Harlow Technologies Blog
The Importance of Defining Requirements Before Seeking a Software Development Quote
Before any software developer can provide a quote for their services, they need to understand exactly what the client wants their system to do. In other words, the developer must understand the software requirements – the specific features and functionalities requested by the client.
Without the software requirements, the developer won’t be able to formulate a proper quote, nor will they understand exactly what the client wants from their services.
The question is, as a small business owner, how do you understand the requirements you need to obtain an accurate quote?
That’s what we want to talk about today. Stick with us as we talk about what goes into “good” requirements and they’re so crucial to the software development process.
Why Do You Need Requirements Upfront?
Although you could waltz into a meeting with a developer sans requirements in hand, that’s not the best idea. You’re looking for a developer that can provide custom business applications, and that means you want to steer clear of any cookie-cutter software options they already have.
You wouldn’t want a doctor to “copy and paste” your treatment plan without fully understanding your body’s needs and preferences. Similarly, you don’t want your software to be based on the treatment plan for a completely different business.
When you schedule a meeting with a custom software developer, you want to be able to present them with your unique requirements and expectations. Not only will this make you feel more confident in the project, but it will also help the developer understand the scope of work, timeline, and price of your requested application.
Considering that the average custom app development project costs anywhere from $3,000 to over $120,000, you want to know you’re getting exactly what you need for the price you’re quoted.
What Makes a “Good” Software Requirement?
Software requirements are not the same thing as your business objectives, which are often fairly general. A strong software requirement is more specific.
For example, let’s say a small business offers a mobile, customized banking service system to different clients. The business software requirement for one client might be to show a specific account summary. Another client might need the capability to transfer funds from anywhere. A team member might need a certain behind-the-scenes management option.
Software requirements are almost always one of two things: functional or non-functional. However, to be good requirements, they also need to be:
You don’t want any of your requirements to be ambiguous or vague. Leave nothing to interpretation – explain exactly what you need, how you want to obtain it, and mitigations for errors and risks. The more thorough you are when writing requirements, the fewer misunderstandings there will be down the road.
Examples of Well VS Poorly Written Requirements
A strong requirement looks something like this: “Users should be able to sign up via email and password to access their accounts, as well as authenticate via a secure automated text message.”
A weak requirement is something like, “We want there to be some way for users to authenticate their login.” This one provides very little information and does not explain how the client wants the situation to be handled. If this is what many of your current requirements look like, dig a little deeper.
Tip: Usually, the best requirements are drafted by people who really know what your business software needs, such as your solution architects, stakeholders, or project managers.
Before you request a quote from any developer, have a conversation with key team members to nail down some of your most important requirements. This brings us to our next point…
Account for User Needs and Preferences
Although you might be on the path to creating a custom application on behalf of your business as a whole, understand that different users, departments, and clients will have very different opinions on what the application should do.
In a very real sense, creating software requirements means climbing into the heads of the software’s future users. As you come up with the requirements, ask yourself:
- Who will be using this software?
- What do these people think/hope the software will do?
- What are we really trying to accomplish with a custom app?
Furthermore, take a moment to consider the key roles within your future application. Envision future users as they turn to your software. How will your requirements ensure their needs are prioritized? Are you thinking through their entire interaction with the software?
When Software Requirements Are NOT Helpful
The worst requirement is one that is not defined. Far too often, we see businesses begin the process of custom application development without considering or writing out extremely important software requirements, such as:
- Security necessities
- Payment processing capabilities
- Data storage solutions
Failing to account for requirements like these doesn’t just decrease the effectiveness/safety of your application. It also significantly reduces your ability to stay within the constraints of your initial budget and timeframe, which is likely already more than two months until delivery according to averages shared by GoodFirms.
If your business receives bids for custom applications before you’ve nailed down all of your requirements, approach the development process with skepticism. A blurry image of your app’s requirements may lead to lower costs, but it will also lead to cut corners and tradeoffs you might not want to make.
Need Help Drafting Requirements? Ask Us.
It doesn’t matter what kind of custom application you’re trying to create – understanding and defining all of the requirements is challenging. You’ll likely want some guidance, specifically from professionals who have thought through app development projects hundreds of times.
At Harlow Technologies, we do more than just help you create your software.
We ask the right questions to ensure our developers completely understand what you need. Our security and technology experts will bring new viewpoints to the table so that you can draft thorough requirements, then bring your project to life.
To schedule your initial consultation, give us a call at 1-866-852-4HTI. You can also book an appointment with our developers online.