As the song says “breaking up is hard to do”, and it’s even more bittersweet when there’s an unfinished software project at stake. When you need to change your software developer mid-way through a strategic project, there are a whole host of implications from increased costs, delayed outputs and then the challenge of finding a new team to get your software application off the ground.
So how do you handle it when you and your software development team part company before your project is completed?
The reasons for wanting to change software vendors mid-way through a project are myriad; from their failure to deliver, poor understanding of the requirements or a clash of personalities to discovering that outsourcing overseas has not been as cost-effective as it initially appeared. At an even further extreme, your app development company could have unfortunately ceased trading.
With the inevitable impact on some businesses due to the pandemic and the number of times we have been approached by clients looking to change software developers without fully understanding what is involved, we thought it would be useful to write this article. Then if you ever find yourself in this situation, you’re ready to handle it without any additional stress. These tips are also useful if you’ve finished a product and post-launch, you would like to work with a new supplier.
There’s a handy checklist at the end of this article to help you transition to a new software developer.
Choosing your new partner
Whatever has gone wrong with your app supplier, now you need a project team with whom you can rebuild trust and get the job done properly. You’ve already wasted time and money, so you’re looking for a safe pair of hands to jump in and turn the software project around. Although you’re keen to move on, it is worth spending time to research a company that’s the right fit for your business. Do they have customer testimonials? Do they have experience in your sector and proven expertise in completing similar projects?
Assess what went wrong with the software supplier
Your new team will have to be able to collaborate with your initial app company in a handover too. Contact your supplier quickly to discuss the issues and start the exiting process with an agreed timeframe. Work with your new team to identify exactly what went wrong. Such issues include failures at the high-level scoping process, lack of technical expertise, inadequate development tools, or it could be more to do with the team relationship, project management or testing.
Then ensure you understand your legal requirements. If you had asked the initial supplier to sign a termination clause, both parties will need to follow the agreements. Before parting company, ensure that you have access to any contracts with third parties and that any contracts to safeguard your project outputs are to hand. Did they sign a non-disclosure agreement? Do you own the Intellectual Property?
Documentation can make or break a software development
When you’re looking for software to solve a particular problem, documentation may not seem of interest. From your point of view, you’re just keen to see your app in action as quickly as possible. However, if your software developer does not document properly, it can be detrimental for your project’s success. Certainly, if you need to switch suppliers, documentation is vital.
What is software documentation?
Documentation tells a story about the software development process. In theory, any developer should be able to look at these documents and have a good understanding. Software documentation could include IP details, licenses, feasibility studies, requirements analysis (both business and technical needs), testing logs and notes, reviews, and code.
If developers fail to create appropriate documentation, all the valuable information remains in their heads, leading to miscommunication. When it comes to adapting the app at a later stage, this lack of transparency causes additional work that could have been avoided. If you do have to pass a project over to a new team, detailed documentation will save you time and money.
Before embarking on a project, ensure that you ask any app or software partner what their documentation process is and how they will share it with your team.
How can we help?
Our way of working is to get everyone together for a workshop. Over the years, we’ve found that this results in a shared understanding of what needs to be done, when and why. This meeting will help to set the framework moving forward and avoid the pitfalls which you experienced with any previous software developer. As we move forward in partnership with you, we could also set up a maintenance agreement with you to reassure that we will meet our commitment to support ongoing projects.
Auditing your project
Code and Documentation Audit
Firstly, we would conduct a code audit to determine its quality, including identifying which framework has been used. Is it well-commented? Does it follow an architecture? Does the code follow best practices and is it readable? We also account for code repositories which helps to securely track versions of your code to avoid errors and prepare it for release.
As discussed already, documentation is critical for a project’s success. We would assess:
What relevant documentation is available?
Is it up to date?
Is the documentation readable?
Our scoping process follows a tried and tested method we have developed to bring ROI for your software product. By digging deep into your project requirements, we can anticipate and solve roadblocks in advance. This means we don’t have to waste time and budget solving problems later.
Our team gets stuck into interrogating the business requirements and translating these into the technical specifications. To get the project back on track quicker, we would drill into the issues with the existing project, but also seek to salvage what had worked. Then, we would look at when the project needs to be released and create an updated strategic plan to meet revised deadlines.
Our method of scoping allows us to clearly understand your objectives and users, and then move on to create a minimum viable product which allows you to get to market more quickly. As we move forward with the software development, we’re also there to help you through the life cycle of the project, which is better for your end-users and more cost-effective for your business.
From our own experience of taking over numerous app development projects, what makes the transition easier, in the event of a project not working out, is having access to a number of items. Here is a checklist to help you get the right documentation from your current developers.
Do you have full IP ownership?
Access to code
Raw code files
Online repositories (e.g Github/Bitbucket etc)
Access to 3rd party services (e.g Google Maps)
All associated documentation
Project scope and business requirements
User story maps
Architectural decisions and impacts
Optional but useful areas:
Technology stack and development tools
Current/Previous management tool (e.g. JIRA)
Are you planning to change your software developers mid-project?
Regardless of what stage you are at with your software project, it’s never too late to turn it around. Whether you are at the planning, software design, software development phase, or you are ready to launch your product, MyOxygen is experienced in helping organisations move to a new software
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