What is a Software Development Company?
You maybe sat there thinking, “Could you not have come up with a more obvious question?”, but you would be surprised how many times I am asked, what a software development company actually is. Usually, the question would be “So what do you do then?”, my answer… “I own a software development company”, to which the very next question is… “so what exactly is a software development company then?”. I am partly writing this so that in the future I can just send the person asking that question the link to this article 😊
Why do software development companies exist anyway?
Over the last few decades, with the beginning of computers, computer software development consultants have become much more in demand. Everybody knows that a computer will sit there happily and do repetitive work that humans would otherwise need to do without falling asleep, without missing work, without lunch breaks and in return it only asks for electricity. It sounds like a good deal to so many (if not most) businesses that the investment in technology over the last few decades has been remarkable. Once a business realises that it can become more productive and hence much more competitive by employing the help of computers, that business will start investing in computers, because computers bring automation, and automation brings productivity, and productivity brings great rewards, such as increased profits. I think the argument for whether businesses should invest in automation has already been won a long time ago and everyone is out to lunch by now. But the argument that has been raging for a long time now, is how? How does one automate in a safe and responsible manner? Just buying computers and piling them up in a back room (server room) does not help. In a way, just like people, computers need to be employed for specific tasks. Computers need instructions about the task they need to perform and how they should perform it. There are very few things in business as wasteful as mis-utilised computers. Hardware can be expensive, especially good hardware, and therefore, you need to make sure you use it as efficiently as possible. But how do you do that? Well, that is where software development companies come in.
What is bespoke software and why?
Every business is unique they say, and to some degree it is true. Business specialises in very many sectors of society and even within the sector every business does things its own way. And because of that, one can say that every business is unique. But not all processes within a business are unique. Like communication across the business and outside the business. It still involves sending emails, or making phone calls, sending letters, and so on. And that is why you have “off-the-shelf” software. Off-the-shelf software is usually computer applications that are meant to solve a common issue that can be met across different businesses and in different sectors. Communicating efficiently with staff, having online meetings with third-party companies (customers, and suppliers), all these challenges are common, and that is why some software development companies have developed software that solve those challenges. But there are business processes that are unique to a business and you will not meet them in any other business. For example, receiving a stock file in excel which then needs looked at and extract only some lines based on a particular criteria, and then have those lines inserted into a separate system. That is a unique process and you will not find software on the shelf for that. This particular process requires “bespoke” software written specifically to solve this particular challenge. And that is what the bespoke software development industry is hanging on, solving ever-emerging new challenges by way of bespoke software that is designed and implemented to solve one challenge within a given context.
What makes a software development company then?
Now that we understand that we need some bespoke software developed for a given business process which we want to automate, we need to find software development consultants and receive some software consultation about the given challenge. Usually a software development company will some software development consultants on staff who will analyse the given challenge and then design a software solution which would solve the challenge and deliver the automation required. A software consultation would usually consist of questions where the software developer attempts to learn as much as possible about the business and technical context. Usually, there already may be some technology in place, or some given hardware in place, and therefore the solution needs to slot in rather than replace everything. The aim of the software developer is to always ensure business continuity as well as providing an economical but resilient solution. And that very often means working with what you have, within given constraints. The software development company will learn all it needs to know about the challenge, the context, the existing technologies and then propose a software solution.
I have already written an article about how to outsource your software development, but it is safe to say that there are many different software development companies out there. And it is very important o chose the right one. We are a software development company based in the UK, but what makes us great?
- Up-to-date technologies. Make sure you search for the technologies the company is quoting in the proposal and ensure they are within support and will be supported by their vendors for at least the next five to ten years in the future.
- Have they delivered similar size project in the past. The bigger the project the more the challenge. It is important that there be experience within the company to deliver.
- Good line of communication. It is important o have a good line of communication where your requirements are projected onto the software development consultants correctly, otherwise there will be trouble.
The software consultation stage of the project is probably the most important part of the whole project. The most important part of the project happens before any line of code has been written at all. The requirements engineering stage where all parties are clear on what is asked and what is being proposed is very important. Get that wrong and you are already heading the wrong way. That is why many times businesses choose local software development companies to ensure the line of communication is strong.
There are many different software development companies and many different software development technologies and many different software development methodologies. All can be good or bad if not used in the right way in the right context for the right challenge. But a good software development company will know what the best solution is for your given challenge. It will provide software consultation, it will provide a plan of implementation, it will develop the software and install it and provide software support afterwards. Changing software development companies is not easy because whilst knowing the software technology, it is important to know the domain too. That is why it is important to make the right decision upfront, and if you did not make the right decision, then change as soon as possible, do not leave it too late.