A software engineer is different than a software programmer. Programmers simply use code to give instructions to a computer. With enough YouTube videos and practice, anyone can be a programmer. A software engineer, on the other hand, makes a profession out of writing quality software that is designed and built to address unique situations. A software engineering solution must be designed, written, tested and maintained with the purpose of addressing critical problems its users face.
Not every problem requires a program to solve it, and before you invest in custom software development, you need to consider if your particular problem truly needs an engineer’s expertise.
Identify the Problem
There are many programs out there solving a plethora of problems many of us face everyday. Perhaps your solution already exists, or your problem can be totally prevented by taking action early on, and you don’t even need the creation of new software. In order to know what your roadmap moving forward should be, though, you first need to identify and understand your problem.
The opposite of your problem is the goal of any new program – whether existing or bespoke – you implement. To end up with the software that best meets your needs, start by outlining the parameters of your problem and the solution requirements. In order to fully outline your problem and solution, you need other perspectives and user insights. Speak with others in management as well as your potential users – internal or external – to understand the problem fully. You’ll also learn what your users need for a functioning solution. All of this information will lead you to the final conclusion – do you need a software engineering solution or something else?
Once you have determined that a software is the solution to your problems, you need to consider budget. Think about what features are most necessary and how much you’re willing to pay for them. How will solving this problem align with your business goals? With all of this information, you can begin researching your ideal solution and approach a software engineer.
Learning Your Problem
After you have identified the problem and collected some initial information on it, you need to learn the full depth and breadth of the issue. By gathering information on your problem, you’ll be able to explain the essential qualities and aspects of it, including its boundaries, origin and what else is affected.
In software, you have user types and user journeys. Each user type has a unique user journey, and by mapping out how your users will interact with any new software program, From this, you can lay out the expectations of any engineered program and how it can meet the requirements of the problem.
Flowcharts can also be a useful tool for determining the logic and flow of data through a system, and how your problem could be solved with technology. If you already have an existing system, and you are considering how a software engineering solution could improve functionality, taking the time to map out user journeys and lay out flowcharts will also help you see the problems afflicting your system in a two-dimensional format.
Before anything is coded, it’s important to examine and analyze the actual requirements to plan how a solution will be achieved, whether that’s with an existing program, modernizing your current software or utilizing a software engineer’s talent and experience to build an entirely unique solution.
Does the Solution Already Exist?
With all the information you’ve learned about the problem you face – including how users are affected by it and the requirements of a fix – your next step is to ensure there’s not an existing solution you can obtain for a fraction of the cost of a custom built solution.
Compare solution requirements to existing programs to see if any of them fit for your needs. If you are experiencing a problem that many other businesses have dealt with, chances are that someone has already packaged the solution into a SaaS product with all the bells and whistles you may be interested in.
You may also find your answer in the combination of several existing programs working together and sharing information. If you’ve found that more than one application is needed to solve your problem, it may be a matter of simply finding a way to get these separate pieces of software to communicate in a way that doesn’t create strain. This is usually not a job for a software engineer, though.
After doing your homework and dissecting your problem, you may also find that your solution exists with the current legacy application your organization works with. Updating or upgrading it to better suit the needs you have in the present may be preferred over transitioning your business to an entirely new system. This may or may not require some kind of engineering expertise depending on how much overhauling of the current software is necessary, but if your enterprise system is already addressing most of your problems, why throw it out?
Do You Need a Software Engineering Solution?
Once you’ve learned all you can about the kind of software you need, and you’ve scoured the market for a solution and have come back empty-handed, it may be time to look into the benefits of a custom software engineering solution.
A fundamental question that software engineers ask themselves – and you should, too – is: what is the simplest way to solve this problem? You have many things to consider: efficiency, costs, usability, safety, reliability and a well-designed user experience. It can be easy to get caught up in what you believe you need your new program to be, going beyond solving your initial problem.
Something every engineer would like their clients to know about and embrace is the concept of a minimal viable product (MVP). An MVP is a program designed to fulfill the basic needs of your users, allowing you to get it in front of people faster and start gathering feedback and feature requests. It prevents you from wasting time and money on features that don’t truly solve the problem. You should also keep in mind how cost-effective and streamlined your program should be. Most problems don’t need a huge, complex piece of custom software with a hundred different features.
Put Real Value in Your Software Engineering Solution
If you’ve taken the time to do your research and have come to the conclusion that an engineered piece of software is the best and simplest way to address your problem, you’ve come to the right place. Vice Software provides custom software development, end-to-end, with a focus on keeping your costs down while achieving the product you dreamed of. Our experienced engineers and developers will ensure that you get exactly what you need, and are able to grow and scale from there. By introducing an MVP to your users, you’ll be able to onboard people faster and start learning how to make the application even better. Our unique structure allows you to have the experience of an onshore team while seeing the costs of an offshore team, an unbeatable value.
To learn more about the value of a software engineering solution and how it can solve your problems, start a conversation with us!