Software development outsourcing provides many benefits for customers, allowing them to focus on core activities, saving time and money. The demand for outsourcing software development is growing all over the world nowadays.
Industrial software development has some specifics in the process of creation, integration, commissioning, maintenance, and further evolution. These characteristics should be considered when choosing a technology partner. The range of tasks in the industrial world is very wide. It is really difficult to formulate universal criteria for evaluating the offers and competencies of a potential partner.
We have created a checklist to familiarize you with important requirements for a contractor. Our list will help you formulate your wishes more clearly and decide on the prospects for future cooperation. The checklist is divided into three groups focusing on different aspects of cooperation, such as actual industrial experience, the necessary technological and organizational skills of your potential partner.
Overall industrial experience
The complexity and diversity of industrial systems are constantly increasing. But the general principles of industrial software design, architectural patterns, and solutions often have a lot of similarities. The more industrial projects your partner completed, the more background he has gained and can use his skills to solve your problems.
- Expertise in working with industrial hardware. A typical industrial system contains software along with mechanical and electrical parts. Make sure that your partner understands not only the abstract world of algorithms but also the concrete world of signals, communications, buses, etc.
- Experience in integrating multi-component systems. One industrial system may consist of hardware and software components produced by different manufacturers or include components of different generations. Developers must ensure that all components work consistently together.
- Proficiency in testing complex software-hardware systems. Testing industrial systems requires special skills, such as knowledge of specialized debuggers and the ability to work with an oscilloscope and other measuring instruments.
- Commissioning experience. The commissioning phase is an important part of the industrial project. Ability and willingness of traveling, experience of communication with the customer, expertise in integration with the existing customer infrastructure may be very useful.
- Domain knowledge. If your supplier has a background in the particular domain, understands the business processes of a certain industry you got a jackpot. This is a serious advantage.
Vast knowledge of development instruments
Different industrial projects require different skills, from low-level development (e.g., PLC, embedded) to high-level automated systems, integration to ERP, and so on. Having a partner with specialists in different fields allows you to form an effective team for your projects.
- Broad experience with different software platforms, instruments, and operating systems. It is good if your supplier is familiar with desktop and web applications, Windows and Linux, databases and prototyping tools, etc. Thus, he can quickly find the right instrument for every coming challenge.
- Expertise with low-level programming languages. Low-level languages provide the possibility of direct control of hardware and real-time computing.
- Background in developing embedded systems. Developers should be able to consider the particular requirements for embedded systems, such as size, memory, and power constraints.
- Experience in using and developing of hardware simulators. Access to industrial equipment is not always possible, the devices may not exist yet, therefore, it would be beneficial for developers to know how to set up and use the simulation environment.
- Proficiency in creating HMI. Developers of industrial systems should consider the specifics of human-machine interfaces (small display size, touchscreen), as well as specialists should have a solid understanding of the tasks performed by the equipment operators.
- Expertise with legacy systems. Many industrial systems have been running for decades. Your contractor should not be afraid of working with legacy code, be able to expand and retrofit systems.
Effective productive relationship
Industrial projects are characterized by a wide range of necessary competencies, as well as a large number of stakeholders. Working in such a complex environment requires good self-organization and communication skills, a flexible and adaptable development process.
- Targeting long-time cooperation. The longer the partners work in a particular area the better they understand the domain specifics and the more effectively they solve technological challenges. The evidence of long-term cooperation demonstrates the company's focus on reliable relationships.
- Effective development infrastructure. The right development environment ensures transparency, manageability of processes, and reliable interaction with the customer.
- Well-established processes of team cooperation. Experience of close interaction between different teams. Proficiency in the use of tools for requirements gathering, project management, centralized source control, organization of testing processes, issue tracking.
- Work experience in multidisciplinary teams. The key aspect of an effective industrial project is productive interaction, bringing together the expertise of the management team, software developers, automation engineers, system integrators.
- Expertise in projects requiring special attention to security. Data protection issues are critical for industrial software. Ensuring data security and preventing leaks requires specialized know-how and special approaches to development processes.
- Experience in providing long-term technical support. Industrial systems usually operate for prolonged periods and require durable support. The company's experience in organizing systems maintenance is essential to ensure the sustainability of your products over the years.
Conclusion. Finding a partner for an industrial project is a challenging task, but the right technology partner will provide the necessary expertise, help your business to avoid many risks, and allow you to focus on achieving key business objectives.