Atomic's Pre-Project Consulting

Curious if Atomic Object is the right firm for your project? So are we. Here's how we find out.

1. Initial Call/Meeting

Reach out by calling 616-776-6020 or emailing, and we’ll schedule a call between you and a managing partner. They’ll answer your questions about Atomic and ask about your ideas, goals, timeline, and budget. The call should take 30 to 60 minutes.

If everyone wants to move forward, we'll schedule a more in-depth meeting. If Atomic isn’t a good fit for your project, we’ll help you figure out where to go next. Here are some questions we tend to hear in that stage:

2. In-depth Meeting

Next, you'll meet with one of our pre-project consulting teams via video chat. These teams are comprised of experienced developers and designers.

We’ll dive into your goals and what you want the end product to look like. We’ll discuss your budget, technical requirements, and timeline. We’ll also talk about what the engagement might look like—What services will you need? Do you have an internal team we’d be working with? Who would be responsible for which decisions? Here are some questions we tend to hear in that stage:

They walked us through the process and set clear expectations. They addressed their concerns about the project and its potential outcomes. We really liked that they offered multiple references when we approached them. They truly stood behind their work and were very accessible as well.

Anthony Lazzaro—Co-Founder, Carol Health

3. Project Budget & Engagement Modeling

Using a blend of budgeting techniques, your pre-project consulting team will create an engagement model for your project. The model will help us consider different budgets, schedules, and plans. This can take a few weeks to put together.

We’ll walk you through the model and explain our recommended approach. The goal is to create a responsible budget that will get you to a valuable first release. We’ll show you where the risks are and give you everything you need to make an informed decision.

From there, you can take the model back to your team and explore different scenarios to see what your budget can do. Here are some questions we tend to hear in that stage:

4. Finalization & Scheduling

Once we finalize a budget and engagement model with you, we start working on a proposal. We’ll work with your legal and procurement teams to craft a contract that satisfies everyone. Then, we’ll start scheduling a team.

We'll finalize your team and start date once the contract has been signed. The average lead time is 3 months, which is standard in our industry. Here are some questions we tend to hear in that stage:

Frequently Asked Questions

Will Atomic sign my NDA?

Typically, we like to start our engagement with a high-level conversation about your project. This allows us to discuss timing, capabilities, needs, and resources without signing an NDA. If we all agree to continue, we’re happy to consider executing a mutual NDA. We tightly scope the definition of confidential information on any NDA.

When can we get a quote?

Quotes are great for predictable, repeatable projects—when you already know what the end product will look like. But creating a new, unique software product involves a lot of decisions, risks, and tradeoffs.

We can give you our hourly rate and a likely team structure and timeline. After an in-depth meeting (Stage 2 of this process), we can give you a ballpark estimate for your project. Then we’ll help you set a reasonable budget with enough funding for a highly-valuable first release.

Do you have experience with problems like mine?

Very likely, yes. Since 2001, we’ve made software that runs on mobile phones, web, desktop computers, custom devices, and enterprise infrastructure. Our clients have ranged from startups to the Fortune 500, across many industries. Check out our Portfolio for examples of typical Atomic projects.

You can also visit our Tools page for a list of more than 100 languages and frameworks in our wheelhouse.

How soon can you start on my project?

We keep our employees busy on projects, so the average lead time is 3-6 months. This is standard in our industry, since the demand for talented software makers far exceeds the supply.

Software consultants with short lead times often work with a network of contractors. We prefer long-term relationships. We believe close-knit groups of people with secure, satisfying jobs do better work. That’s why we’ve invested in building an excellent team of trusted Atoms.

Regardless of your timeline, don’t let a near-term start date keep you from giving us a call. Our teams are flexible and can work with you, as needed.

Who from our team should attend?

We’d like to meet with both the project manager and the person who will make the final hiring decision. We suggest you also include your team’s technology expert—both to assess Atomic and to answer technical questions.

We’re not exactly sure what we need; is that okay?

Absolutely. Do you understand the problem you’re trying to solve? Then we’re excited to help you solve it. (If you’re still trying to understand the problem, we’d suggest a design firm like IDEO.)

We’ll use our research, design & planning process and years of product development experience to design a product that will help you reach your goals. Our flexible, Agile approach ensures that we continue to refine and refocus goals—all the way to the product launch.

Why do you talk about budgets instead of estimates?

An estimate says: “$X will get you all the features and functions on your wishlist.” But that’s not in your best interest. Why?

Instead of estimating every item on your list, we help you figure out, “How much money will it take to create a valuable first release?”

  • Estimates make a lot of assumptions. Software development is full of risks and unknowns, and you can’t truly explore them before a project starts. While scope can be estimated, those estimates will need to be validated through thoughtful engagement. That’s why our team will spend the first few weeks of your project analyzing your risks and exploring the cost and complexity of different options. Then we’ll share what we’ve learned and make recommendations on the best path forward.

  • Your feature list is too big. Building a full-feature initial release is expensive and risky. We believe that you should budget for a small, focused first release, instead. Get it in users’ hands as soon as possible. Then gather feedback, and use that to plan and budget future phases.

  • Your feature list will change. You will learn things during the project that change your mind about which features and functions are the most important. A budget will give you the flexibility to change your plans and release a more valuable product.

We refer to this as a responsible budget. Budget too little, and your app might lack the features and functions it needs to be useful. Budget too much before releasing to users, and you could be wasting your resources on the wrong things.

They sky’s the limit with custom software. But if you start with a smart budget and a set of goals, we’ll build you a Phase One application that starts creating value immediately.

How do you arrive at your budget recommendations?

Using a combination of methods, we’ll identify a range that we believe will give you enough capital to succeed. We bring together a few different approaches:

  • Break down the different features/functions and give each a range estimate.

  • Compare your project with similar projects we’ve done in the past.

  • Draw on our industry experience.

What sort of things make a project more expensive?

We charge a flat hourly fee for the work we do. The more complex a project is, the longer it will take to complete, and the more it will cost. Project complexity usually comes from:

  • Number of platforms involved (e.g., web, mobile)

  • Integrations with other systems

  • Complexity of the business logic

  • Client’s organizational structure and the number and type of stakeholders involved in decision making

  • Complexity of the user interfaces

  • Number of user types (e.g., customer, store owner, system administrator)

  • Number and types of features

  • Which languages and technologies we use

  • Deployment process

We can help you find the simplest solution to your problem and plan a highly-valuable first release. Of course, it’s possible that you might not need custom software at all.

How will Atomic help me get the most for my money?

From kickoff to launch, we focus on your big-picture goals. With an agile approach that keeps us on course, no matter what.

  • Smart planning – Every Atomic project starts with a Research, Design, and Planning phase. Using a Human-Centered Design approach, we look at scenarios from the user’s perspective. Then we plan and prioritize features, outline the architecture, and start designing the user interface. This helps us focus on the important problems first and deliver the right features at the right time.

  • Scope management – Atomic uses a fixed-budget, scope controlled approach: your budget is fixed, but your scope can be managed. During the project, you’ll meet with your Atomic team every two weeks to see their progress. We’ll show you how much budget you have left, and you’ll have the opportunity to adjust the plan. You’ll be able to incorporate new ideas and deal with unexpected problems—without going over budget.

There are always more ideas than there are time and money. So no matter how much you budget, you’ll finish your first phase of development wanting more.

Fortunately, a strong first release will help you validate your ideas. And it will start generating value (e.g., saving money, creating revenue) faster, helping you secure the budget for Phase Two.

How should I get ready for the start of my project?

Atomic projects usually start with a multi-day kickoff workshop—part of our Research, Design, and Planning phase. Before kickoff, we’ll connect with you to make sure you’re prepared. This may include:

  • Meeting with project stakeholders to align everyone’s expectations.

  • Gathering information about your company and project. We are interested in knowing everything from the strategic framing, to your hypotheses on customer or user needs, down to existing resources you hope to leverage.

We’ll use this information to plan and customize your kickoff workshop.

What's next?

Next will be your Kickoff and Research, Design, and Planning phase. You can learn about those and the rest of the project on our Process page.

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