How to make sure you’re working on a clear software development contract.

Contracts. Though all the back-and-forth during the signing process might be tedious, we all agree we need them. But creating an agreement that honors mutual interests and – most of all – makes things super clear instead of hiding them behind legalese and fine print is still not as widespread as we’d like to think. So let’s take a look at what should be stated clearly in your software development contract, based on our experience at DeSmart. 

When it comes to contracts, transparency should be non-negotiable

When you’re working with a software development company, but really, any contractor, stating the terms upfront in a clear way is super important for both sides. Especially when we’re working on custom projects with tons of specific requirements and factors we need to include to make sure we get the desired result. 

From copyright to risk management or agility and openness to changes, the contract should be our point of reference. Whenever we have doubts, or we encounter unexpected problems (and many software projects will include them, let’s be real), the contract should state the course of action. And it should do it in the clearest way possible. Which is the whole point of having a contract agreement, by the way. (How are we supposed to agree on something we don’t really understand?)

Let’s take a look at some elements we at DeSmart think are essential for a software development contract agreement – and what we ourselves include in our client agreements to make sure the terms are super clear and we have guidance throughout the project.

What should go into a software development contract agreement

Securing a specified team capacity for the duration of the project

You should be confident that the company you’re working with actually has the resources to complete the project in a specified timeframe (need we mention you should specify that timeframe in your contract?) And that includes replacements and backups in case anything changes.

This helps both sides of the agreement. You won’t compete with other client projects in case the outsourcing company gets overbooked or other projects drag on, consuming the time they were supposed to spend on your project. And it makes things much more organized for the software company themselves, knowing exactly who’s booked for how long. Win-win.

Ensuring a backup is created for the project

This one’s pretty straightforward – that’s why it’s easy to overlook. So include creating ongoing backups as part of the contract to avoid unpleasant surprises in the course of the project.

Defining roles and responsibilities

Make it very clear who’s the product owner, who’s the scrum master, project manager, etc. And, even more importantly, what their exact responsibilities in the project are. The more specific you are at this stage, the better. 

The term of the agreement and what happens next

This is where the entire service level agreement comes in, plus the warranty and any post-handover.

This will usually include services like hosting, maintenance, etc. Anything that clearly states how the software development company will support you while your software is out there in the market.

Another seeming no-brainer that you shouldn’t skip with any kind of contracted services, including software.

First of all, you’re getting a clear statement of the license and conditions under which you can use or alter the software. And second, you should include include statements preventing the software house from reselling the idea or code to other businesses.

Coding standards

Again, as with anything you’re outsourcing, specify the standards of the service you’re expecting to get. Don’t forget about a clear statement referring to what happens in case of detected bugs and imperfections (and what they are in the case of your software). 

This is a common ground for misunderstanding – so make sure all the iterations and bug fixing procedures are clearly described and leave no room for doubt about what goes under the agreement and what’s extra work on the part of the software house.

Quality assurance

Speaking of bug fixes and standards, make sure the contract clearly states the inclusion of software quality assurance experts and testing procedures. 

This is also where DevOps should come in – make sure the contract ensures including a DevOps engineer (our contracts do.)

Making room for changes

This is maybe the trickiest part, but inherent in agile software development. By its very nature, agile software will mean things are going to change in the course of a project. And the agreement needs to define the space for changes – but also the ways in which you’re going to adapt to them. It’s best not to leave it “for later” – because the “later” might surprise you.

Of course, an experienced team will know what to provision for in the case of your specific project (that’s what we’re doing in our contracts.)

And remember what we already said – the more you know about the project to begin with, the less the changes will mess up with your deadlines and budgets.

Don’t leave your software project up to fate 

 Instead, get a software development team who knows what they need to know (but also, what they don’t know) for the project to succeed according to the timeline, budget, and your expectations. We’ll be happy to talk albout all of these.

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