How to avoid buyer’s remorse in custom software development

Disappointment with a purchase is a bad feeling, and it gets even worse when you can’t return or exchange the item. Your options are pretty much live with it, or just not use it. In either case, you’re not getting your money’s worth. In custom software development, fortunately, there is a sure way to avoid buyer’s remorse.

To get the greatest return on their custom software investment, law firms, legal software companies, and professional services firms should embrace product management. The difference between product management and software development is a lot like working with a custom homebuilder vs. hiring individual contractors directly.

It is possible to hire individual contractors to build a house, and that approach might even seem less expensive in the short run. But the resulting rooms probably won’t flow together well, and your experience living in the home will be dissatisfying because the buildout wasn’t properly coordinated and designed with the homeowner’s comfort in mind. A custom homebuilder will spend time understanding how you want to live in the home, craft blueprints with the big picture in mind, and manage the right team of contractors to make the integrated design a reality.

Similarly, hiring developers offshore might appear to be a great way to save money on a custom software project. One of the challenges, however, is those developers can’t deliver the advantage of coming onsite, gaining a deep understanding of the technology user experience, and perfecting the software requirements. Developers on the other side of the world, for example, may not know or even care that a set of requirements omitted a key feature that will cause headaches for users.

A U.S.-based, professional hands-on product manager stays ahead of potential project delays by communicating frequently with the client. In an agile/scrum development approach, the product manager sits with the client every two weeks to assess the product features and prioritize revisions and improvements. The product manager is involved with maintaining the product and ensuring any additions or issues are addressed.

It’s important to note that product management is not the same as project management. A project manager can keep developers on task and moving toward completion, but he or she doesn’t necessarily know whether the software is going to work well for the end users. Project managers are more focused on executing a set of instructions than applying expertise for the benefit of the ultimate users.

Another important role, which complements product management, is product marketing. This term refers not to brand building and promoting sales but instead to the deep research that identifies market opportunities for the software product. Sometimes, product marketing shows a target market is too small to make sense economically, or that product enhancements can meet the needs of a larger group of potential users. When a firm has a good idea for a software solution, the right product marketing partner can find the best ways to monetize that idea.

Product management ensures quality, not just functionality, throughout the software development process, and assures the client that the product works well for its users. Product marketing, on the other hand, ensures the market gets exactly what it needs in a product, and the right users are targeted. Organizations that rely on product management and product marketing for their custom software projects won’t be sorry with the results.

Partner with experience

GDSI has been delivering custom software solutions to professional services organizations, law firms, and legal software companies for 25 years. We are a software design studio delivering creative solutions to the business challenges inherent in legal operations. Our frequent, relevant communications ensure clients are always informed. From research and analysis to design and implementation, our judicious approach ensures sustainable results. We’re about details done right.

For more insights on custom software development, follow me on LinkedIn or email me at DGeller@GDSI.com.