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At Your Service You can't custom-order an outside software developer, but you can still find what you need.

By Mie- Yun Lee

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Need to track customers' orders on your Web site? Or createa customized internal billing system? Unless you're technicallyinclined, trying to develop custom applications for your businessis like ordering dinner in a foreign country-but with morerisk. It's one thing to waste money on a meal you didn'trealize you asked for; it's another thing altogether when yourcompany makes the mistake of pouring thousands of dollars into aproject that doesn't pan out.

No matter what software development project you want, you canmake it succeed even if a technical person isn't on staff. Hereare some tips for working with outside developers:

  • Know what you want. You should have a clear idea of whatyou expect in the application you're looking for. Drafting adocument that details its purpose and desired functionality willconvey those expectations to any development firm. If you'reconverting from a manual process, it's useful to have samplesof forms and reports you use and a detailed description of the workflow. Sketching out the way the material could translate onscreenwill help the developer understand what you want to get out of yoursoftware and could even inspire suggestions to improve efficiency.You might be surprised to see how many manual steps can beeliminated and done automatically via software.

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