5 Key Questions Managers Should Ask About Database Consulting

Not sure where to start in your search for a database consultant?

The explosion of data analytics in the past three decades has revolutionized the way our businesses, governments, and institutions function. Data has always driven the world around us, and we’ve come a long way from the days of paper ledgers and spreadsheets. The development of database software has opened doors to new understandings and has allowed us to connect the dots of information we never knew were related. But to many, the near-infinite possibilities of utilizing database technology can be complex, intimidating, and like a foreign language. That’s where J Street comes in.

We have decades of experience in database consulting. We help our clients understand their businesses and organizations more completely and build systems that enable growth and expansion. We are a team of dedicated database programmers and software designers with expert-level knowledge. And we love sharing our expertise! We’re also fascinated by the business of database consulting itself because a software team is nothing without the skills to be able to guide and educate its clients. We get questions every day from IT Managers, CTOs, and business owners taking the first steps to improve their database infrastructure. Asking the right questions is key to scaling and scoping any software project. Here are the 5 key questions we love to hear from managers on database consulting.

1. What technologies do you specialize in?

This should be the first question you ask. There are dozens of database platforms out there with all sorts of niche purposes. Knowing which technology your consultant specializes in will narrow your search for the right partner. Lots of times, database consultants will boast about their experience in a broad range of technologies to appeal to more customers. However, we find that these consultants may work well within a few areas but struggle with other technologies and even outsource some development overseas. How do you know you’re paying for focused, skilled expertise?

At J Street, we always say it’s better to be an expert in a few things rather than mediocre at a lot of things. We specialize in the Microsoft Platform, including SQL Server databases, Access for desktop applications, and ASP.NET for web applications. We also help with SharePoint and Microsoft 365, and our team has several Microsoft Certified Professionals and a Microsoft MVP. Some on our team have written books on the industry and have spoken at conferences around the world. Bottom line: we are truly the experts in our field and are exceptionally qualified to take on any Microsoft database project.

2. How do you charge for your services? How do we control costs?

We know that price is paramount. It’s often a driving factor in our customers’ decisions. But in the world of software development, pricing isn’t always transparent. How can you trust a new development team’s estimates? Pricing and estimates are often the trickiest part of database programming and design. Asking this question early will give you tons of insight into the team you’re thinking of hiring. Here’s why:

  • Fixed-bid development projects often run into trouble – it’s almost impossible to account for all of a system’s complexities. They also don’t allow much room for adding new features or improvements down the road.
  • Hourly estimate development shops are transparent with their hourly rate, and can tell you how many hours they think your project will take. Shops with lower hourly rates often either lack experience or outsource their development overseas, whereas higher-rate shops may cost more but will quickly produce high-quality software that will stand the test of time.
 
At J Street, we charge an hourly rate for our services, making it easy to know what your project will cost in time and dollars. We charge to the nearest ¼ hour, and only charge when we’re making forward progress. Our rate is backed by decades of combined experience, and we respect our clients’ time just as much as our own. We use a well-honed estimating tool and a meticulous time-tracking system (developed internally to fit our business) with open transparency of the time worked on every activity. At J Street, we give clients peace of mind that their money—and our time—is being well spent.

3. What makes J Street better than other database consulting firms?

We love to hear this question. The number of database programmers has exploded over the years, and they all say they’re the best! But J Street is different. First, we understand business as well as technology. We’ve worked in hundreds of industries, and we pride ourselves on our ability to quickly understand any business. We also never pressure you into extra work unless you’ll see a return on your investment. If it doesn’t make sense and it doesn’t benefit your business, we’ll tell it to you straight. We’re also experts at mitigating business continuity risks like the Lottery Problem. Our skilled team has plenty of overlapping experience, so you won’t have to rely on one person—you’ll work with a team. If your developer isn’t available and you have an emergency, you can rest easy that the rest of the J Street team can step in and take care of you.

What really makes J Street unparalleled to other software developers is our unique and effective phased approach to custom software development. Especially the most important phase, the initial Architectural Framework phase. In short, this is our discovery phase where we learn your business inside and out, gather system requirements, and immerse ourselves in your world so that we can build a flawless system. We deliver planning and design documents so you know exactly what your system will do and look like before we start building it. No other development shop you’ll find engages in Architectural Framework planning like we do. Our customers understand the value this brings to their project—take a look at what they have to say!

4. Will my business have full ownership of our custom software?

Usually, we hear this question from experienced IT professionals, but it is a question everyone should ask, and your database consultant should welcome it.

At J Street, we grant full ownership of the source code to our customers for any custom system we design. After all, we built the system for you and your business. While we do retain the right to reuse our design and code for future projects (without competing with you), you still own your whole system and are free to do what you want with it.

However, some developers hold their work dear and retain ownership rights to the software they produce, even though it was custom-made for your business. This can lock you into your developer so that ongoing support is only possible from them. But what if you’re not pleased with their work? Make sure you study ownership clauses in any proposals or service agreements you sign so that you can avoid hostage situations.

5. What if we need to make changes to the software or add new features later?

Let’s be frank. Custom software isn’t perfect forever. Our systems, while impeccable, aren’t immune to time. Future operating system upgrades and new business challenges require ongoing software support. For example, a system made for 10 users may not function efficiently 5 years later when 100 people need to use it. When engaging a database programming team, it’s important to ensure your consultant is capable of providing ongoing support, and that it can be scaled to match your business and technology growth.

At J Street, we always think ahead in our custom development projects so that your software can provide value for many years. We foster long-term relationships with our clients, many of whom have been with us for more than a decade. We know our clients and their systems inside and out and are always happy to deliver updates, enhancements, and new features. We also maintain an exclusive project plan that gives estimates for every feature you discuss with our team. If a feature wasn’t high-priority or didn’t make sense in the early stages, you’ll have a handy reference so we can revisit that feature when the time is right.

It's important to ask the right questions

The world of custom software development is full of intricacies. On top of that, competition among database developers and software designers is more saturated than ever. It can be difficult and time-consuming to find the right one. Even the most seasoned business owners and IT managers have to ask the right questions when approaching a new software project. Evaluating a firm’s expertise, approach, pricing, ownership agreements, and ongoing support capabilities is critical to ensuring the success of your project. As a manager, you need a highly skilled and experienced database consulting team that understands your business, works within your budget and fosters a long-term relationship with you. You’ll find all of the above, and more, with J Street Technology.

Contact us today to arrange a free consultation for your software project!

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