What the heck *&#@ did you say about custom software development?

Here is a guest article from Tim Martin of Action Point (www.action-point.com ). I asked for permission to run his blog because it is a very important message. The only thing missing is his unique Irish accent. Tim writes:

What the *&#@ did you just say?

This was the reaction I got from a potential client after our initial meeting to discuss their need for a customized software.  Two days later we signed a contract and they have become one of our most valued clients.

It’s about time for a little straight talk around here…

As the head of business development in the US for Action Point I’ve never been accused of being indirect or subtle. In the technology industry in general but especially when dealing with custom software companies, straight talk is a rare commodity. So what did I say to the client?

Asking the questions that most Software Development companies don’t want to ask.

First, I listened to them and tried to find out as much as I could about their company and how they were currently operating. Then I asked them some hard questions that most custom software development companies don’t want to ask.

Ø  Are you sure you need custom software development?  

Ø  Have you researched off the shelf software solutions that you can “customize” to take care of the majority of your needs without building your own software?  

Ø  Do you have realistic expectations of the cost of developing a custom software program (even one that doesn’t appear too complicated)?  

Ø  Do you have the right people in house who will take ownership of this type of project?  

Here’s why I ask those questions:

Custom software development is not cheap. While in the right situation it can provide tremendous ROI, even a simple project can cost thousands of dollars. And the cost is not just measured in dollars.

Good custom software isn’t developed in a vacuum - it’s collaborative and we will need to interact with the stakeholders at your company during the development process. This means that they will need to allocate time on a regular basis to meet with us.

How much? The ‘million dollar’ question.

Then they asked me the question that every client asks in the first meeting “how much is it going to cost?’ My answer is always the same and never what they want to hear; “I don’t know!”

The reason my answer is always the same is that it’s the truth - it’s impossible to give anything more than an extremely broad “ballpark” dollar amount at this stage of the engagement.

Acme have quoted us $$$...

Furthermore, if a company is telling you a cost at this stage they aren’t being truthful. What they are doing is trying to secure the project with a low ball number that will get you to commit, with the hope that when the project ends up being 3 times the price they can convince you keep throwing money at it. If you don’t they end up with a chunk of your money; you end up with an unfinished project.

How to find out the true cost of custom software development.

The only way to get an accurate answer to ‘how much will custom software development cost?’ is to spend a significant amount of time in the Analysis and Design (A&D) process. The only cost anyone can guarantee at this early stage is how long and how much the A&D process will be.

For better or worse…make sure you are committed to making the relationship work.

Once you commit to a custom software development project you need to make sure that you are really comfortable with the developer. I always tell clients that it’s a lot like a marriage - for better or worse we are going to be working together for a long time and you better feel good about my track record and integrity. Why? Because even after the project is live there is a good chance that you are going to need ongoing support.

 The moral of the story…

There is risk with any type of tech initiative and custom software development absolutely carries risk. It’s integral to the success of the project that you go into it knowing these risks, and work closely with your chosen software development partner to mitigate them. Any partner worth their salt will ask the hard questions.

If you have any questions for Tim drop him a mail to sales-us@action-point.com or call 310.997.0681