August 25, 2016 by Natasha Samuels

4 Strategic Factors to Consider When Building a Custom Application

 

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Custom applications, also known as custom software and tailor-made software, can be valuable resources for a company. 

They can be either mobile apps or software accessed on a desktop computer. While many applications already exist to assist your business, custom applications are tailored to your specific needs and environment and can be invaluable whether as a strategic internal business tool or as a strategic marketing tool.

When Calance took over the support of a third party software for a prestigious international law firm headquartered in the USA, it was discovered that the original developer had not embraced any logical approach to the software development. In addition, there was no documentation for the Application. As a result, Calance spent months working to support the Application which involved a lot of investigation. This took time and delayed the response time for support requests.

Overall, we’ve been reminded of a few key factors we want to share with you. Regardless of where you are in the process of developing or having already developed a custom application, consider these four key factors: technological necessities, the development/maintenance process, the ROI (Return on Investment), and the impact on staff (organizational change management considerations) in order to get the most out of your software solution.

 

1. Technological Necessities: Know the purpose of the application, your business goals, and business requirements, and have an implementation process/plan

Whether you’re considering building an application or you’ve got one that needs some work, you need to know the purpose and goal for the software you have or are having developed. We strongly recommend you answer the following 4 questions for the business:

  • How much can the business dedicate to detailing the purpose of the application? The better a developer understands the purpose and requirements of your application the better the solution will be, because more information means a better understanding of your needs. The result will be the development of a solution which better meets your needs.
  • What benefit does the business hope to gain? That is to say, what is the software's end goal? A clear picture of expectations helps shape a practical solution for your company.
  • What needs to be done - business requirements? You and the developer will need to understand the core business needs and drivers, which will contribute to project length, scope, budget and more.
  • What will the process of implementation be? Allow your developer to work in tandem with your plans to integrate the software into business processes on time and on budget with the right level of involvement from your staff.

 

2. Software Development/Maintenance Processes – Find a developer with a software development methodology to ensure a planned and documented approach. Ask them the following 4 questions:

  • What is the project plan?
  • Are both business logic and coding logic used in software development?
  • What documentation will be prepared to provide for ongoing support of the software?
  • Is there a change control process – a methodical documented approach to making changes to the Application?

 

3. Return on Investment

As with any project, to best define how the ROI on this project will be measured, ask yourself the following:

  • What are the tangible and intangible benefits you expect of this software? How much will it save you, or how much business do you expect it to earn for you?
  • What is your budget for the project? Be sure to include the development costs and the implementation costs including both technical and organization change requirements.
  • What is the timeline for measuring the ROI? Will there be a short-term and a long-term measurement because the benefits may not be immediately obvious, but long-term results can be substantial. Moreover, you may decide that this application is strategically required and the returns will be intangible.
  • Is there a deadline for this project? If a problem needs to be addressed by a certain date, or you wish to address a change in market that happens at a certain date, which will shape the development plan, the costs and the ROI measurement.

 

4. Impact on Staff

For every technology-related change, there is some level of impact on your staff. Some people group this area under the head of ‘organizational change management’. Regardless of what you title this area, consider the following:

  • Be sure to identify the level of impact your Application will have on your employees – whether it’s how to use the software or if it’s simply to make staff aware of the software when it’s implemented. Work with your developer to include a communication plan in the overall project plan.
  • Identify all staff who will require training and incorporate a training plan into the overall project plan. Ensure the training plan is scheduled to best support the launch date of the software. That is, if the staff needs to be trained to use the software on launch date, ensure that the training time is adequately planned in advance but not too early so that the training is then forgotten before the software is launched.
  • Identify all internal groups/individuals who will be impacted by the software. Include staff who will be impacted by the software in the development/design phase to get their buy-in.
  • If customers will be directly impacted, consider using a customer focus group to gather customer requirements.

Overall, ensure there is a sound methodology in place for your software development project. A lack of planning during development will make ongoing support much more difficult, and that will increase your budget costs in the long run.

Calance provides both development and ongoing maintenance support of custom applications. We help our clients by walking them through the planning process in order to deliver a highly customized solution that meets their business needs.

 

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About the author
Natasha Samuels

Natasha Samuels

Natasha is Calance's Director of Business Development & Delivery. She earned her MBA from the University of Toronto and has former experiences in industries such as IT, Finance, Consumer Packaged Goods and Oil & Gas.

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