If you have decided to go down the Custom Software path, one of the most important steps is to choose the right partner. A long-term relationship is a key difference between custom software and product (as with a product, the ownership sits with you.) This means that you need to think about the initial and long-term product roadmap (rather than just current feature sets,) and ongoing technical aspects such as security, performance and hosting.
When embarking on a custom software project you have greater flexibility over features and functions, however the project can easily be taken in the wrong direction if project management isn’t closely owned.
The commercial investment needs to be managed closely, as you are solely covering the costs of the initial build and the ongoing maintenance. A clear path which demonstrates ROI needs to be established and managed, by clearly defining what success looks like and what outcome you are trying to achieve. Ideally, this would be a unique competitive advantage that either drives revenue, capitalises on innovation, or improves customer experience. If your project doesn’t fit into these categories, it’s likely a product would be better suited to your needs.
All this takes a multidisciplinary set of skills that most companies are unlikely to have, unless they have significant internal resources. Hence the right partner is critical.
5 things to look out for include:
- Ability to learn your business FAST and embed themselves as part of your business – do they ask the right questions up front, and do they understand your business?
- Are they outcomes focused? Do they understand not just the functional and technical aspects but also commercial constraints, and how to help you get a positive outcome for your business?
- Is it a true partnership? Do they question your ideas, make suggestions of things you need to consider for success such as change management and adoption, will they consider commercial models beyond just T&M, and do they make decisions with a win/win mindset?
- Do they have a proven track record of success? Have they been in business for a long time, and do they have client longevity which speaks to true partnership and repeat business which validates the experience for you will be positive.
- Can they grow with your company? Chances are your custom software journey is the start of growth in your own business. Is your partner open to working with you as your skill set needs to change? Do they have options to fully outsource, vs build capability in your team as you grow and take more ownership so you can direct vendor investment into innovation and manage BAU internally for less?
When searching for a custom software development partner, you need to look for a provider that you can create a connection of mutual support and who will give your business a long-term benefit.
Written by Rebecca Swinfield, CEO of Solentive Systems