A software specification is one of the most important documents that contains the set of technical requirements and description of the future product’s behavior. Not every business person who has plans of hiring a software company, formulates the concept and business ideas this way. What’s more, some people may underestimate the importance of a good specification – a consistent, flexible, and verifiable one, which is already half the way of getting the project done.
A comprehensive specification may contain about 20 pages, or about a hundred, but each one is invaluable: the goals of the product, screens, transitions between screens, features, possibly backend documentation, and much more; and there’s a lot of reasons why it is one of the worthiest investments in your software project.
Why You Need A Good Specification
It’s good if you realize the necessity of creating a specification to document all software requirements. It can be easily understood by software developers, enabling them to implement exactly what’s written there. The number of questions they’ll have will decrease drastically. It’s good if you understand the importance of investigation when it comes to non-standard apps with rare, under-utilized features, custom elements, and so on. Here are several reasons that show the value of such a document which saves your time, budget, and efforts in general.
Reason #1. When the development team gets acquainted with your project, they attain their own vision of the product. It always differs from the one you have. Here a specification is the document that brings the balance. You can describe how you want it to be made. Meanwhile developers can understand what you want and bring their own suggestions on issues from their subject area (for example, improvement of user experience).
Reason # 2. A specification often contains sketches, which will help create the visual representation of the product at the design stage. The risks of misunderstandings decrease further.
Reason #3. Let’s imagine that for one reason or another you decided to change your contractor. Just like the visualization of design, a specification can be taken to any software company for implementation and completion. You won’t need to describe everything from scratch. There’s a specification for that.
Reason #4. After deployment comes maintenance: changes on the market, changes in technologies, therefore changes in your software. Here any contractor will be able to take a look at your specification and the code to start testing and eliminating reported bugs; these changes can also be reflected in the documentation.
Reason # 5. A specification shows that you have already worked on your idea and found a way to document it. This can warm up the interest of your potential software contractor, and engage the whole development team. They can see the approach of their client, and it leaves great initial impressions. You might not care about it, but it’s a nice bonus reason.
Thus you can see that a specification is an extremely important document for the whole lifecycle of your software product. First you might not see the real value, but in the long term it’s a powerful cost-cutting tool.
What Should You Begin With?
It is a very commonplace picture: a client comes to a contractor with nothing more but a very raw idea. Sometimes the client wants a clone of some existing app, with a few changes thrown in for good measure. In the end the process of requirement clarification can drag for a very long time, right until the client and the contractor clearly understand each other. It can be long enough to witness how the market is changing, making the future product already irrelevant. This can and must be prevented.
You may either create the specification or prepare the necessary documents and outsource its creation. As for the latter, any contractor can help you create it. Any provided information is valuable. For example, if you have already investigated the market, you know your end users, and you know the substantial difference that will make the software product stand against rivals.
You should start with gathering design and functional requirements on your own; and it’s a task that requires lots of time and analysis. You may involve a technical specialist and/or a business analyst to help you with it; such documents aren’t usually created on your own. Thus you’ll have the basic documentation with descriptions, sketches and use cases to go to your contractor with.
Otherwise, your contractor can provide a project manager and a high-level technical specialist (possibly some guru developer or a team leader). This will help you not only list the features of your future product, but also plan its architecture along the way.
To increase your chances for success, creativity has to go side by side with well-reasoned approach. Detailed and consistent documents save your resources, and once you launch the project, you’ll see that for sure. A specification brings one of the highest level of understanding, surpassed only by such things as high-level technical design documents (written by programmers for programmers, they aren’t that useful and understandable for managers and business people). However much efforts you put into a good specification, it’s eventually worth it.