Be sure about build vs buy
The first key to an effective custom software development project is making sure that custom software is truly needed, as opposed to buying a packaged solution — and there is good reason to be sure. Software solution finder and researcher Capterra reports that 75 percent of business and IT executives anticipate that their software projects will fail and that, over a year, fewer than a third of projects are completed on time and on budget.
One approach to a build-vs-buy analysis is to ask if there is already a packaged software solution that delivers greater than 80 percent of the functions needed to:
- Support or automate unique business processes and transactions
- Handle information and data specific to an industry or line of business
- Meet unique privacy or security requirements
- Facilitate integration with legacy applications and data
- Replace or help consolidate existing solutions at lower cost
- Replace or help consolidate existing solutions to achieve greater productivity
- Enable new opportunities or improve competitive advantage
- Grow and adapt to changing requirements.
Sources: RTS Labs, Praxnet
Collaboration is key
If the decision is to build, an important initial consideration is to get buy-in from key participants and ensure that they communicate and collaborate on the project. Collaborators include sponsors, users, developers, even customers and business partners outside of the organization.
In this context, collaboration means business users working together on requirements, sharing knowledge among global development teams, and working hand-in-hand across development and operations teams to improve quality and responsiveness.
Requirements are required
One of the critical outcomes of collaboration is a clear, shared vision for what the software is required to do — and not do. IBM has established that “organizations need to effectively define and manage requirements to help ensure they are meeting customer needs, while addressing compliance and staying on schedule and within budget” and that “requirements definition and management is an activity that has the potential to deliver a high, fast ROI.”
A “good” requirement, according to IBM, is…
- Correct (technically and legally possible)
- Complete (expresses a whole idea or statement)
- Clear (unambiguous and not confusing)
- Consistent (not in conflict with other requirements)
- Verifiable (can be determined that the application meets the requirement)
- Traceable (uniquely identified and tracked)
- Feasible (can be accomplished within cost and schedule)
- Modular (can be changed without excessive impact)
- Design independent (does not impose specific solutions on design).
Methodologies, technologies and practices
With requirements defined — and they will likely change more than once — applying mature, modern development methodologies and practices can help deliver effective, even innovative, software efficiently and rapidly.
Development methodologies to consider:
- Agile development breaks requirements into consumable functions and delivers rapidly on those functions through incremental development. A feedback loop helps find and fix defects as functionality continues to deploy.
- DevOps is a combination of development and operations. It is an agile-based approach that brings software development and IT operations together in the design, development, deployment and support of software.
- Rapid application development (RAD) is a non-linear approach that condenses design and code construction into one interconnected step.
- Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) provides a way to scale agile methodology to a larger organization such as a global development team.
Technologies and practices to consider:
- Open source is software source code that is open to the public and the development community to use. Linux, for example, is an open source operating system. It can enhance development productivity through software component reuse and improve interoperability by avoiding proprietary architectures.
- Cloud-based development brings the advantages of cloud computing to software development by hosting development environments in the cloud. These environments support coding, design, integration, testing and other development functions to build both on-premises and cloud-native applications, and do so with the cost control, speed and on-demand convenience that the cloud promises.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) enables software to emulate human decision-making and learning. It can be applied to improve the development process. For example, natural language processing — the ability for computers and software to understand human language — can be used to analyze requirements text and suggest improvements based on best practices. AI technologies like machine learning and modeling can also be acquired and incorporated into applications through application programming interfaces (API) and services from the cloud.
- Blockchain is a secure, digitally linked ledger that eliminates cost and vulnerability introduced by parties like banks, regulatory bodies and other intermediaries. Developers are using blockchain ledgers and open source Hyperledger technology to build new types of secure transactional and financial applications that can free capital and accelerate business processes.
- Low code is a development practice that reduces the need for coding and enables non-coders or citizen developers to build or help build applications quickly and at lower cost.
- Analytics technologies are helping software applications, and their users, make sense of a deluge of data through dashboards, visualizations and predictive capabilities. As with AI, cloud-based services and APIs make it relatively simple to incorporate analytics into applications.
- Mobile application technology may simply be a must. Fifty-four percent of global executives believe that customer buying behavior is shifting from products and services to experiences. Many of these experiences occur through mobile software. Connecting mobile apps with data to improve and enrich user experiences is a key demand for developers.