5 Ways to Prepare for the Start of Your Custom Software Project

Congratulations! You’ve just gotten the green light or signed the contract to begin working with Atomic (or a company like ours). You’re going to build a new app or create some software that’s really going to help your company get to the next level. Now what?

Sometimes, there’s a lull in the action between the pre-project phase (when we’re setting the budget, planning the engagement, and making the decision to work together) and the project kickoff (when the development team actually starts work). Here are some homework items that will get your project started on the right foot.

1. Assemble Your Stakeholders

Who from your organization will be involved in this project? Take some time to think about this and list them out. You may have a very clear idea, or you may find that you’re not sure. Your stakeholder team might include:

  • The Product Owner (You) – You lead the effort, make decisions (or get the right decision-makers together), and act as a representative for your organization and Atomic’s go-to person during the software development process.
  • Subject Matter Experts – These are people you call on (frequently or occasionally, depending on the scope/complexity of your application) to help with requirements and design decisions.
  • Representative Users – These may be your colleagues or your customers. You’ll need them for feedback on designs and for user testing.
  • Technical Stakeholders – If your organization’s IT team will eventually take over the maintenance or hosting of your application, it’s important to have their participation and buy-in from the beginning.
  • Decisionmakers – The person(s) who control the resources (money and time). They can kill your project or be its champion. This might be you, but it might be an executive in your organization who is not involved in your project’s day-to-day activities.

After you’ve identified your stakeholders, make sure they are on board with your plans and willing and ready to participate in the effort.

2. Assign Clear Roles & Responsibilities

It’s important to understand who gets to be consulted and who has final decision-making power. Take the time to make sure each person on your stakeholder team understands what their role is, what your expectations are for their involvement in the project, and how their efforts will contribute to the whole.

3. Set Aside Time

Running a custom software project takes time, even if you’re not the one writing the code. As the product owner, you should set aside a minimum of eight hours per week (and possibly more) for workshops, meetings, communication, coordinating your stakeholder team, test driving completed features, and reviewing designs and prototypes.

Block out your calendar now so that the time doesn’t get filled with other things. If you don’t have the time, consider finding an assistant to help with these things.

Similarly, warn your stakeholders ahead of time. Their involvement may be more sporadic, but you will still need them to be available. The efficient use of your time and budget depends on it!

4. Think about Your Goals

Obviously, releasing your software is a big goal. But beyond that, what do you hope to accomplish from it, on a personal level and an organizational level? Goals could include:

  • Saving operational costs
  • Making revenue
  • Releasing something new into the market and gaining customers
  • Project success that leads to a promotion
  • Your own job satisfaction

Being able to articulate what your goals are will be crucial during project kickoff. Your development team will be keen to understand your goals so they can help you reach them!

5. Ask the Dumb Questions

Software and app development are complex. If you don’t understand that, that doesn’t make you dumb; it makes you human. As you prepare to start the project and as you get into the thick of things, never hesitate to ask your Atomic team members to explain how things work, the reasons behind a specific recommendation, or the benefits and drawbacks of a certain activity, technique, or approach. Understanding the “whys” behind your software will help you make better decisions and collaborate effectively with all members of your team.


Don’t forget to have fun. Software development is a creative process. You’ll encounter problems and frustrations, but you’ll also find it challenging in a good way and incredibly rewarding as you see your goals met and exceeded. Enjoy the process!