There are many reasons to take on a custom integration or web application development project. Recent trends have opened up more possibilities than ever and reduced both the costs and risks associated with going custom. Open source and rapidly maturing technologies are central to this. More importantly, technology is a key business differentiator. Building a quality solution may give you an edge over competitors who are all flocking to the same off-the-shelf or SaaS solution.
Still, the world is full of examples of custom development projects that went bad. It seems like everyone has a horror story somewhere in their past. Custom projects are hard, and they often carry a fair amount of risk and exposure for those leading the effort. Below are three keys areas to explore as you look to minimize risk and hire the talent to bring your next integration or web development project to life:
Often, application and web development efforts begin as a project. While projects typically have nicely defined edges, it's important to approach the selection of your design and development team as though you're in it, with them, for the long haul. It's important that you find a team you enjoy working with and whom you can trust, even as things get stressful (because you know they will). Here are a few starter questions to ask to ensure you find a good relationship match:
- How will you staff the team assigned to our account/project?
- Can we meet the team assigned to our account?
- What is the average tenure of your team members?
- What is the average length of your relationships with your clients?
- How do you train and/or transition control of the apps you build to your clients?
While it's hard to find good designers and developers, it's even harder to find a team that can effectively launch a web app within the context of a specific business strategy. Those teams are out there, and they value and use empathy, humility, research, and respect over the latest design trend or coding technique. It's worth looking for them. Here are a few questions to help you find them:
- How do you use research to ensure a successful business outcome?
- How do you go about learning your client's business?
- Have you ever taken on a project for which you were doubtful of the strategy?
- Have you convinced a client to shift direction based on the business objective?
Once you connect with a team and have confidence in their ability to help you reach your goals, it's important to get a sense of the day-to-day working relationship. This is also the ideal time to clarify your expectations for the roles you, and they, will play throughout the project. Here are a few ways to dig in:
- What deliverables do you create to ensure we have a shared vision throughout?
- At what points in the project are we asked for feedback?
- How do your budgets and timelines account for the inevitable adjustments that occur throughout a project?
- When and how will you use change orders or other scope adjustments?
- How do you communicate with your clients to minimize the need for scope changes?
So, get out there and get it done. While intimidating, integration and web application development projects can be extremely rewarding, both personally and for the business. It’s more than just a beautiful UX or flawless code. You need to partner with a team that you enjoy working with, a team you trust, and a team that is capable of understanding and embracing your business strategy.