How Should Agencies Brief Software Developers?

The agency you work at is preparing a pitch for their client. As a producer you are starting to work on the project scope and it’s time to plan the development phase and brief software developers.

While it’s understandable that a creative pitch sells the concept and not necessarily talks your client through each and every technical detail, software vendors will need these details sooner or later.

This is based entirely on how custom software is being built. Tech stack chosen at the beginning has a huge impact on the project, and it’s often very difficult to change later on without the need to rebuild the software. Developers need to know more technical information upfront to create a software development proposal.

But we know that you may not always have enough details for software vendors yet. For early pitches all you need is a rough ballpark. Still, a tech partner can help you with the tech side of the pitch.

Long story short: Your creative pitch can’t serve as a development brief for software partners unless all you need for now is a rough ballpark and a few surprises later on.

In this article, we will walk you through the process of creating a detailed brief for a tech partner.

Outline the big idea

Although developers need to know more about the scope rather than just the creative idea, sharing the big picture helps them understand your project’s requirements.

Briefing software developers share the big idea and make the project's requirements and priorities clear.

Outlining the objectives, cover your target audience and strategic benefits of the project. It will shed more light on who is going to use the product and how.

Remember to prioritize the details of your project. What needs to be done in the first place? What is a nice-to-have? Make sure to make it clear so the developers know what to focus on.

Are you about to redesign a website for a big e-commerce brand? Or do you need a mobile app for a specific platform? Knowing the objectives of a project developers can make better-informed decisions about possible solutions, come up with potential challenges and ways to remove them.

For example, let’s say that you want to create a travel app. Based on you customer insights you know that majority of your target clients use iOS devices. Share that insight with your software vendor: it will help them choose an appropriate technology and spend less time developing the app.

Focus on the scope of the project

After outlining the big idea, it’s time to focus on the technical requirements of the project brief. Rule of thumb here is: the more you share with developers, the more precise estimates you’ll get.

Briefing software developers cover the technical requirements of the project.

Talking to your tech partner, make sure to cover these issues:

1. Specify the technical requirements

To give you a detailed software development proposal, developers need to know exactly what features you want to have, what is the scale of the project, and what is the complexity of it.

Listing the features that should be included in the project, you’re telling developers specifically what to work on. Do you want your users to be able to create accounts on the page? Will there be a payment method implemented? Or maybe you want to create rich WebGL animations?

By specifying the scale and complexity, both at the beginning of the project and later on, developers can assume the right toolset. For example, if they know the kind of data you want to store, they can propose a database architecture that will be the best fit for the project. It matters because the right database can reduce storing space, be fast enough, easier to maintain and secure.

Our team had a chance to work on a website for an international beauty pageant. Although the website itself wasn’t that complicated, it had to endure traffic spikes when the pageant was being broadcast. Knowing that, we were able to ensure that the site’s infrastructure has proper adjustments that wouldn’t be necessary for websites with steady traffic.

2. What devices does your target audience prefer?

This is extremely important when developing a project for different devices, as your technical team will have to implement different designs or even use several technologies to cover all of the use cases. Do you want the end product to be available as a web app or a native mobile app? Should all of the features be available on all screens?

Just like with specifying tech requirements, such details will help developers create a more specific proposal for you.

3. Do you have a team already?

It is possible that you have a team of developers hired in-house and you just want to outsource some parts of the job.

Working on the VIU app, we had a pleasure to work alongside their team in India. They chose us to support them with app development and maintenance of their video on demand service.

Inform your tech vendor about who is going to work on the project on your end, e.g. a developer, project manager, software tester. This way your tech partner can assign the right people on their side.

4. Do you have the tech stack chosen?

It might be a case that your client has requested a certain stack or your in-house team (if you have one), has chosen the tech for the project. If so, tell software developers what it is exactly. You can also let them know if you’re open for suggestions, so they could inspire the stack for the project based on their own experience.

5. What tools have you used for your designs?

Depending on the tools you’ve used for designing, it might be easier (or not) to hand off the project to developers. A good idea is to use tools that enable collaboration on a project. It’s also recommended to make sharing files easier with the remote team.

In his guest post for InVision blog, Apptension designer covers how to approach collaborative design to make designer-developer collaboration easier.

Briefing software developers, include how do you want to share your designs with them and what tools would be required to ease the process.

6. What is the project’s timeline?

The timeline is one of the constraints that need to be included in the brief. It’s often very important to keep to the schedule as there might be a marketing campaign planned already. If that’s the case for you, make it clear to your developers so they know what the due date is.

7. What is your preferred collaboration process?

We also recommend you make the communication process clear from the very beginning. Are you or another producer from your agency going to be involved in the project? Do you want to be the product owner and work with us, attending scrum meetings? Or maybe you just want to receive updates and reports on the progress?

Establishing the process early on will help to evaluate time and resources for the project more accurately, so don’t forget to be specific outlining it.

At Apptension we’re open to working closely with agencies on their projects. Our experience shows that it helps to remove roadblocks as they appear and better fit the product to the client’s needs.

How does a good agency brief help us create software development proposal?

So you already know that the more information you include in your brief, the more accurate estimate you’ll get, right? But how exactly does it affect the software development proposal?

Based on the tech suggested for the project your tech partner knows who to assign to develop it. Then, knowing how many people with specific skills and experience to include and for how long, they can estimate the cost more precisely. And because they already know from the brief what are the business objectives and the scope, they can make their estimates more accurate. Therefore, there’s a bigger chance of meeting the timeline and the budget.

How it affects the project

Although estimates are never 100% accurate, creating a proposal with more information is always less of a gamble.

Understanding the project and its requirements from the very beginning allows developers to create exactly what you or your client had in mind. And for a tech partner, they can better prepare themselves for the project, making sure that they deliver it with the best quality possible.

To ensure better understanding of the project from the very beginning, we offer agencies a discovery phase. this way we can outline the scope together. How? We visit our clients at their office to conduct workshops, led by our project manager and tech leader.

Are you ready to write your next, well-informed brief for a software development partner? We know how to make digital experiences stand out. Drop us a line and get a quote.

We want to partner with you to build what’s best on the web and beyond. Start a project with us.

About the author

Paweł Hałabuda

Paweł Hałabuda

Content Marketing Specialist
Content Marketing Specialist at Apptension and teamdeck. Occasional journalist, avid reader and biker.

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