3 Keys to Running Custom Software Projects

Running a successful custom software project requires experience and structure. Check out three ways to help move your project to the finish line!

One question we get asked a lot is, how do you run a successful custom software project? The question lends one to believe there is a secret recipe for success, and opens up debate over the keys to successful software development. Some would argue that nothing but experience counts; others favour more standardised project management and DevOps frameworks. Perhaps the best answer is to have a balance of both real-world experience and a sturdy framework to lean on.

At Alembic, we have worked on dozens of software projects with multinational corporates, early stage startups, and everything in between. Reflecting on our experiences, three ways we like to ensure success in building new software include:

- Fast requirements gathering - Good beats perfect - Production user feedback matters most

Fast Requirements Gathering

Gathering requirements for new software should never take more time than development and user testing. Since this phase shapes the overall function and usability of the software, it's all too easy to get stuck in the never-ending expansion of requirements. Expect requirements to change as part of your project; they always do. The key is to adjust and settle on the changes as quickly as possible. This prioritises development, and as we'll see below, is the first of two steps in moving the most valuable phase of software development.

Good beats Perfect

Once requirements are gathered, every project needs to prioritise action and output above all else. Resist the urge to over-engineer. The most frequently occurring problem during this phase remains the same as gathering requirements above: many companies become trapped in a vicious cycle of prolonged development to achieve perfection. Just as requirements must be swiftly settled, development must settle on its initial build to progress to user testing. This allows the goals of the project to be validated as quickly as possible, and changes incorporated as part of the way teams work.

Production User Feedback Matters Most

By avoiding the potential pitfalls of endless requirements gathering and development, a new software project can move quickly into the phase that matters most: receiving consumer feedback in production. It's important to emphasise production, because companies often pull their insights from testing with internal user groups and acceptance test environments. Though both may help shape requirements, the real moment of truth is testing with consumers. This is where companies are able to see what works, what needs adjustment, and potentially realise new functionality previously unknown and unthought.

The Secret

All three of these keys to successful software projects build on one another to produce an overarching theme, one of maintaining high awareness of the project goals. All too easily can each phase of new software development act as a trap, keeping the project from moving to its next, more valuable phase. Those with their eye on receiving user feedback as quickly as possible will always have an advantage over others stuck with constantly changing requirements and perfectionist tendencies. We work closely with companies to always ensure that progress continues incrementally, moving from an abstract concept to the concrete insights of user testing. What matters most is what we do best: getting useful software into users hands as quickly as possible.

If you have any questions about accelerating a custom software project, please don't hesitate to get in touch!