How to scope requirements for your software development project
Tuesday, June 09, 2020 - Adam Stirk
There are a number of well-established off-the-shelf software packages tailored to solve business process challenges. However if, like many businesses, you find these digital products don’t meet all of your requirements, you’ll be investing in technology that is custom-made specifically for your business and your unique processes.
Once you’ve identified an appropriate supplier for your bespoke software solution, you’ll be ready to scope the build and establish clear deliverables. When this description of the work to be performed is signed off, the project will be able to move into development.
Understanding from the outset a supplier’s methodology and what input they expect from you will save you from post-purchase regret.
And spending time nailing down the deliverables in terms of the ‘user stories’ (explained below) will ensure your supplier develops a software platform that is well-received by end users and makes a huge impact on your business.
If this is the first time you’ve scoped a software development project, there are potentially a few unknowns about what happens when.
This article details how to scope a project with your supplier, what to expect and some questions that you can prepare the answers for in advance.
The First Project Scope Meeting
This initial project meeting should discuss the bespoke technology to be developed in more detail. You might have met with the supplier at the selection stage, however this face-to-face kick-off has some specific outcomes.
The key agenda points should be as follows:
Ultimate aim of technology
Every business has high-level goals for their new technology. Usually, this is one of two things: either to support growth or to reduce costs.
For example, your organisation might be experiencing a time of rapid growth meaning current systems have become unmanageable and you urgently need an upgrade. Or it could be looking to enhance productivity and boost efficiency to make significant cost-savings, for example by digitalising paper-based, time-consuming processes to dramatically cut down on admin time.
It’s important to share the vision you have for your new digital solution with your supplier at this initial stage, so everyone is working to the same objective.
Different approaches to creating a solution and different budget options
As you are procuring a bespoke solution there is not a one-size-fits-all set price. Each project budget will vary depending on complexity and scale.
At this meeting, your supplier should present to you the various options available and ensure you have an understanding of the various routes and approaches you could take to meet your goals.
Long-term vision for the business and it's technology
Your supplier should discuss with you the long-term vision for your business and how technology fits into that vision.
This will help the supplier to devise a roadmap for different options, ways to divide up projects based on priorities and the optimal order. This plan might recommend starting small with technology that lays a strong foundation which you can then build upon further down the line.
Indicative budgets for preferred route
After you have debated different routes and one is chosen to progress, then approximate costs for the development should be shared.
Supplier's methodology for project management and development
Many software development companies work in an agile manner, recognising that change will happen as a natural part of the project process. Whether this be a change as a result of a product prototype, a change in the marketplace or a change in an organisation’s processes, an agile approach allows for planning and adaptations as required.
Your supplier should explain their methodology with you. The scrum technique is often implemented by software development companies. This process breaks the project into ‘user stories’ or the specific functionality that the software will achieve, who the user will be and what area of the business it relates to.
Each user story is then put into a document called a backlog, prioritised and the amount of time to create that feature is estimated. This backlog is then tackled in ‘sprints’ or mini-projects, delivering working software in regular increments, enabling you to test features as they’re created and provide feedback at every stage.
How the supplier works with clients
It’s important to understand how the supplier works with its clients and what will be expected of you internally to manage the project.
You’ll be required to allocate dedicated resource to the project to ensure its success, for example by nominating a Product Owner with specific skills and capabilities to oversee the project, and Subject Matter Expert(s) who know intricately the area(s) of the business that the technology is being developed for.
Defining Project Scope
Your supplier should work with you to define project scope and create a statement of work. Within this, scoping sessions will occur to determine what areas will be prioritised within the project, as well as make decisions around functions that will be omitted in the initial stages.
For example, your initial phase may not include aspects such as integration with other systems, which although may provide value, are not critical to the functioning of the system, but can be added at a later date.
The project scope will include the vision, as well as user stories, within a prioritised backlog which describe the high-level user roles, journeys and intentions of the system. These will be used by your supplier to delve into and analyse current business processes, gathering feedback from end-users. This will refine requirements, timescales and delivery methods for the project
Questions to Consider Before First Meet
To help you prepare for the first project meeting, here are eight questions to consider in advance:
1 - What current systems and software do you have in place?
2 - Why are you speaking to the supplier?
3 - What are the issues with your current systems/processes?
4 - What are the benefits you are envisaging with your new technology?
5 - Who will use the system – in terms of numbers, teams, business functions?
6 - Are you open to discussion or do you have a very specific solution in mind?
7- How will this new technology add value to your business?
8 - What resource have you allocated internally to manage this project?
This advice is based on how Audacia works with our new clients to confirm project scopes, budgets and ways of working – however different suppliers work in different ways.
We have worked with companies across a variety of industries to deliver bespoke software projects; from rebuilding complex legacy systems to manage global sales, to onsite tablet-based applications to enable real-time collaboration across construction sites.
#1 – Executive Sponsorship
Executive sponsors continue to be the top driver of whether projects meet their original goals and business intent.
75% of respondents admit that their projects are either a…