Companies have various options when it comes to selecting the right software for their business. Many organizations choose to purchase off the shelf products, but these are generally not ideal for a variety of purposes.
Off-the-shelf software is built to appeal to a large customer segment. This means that it is difficult if not impossible to customize it to the real-world operations of many businesses. An alternative that many smarter organizations are exploring is custom software.
Custom software as the name implies is built around the specific needs and requirements of a business. This means that it is focused on the real way that a company works. It incorporates all of the different dependencies and processes and can complement existing systems. However, building custom software is not easy.
When it comes to building custom software, companies need to deal with a software company that has a team of expert developers. These organizations have the requisite skills and knowledge to take simple ideas from the drawing board to the real-world. Good software companies utilize project managers to ensure that a software project gets completed on time and within budget. When it comes to project management methodologies, there are several variations available to companies and businesses.
Two of the most popular and well known are the Agile Approach and the Waterfall Approach. There is a third option, known as the Hybrid Approach which attempts to take the best out of both approaches.
Waterfall Pitfalls in Custom Software Development
The Waterfall Approach is possibly the most well-known and still most popular project management methodology. It follows a series of steps that include:
- Requirement Gathering
- Solution Design
- Solution Implementation
- Solution Verification
- Ongoing Maintenance
Within each of these steps lay a multitude of milestones. These different milestones are key deliverables that identify when specific requirements of the project are met. With larger projects, there are often many iterations of the steps above, where one milestone leads to further design steps.
With this rigorous and well thought out plan, you’d think that the Waterfall Approach would work in all situations. Sadly, this is simply not the case.
In today’s ever-changing world, customer needs and priorities change. This happens often overnight and usually quite dramatically. This can mean that new requirements require a complete redesign which can be costly in both time and money.
When it comes to custom software and the Waterfall approach, the actual software is not delivered until quite late in the process. This often means that the client does not see working software until at a later stage of the development – at this point, it is usually too late to make changes.
Another significant problem when it comes to custom software is the initial requirement gathering phase. With Waterfall, you’re picking what you want the end product to be and do before you’ve really understood how to get there. In some larger projects, this could be months or years away!
Clients are often either unable to articulate or are unaware of their true requirements. This means that the product being built is not really what the client wanted in the first place.
Benefits of Agile for Custom Software Customers
Agile is a newer way of designing software. While not yet as popular or well known as the Waterfall Approach, it is quickly gaining ground. With Agile custom software development, instead of a big-bang approach like the Waterfall method, projects are smaller and more iterative.
Agile offers regular client feedback throughout the project ensuring that the development team is on track. This means that often, Agile delivers what the client actually wanted instead of what the team thought they wanted.
With Agile, each of the iterations is known as a sprint. The way Agile works is as follows:
- Project Backlog
- Sprint Backlog - Plan, Design, Develop, Test, Deploy, Review (back to Plan if necessary) or Launch
- New Project
Most software development companies focus on two-week sprints, which means that even very large projects get regular updates. The benefits of Agile when it comes to custom software are quite significant. The biggest benefit is that changing client requirements can be accommodated without restarting the project from scratch. With regular feedback, the development team can make changes within each iteration to better comply with the actual end-goal of the project.
When to Use Waterfall
At first glance, you’d assume that Agile is the only possible solution going forward, but there are many reasons where you’d still use the Waterfall Approach. Agile despite its benefits is not an easy solution to implement. It requires a highly motivated and skilled team with a mature process. Not all software companies have this skill.
Waterfall is significantly easier to deploy and use. Its step by step process is simple and for projects that are very clearly defined and scoped out, it is a good solution. Besides, if little to no change is expected in a project from scoping to delivery, then Waterfall is again a good option.
With custom software design, there are many ways of performing the same function. At Konverge, we use Agile, Waterfall and the Hybrid approach. We have skilled project managers that can work with you to determine the best custom software solution for your requirements.
Whether you are interested in a larger Waterfall project or a smaller, iterative Agile custom software development solution, or simply want something in between, let us help you. Aside from our project team, we have developers skilled in all programming languages and can work with you to build your ideal solution. Request a consultation today to find out how Konverge can help your business.