When you outsource the development of your product, communication is key. Otherwise, you may find yourself with under-performing software that no one is happy with. Let’s go over how the right communication may help you get what you paid for - bespoke software tailored to your needs.
I recently got into men’s fashion. One of the key steps for me was having all of my current clothes tailored, and tailoring any new piece of clothing as soon as I bought it. It took me some time, however, to trust my tailor. I once tried to go against their advice and push on them my idea of how short a t-shirt should be. I now have a crop-top.
This experience, coupled with me currently working with a premium software development company, made me realize how similar the processes of bespoke software outsourcing and tailoring are. Both require an open communication between you and the service provider, a level of trust, and time to get things right.
But when all the pieces finally fit, you’re left with a product that works exactly how you wanted and is made to fit all your requirements. Sometimes it even fits requirements that you didn’t know you had.
Feel free to read along. Or, if you’re too busy - scroll down to an infographic with a summary of this post.
A visit at the tailor
Imagine going to a tailor to buy a bespoke shirt. Would you give them a post-it note with your measurements and expectations? Pay upfront and come back after a week, with the shirt looking exactly how you wanted? Or would it be a mess?
The process looks quite different. You go to a tailor with an idea in your head. They are a professional you can trust. First, you are measured. They collect all the data available to make sure the shirt will fit. They ask about your lifestyle. If you live in a hotter climate you may want to have a bit more space around the armpits, for example.
Every detail counts. You go over different materials, collar and cuff styles, you talk about patterns, colours - it is a conversation. A long process to understand your needs, but also to go over the aspects of shirt-making you didn’t realise were important. Do you really want a thick cotton shirt for your trip to South America, when linen would perform much better there?
After the first assembly, you visit the shop again - for a fitting. The adjustment process begins, and the tailor makes sure the shirt fits exactly as it is supposed to.
Okay, you may think I have delved a bit too deep into the ins and outs of shirt-making. How does bespoke software development relate to that at all?
Let’s explore this comparison. A tailor, of course, is the vendor, and the shirt is the software that you want to have produced.
The development partner (at least a competent one) will ask you a lot of questions. Who is the target group? What are the deadlines? What is your marketing strategy? What is the project’s scope?
This is their version of the measurement process. Don’t be discouraged by the number of calls they’re requesting - it shows that they care about your product and your success.
A proper tailor will have a wide range of materials to choose from. Choosing the right one is not an easy choice and it will probably have the biggest impact on how functional your shirt is.
In software development, technologies and frameworks come to mind. You want a shirt for the winter? Choose wool. You want a web service? Go with Django. A professional software developer will offer the technology stack that fits your needs best.
Make it look great
Let’s go back to the post-it idea from earlier. It looks like David Tennant wrote ‘green paisley shirt’ on his post-it note, and he got exactly that. Does it look good? And how about the second one? It fits the same description, but looks radically different.
A good tailor will understand your request, and rework it with you to make the shirt look even better.
This is why you may need UI/UX design assistance in your project - to make sure that the look and feel of your product are attractive to the user.
(As a bonus for reading this far - if you want to feel nostalgic and see a page that looks like the shirt on the left, look no further than the official Space Jam website.)
Try, try, try again
When you’re developing an app, very seldom is there a moment when you can say “there, it’s finished”.
You want to add new features and improve the existing ones. That’s why there are iterations. And that’s why a good tailor does fittings - to see if the shirt actually fits you the way it is supposed to, and to add small modifications where needed.
Shirt - a product - web, app, mobile software
Tailor - bespoke software development partner
Measurement and specification - project kick-off, discovery workshops
Material - technology, frameworks
Patterns, details - UI/UX design
Fittings - developing the software to better fit the users’ needs
To learn more about what the process of the discovery workshops might look like, feel free to click here.
To explain the process even better I took the liberty of preparing an infographic comparing the two processes (click to enlarge).
Choosing the right tailor wasn’t easy. It took a lot of consideration.
One of them is distance. Sometimes you want to find a partner who’s as close as possible, but sometimes it pays off to look a little further.
In the case of software development, going for ‘a little further’ would be equivalent to outsourcing; or more specifically, nearshoring. If you’re not familiar with the exact characteristics and advantages of nearshoring, fret not - our free ebook will answer all your questions.
If you want to learn more about the process of creating custom shirts, on the other hand, visit the great Turnbull & Asser website. They go into detail about every step, and I’ve used their expertise in crafting this article. They dress the Prince of Wales, so they know what they’re doing.