The development of a successful software product requires excellent preparation with a series of steps. Brainstorming, planning, incorporating ideas, designing, QA are a few actions that are involved with the proceeding of product development. Each step helps to validate the stability and the effectiveness of the final product, and hence it is crucial to give equal attention every step of the way.
This is the second of our series of articles where we look into the basic elements that every expertise considers before developing a comprehensive software product. If you would like to keep up from inception, check our first article using the link below.
Link to our first article – The Essential Guide to Software Product Development.
If you are involved in a startup that is based on a new software product, these articles can help you understand the basics of how to go about it in the most economical and methodical way.
This is based on 20+ years of experience in software product development. After seeing projects succeed, fail, survive, happy clients, angry clients etc. Encountering a mix of positive and negative things has helped this article to chip in a balanced view. It will further assist to learn how to succeed or fail with minimum damages or minimize disasters.
Significance of Software Development for Businesses
Software products have become one of the crucial needs to enhance and upscale any business. Automation of processes through software development helps to cut downtime and manual techniques for a smooth operation.
Streamline of internal functions, improved client experiences, feature-rich additions to the market are some top-notch features of software products that have made it super consumer effective while growing its popularity in every industry.
When you boil it all down, you will notice that the initial step of software development is identifying the problem. In other words, the need for a software product comes with addressing a particular issue.
Identifying and addressing the problem will ensure that you have developed the right solution as a software product. However, it is also essential to reckon that the problem and the requirements can be transitory and are likely to change over time.
Looking into the end-users or the target market is another critical point here. While collecting brick by brick for the development process, it is essential to pick out where your final product is going to fall. This could be Business-to-Business (B2B), Business-to-consumer (B2C), Business-to-Business-to-Consumer (B2B2C), or an internal software product development.
Once you have identified the problem and where the final product falls, take notes and put it out in a writing document to present for a group of people or your team. This allows you to receive multiple perspectives and dig deeper to understand the root causes that affect and manifest the main problem.
Pinpointing the primary problem, connecting the contributing factors, identifying the affected people (Eg, project sponsor, customer, user, management), defying the scope of the solution, and recognizing the solution constraints helps to analyze the problem, understand the affected areas and address them accordingly.
The ultimate goal of idea validation is gathering evidence that your project will end with a paying customer or increase efficiency (to save time or cost). It helps to see the viability of your concept and how it will work in the real world.
Idea validation helps to reduce risks, speed up delivery and minimize costs. Below are a few questions to analyze the demand for your idea or to determine what the final product will achieve.
- Are you targeting the right audience with the correct problems?
- Can the final product help customers/users get their jobs done?
- How often do they need to use the product?
- Can your app solve a problem in a new way? Or is their innovation involved?
Setting up measurable and clear objectives is essential to determine how the idea will validate in the real world. In addition, formulating a hypothesis, developing a value proposition further enables you to get a clear answer.
PoC, Prototype, and MVP
A substantial part of idea validation is covered by following three main ways; use of a Proof of Concept (POC), Prototypes, or a Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
To make it more comprehensible, check out these working definitions for PoC, Prototype, and MVP.
PoC- Works in a controlled environment with a set of preconditions. Typically, a PoC is operated by the technical team and cannot be used by the outside world. However, PoC helps to demonstrate the core challenges or the processes for a particular problem can be addressed using the solution proposed.
Prototype- Gives a clear picture of the design and the user journeys of the application to make sure end-users could use the application conveniently. Users can mainly see the UI/UX aspects here but not the internal functionality.
MVP – A segment of the target audience will use MVP to solve a real-world problem. An MVP is bound with limitations and may not have many features. But the core functionality can be used to benefit from the system.
Depending on the situation, software companies use PoC, Prototypes, MVP or a combination to validate and receive feedback for the final solution.
Proof Of Concept (POC)
A PoC helps to pursue ideas before approving them for further testing. It helps to identify the feasibility of the concept and identify potential issues that may affect the final product’s success. Using a PoC, you can determine whether the product can feasibly develop to solve the problem you are trying to solve.
For the most part, a PoC is developed internally in a controlled environment and cannot be assembled or changed. It is a skeleton of the final product with minimal features to test out and distinguish how it will work in the real world.
Given below are a few advantages of developing a PoC during software development.
- It helps to choose the most appropriate technology for the development process.
- Simplify and improve the software functionality
- Receiving valuable feedback before building the actual product
- Potential to get onboard clients before official product release
- Avoid costly mistakes
- Increases the chances of commercial success
A Prototype is an iterative process that is used to ascertain the UI/UX aspect and visualize your product to validate the user journeys. It will demonstrate the critical design elements and the user flows using wireframes and storyboards. It helps define the features that need to be included and makes up a model to expose the errors in studying and designing.
Typically, there are four prototyping models, namely, Rapid, Evolutionary, Incremental, and Extreme. In most cases, following a PoC, a prototype is used to obtain further details of your final product and to see how it looks and users would use the features in the end.
Identifying customer needs, enhancing product workflow with better understanding, identifying design and related mistakes are a few advantages of prototyping in your early product development process.
Most importantly, you can also use it as an opportunity to reach the users at an early stage and get their feedback before putting your product into the market.
Link to walkthrough a sample prototype
Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
Typically, before releasing a full-fledged product, an MVP is used to collect feedback from early customers. The responses from the real world help developers to work on the versions and improve the product accordingly.
An MVP consists of the core features and the minimalist design that deploys the final product. The basic infrastructure is developed using the least possible expenditures and has certain limitations. Positive and negative feedback received from MVP help validate the idea of the final product and see the potentiality of its success. It can also be used to solve an existing problem or could be used to improve the efficiency (cut down of effort taken, time taken, or cost involved) of a task.
MVP introduces efficiency to a selected task (core problem your application solve), and there could be many other auxiliary features that could improve the efficiency of the same job. But with the MVP mindset, you will not try to include those complementary features in the solution you provide at the MVP stage. So, again, that’s why we call it MVP. Solve the intended problem, but nothing more, nothing less.
There are different types of MVP concepts that can be used based on the purpose. Software prototypes, product designs, concierge, landing pages, piecemeal, demo videos, and wizard of Oz are some of the main ways the MVP concept is used. Dropbox, Amazon, Airbnb, and Facebook are a few well-known examples that started with the MVP technique.
Below are the key advantages of using MVP.
⦁ Avoid lengthy unnecessary work
⦁ Gain insights on product viability and usability
⦁ Saves project time and money
⦁ It gives clarity around the final product idea
⦁ Analyze market demand
When you disregard all non-essential features, that brings the time to market your product less and cost to develop your product less. These are the pillars of lean product development.
Choosing between POCs, Prototypes, and MVPS could be crucial to find the aptest solution for your business proposition. Furthermore, after considering all these essentials, you could decide on selecting them as throwaway codebase elements or not. Hence, our preceding context will discuss the guidelines and the necessities to choose between these elements.
We want to thank Chalinda Abeykoon for being a part of this effort and adding value to this article by sharing his insights and experience.
Stay tuned for our next article.