Ask technical questions of agencies

Budget requests for custom software often feature non-technical people making a technical proposal to other non-technical people. This process doesn’t lend itself to asking key questions, such as many of those found throughout this handbook. It is important to ask all of those difficult technical questions, and to insist on getting the right answers (see Appendix A for sample questions and answers).

It is no kindness to fund a project that is going to fail. If the agency doesn’t know exactly what they want to buy, they’re not going to get it.


Key questions

  • What exactly does the agency want to buy? Why? Who will benefit?
  • Which parts of the system will be custom? Which will be actual (not customized) COTS? How much will those updates cost? What will be done when a commercial component ends production — e.g., if the database company goes out of business?
  • Who are the end users of your system? Have you talked to them? What do they want?
  • Are you prepared for when changes need to be made?
  • How much will it cost to move to a new system?
  • What are you doing to avoid paying expensive change fees in the future?