Software development diaries: why the customer isn’t always right

For outsiders, software development may seem difficult – of course – but relatively straightforward given the relevant training. Development partners are given the business problem or brief, the timeline, and the budget. From there, it’s happy coding… right?

Not so much. Software development is an inherently complex and nuanced task, and requires both experience and talent to achieve the desired outcomes. It also requires an in-depth understanding of the systems and processes needed to get to a certain point.

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In the world of enterprise software development, there is more often than not a tussle between clients and development partners. Sometimes, clients want to keep certain elements in-house, while working with partners on selected projects. This approach can be problematic, on a number of levels.

For one, localised decision-making processes within the business often encumber in-house teams. The Finance department is fretting about budget, while the Marketing department is calling for delivery of something unrelated to the initial brief. The various departments usually have no understanding of the impact of their demands on the development process – which can lead to a great deal of confusion and unhappiness amongst internal development teams.

Added to this, in-house teams are often under-resourced, and pulled in many different directions. Because of the nature of their work, these teams often lack specialist knowledge – and are asked to deliver way beyond what they are actually capable of.

Ditch the control freak

In these instances, the client would benefit from recognising the business benefit of partnering with a software developer on full-scale projects – not just piecemeal tasks. And instead of clinging on tightly to control the process, the client has to trust the partner and allow them to do what they do best.

Unsurprisingly, software development houses tend to attract leading talent, as developers, by nature, are looking for projects that are both varied and challenging. They often have a different approach to problem solving, characterised by a creative and sometimes unconventional approach.

In addition, software development houses have a very specific process and approach to projects. This process is fine-tuned and improved over time, and is designed to produce work that can be sent to clients in small increments. In other words, the delivery and feedback process is built in – which ensures that no time or resources are wasted on elements of a project that don’t work/suit the business objectives.

Measurement is key

When working with software development houses – as opposed to relying on in-house teams – there is an important measurement element that comes into play. With a development partner, businesses naturally take a closer look at the processes and outcomes – and measure the return on investment. Budgets and resources come under scrutiny, and clients are forced to be very strategic in their approach. For the development partner, it is therefore imperative to be able to demonstrate value and ROI – so that visibility for both parties is maintained throughout.

In our view, this leads to the client and development partner taking equal responsibility – for what undoubtedly ends up being a more efficient and commercially successful outcome.

It’s about trust…

Inevitably, during the course of any software development project, there will be times when the client and partner disagree. This shouldn’t be interpreted as problematic. Rather, if a transparent and trusting relationship has been established, then this can lead to healthy debate – and sometimes, new approaches to a difficult problem. In certain instances, the client has a key commercial objective in mind – which means that delivery has to be moved forward. As long as there is an awareness of the possible ramifications of each decision, then both parties can move ahead with confidence.

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