Software Development Prep Guide

Software Development Prep Guide

How to know that you're ready to engage a software development firm for your project

We meet with a lot of prospective clients who have an idea for an application they want, but are just not ready to engage us yet. We want to have the most productive conversations with our prospective clients, so we thought we'd put together a helpful guide so you can get yourself prepared to meet with us or another application development firm.

Our process begins with a 30-minute phone conversation where we find out about your project and ask a few key questions. We don't get into features or dig into scope at this point, because a few important things trump functionality in our opinion.

Here are the first questions we will ask:

  1. What is the project? Is there a defined need for the application/is there a real problem or opportunity the application will address? Who has this problem?

    This is extremely important, mostly for our clients. If the application you want to build does not drive business or efficiency in some way, it is unlikely that they will want to invest the time and money into the application long-term. We don't want anyone to waste their hard-won dollars on technology that will end up in the digital landfill. The applications we build are built for daily use. We want them to be well-used and well-loved and if there is no real business reason for employees or customers to use the application, the project is less likely to be successful.

  2. Who is the product owner and how much time do you/they have to devote alongside our team to develop the application?

    When we say, “develop and application” we don't mean just coding. To develop an application takes strategy meetings, design meetings, business meetings and yes, technical meetings. We need our client-side product owners to be responsive to our questions, motivated to schedule necessary meetings, quickly gather information we need and be available for challenges as they come up. The level at which the client product owner is engaged in the project has much to do with the success of the application project. Our clients know their companies and employees well, we know application development and technology service well. Both sides must be deeply engaged in an application build. It can't be us pushing on our clients all the time or they'll just get annoyed and it won't work. Clients can't be constantly running down the agency product manager all the time, or that just gets frustrating. Both sides of the partnership must be highly engaged.

  3. What is your budget expectation? What research have you done in validating your budget with like products? Are you able to support a new product over the next couple years?

    When we discuss budget with our prospective clients, they often don't have a budget in mind (or one that they'll share anyway). This tells me they've either not researched their application idea very much or have not thought through the perceived business value of the application to know what they want to invest. For example, if the business opportunity of the application is $500k per year, spending $100k-$200k to see that added revenue annually is probably worth it to most businesses. When a prospective client does not want to discuss budget, this is an indicator of how serious they are about building the application and/or how engaged the product owner is. Extremely low budgets indicate a similar problem. We recently had a conversation with someone who wanted us to build the equivalent of Canva for $10,000 because someone (who is not a developer) told him that's what it should cost. This indicates they have not done any research about what they have asked for.

    Second to the initial budget for developing the application, we discuss with our prospects the investment that it takes to continue to grow and improve an application over time and help them set that budget. Not all applications need monthly development (but some do). Some applications may be able to get away with just a few updates every year - but this is a cost that needs to be planned. As you evaluate your budget to determine if it is realistic, ask yourself this: “what would it cost me to hire a Senior Product Strategist, Senior User Interface Designer, Senior Engineer and a seasoned Product Manager to build my app?” This puts into perspective what it would take to in-source your project vs. the $100k you might be quoted for the project.


Our next step is usually a 90-minute session with our senior strategist to further define your project and get to a rough cost and timeline estimate. Once you agree to the rough estimate, we'll get you a pinpoint estimate, get contracts together and put your build start date on the calendar.

Closing Thoughts:
You know you're ready to build your app when you have answers to these questions. We invest a lot of time into the ongoing refining of our agency processes because our clients directly benefit from them. Our Readiness process, as well as our other processes make it easy for our clients to work with us. It's easy to tell the great agency partners from the ones you'd probably not want to work with by their processes. As a client, you should always feel like you are in the middle of a well-planned and well-executed process and should always know what's next - even before you engage them. Agencies like this are worth paying well (IMHO).

If you have a business application that needs to be built and are looking for a bright, focused team of professionals who are in this for the long haul, we should chat. Built Well Studio was recently named in the top 10 application developers in Kansas City on Clutch.co and we are eager to maintain our momentum. Give us a shout and let's talk about your next application project.

Want to be ultra-prepared for a meeting with our project team? Or just want to ensure you have your ducks in a row to meet with another agency? We’ve compiled our top ten questions that we ask during software discovery meetings. To reflect on all of the questions that you will more than likely be asked, download it here.

Jayme Thomason