Commissioning software can seem like a daunting prospect if you haven’t done it before. Myths about what to expect when you’re paying for a bespoke software build to solve your business problems are everywhere. Luckily, such misinformation is just that.
Many negative assumptions and stereotypes about software development are completely false, distortions of the truth, or are heavily outdated.
However, there is still reason to remain alert when you receive any wisdom on the best way to build your software. If you’re supervising a development project, you should keep in mind that there is also a great deal of superstition when it comes to the best way to run a team.
Below is a comprehensive guide as to some of the most common myths surrounding software development. There’s also information as to what can be done to avoid the pitfalls that typically result for those who believe them.
More Staff, Faster Software Development?
It’s sometimes assumed that hiring more developers will make software development faster. While the idea seems logical enough, this myth is probably the most commonly believed misconception about programming and software development today.
In certain areas of business, the usual assumption is that adding more workers to the production line will speed things up relative to the amount of staff hired. In certain areas of business, this is completely true. In software development, it really depends.
A 1975 study by academic Frederick P Brooks found that the opposite was usually true for when it came to organising computer programmers, explained his essay collection ‘The Mythical Man-Month’.
While hiring a larger initial workforce at the start of development might help, software development is a creative process that relies on specialised skills held by a close team following a precise plan to create the best program possible.
If too many developers join a team in the mid or late-stage development phase, the disruption caused by initial training, project adjustment, and programmer orientation can derail even the best-planned operations. This can vastly increase the project timeframe and raise overhead costs substantially.
The workforce involved also needs to be scaled to the software project in question and matched to the skillset required. A good early plan and a carefully-selected, dedicated workforce may save hassle for companies later.
Custom Software Development – Too Expensive?
Many companies find themselves using off-the-shelf software to suit their basic needs through being intimidated by the supposedly excessive costs of commissioning custom software.
However, businesses that really do require unique software to function at peak efficiency stand to lose out over the longer-term through using a less effective solution because of concerns over the cost of software development.
It’s important to consider the cost outlay to productivity trade-off in commissioning any new piece of software.
However, businesses that continue using ill-fitting or outdated software may end up incurring losses over time due to productivity loss and the need for legacy support. Commissioning a custom software development solution can give businesses a competitive edge through improving the speed, efficiency, and precision of processed actions.
Perfect Project Predictability?
Once software developers have a full list of requirements, they will begin constructing a program that meets them. However, it should not be assumed that a precise template of the finished program needed will be available on day one.
Some areas of business, such as architecture and engineering, can give a close approximation of what the finished product will be like early on. Unless it’s an extremely specific idea that’s being worked on, software developers typically can’t until late-stage completion.
The software under development may change significantly during the development process as new areas of development and better functionality and features are outlined by the design team.
New advances in technology may need to be integrated into the program and external market factors may also mean that the core focus of the program is changed to meet long-term marketplace and internal demands. If the program is going to be forward-facing, customer or consumer testing may also be required to optimise it.
All of this means that while a rough estimate of projected costs and a timescale may be available when the software is being commissioned, it is typically subject to change. Expect for uncertainty to alter the final estimates for both the expense and time taken to create the software.
Flexibility and Feature Creep
That said, can software really be radically changed from the original plan? It depends. While some modifications can sometimes be made easily, others may take months or years of debugging and adjustment to functionally attach to any existing work.
Long-running projects also run the risk of feature creep, which is a term for when programs have more and more functionality added for diminishing returns.
Again, a good initial plan may help developers greatly when it comes to analysing what’s really needed from a piece of custom software. It may also increase overhead substantially if the project expands far beyond it’s starting specifications.
The One True Development Methodology
Some may say that one methodology of development management is superior to all the others. In truth, all major industry modes for building software have their strengths and weaknesses as well as their limitations.
While the Waterfall model is sometimes vaunted as the best and only way to build (sequential development, few deviations, good predictability) it is rigid and prone to jamming workflow if disrupted.
Agile software development methodology can help you to access your program faster as it provides faster access to core functionality, emphasising incremental increases to one piece of software.
Despite this, it may not be suitable for anyone that requires a completed project with somewhat of an immediate effect. While Lean offers fast and efficient delivery of a complete piece of software, that style may not leave much room for last-minute changes or feature addition.
The best businesses will find the model that suits their needs and make it clear which they require to their developers, balancing their concerns over timescale, overhead, and the program’s scope to what they can reasonably afford.
Expertise and Awards
Does hiring better programmers result in a better piece of finished software? Usually, but only with the right management.
While hiring people who are able to code well might benefit a development team greatly, they’re likely to struggle if the logistical side of development is neglected.
Communication and commercial marketing could be just as important in making sure a project succeeds, as well as a carefully outlined plan of how time is to be used. Quality should also be measured by completed projects during the hiring process, as well.
While certification for an individual developer or an agency may well be a mark of excellence, the gold standard for skill is usually measured by the calibre of software that they have had exposure to and completed.
Do Coders Understand What Business Needs?
While there still exists a stereotype of the geeky, self-obsessed developer who is unable to fit to what a project brief requires, this is a misleading myth.
Today’s programmers will usually be experienced in working around what businesses need from a software development project as the majority of software commissions come from the large business and corporate world. Most will be happy to work closely with company representatives to find the best solution to their needs possible.
New Technology, Better Results?
While every company would ideally like to be on the cutting-edge of their field when it comes to the software they use or offer, this may not make the most sense when it comes to running an efficient business. Cutting-edge development is costly, time-consuming, and likely to be rapidly outdated.
Likewise, using the latest development platforms during construction may raise the cost of developing software substantially. Careful consideration of what is needed from the software and the most time and cost-efficient way to achieve this is frequently more productive than just acquiring the most advanced software that money can commission.
It should also be kept in mind that the best development kits in the world can’t compensate for a team that is inept, poorly suited to the task, or poorly organised.
Like architecture, it should also be remembered that programming is something of an art as well as a form of science. Creativity, imagination, and problem-solving skills all form part of the toolset of any truly excellent developer.
Customers, Users, and Software Intuition
It might be assumed that users and customers should just ‘get’ a good piece of software and that they should be able to pick up and use it out of the box. While this would be ideal, many complex programs may suffer in quality if their functionality is reduced during development so that this can happen.
Training, tutorials, and documentation for unique software are frequently worth producing. They may help end users of all kinds to get much more from the software that a company has paid for.
Is Completely Bug-Free Code Possible?
Almost every piece of software will have a few bugs in it. While dedicated testing is important to root out critical flaws and improve user quality-of-life, it is unreasonable to expect that any commercial program will be completely free of glitches.
The only exceptions to this are programs used in intense environments or those relied upon for life or death decisions, such as those implemented by NASA.
Typically, absolutely flawless programs have enormous budgets, a world-class development team, and a long development cycle behind them to achieve that result.
Life After Release
Finishing the product and releasing it means that it will run indefinitely and no more needs to be done to it by the developers, right? Not exactly. OS Updates, user demands, and a changing marketplace may mean that the program needs patching, porting, or updating.
If any major flaw is found left over in the program, it may also need to be repaired once the product has shipped. Legacy and technical support may also become issues with software that is used for a long period or has a difficult learning curve in order to master.
Do Key Performance Indicators Work in Software Development?
KPIs work well when improving business productivity. So, it seems logical that they would improve the speed and calibre of a software development team. Unfortunately, that isn’t often the case.
Using ineffective and baseless measurements for software development (such as support tickets processed) will hinder productivity, as it will encourage a higher rate of requests for tickets.
Programmers may also begin to behave more competitively rather than working together as a creative team. It may be much more beneficial to carefully consider which KPIs are really appropriate for your project for use as motivators.
Outsourcing – Good or Bad?
While different opinions abound, outsourcing can cause or solve software development problems depending on how well it is handled. Outsourcing can lead to inflexibility and extended overheads if it is arranged in a hurry or poorly planned.
However, good outsourcing has proven to cut project costs, improve software quality, and speed up development time by handling tasks that a dedicated team may struggle to complete in-house. Once again, careful planning and a detailed knowledge of what’s needed to make a specific software solution successful may help enormously.
Getting it Right the First Time
There’s often an unreasonable expectation of perfection from day one with custom software. It is unrealistic at best to expect a piece of software to be perfect on the first release unless it has undergone some serious labour-intensive testing beforehand.
The Agile method of software development allows for rapid additions to an initial MVP (Minimum Viable Product) release. This may suit projects that rely heavily on user feedback better.
Hopefully this article has gone some way to dispel some of the major myths around software development that exist today.
If you would like to learn more about how bespoke software development can benefit your organisation, speak to one of our senior consultants.
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