Concept evaluation is offered as a distinct service to clients and is also used routinely on all new requests for quotations and proposals received. Our evaluations are focussed primarily on the technology aspects of a proposed implementation. At the client’s request we can broaden the evaluation into the business objectives where we have direct experience of the target sector, for example banking, financial data services, financial systems, holiday bookings, etc. We will agree the success criteria for a project with the client at an early stage.
It is a poor reflection on our industry that a significant proportion of software projects do not meet their success criteria. Our evaluations include a risk assessment the results of which we share with the client, and where we consider the success criteria cannot be sufficiently met when taking into account both the feasibility of the development and our resources available at the time, we will decline the request or proposal.
Whatever the requirements, be it a small enhancement to an application or a driven “race-to-market” for a new opportunity, we will work closely and transparently with our clients to achieve success for them and with them.
Our total project service will typically include the design of the solution, working closely with the client, carrying out detailed analysis where required or liaising with the client’s team to gather supporting information. Continuing with the theme of risk avoidance, the maturity and stability of a chosen technology will be weighed against the opportunities provided by that technology; this not a trivial factor in our world of continually evolving hardware and software technologies.
Designing a software solution can involve multiple disciplines, from deep code-level performance requirements, mid-level database design, up to the ‘front of house’ user experience; our design process ensures these disciplines are driven by the overall objectives, whether set by business, or at a lower level, the project deliverables.
Design techniques have changed since the early days when users had just a monochrome screen and a keyboard with a few function keys as their main interface to an application. Then design effort was 90% about process functionality and 10% user-interaction. These days those values have just about reversed, with many ways to present on-screen views; multi-coloured, multi-windowed, and multiple applications running simultaneously. Mice and the multi-windowed displays arrived in the 1980s to move us on from our static screens and keyboards, and now we have a growing range of devices and more types of interaction such as touch, with tap, swipe, press, and even press longer and press harder.
Our design tools and techniques now include mock-ups, user stories, pilots, and prototyping, with the aim of delivering a solution with a good user experience. We use all these tools where appropriate, but also keep design and functionality in perspective to avoid the trap of over-design.
PDS provides development resources as part of a total project delivery, or to complement and work with a client’s own team. The development method to use for a project is defined in the design phase for a PDS-led project or by the client when integrating with their team. Our developers have experience with current techniques, including prototyping, agile, iterative, and test-driven development.
Mainstream development environments are used, including Microsoft Visual Studio and Apple Xcode, with a wide range of proven supporting tools. Preferred language for Apple platforms is Swift with our in-house developments in the process of being converted from Objective-C. Native development tools are used as a preference for mobile platforms.
Commercial software applications are typically running in a dynamic and changing environment. Support services for these applications range from user training to a continuous improvement programme, possibly with frequent reviews, development requests and updates.
As a baseline, PDS provides a warranty of three months from deployment on all development work. Longer periods of warranty and extended support can be provided, including contracted inclusive support and per-call arrangements.
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