Insights

10 questions to ask your software developer

19 July 2019

Reading time 7 minutes

When you have reached a decision for your business to invest in software development, it is essential that key questions are asked of your potential software developers. For many businesses this may be the first time they have commissioned software and they may feel unsure of what to ask. In this article we attempt to cover some of the key points you should be asking your developer.

Asking these questions is important in order to fully establish that the software to be developed meets your business requirements and also that any legal and regulatory considerations are used to shape the software design.

Where legal and regulatory requirements are concerned, it is the responsibility of the business to ensure that the software passes any required tests, but the software developer should be briefed on what is required so they can ensure the software is designed to be fit for purpose. It is also important to understand how the software is created to meet requirements to ensure that your business understands its ownership of any copyright and intellectual property.

Where intellectual property (IP) and copyright matters are concerned, it is always best to seek advice from a solicitor with experience of technology. One great example of guidance on asking the right questions of your software developer is this video from Stephens Scown. The 10 questions that Ben Travers, Partner and Head of IP & IT - Stephens Scown advise to be asked from the outset are as follows and we have provided our response to each of these below:

  • Will your developer use open source software?
  • Will your developer outsource any elements of the development?
  • Will your business own copyright?
  • Will the developer by able to use the content on other projects?
  • Will the developer build in ‘privacy by design’?
  • Have acceptance testing measurements been considered?
  • What level of ‘tweaks’ will be included in the price?
  • Will this be an ‘agile’ build?
  • How will you keep the project on track?
  • Will your business have a copy of the ‘source code’?

Open-source software

Open source software is publicly accessible but released by the copyright holder under licence. The licence terms can vary from very flexible to being restrictive and even as far as not allowing commercial use. It is common for software developers to use elements of open-source code in software solutions. This can be to save the client money as in some cases it would be cheaper to use open-source software as part of the project than the time it would take for the software developer to create bespoke software to achieve the same outcome within the whole software solution being developed.

If the requirement of the client is that they own the full intellectual property of the software being developed this would be factored into the time estimated to design and develop the solution to ensure full IP for the client.

Outsourcing software development

Many software agencies will outsource wholly or partial development of software solutions including mobile applications. Why they do this depends on their business model, resources and skill sets. It could be that they require a niche skill so need to hire a freelancer or third party agency to provide the necessary resources to complete a project. Other times it could be due to the volume of work they have underway and the need for a temporary expansion of the team in order to complete a project.

There is no problem with either of these approaches as long as the developer ensures high standards and any external resource complies with contractual and legal obligations.

Copyright

Intellectual property (IP) and copyright will be passed to the client upon receipt of the final payment for the project. These are our standard business terms.

Re-use of content

We do not use any bespoke software developed for clients on any other project as each client will own the IP of the software on completion of their project. There is potentially re-use of open source content but as mentioned above this is common practice and would be handled by licence terms.

Privacy by design

Software must be useful and fulfil its purpose. It is important that not only is the software reliable, useful and easy to use, but that security and privacy best practices are built into the software. This is known as privacy by design which Rokk has as a key principle of our software development.

Acceptance testing

It is important that the client checks the software meets requirements before final payment is made. Our testing team will have taken the software through robust testing regarding usability, security and scalability. The testing scenarios would have been created and discussed during the development of the software to ensure there are no loopholes in the testing plan. Some of the testing will be done in collaboration with the client as it is key to collaborate on the fine tuning of the software solution so that it fully meets the requirements and supports the end user groups who will be using the software solution.

Tweaks

It is common that clients will want a tweak here and there and a software developer will be open to this but there needs to be consideration of each request to ensure that they are not changing the specification of the project as in adding in a new feature. If requirements do change then amendments can be made to the specification and this is common. The changes may require a revision of the project cost and this should be discussed with the client to confirm agreement on the change to cost and delivery timescales .

Tweaks aside, at Rokk we include a 30 day warranty period from sign-off of the software project to cover bugs that may be found post sign-off of the project.

Agile development

Agile development is the methodology used on the majority of projects at Rokk. The exceptions are normally where the client requires a different approach as the project is part of a larger-scale transformation so needs to easily integrate with client internal programs.

Project management

Every project is overseen by a project manager and most projects also include a business analyst. By having these key roles and experienced team members at Rokk we are able to plan effectively and keep the project on track for any key deadlines that have been agreed for the project e.g. launch date.

Source code

Once the final payment for the project has been received the client would own the intellectual property, the software and we would happily provide a copy of the source code upon request.

So there you have it, a list of key questions to ask your software developer ahead of commissioning a project. At Rokk we pride ourselves on being at the forefront of digital and technological trends, specialising in assisting clients to solve the most complex of business challenges through cost-effective software applications and processes.

As a software company, we are able to help your business solve its challenges through the use of technology. Whether mobilising a workforce with an iOS or Android mobile app solution, upgrading a legacy business system to .NET, or developing a complex transactional website with custom PHP, CSS and HTML, we can streamline your business processes, build solutions for additional revenue and even support your start-up.