Real-World Advice for Implementing a Successful Custom Software Project (part 3 of 4)


Welcome to the third part of this summer’s blog series – Harnessing the Power of Digital Transformation. This post offers real-world advice on implementing a successful custom software project. If you missed it, you can read part one of the series here: The Age of Digital Transformation and Why It Matters. And part two of the series here: How to Calculate the ROI of Digital Transformation.


Let’s start with how companies drive innovation. We can’t build the “next great thing” if we aren’t sure exactly what that is. Most companies strive to have a competitive edge. But it’s the ones with a company culture which values creativity and innovation that can best implement tools and processes that will allow for that edge to happen and be fruitful. 

• PRIORITIZE CREATIVITY. Often we find ourselves, myself included, running as fast as we can through our list of tasks and our habitual daily routines, and we forget to take the time to allow for sparks of creativity. I know I’m not the only one who gets creative inspiration when I’m out jogging or cooking something in the kitchen. This creative energy leads to creativity in your business and a powerful unlocking of solutions. This energy must be valued.

• CROWDSOURCE DIGITAL IDEAS. The best ideas often come from your customers, employees, partners, and other stakeholders. Interact, communicate, and learn from them through surveys, innovation challenges, and partnerships so that you can identify new opportunities and ideas.

• CO-CREATE. Idea gathering and shaping is a company-wide effort and should include leaders and employees. Teamwork and varying points of view are essential in creating long-lasting digital transformation.

• REWARD RISK TAKING. There is quite a bit of media hype around the virtues of failure, but the points are true. Reward your most entrepreneurial employees – those who are willing to take risks, drive the transformation, and champion change.

• BALANCE DISRUPTION, INNOVATION, AND OPTIMIZATION. Concentrating on optimizing current processes to make them more effective, efficient, and engaging is essential, but it won’t lead to digital success. The key is to balance optimization with digital disruption. I love the term digital disruption. It carries a sense of power to unlock the future and see possibilities previously invisible to us. It involves thinking outside the box, paying attention to emerging technologies, and valuing creativity.

• CONSIDER YOUR OPTIONS. Deciding to invest in a custom software solution is not a small decision and one that business owners take seriously. Taking the time to look at and compare ‘off-the-shelf’ products will help you discover your business needs and understand the true benefit of custom software.


Before beginning any software project, it’s essential to ensure all interested parties have set aside time to meet each other and understand the project goals, planning, and timeline. At Portage Bay, we use Zoom to meet our clients face to face, so they get to know who will be managing and developing their projects.

The kickoff meeting also provides a space to set expectations, communicate important deadlines, and review any areas of the project’s scope that may need extra attention.

• MEET OFTEN. If the project allows, we sometimes set up an ongoing check-in or weekly scrum meeting, which can be helpful to get client feedback early and often, and to keep an extended project on track.

• USE PROJECT MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE. At Portage Bay, we use a complete project management software called Teamwork to manage all projects, tasks, budgets, and timelines; this helps us to communicate directly with the clients and provides a place for them to submit feedback and view progress in real-time.

Clear communication and setting expectations are vital. When working on a custom software project, a good relationship between the development team and the client is essential to making it successful.


Great, so you’ve got a brilliant idea and you then come to an experienced developer to help you put your ideas into action. This is where the role of the consultant comes into play.

At Portage Bay we work with a wide variety of customers, and businesses, but when we consult with them we start with some basic questions as we go through the process of discovery that may look like this:

  • What are the major pain points in your current process?

  • What are the business goals you are hoping to accomplish?

  • How will your company benefit from the proposed software?

Once we understand the client’s problem, we start to plan a solution by asking questions like these:

  • What tools are at our disposal?

  • Will a web-based, mobile, or desktop solution be preferred?

  • Is it best to create the features in our development program (we use Claris FileMaker, of course) or integrate with a third-party application?

  • Have we worked on similar solutions where we can leverage work we’ve already done?


Once we’ve gathered this information, we start the main work. The great thing about using low-code solutions, especially Claris FileMaker, is the ability to apply the agile methodology. We can get a proof-of-concept or minimum viable product available quickly. With this first phase in the client’s hands, we get feedback and testing done swiftly to talk about what shape the product should continue to take, rather than investing too much time and money into building something that misses the mark in terms of the client’s expectations.


A successful solution will be easy to learn and straightforward to use. It will report errors efficiently and deliver high user satisfaction. We want to focus on the people using the system to ensure it works for them, hence the importance of human-centered design. If the software is confusing, difficult to learn or understand, or ends up making a person’s job harder, we’ve defeated the purpose of a custom system. I recently spoke with Alexis Allen of the FM Design University, a UI/UX design pillar for FileMaker. She has created a course on workflow design, where she teaches proven effective approaches for creating professional, well-designed solutions.

Design is really critical. And whether we realize it or not, we are all doing design. Are you going to be intentional about it or wing it and hope for the best?

Alexis Allen, FM Design University

A professional designer can implement a short design phase using a program called Balsamiq for wireframes or other similar tools. It can be as simple as a whiteboard over Zoom. Taking the time to focus on the design before diving in can get your project off to a smooth start and help save time and prevent confusion later down the line. 


In today’s fast-paced business environment, we expect feedback early and often. Frequent testing allows for more iterations and less time wasted in development. Testing is vital to the success of a project; who better to test than the users! After an initial round of unit testing done by the development team, rounds of end-user acceptance testing, plus regression testing, help ensure the solution works as intended throughout the process. Inspiring end users to use the database early and often has the added benefit of creating excitement and generating collaboration to create a more robust product.


With every custom software project, expect some initial delays and roadblocks. Adopting new technology always has a learning curve. The unexpected will usually happen and since we are not all robots people will make mistakes, take vacations, and change their minds and priorities. We find this area is another one where clear communication and agreed-upon expectations help all parties involved. And a little kindness goes a long way to get through any bumps that may occur.


I hope you have enjoyed reading this post and have picked up some tips on making your next custom development project a success. Stay tuned for the final post in this series coming up in August: Download a Free Tool to Help Guide You Through Your Process

Contact us below to schedule a free consultation where we can discuss customized solutions that will be a fit for your business and can plan a way to execute them successfully.

Life’s too short for bad software.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *