring the right developers and designers to create a product you’ll be happy with. Before you get too far along in the process of buying custom software, be sure to ask these four questions.

1. What are the primary problems you’re trying to solve?

Any time a company or organization sets out to build custom software, there are many “nice to haves.” This department would benefit from this feature, that department would love to have that functionality. And maybe you’ll end up including those things in the final product. But first, you need to know what the “must haves” are. What are your priorities?

To answer this question, make a list of all the issues and inefficiencies that are driving the desire for the software. Next, analyze the business impact of each. Assign each a dollar value if you can — even if just a rough estimate. Those with the highest value will be your priorities.

Additionally, think carefully through each item on your list to make sure they aren’t merely symptoms of a deeper problem. If there is a deeper problem, what’s the dollar value of that problem? By identifying and addressing root issues, you’ll experience a lasting solution rather than creating a Band-Aid.

2. What should the budget be?

Ah, the budget question. Too often, budget is determined haphazardly, based on what’s available or left over in the IT budget. But if you don’t calculate the value of the software, you may be earmarking too much or too little.

Based on the dollar amounts you assigned in your answers to the first question, what’s the business value of solving the priority items on your list? This figure will inform how much you should budget for your custom software.

Related questions:

  • How much money is the problem (or series of problems) costing the business annually?
  • How much additional revenue could the business generate with the new software?

3. Does the development company you’re considering have experience solving business problems?

Many software developers can build high-quality products that will do what they’re intended to do. But a development company with experience solving business problems can bring an invaluable perspective to the table. You thoroughly understand your business and the problems you face, but you may not fully understand all the ways technology will or could impact your situation. An experienced development company can help you consider factors that will result in a software that generates even more value for your business, with an easy-to-use design that your people will be eager to adopt.

4. What’s the development company’s process?

Process will make or break the project. You need a development company with a clearly-defined strategic process that’s based on their experience working with other organizations like yours. This process should follow a roadmap that everyone understands and can refer to throughout the project.

This process should include:

  • Analysis of the problem and the concerns that each stakeholder has expressed
  • Modeling user behaviors and crafting user stories to ensure the software fulfills its goals and will fit well into users’ workflows
  • Overview of existing technology that the software will need to integrate with
  • Proposal and analysis of solutions

The answer to these questions will ensure nail down the essential considerations before you start development. While doing this research takes time, it will save you significant time in the long run since you’ll be building precisely what you need.

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