8 Things You Must Check before Signing a Contract for Tailor-made Software Development


Michal Ohrablo, Sales manager

Technological independenceIf a Word text editor can be purchased for several dozen Euro and developing a similar product on your own could cost several million Euro, the second option doesn’t make much sense. However, there may be several good reasons for a company to prefer customized development instead of boxed software.

Taking this road can be stressful. Responsible managers will have justified worries regarding the decision to develop software and choosing the right supplier.  A mistake could result in cost overruns, delays and increased complications instead of anticipated improvements.  It’s also possible that the entire project could drag on without end or the developing company could disappear in a few years, thus making development and changes too complicated. Therefore, extreme attention should be paid to the selection of the supplier of customized software.

These are the 8 things you should check prior to signing a contract.

1. History, flexibility and references

How long has the company been operating, what is its staffing like and which projects is it proud of? Upon obtaining a list of previous clients, approach them directly and ask them about the project. The stability of the company is also important.  A company that has been operating for 20 years is not necessarily reliable if staff turnover is high, no one remembers anything and everyone is learning on the job.

2. Ability to perceive things with a broad perspective

Does the supplier have experience in various sectors? An extremely narrow specialization in one sector can appear to be an advantage, but in such case it is highly unlikely that the supplier will bring new insight to your business and established processes.  

3. Technological independence

Watch out for suppliers who are too oriented on a certain technological platform. It is quite probable that such a company will push you towards the environment which has the largest number of programmers, but not necessarily the environment that is most suitable for you.  

4. Openness for the first time

When developing customized software, it’s a good idea to enquire whether the supplier is able to make the new software compatible with the systems that are already in place in your company or if it will push you to get rid of the old systems.

5. Consulting abilities

This is not an easy thing to identify, but pay attention to the ability of your future customized software supplier to understand your business and not only its ability to program.  If a supplier asks you to provide your exact specifications for the new system, don’t even talk to them. You as a customer should not start with a specific idea of a new system – what and especially how it should work. Customers frequently have a feeling that this is what makes communication easier and that they will achieve what they really want and faster. However, the effect is usually the opposite – your actual (business) goal disappears and the search for the correct solution gets complicated.

6. Flexibility

This may sound like a cliche, but it is extremely important when developing customized software to ensure that the supplier can adapt and flexibly react to changes. This can be tested in the pilot project or immediately after launching– if any small change is problematic from day one, don’t expect that it will get better.

7. Security

Developing software without considering security risks and threats is like buying a car without installing a security system and even leaving it unlocked on the street.  Security can always be addressed after the fact, but it is usually more effective to consider it while developing the software. A good supplier considers security automatically, even though it is not explicitly mentioned in the assignment.

8. Openness for the second time

Never say never. Even the largest companies can go bust. And although today you think that you will never ever administer the software on your own in your company, everything can change in a couple of years.  Therefore chose a company that does not try to “cement” you in with artificial barriers, but one that will provide you with comprehensive documentation along with the work which can be used for further developing of the system even without this company.  You will also appreciate it if the supplier is willing to permit you to engage in a certain degree of system configuration and allow you to implement common operative changes such as new reports, output templates and exports without their help.