Why Industry Knowledge is Critical to IT Projects in the Legal Field

Posted by Christine Ziebell on 1/15/2019 10:58:34 PM

Intraboom builds best custom software for law firms and enterprise

Why Industry Knowledge is Critical to IT Projects in the Legal Field – And Why So Few IT Providers Can Deliver

You may have heard that Intraboom is now focusing its product development on customized IT solutions for the legal industry. This was a natural step in the company’s evolution. Founded by former and current attorneys, there are few other IT providers that can claim the same level of deep industry knowledge and experience in the legal field. Now this knowledge is being combined with everything they’ve learned developing the #1 digital workplace on the market. The result? An IT provider that understands the problems faced by lawyers in their everyday work, and who knows how to build software to solve them. 

So, if you’re a law firm or a legal department, are looking to build software or an app, and want to avoid the traditional problems you’ve likely encountered before in IT projects, read on. And at the end, you will probably arrive at the only logical conclusion: choosing Intraboom as your partner in your next custom software development project.

What Your Software Project Should NOT Look Like

A custom software development project goes haywire. A six-month timeline turns into twelve, then eighteen. The budget went out the window right around the six-month mark, you’re currently at 40% over budget (if you’re lucky), but the product is still not ready. The developers are billing you on a “time and materials” basis with no end in sight. Now you’ve reached a point where corners have to be cut on the functionality, or the project will never be finished. Sound familiar?

This scenario is one that many of us have seen over the years when purchasing custom software. If you’re lucky enough not to have been involved in one, you’ve probably heard the horror stories. So why is it that this happens, time and time again? 

The Typical Project Starts with a Disconnect

At the beginning of an IT project (and this is unfortunately also the time when the contract is typically signed), there is, more often than not, a huge disconnect between what the customer will actually want (but perhaps isn’t fully aware of it yet), what the customer can adequately explain, and what the software developer understands. The IT service provider tends to create a list of broad specifications, and give an estimate on the price of the custom software based on those specifications. The problem is that there are so many things to consider, details that the customer can’t even begin to imagine at this stage, that the specifications almost invariably turn out to be inadequate. And these specifications become the IT provider’s way out of the estimate. Everything, and I mean everything, that is not specifically mentioned in the specifications will be considered “out of scope” and will cost you more money.

So, how does one avoid this disconnect and come through with the unicorn of an IT project that actually stays on schedule and budget? Here are the top 5 tips on what you can do. 

Top 5 Tips for a Successful Custom Software Development Project

1. Find Someone with Industry Knowledge

Your absolute best bet in a custom software development project is to team up with someone who has a good understanding of your industry, as well as the technology that you are seeking to build. An IT developer may be great at developing software, but if they don’t understand the problem you are trying to solve, your workflow, and a number of other industry-specific variables, they will probably not be able to develop adequate specifications from the get-go. 

2. Start with a Technical Deep Dive

At the outset, spend enough time talking about the technical implementation and figure out exactly how you want your product to work. It is recommended to start each project with a so-call technical deep dive, which can (and should) be a separate and separately priced project with the vendor. During the technical deep dive, which typically lasts from 3-6 weeks, the ambition is to develop extremely detailed specifications by discussing every aspect of user flow and functionality, and putting everything down on paper. When the technical deep dive is complete, you should have an adequate technical specification in your hands. If, at this point, the IT provider feels that the budget was underestimated, the provider should be given a way out. Typically, you should agree to pay a small fee for the technical deep dive if the IT provider chooses to back out after they have been finalized – this way you will own the rights to the specifications and can use them with another vendor. 

3. Create Hard Milestones

Something that often goes wrong in IT projects is that the client is not aware how far behind the IT provider may be, until it comes time to complete the project, and at this point you find out it’s nowhere near complete. It’s important to agree on hard milestones that, if not met, have an appropriate impact for example on the price. This way the IT provider will remain motivated to deliver on time and in accordance with the agreed specifications throughout the project.

4. Try to Firm Up the Price

Many IT providers will not work for a firm price – and it’s safe to say they all prefer the “time and materials” basis. Why wouldn’t they, because time and materials means that they can pretty much spend whatever time they want on the project, and get paid for it. If possible, try to agree on a firm price (or at least on a price that has a cap) once the technical deep dive has been completed. At this stage a professional IT provider should be able to make a reasonable estimate on the amount of work required to complete the project. (You should always buffer your budget with at least 10-20%, regardless, because it is almost inevitable that you will want to change something in the technical specifications once the product starts taking shape, and you will need to pay for it separately if it deviates from the agreed specifications.)

5. Prepare For the What If’s

When entering into an agreement regarding a custom software project, think about the different things that could go wrong and account for them in the contract. For example, how has the IT provider ensured that possible personnel changes will not adversely affect the project? If the IT provider becomes incapable of delivering the product, do you receive all rights to the software thus far developed, what are your payment obligations towards the IT provider, etc. It’s important to note that the value of unfinished software is not proportionate to the level of completion, for example, a software that is 75% finished is typically not worth 75% of the agreed price. If you need to take incomplete code to another developer to finalize it, a lot of work will go into figuring out what they have done and fixing possible mistakes.

If you are interested in custom software for your business, please contact marketing@intraboom.com. We would love to be a part of making your next IT project a success!

Category: Product & Company Updates, Project Management, Tips & Tricks


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