- The primary goal of an IT consulting services provider is to find technical solutions to business problems.
- For small businesses and startups, IT consulting is usually provided in the form of a project discovery phase.
- Consulting services can be delivered by an independent consultant or a consulting team. Your choice of provider should depend on your expectations, preferred level of personal involvement, and further plans.
You have an idea for a stunning startup that might blow up the market. But you haven’t launched a software product before and don’t know how to implement your idea in technical terms. What should you do? Fortunately, you can turn your app idea into a viable startup even if you’re a non-technical founder.
Software development consulting services may help you start a successful software business. These services include market research, business analysis, cost optimization, idea validation, architecture design, and MVP development.
But what exactly are software development consulting services? How can they help you turn your idea into a growing startup and a magnet for investors? Find out in our article.
Software development consulting: meaning, statistics, and reasons to use this service
Let’s start with a simple definition.
Software development consulting is the practice of advising on result-oriented software development solutions, tools, and methods in order to achieve desired business results.
Some software development consulting companies may offer you the opportunity to start working with an IT team that will implement a solution tailored to your requirements — a product that’s able to solve specific business challenges and tasks with software.
The main purpose of a consulting provider is to help clients achieve their objectives related to software development.
Who can benefit from software development consulting services?
- Startup founders who are committed to building successful, profitable products but have neither a relevant technical background nor a technical co-founder by their side and who require external expertise for making effective technical decisions
- Existing businesses and enterprise companies who need solutions for their tech-related problems but have no internal engineering expertise
As stated in The Trusted Firm, the most common reasons why founders opt for consulting services are:
- A lack of in-house workers with the required skills
The most common reason companies turn to consulting services is that their internal team lacks specific skills. Consultants fill gaps in expertise and provide insights based on their own experience, helping to build a unique development strategy.
- A need for original thinking
The second reason why founders look for consulting service providers is for fresh thinking, unbiased opinions, and a wider vision than the internal team has. Consultants have worked with a wide range of cases, so they can bring original ideas to your team.
- A need to get an independent, objective opinion
Playing the role of a third party within a project, a consultant can provide an unbiased, objective opinion
Source: The Trusted Firm by Fiona Czerniawska
The software consulting market was valued at $218.60 billion in 2020 and $244.29 billion in 2021, and it’s forecasted to grow to $539.18 billion by 2028. Thus, we can see that the value of the consulting market services increases.
According to the Grand View Research Software Consulting Market Size Report, 2021-2028, the demand for software development consulting services among large enterprises will keep growing due to their need to implement security and management services for data and use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to improve automation and data-based decision-making across operations.
The demand for software consulting in the small and midsize business segments is expected to increase because businesses in these segments are looking for cost-effective solutions to improve and automate their processes in order to compete with larger companies.
How can software development consulting help your business effectively grow and improve? 3 cases to consider
Both ambitious startup founders and owners of established businesses consider IT consulting services to improve their processes. What reasons may inspire you to contact a consulting company? You may have found some in the previous sections. Here, we have a look at the three main cases when consulting services may help your business:
1. You want to create a software product from scratch
In this case, you need to validate your idea and make sure it has a chance to succeed before you approach IT outsourcing service providers or launch the development process within your company. There are many types of software consulting services. During the initial steps of startup development, you can take advantage of a project discovery phase.
Project discovery as part of software consulting services may help you to clearly identify your expectations, create a development plan and a prototype of your future product, and lay the perfect ground for an MVP. If your hypothesis is wrong, with the help of IT software consulting services and a project discovery phase you can find ways to pivot and develop a more market-oriented product.
2. You want to upgrade an existing software business
To stay alive, remain profitable, and increase its value, every product must be continually improved. First of all, your app needs to be updated to support new devices and operating system versions. On top of that, your competitors likely continue improving their own products. If you want to stay competitive, you have to do the same. Just imagine if Amazon had stayed an online bookstore (as it was originally conceived by Jeff Bezos in the early 1990s) and didn’t introduce any updates. How could this small startup become the #1 eCommerce platform in the world with tens of billions of dollars in profit?
Amazon’s homepage in 1995
3. You want to improve business processes
Implementing a new technical solution into your established processes is a good way to reach business targets. IT consulting services in this case entail an in-depth analysis of your business with an aim to optimize and automate business processes using the software.
This case is perfectly illustrated by the Attention Experts marketing agency, which had to deal with a large quantity of analytics data from different sources. The limited functionality of the SaaS app they were using hindered the workflow, and they approached the Clockwise Software team for IT consulting services.
We analyzed their business, researched available software tools, and found optimal solutions to solve the company’s problem. As a result of the subsequent development phase, the founder got a product that allowed him to optimize the company’s internal processes and increase profit.
Your IT consulting provider is there to help you find technical solutions for your business issues.
Software development consulting: benefits for your business
Software development services can bring a lot of benefits both to businesses and startups. Here are the most important:
Validate your idea. Software development consulting services can help you choose a strategy to validate your idea and test its relevance. You need to ensure you have chosen the right path before you set off on a journey.
Identify and reduce risks. When you start working on digital product development, you can never avoid the possibility of failure. However, a software consultant can predict possible bottlenecks and prepare a risk mitigation plan to act quickly in case of negative scenarios. This can help you avoid the majority of common mistakes that can be painful to learn firsthand.
Select a suitable technology stack. Consultants keep an eye on the technology market and can help you choose a proven and up-to-date technology stack based on your project’s specific needs and with your future plans in mind.
Get a carefully developed plan based on your goals. After collecting your requirements, a software development consulting service provider can create a software requirements specification (SRS) document with your goals and expectations in mind. This document will work as detailed instructions for developers. Consequently, with an SRS in hand, you can hire a software development team to implement the solution.
Get a reliable development cost estimate. Cost estimation requires thorough research. A software consulting service provider can predict how the development process will go and provide a cost estimate you can rely on.
How to choose a provider? Independent consultant vs consulting team
Now, you may want to compare hiring an independent IT consultant and hiring a consulting team.
Independent IT consultants
An independent consultant is usually a former software engineer that progressed to solving complex business challenges with means of technology. You can find independent consultants on platforms such as Upwork and LinkedIn. And since people often refer others to reliable consultants, don’t neglect asking your contacts for recommendations.
An independent consultant works alone and usually has a variety of skills. Along with being a strong programmer, a software consultant may have deep knowledge of business analysis, UI/UX design, quality assurance, and customer support as well as a solid understanding of the industry in which your company operates.
The trick with an independent consultant is that you can’t tell whether their recommendations work until your development team builds the software solution and integrates it into your business processes. However, note that you can’t hire a software development consultant to work on product creation. Development, quality assurance, and integration are outside a consultant’s area of responsibility. You should delegate the implementation of the solution to a skilled development team. This means that cooperation with an independent specialist doesn’t guarantee a positive outcome.
IT consulting teams
Software consulting companies provide IT consulting as a comprehensive service, with a full team of professionals who work on your project simultaneously. You can hire such a team by cooperating with an IT consulting company.
Depending on your particular case, your consulting team may include:
- A business analyst who gathers your business requirements, conducts market research, studies your competitors, and builds a development strategy
- A UI/UX designer who creates a visualization of your future product or conducts a UX audit to evaluate your existing design, identify usability problems, and offer solutions on how to improve it
- Software developers (frontend/backend) who advise you on an appropriate technology stack
- A software architect who creates the software architecture
- A QA engineer who analyzes various usage scenarios and helps you avoid bottlenecks
- A project manager who leads the whole team and ensures that your goals are met
Your software consulting team may consist of the same specialists involved in the software development lifecycle. The team structure depends on your expectations. By hiring your consulting team to implement your project, you can save a lot of time and money. An IT consulting team combines the knowledge and deep experience of various professionals, which is beneficial for you.
A development team is responsible for your product’s quality and user experience, so they are interested in your company’s success.
Сooperating with a consulting team is more beneficial than hiring a consultant. But how does a consulting team provide its services?
IT consulting during the project discovery phase
IT consulting services are provided by a software development company during the project discovery phase.
At this phase, your consulting team checks the viability of your idea to make sure your idea is worth investing in and finds the optimal way to implement your project by choosing a technology stack, selecting tools and resources, estimating the required budget, etc.
The discovery phase is an initial step founders should take before they start developing or updating software. It allows them to understand users’ needs and the market situation. At the same time, it’s a good chance to generate viable ideas on how to develop a superior product.
Here are the steps to successfully working with an external team during the discovery phase:
1. Define what exactly you expect from consulting services
Before you reach out to an IT consulting services provider, you should know what results you expect.
Define your requirements and expectations
Describe your goals, ideas, and concerns. Your provider needs to know everything that led you to their consultation services:
Your problem. What problem do you want to solve with IT consulting services?
Your goals. What do you want to achieve by implementing a new solution? What improvements do you expect?
Your budget. Set a budget that your company is ready to spend on implementing the solution. This will allow you to estimate the project’s feasibility.
Your deadlines. IT consulting team members should know how much time they have to complete a comprehensive solution for your project.
Your ideas and concerns. Maybe you have your own ideas that you’d like to test or check the viability of. Do any concerns come to mind when you analyze your future project? If yes, share them with your consulting team.
Collect information about your current project or about your project idea
Create a brief for the software project you want to consult on that reflects all information you currently have. This is the data your consulting team is going to work with. Note that you must be careful when passing such data to third parties.
2. Choose and contact an IT consulting services provider
The Trusted Firm by Fiona Czerniawska highlights factors that founders consider when choosing consulting companies:
- Reputation for successful work
Nearly half of founders (47%) choose companies that have five-star reviews from previous clients and are known for their good reputation. You can check potential vendors’ testimonials on websites like Clutch. Also, companies often share testimonials on their own websites.
- Previous cooperation
Seventeen percent of founders tend to choose IT consulting companies with which they have cooperated before and with whom they have built trusting relationships.
- Recommendations from friends, colleagues, or other businesses
One of the less popular reasons to select a company is recommendations from friends and colleagues (14%) or other business owners (10%).
- Name recognition
Only 5% of founders trust IT consulting companies that have big names and consider them a good option because of their recognition in the market.
So, how can you make sure you’ve found the right consulting team?
- Great portfolio and relevant experience
A team’s previous experience is an extremely important factor for making sure you’re on the right track. If a consulting company has worked in your industry before and has relevant case studies in its portfolio, there’s a reasonable chance of success. One of the first things you should do is get acquainted with a potential consulting company’s portfolio to make sure the team has the skills you need.
Good companies are proud of their successes and have no reasons to hide them. They post testimonials from previous clients on their website and share other resources to let potential customers know how they can benefit from their services.
- Outstanding soft skills
LinkedIn’s research suggests that more than half of employers consider soft skills more important than hard skills. It’s important to check if your team of consultants is not only technically savvy and professional but also has good communication and organizational skills, can deal with problems in a creative manner, is proactive, and will be fully dedicated to your project instead of just logging hours.
3. Shortlist expected deliverables
Deliverables are the artifacts you get as a result of the discovery phase. They depend on your goals and the specifics of your project. Define the deliverables you expect. Depending on the particulars of your project, you may benefit from the following deliverables:
- Development plan
- Development cost & time estimate
- Product roadmap
- Product architecture
- Business model and value proposition canvas
- SWOT analysis
- UI/UX design guidelines
- SRS document
- Test plan
- Risk assessment and mitigation plan
- Feature breakdown structure
- Product vision
- Product growth approach
- Project charter
You can request more or fewer deliverables and choose them at your discretion. Maybe you will need only an app requirements document, or maybe you will need the full package of deliverables. A good consulting services provider will advise you on the most appropriate deliverables, explaining clearly the purpose of every deliverable for your project.
4. Decide on further steps
Now that you’ve evaluated the results of the discovery phase, you can start thinking about what to do next:
- Confirm your idea’s viability and keep on following your plan
- Decide to pivot
- Kick-start the development process with your in-house team, opt for IT staff augmentation to cover missing expertise, or consider outsourcing the project
- Hire your consulting team for the development phase
- Reach out to investors
Common mistakes to avoid when choosing your software consulting company
Founders need software development consulting services to eliminate risks and avoid mistakes. However, if you don’t follow best practices, you’re likely to achieve the opposite effect. Here are a few mistakes to avoid when searching for software development consulting services:
Choosing a vendor who lacks experience in your industry. Such specialists don’t have the necessary knowledge to dive deep into your problem and conduct a comprehensive research. For instance, say you need to develop a content management app for your social media marketing agency. A company with deep expertise in MarTech knows the procedure and can better meet your needs than a specialist that has completed projects in the logistics, real estate, and healthcare sectors. It’s important to check candidates’ portfolios to find out if companies have worked on projects similar to yours and can provide strong industry expertise.
Prioritizing the cheapest offers. You need to be extremely attentive when looking for an individual or company for software development consultancy. Usually, providers that have little experience try to lure customers with low prices. But their skills are questionable. Make sure a company is qualified to work with your particular case. Trying to get the cheapest deal, you can lose more than you save.
Not securing the legal side of your cooperation. Whether you work with a freelancer or with a company, you need to sign an NDA and a contract. This will allow you to protect your intellectual property rights. You can’t benefit from consulting services without entrusting your provider with sensitive information that may harm your business if it gets into the wrong hands. A contract establishes the hourly rate, deadlines, services to be provided, and other important aspects of service provision. Thanks to a contract, you are more likely to get exactly what you pay for.
Using software development consulting services is a good way to mitigate risks, validate your idea, ensure the success of your next project, fill gaps in internal expertise, and take your business to the next level. There are two ways to access these services: by hiring an independent consultant who works on a freelance basis to provide you with recommendations regarding further development, or by working with an IT consulting team that provides complex consulting services within the discovery phase. The choice is yours.