Drawing Parallels Between Software Development and Construction
In our last post, we discussed how hourly rate by itself is not a great metric when selecting a software development partner.
To bring further clarity to the process of selecting a software development partner, let’s draw parallels with something most people have seen: reality show home renovations. Most of us have some notion that there’s a lot more that goes into home construction than just nailing 2x4s together. We may not have the skills ourselves, but we know that the cost and success of any construction project – ranging from backyard shed to a luxury home – cannot be measured by an hourly rate.
The chart below presents several questions you should be asking to qualify any potential development partner. For the purpose of our analogy, we translate these into construction and software terms. Our intent is that drawing these parallels will give you a deeper understanding of the process and greater confidence when seeking out software development partners.
|General Question||In Construction Terms||In Software Terms|
|How big is the project? Will it require multiple teams of workers coordinated through a team of project managers?||Is it a tool shed for the back yard, an apartment block for hundreds of residents, or somewhere in between?||Is it a small widget for internal use, a mobile app for millions of commercial transactions, or somewhere in between?|
|What skill sets are required? What skills can the development partner bring to the project?||Will I need to hire an architect, an interior designer, a foundation company, or does my general contractor bring all these skills with them?||Do I need to produce a full set of specifications, hire an outside graphics firm to design the user interface, bring in a database architect, or does the software firm bring all these skills to the table?|
|Is it better to build or to buy?||Could we purchase an already completed structure? If not, which elements of the structure could we purchase pre-made?||Could we purchase an already completed system? If not, which components of the system could we purchase pre-made?|
|Where will the project be located?||Is this going on land we already own, or do we need to lease property?||Is this going on servers and systems we already own, or do we need to find a place for it in the cloud?|
|Who will be supporting it after it is completed?||Are we in the business of property maintenance or will we need to outsource that function?||Are we in the business of customer support or will we need to outsource that function?|
|What will be the costs for keeping it operational?||What is the schedule for maintenance and repairs? Example: When will a new roof be needed?||What is the schedule for maintenance and repairs? Example: When will the system need to be upgraded to run on newer devices?|
|Do I need a detailed plan for delivery with milestones?||Is it a one-person / one-week job or a significant project where a large crew will be needed to finish the job? Large crews need foremen following detailed plans to get the elements to come together on time.||Is this a small UI upgrade or a significant system development requiring team members with different skill sets to be brought in? Large teams need project managers following detailed plans to meet goals and deadlines.|
|What are the risk factors that could significantly alter the cost or timeline?||How could weather, labor issues, changes in materials pricing, timing of permits and change orders effect the delivery?||How could team member availability, use of 3rd party products, approvals for specifications, and change orders effect the delivery?|
|What kinds of quality assurance can I receive? Who will address quality issues identified prior to opening?||Does the developer have a QA team to identify issues before you do, or should you hire your own inspector? Are there regular site reviews so that you can monitor the quality directly as the project progresses?||Does the developer have a QA team to identify issues before you do, or will you take on the testing internally? Are there regular staging reviews so that you can monitor the quality directly as the project progresses? Are 3rd party reviews necessary?|
|What regulations am I subject to? Is the development company experienced and capable of dealing with these regulations?||Who will be responsible for managing compliance with Local and State Building Codes, Green Construction Codes, OSHA, FCR, random site inspections, etc.?||Is my industry subject to PCI, GDPR, GMP, HIPAA, ISO, code and systems auditing, etc.? Who is responsible for maintaining compliance to applicable standards?|
|What is the reputation of the general contractor?||Does the builder supply recommendations that can be contacted? Do they have experience in performing similar work and scopes of projects? Will the initial consultation be free?||Does the software partner maintain a list of recommendations? Can they show past projects of similar scope? Will they provide up-front initial consulting free prior to contract signing?|
|Can I work with this company?||Have they shown a clear understanding of your needs? Are they acting as a partner to meet those needs or are they just selling you on what they have built in the past? Do they interface well with your team and stakeholders?||Have they shown a clear understanding of your needs? Do they listen well, offer suggestions, but allow you to lead the design in your desired direction? Do they interface well with your team and stakeholders?|
We hope in this two-part series that we’ve provided some valuable points to consider when comparing potential software development partners. Like HGTV home renovations, software projects come in all shapes and sizes, and there are different questions to ask depending on the project scope.