The key to success of every IT project is the best understanding of the Client’s goals and needs and the confidence that the software house can deliver a product that meets all expectations. Often, at the stage of searching for and selecting a potential partner, you may find that it’s difficult to clearly present all of your requirements. A software brief might be the right tool for you and in this article, you will find a detailed plan how to write a good brief, as well as explanation why it is worth spending time on its preparation.
What is a software development project brief?
A brief that you prepare for software house is a tool, in which you, as a Client, present information about your company and the details of the project concisely.
The software house which you ask to prepare an offer for software development, should be able to find out from your brief, among other things, what type of solution it should create, for whom, what are the goals of the project, and what are the functional and non-functional requirements for the software.
The more information the brief for the software house contains, the better it will be able to understand your project and needs, and the offer you will receive will be more accurate.
On the other hand, it is worth remembering that a well-prepared brief does not have to be very extensive, because most often the software house will have additional questions and will contact you to clarify your expectations.
Why is it worth preparing a brief for a software house?
Brief for a software development project is a helpful tool that allows your potential partner not only to understand your goals and needs, but also to get to know your company, its specifics, and expectations better.
In turn, for you, the time spent on preparing a brief for a software house will speed up the search for the right partner. A good brief will contain most of the basic information that is necessary to prepare a proposal, so you won’t have to answer the same questions separately from different companies.
What are the benefits of a well-prepared software development brief?
- It allows the software house to get to know your company, understand your needs, goals, and specifics of the project better.
- It saves you time because potential partners know the scope of the contract right away and are able to quickly determine whether they are able to create software for you – this way you do not waste time on talks with companies that do not have necessary skills or experience.
- With the help of the brief software house can identify at an early stage what technologies and tools will be optimal for the project, making the submitted offer more accurate.
- It helps you choose the right contractor because you can see from the beginning how seriously they take your goals and needs, so you can assess what further cooperation could look like.
- A detailed description of needs and expectations helps to avoid many misunderstandings at further stages of cooperation.
- A well-written brief allows helps to start working on the project faster.
Brief for a software house will bring the expected results only when it will be properly prepared. In this article, you will find tips on what should be in it to fulfill its task.
What should you include in a brief for the software house?
A well-prepared brief will be the basis for the software house to prepare an offer for you, and the more information you include in it, the greater the chance that the proposal will meet your expectations.
You have to take into account that the more complicated your project is, the more information the brief for the software house should contain, but also no one on the other side expects you to create a document that will be several dozen pages long.
A valuable brief is tailored to the scale of the project, neither too detailed nor too general.
What information should a good brief for a software house include?
- Information about your company.
- Goals and expectations for the software.
- A brief description of the project and the current state of work.
- Initial project schedule and deadlines.
- Information about possible competition.
- The preferred form of cooperation and budget restrictions.
- Additional partner selection criteria.
As we mentioned, the amount of information that you should include in your software development brief will depend on several factors, including the type and scale of the project.
In our characteristic of the individual elements that a brief should contain, we used assumptions typical for large, complex projects, such as the development of custom software with many functions.
What you should include in a brief for software house #1
Information about your company
A good software house will try to get to know your company in order to better match the offer to its individual characteristics and expectations. Therefore, although information about the company usually does not affect the value of the calculation, it is worth including them in your software development brief.
The following information should be included in the brief:
- A brief history of your company and a description of the values are important for you,
- Company business profile,
- The sector or sectors in which the company operates,
- Company size,
- Offered products or services,
- What markets does the company operate in,
- The size and skills of the project team on your side, if you have it,
- Company website address and contact person details.
With such information, the software house will be able to get to know you better as a potential Customer and prepare a more individualized offer for you.
What you should include in a brief for software house #2
Your goals and expectations
After an initial presentation of the company and its specifics, the next step should be to outline your expectations regarding the software, what problem or problems it is supposed to solve and who it will serve.
As part of the general characteristics of the project, it is worth including information such as:
- The type of software you are interested in,
- Whether you want to create a new system or modify an existing one,
- The idea behind the project,
- The main goals you want to achieve with the system,
- Description of users groups and their requirements (external and internal, such as administrators and employees),
- The direction in which the project will be developed in the future.
With properly defined and measurable goals, you will be able to assess whether the project has been delivered in accordance with your expectations.
With a proper characterization of target groups and their needs, the software house will be able to better estimate the requirements that the system must meet already at the initial stage of the project.
What you should include in a brief for software house #3
Information about possible competition
This is not a necessary element of a brief for a software house, and will not apply to some projects. Still, in a situation where your system is to be competitive against other solutions already available on the market, it is worth adding it, so the software house can better understand the competitive environment in which you operate.
You can approach this part of the brief in two ways:
- Describe what functions or solutions used in your software are to distinguish it from the competition, highlighting what other systems currently lack.
- Indicate which of the solutions used by your competition should be included in a similar form in your system, and which, in your opinion, are redundant and should not be taken into account, for example, as part of the software house suggestions.
The idea behind choosing a software house is most often to develop a custom solution or change the system you already use to better suit your needs. Therefore, the more information you provide to the potential partner about similar solutions, the better.
What you should include in a brief for software house #4
Description of the requirements and the current state of project
The description of the project that you will provide in this part of the brief will undoubtedly be one of the most important points for the software house because the value of the calculation will largely depend on the functions that the software will have.
We realize that the amount of information you can include here will depend on how specific your vision of the software is.
If you only have a general idea and hints about the main functions, companies such as SOFTIQ will be able to help you refine other essential details.
However, the more you know, the more you should include in your brief. As part of the project description, it is worth including information such as:
- What will be the role of the software and what it should do,
- Features that the system must have,
- Platforms and devices on which the software should be working,
- Non-functional requirements, if you are able to specify them at this stage (for example, regarding performance or security),
- Specific programming languages or technologies, if for some reason they must be used and included in the software house offer,
- Required integrations with other systems or databases used in your company.
If you are able to determine which functions the system must have at the beginning and which are less important and you would like to add them later, it is also worth including this information in the brief.
It is also worth mentioning which functions, often found in similar systems, you will not need due to the specificity of your business – thanks to this you can be sure that the calculation and the final product will be perfectly tailored to your individual needs.
It also often happens that Clients come to us having, for example, most of the conceptual work is already done, so the brief for the software house should also inform what has already been done as part of the project.
In particular, the software house should know if you have, for example:
- Sketches, diagrams, or mockups that at this stage illustrate your vision and expectations for the project,
- Analyzes, market research, tests, and surveys among target users,
- The software development plan,
- Possible prototypes or MVP versions of the software, if developed.
Remember that the list of functions and requirements which you will include in the brief for the software house is not final, and the shape of the system will be determined by you together with the project team.
However, with the most detailed information about your expectations and needs, combined with our many years of experience in implementing similar projects, we can prepare an offer for you that meets your needs and suggest additional options that you may want to use in the final product.
What you should include in a brief for software house #5
Initial project schedule and deadlines
If possible, your brief for the software house should contain information about time constraints that may be important for you in your project. No one at such an early stage expects a detailed project schedule from you, especially since its preparation will be part of software house work.
However, if for some reason the individual stages of work on the project or the delivery of a ready-made solution must take place within certain deadlines, such information should be included in a well-prepared brief.
What information related to project deadlines should be included in the brief sent to the software house?
- Estimated time for analyzing the offers and selecting the software house.
- The deadline for preparing the MVP version if you plan to make it part of the project.
- Your preferred start date for the project.
- The final deadline for delivering the finished solution.
Any information regarding your expectations about the deadlines of the project will be important for the software house. In the case of extremely short deadlines, it may be necessary to add additional members to the project team, which will ultimately be reflected in the value of the calculation.
Knowing your requirements and limitations in this area from the very beginning, the software house will be able to properly prepare the offer.
It might result in gathering a sufficiently large team, or in discussing the scope of work with you and analyzing the possibility of narrowing it down if it cannot be done in too short a time because of quality reasons, like necessary time for testing each function.
What you should include in a brief for software house #6
The preferred form of cooperation and budget limitations
Some of our Clients know from the beginning which model of cooperation they want to choose, while in other cases we suggest to them a solution that we believe will be the most optimal for their projects.
The two cooperation models most commonly used in the industry are Fixed Price or Time&Material, and each of them affects significantly the way in which the team’s work will be organized, what your involvement in the project will be, as well as the value and stability of the budget.
The main differences between the two cooperation models, especially in terms of budget, are:
- In the Fixed Price model – the project requires the most detailed specification, to avoid a situation where the software house will prepare a too low or high calculation, unable to estimate all costs precisely enough. With certainty about the budget value, the Client can plan expenses well in advance. This is crucial for projects where the budget is fixed or limited, for example in many projects in the public sector.
- In the Time&Material model – it is possible to dynamically manage the project budget and adjust current expenses to the Client’s capabilities. However, great flexibility in modifying the scope of work can be a risk when the Client’s team lacks a person who can verify what functions are really unnecessary because they will not translate into business results. In such a situation, a reliable software house will be invaluable in support, offering advice, and not just adding new tasks to the list.
You can learn more about pros and cons of the Fixed Price and Time & Material contracts in software development in this article on our blog.
When it comes to the budget, many Clients do not want to share information about planned expenses at such an early stage. However, we always emphasize that it is worth informing the software house in the brief if your budget is limited.
Thanks to this, the software house will be able to choose the right tools and technologies that will allow you to complete the project in the assumed time and at an acceptable cost level.
Remember that there are always several ways to solve a given problem, and knowing your limitations, the software house can choose the best one.
What you should include in a brief for software house #7
Additional partner selection criteria
The last element that is worth including when creating a brief for a software house are additional partner selection criteria.
These may be organizational or technological requirements, but regardless of their type, they should be included in your materials. Thanks to this, you will be sure that you are continuing talks only with the right candidates, and the offers prepared by them will be best suited to your expectations.
A good brief is a valuable tool, but do not ignore the benefits of personal contact
A detailed brief for a software house is really useful, but it will not always provide the potential partner with all the information, especially when you are interested in a complicated custom solution.
Often the software house will contact you to ask additional questions and make sure that you have not missed any information that may have seemed obvious to you but is important in terms of pricing.
Also sometimes the Client has only a general idea, and knows what he wants to achieve but is not able to describe how and what functions his software should have. In such case, a direct contact with the software house will be helpful in clarifying the vision of the solution.
A well-prepared brief for a software house is a tool that helps a potential partner understand your goals and needs and prepare an offer for a solution that will fully meet them.
At the same time, you should not think about the brief as the software specification, as often many elements will be changed at the stage of further talks with the software house, and other modifications of functionalities will be included in the development phase.
Still, it is worth taking the time to prepare the detailed brief for the software house, because it will make it easier for them to prepare an offer for you, and as result, you will spend less time looking for the best partner.
If you have difficulties in preparing a brief for the software house, we invite you to contact one of our consultants who will help you with professional advice.
We have also prepared an template of a software development brief for you to complete, which you can download from our website by clicking on this link.
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