Stage 1. Planning
The purpose of planning is to systematize business requirements and define the project’s goals. This stage is critical for establishing a common language with your technical partner and sketching out the larger picture of the entire project.
What should you do during the planning?
- Analyze and define the project’s SMART goals.
- Identify the software’s target groups.
- Collect the business requirements for the software.
- Describe all business processes that the new system must support.
To design a better application, it is critical to embed the project in a business context. So, if your tech partner asks a lot of questions about your company and industry, it's a good sign that they're the right fit for the job. Prepare to provide detailed answers to questions regarding your:
- Corporate identity.
- Company mission and organizational culture.
- Company’s strengths and weaknesses.
- Competitive advantage.
- And more.
Consider using joint workshops (run by you and your tech partner) in your planning stage. A face-to-face meeting will improve communication and help both parties form stronger bonds. As a result, you will avoid many potential misunderstandings in the future.
Stage 2. Pre-Implementation Analysis
The pre-implementation analysis will allow you to translate business needs into specific software requirements and functions. This stage will require you to have a good knowledge of all the company processes a new system must support.
Custom software development may be associated with optimizing existing business procedures or even designing new ones. As a high-level manager, you may need to learn every detail about how your employees interact with the current system, their problems, specific needs, and so on.
The best way to accomplish this is to enlist the cooperation of representatives from various departments within the company. They will be the ones who will actively use the new system. As a result, their input is essential and can assist you in developing more efficient software.
During the pre-implementation analysis, you and your tech partner will:
- Design the information architecture.
- Create a list of functional and non-functional requirements for the new system.
- Plan the process of data migration from the current system.
- Set user roles and access levels.
- Define the anticipated outcomes of the implementation.
Your tech partner should have the knowledge and experience to validate your ideas and turn them into effective technological solutions. Thanks to this, you will be able to go beyond the framework of the project and discover solutions that will be best for your business.
The quality of the pre-implementation analysis determines the overall success of the project. The more time you spend discussing your needs and expectations with your employees and with your tech partner, the better your system will be. This stage enables you to make informed decisions about various aspects of the software you are designing, thus avoiding costly changes later on.
Stage 3. UX/UI Design
The purpose of this stage is to create a general outline of the designed software. Your tech partner should prepare an information structure and graphic design concept based on what you’ve learned and defined in the previous two stages.
After the UX team does its work, you'll know:
- The outline of the global navigation.
- The concept for the main screen and the most critical areas of the software.
- The application’s information architecture.
- The graphical interface design for key screens (both mobile and desktop).
The project's next stage, software development, will begin once you and your tech partner agree on these areas.
At this point, it’s a best practice to conduct UX research with real users. This will allow you to gather feedback from them and determine whether your software will be user-friendly. As a result of user input at this stage, you will be able to provide a better user/customer experience. You’ll also avoid making mistakes that will be difficult to correct later.
Stage 4. Software Development
Finally, you have an approved requirements list and the conceptual design. You’ve reached the point where the real magic happens and your tech partner can start coding.
Tasks undertaken at this stage will cover various aspects of software development. Sometimes it will require writing code entirely from scratch. At other times, modifying existing applications will be enough. In both cases, the development team will be responsible for the following:
- Creating dedicated components.
- Integrating the new system with your other tools.
- Adapting software appearance based on the graphic design.
- Preparing the production environment.
This is also an excellent time to engage with your organization's IT administration team (if you haven't done so already). The implementation team will need access to technical documentation, various systems, integration details, etc. Efficient cooperation between your tech team and your tech partner will speed up the project implementation.
It may seem that the software development stage does not require a lot of commitment from you. Actually, it's quite the opposite. It's crucial to stay in touch with your tech partner. You should spend some time testing the interface, evaluating prototypes, and providing feedback to developers. Making minor changes on the fly is much easier, faster, and less expensive than waiting until the end. This approach will ensure the proper implementation of the final product – and your satisfaction with it.
Stage 5. Testing
Testing allows you to ensure that the project's assumptions were met and your new application works properly. What tests should be performed at this stage?
- Internal and integration tests are carried out to detect errors in interfaces and communication between specific modules. They allow you to check whether data flows smoothly between connected components and eliminate errors that slow down users’ interaction with the application.
- User Acceptance Tests (UAT), based on which you can approve the ordered application. They check whether the software meets users’ expectations and ensures it responds correctly to any actions users may take.
- Load and performance tests are needed to see if the software works appropriately or whether it still needs additional optimization. These tests should reflect user behaviors during increased traffic as faithfully as possible, enabling advance preparation for the failure-free handling of heavy usage.
Additional security tests are required to evaluate the software's quality. They enable you to assess the system's vulnerability to threats. It's a good practice to delegate such tests to an external company that’s not involved in the current project.
Stage 6. Implementation and Onboarding
Developing a system that meets business assumptions is only one part of the equation for success. The real life of an application begins when it's launched in a production environment.
This is the critical time when users get to know the new system, discover its capabilities, and learn how to use it. For this process to run successfully, your tech partner should support you with all technical issues and take care of user onboarding.
Testing detects the majority of errors, but never all of them. Real users will best indicate what requires correction. It's worth asking an IT supplier about their experience in this area and how they plan onboarding.
Custom Software Is Worth the Investment
Currently, the market offers thousands of out-of-the-box applications, platforms, and other ready-made software dedicated to companies from various industries. However, when you start looking at them closely, tailoring them to your specific needs is a costly and time-consuming process. It also often involves giving up many ideas and making compromises you may not want.
By choosing custom software, you don't have to worry about that. You can be sure that it will meet all your requirements, support your unique business processes, and increase your company development.