If you’re not in the development game, it can be easy to get lost in all the different roles and activities that turn an idea into a full-fledged application.
Two of those roles are the software consultant and the software developer. While their roles are distinct from one another, they’re still interdependent, working together and overlapping at key points.
Let’s zoom in on both of these key players and how they intertwine to make stellar software.
Software consultant: The home builder
One way to think about these two roles is the analogy of building a home. Say you have a vision for a jaw-dropping dream home. (And if you’re anything like me, you haven’t the slightest idea how to make that happen.)
You need an expert in the realm. Someone who understands the entire building process, from what a good blueprint looks like, down to how every piece fits together. They know all the steps that need to happen and in what order, as well as how to solve unexpected issues that often pop up. And they have the right team in place to make it all happen.
This is your builder. They’re able to assess your vision, see what’s viable and what isn’t, and coordinate with everyone who’s needed to get the project running, including the architects, project managers, and carpenters.
Much like a builder, your software consultant won’t be on your plot pouring concrete or hammering nails. They’re on the outside, focusing on conceptualization, strategic planning, and high-level management.
They work closely with you to understand your goals for the software, identify your target audience, and ensure that the idea is feasible within the scope of your desired specs and budget.
A consultant’s role
Here’s a deeper dive into some the considerations and issues in the software consulting field:
1. Needs analysis
Software consultants work closely with clients to understand their pain points, business goals, and specific requirements. This step might involve interviews and research to ensure the software solution will address the client’s needs effectively and efficiently.
2. Tech assessment
Once the needs are identified, software consultants consider the available tools, frameworks, and platforms that align with the project’s requirements. This involves looking at the pros and cons of different technologies to make informed recommendations.
3. Scope definition
This part is critical; it helps to avoid scope creep and ensure the project stays on track. Software consultants work with clients to establish clear project objectives, deliverables, timelines, and budgets. This way, everyone has a shared understanding of the project’s goals.
4. Strategic planning
Now the software consultant will develop a strategic roadmap that includes project milestones, roles and activities, risk assessment, and mitigation strategies. It serves as a guiding document throughout the development process.
5. Pivoting and problem-solving
In most cases, there will be some changes that need to be made to the original roadmap. This is especially true if the project is being done iteratively in cycles. The team may run into a roadblock, or gather some new data that suggests they should pivot from the original. The consultant works with the team to make those judgment calls.
6. Vendor evaluation
In cases where third-party solutions or vendors are involved, consultants help to choose the right vendors. They evaluate based on things like expertise, reputation, and compatibility with the project’s needs.
7. Client onboarding and transition
Consultants help to make sure the rollout is smooth and swift. This might involve helping clients get onboarded with the new software and help with transitioning from any legacy tools. Consultants may even oversee training programs to make sure everyone’s using the software optimally.
Software developer: The carpenter
Let’s keep this analogy rolling. If the consultant is the builder, the developer is the carpenter. In a construction project, the carpenter is on the ground floor every day, working hard to make sure that every part of the blueprint comes to life the way it was intended.
Software developers are the ones who bring the software project to life by writing the code and making sure that code transforms into a beautiful piece of software that accomplishes the client’s goals.
Their expertise lies in programming languages, frameworks, and tools. They use these tools to craft all aspects of the software, from the user interface and the back-end functionality.
The developer’s role
Here are some of the tasks and activities that developers are typically involved with:
1. Coding and development
Software developers take the strategic roadmap and turn it into a functional application. This involves writing, testing, and debugging code to ensure it meets the project’s specifications. It also includes crafting the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX), ensuring that the software is visually appealing, intuitive, and user-friendly.
2. Database management
Many software applications rely on databases to store and retrieve data. Developers design and maintain these databases, ensuring that the data is organized, secure, and easily accessible when it’s needed.
3. Testing and QA
Software developers conduct rigorous code review and quality analysis to identify and fix any issues or bugs in the code. They perform tasks like unit testing, integration testing, and user acceptance testing to make sure the software works with no problems or breaks.
4. Collaboration with consultants
Throughout the course of the entire project, developers work closely with software consultants and other leaders. This collaboration starts with understanding the initial requirements and objectives and using the consultant’s strategic guidance to make sure the code they write aligns with the project’s goals.
5. Pivoting and problem-solving
Just like a consultant, a developer helps to work around issues that the team didn’t see coming in their initial draft of the strategic roadmap. Developers use their problem-solving skills to find creative solutions to technical issues and get rid of those bumps in the road.
Developers create documentation that outlines the code’s functionality, usage, and maintenance procedures. This documentation is invaluable for future updates and troubleshooting, especially if there’s ever a change in the team that develops or manages the software.
When a change of hands happens, detailed documentation can be a life-saver, avoiding the hot mess that can ensue when developers need to take guesses on which lines of code are linked to which function.
Two roles that are different but equally important
At the end of the day, the consultant and developer are both absolutely critical. Together, they make sure that everyone’s on the same page, building software that meets the client’s expectations as smoothly as possible.
Consultants manage the high-level planning and project progress, while developers are paying attention to every single character in every single line of code. When these roles work well together, everyone wins, both on the client side and on the service side.