Software Secrets - The Business Application Myth-busting Blog from Purple Crane...
Made to measure or off the shelf?
There's some debate about the language used to describe how software is made. Often, it's done in terms borrowed from the construction industry with words such as 'built', 'architecture' and 'engineer' being commonly used.
In the second of our myth-busting blog series 'Software Secrets' the team at Purple Crane explain how traditional tailoring skills could be a place to look for a comparison.
Chris Bond, Purple Crane Director and co-founder, explains that the aim for his company is always the same - to make bespoke applications that are unique to each client and which get to the heart of their individual business needs.
This 'made to measure' approach has nothing in common with the 'off the shelf' office and business suites that dominate the mass market for software, in the same way as hand stitched clothing made by a Saville Row tailor will bear little resemblance to items found on sale in a high street chain.
Chris explains that because the major application suites have to be 'all things to all people' the reason most clients approach Purple Crane is because the software they want doesn’t actually exist.
"In most cases we don’t develop software where you can buy ‘off-the-shelf’ software that does it already," he says. "In the tailoring analogy, you’d come to us if you wanted a new space suit for a mission to Mars, because we’re a specialist in building technical suits and you can’t buy them ready made."
Even in cases where software partially does what the client needs, their way of doing things may be sufficiently specialised to warrant getting something made that not only does everything they need, but also does it in exactly the way they want it done.
When someone goes to a bespoke tailor part of the appeal is getting all the small touches made to order, such as coloured linings and different buttons, as well as ending up with a perfect fit. So how much input does a client have on the component parts of a Purple Crane software project?
"As much as possible," Chris states simply. "The software is meant to be tailored specifically for them, and ultimately, they’re the ones that know how their business works and it’s our job to get that information out of them and translated into working software."
Although a classic high-end tailor will usually have a unique style they will also reflect changing trends, and this is something else they share with software developers.
"There is a constant technical evolution. Every time you build a new system there will have been some technical changes that may mean you do things slightly differently from last time," explains Chris.
When you buy something 'off the peg' in a shop you might try it on for size, or you may order online delivery of several items to try on in what's now known in the retail trade as 'the home fitting room'. Ultimately you get the same result, ending up with something that's a good fit but not the best you could achieve.
That's why a traditional bespoke tailor experience involves several visits where adjustments are made and details tweaked.
Chris says: "We take an agile approach where we regularly deliver a working version of the system for review and feedback. If we were to just get on with it in isolation from the customer, it would almost certainly not do what they want - it’s much more likely to be successful by making it a collaborative process.”
So exactly how much 'tweaking' goes on to get the 'final fit'?
"A lot. ‘Tweaking’ is part of the development process and you could say that there are a series of ‘final fits’," Chris points out.
"We develop a set of functionality, test and deliver it. The customer reviews it and we then repeat this process a number of times until we have a piece of software ready to be used. It should be noted that this process is also quite likely to continue once the software is being used."
So, there you have it. When Purple Crane create software for you not only do you get personalised attention to detail every step of the way, it's also like having a tailor on hand afterwards to sew that button back on or even let the waistline out after a big business lunch!
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