Going from idea to execution is one of the most exhilarating journeys in software development. But it’s not always easy to get projects off the ground, let alone maintain momentum when they’re out in the world.
Launching a new product requires groundwork and planning. Here are four key planning principles that will give your software development project the best chance of taking off.
have a clear vision of your destination
Are you launching aimlessly or do you have a clear vision of what your destination looks like? Learn how to set goals — the right kinds of goals, that is —and you’ll bring your whole project into focus.
It all starts with the big picture vision. Detailing exactly what you want your product to do helps get everyone on the same page and understand where each department’s priorities lie. You’ll be in a position to really own the product and have a map you can take to stakeholders that outlines your aspirations and shows what the product will do — making it easier to get sign off.
While it’s important to aim for the stars, you’ll also need to bring your goals back down to earth by focusing on your customer. Develop your goals further by taking your end user’s perspective. What are they struggling with? How will your product solve these issues? Then tie everything back to the capabilities of your team. It’s better to completely solve one or two of your end-users’ problems than have a half-hearted attempt at solving them all.
Assemble a Small, Talented Crew
You already know that building a talented team is crucial to your project’s success. But there are subtleties to team building that few organizations understand. Specifically, the size and make up of your team make a tangible difference.
The vast majority of teams are too big and have too many senior developers, anyway. That’s a problem because productivity is inversely related to team size. Larger teams tend to prioritize cohesion over execution. They allow individual team members to get lost or left out of the project. Bigger teams may intuitively seem more productive, but they don’t necessarily complete more work.
Take the opposite approach by curating a small, agile team of three to five employees. Don’t negate the importance of finding the right balance between developers and analysts, either. A 2:1 ratio of developers to analysts is optimal if your analysts can act as business analysts, technical analysts and quality assurance testers.
Test Launch With a Minimum Viable Product
You can’t expect to succeed first time around. Learning how to develop a prototype and acquire rapid feedback will save you from investing significant amounts of time and money into a product that was doomed to fail in its initial form.
A prototype or minimum viable product (MVP) is a basic, rapidly-developed version of the product with just enough features to be usable. The idea is to gather feedback as quickly as possible so you can amend your project as necessary.
Don’t feel like you have to have all your ducks in a row and every question answered to get started developing an MVP. The process of building it will help you understand what you don’t know, which hurdles need to be overcome and which worries are irrelevant. The earlier you find these things out, the easier they are to fix.
Once built, get your MVP into the hands of end-users as fast as possible. Feedback is incredibly valuable at this stage. It allows your team to discover problems and understand usability issues that may otherwise have gone unfixed until development was complete.
Use feedback to amend your feature map or revise the project completely. Then rinse and repeat. If significant changes are required, an additional prototype and further user testing may be necessary to keep you on track.
Build a System To Track Success
How can you tell if you’re succeeding if you don’t have guides in place before work begins? End your preparation by establishing performance metrics and key performance indicators that will measure your progress and determine the extent of your eventual success.
There are many metrics to choose from. Those that focus on code quality, performance and cost are the most essential, but your specific metrics will be determined by the goals you established at the start of this process.
Once created, track your metrics frequently. By assessing your performance at the start of each day, you can rectify any issues before they become serious problems. You may not appreciate the level of transparency this approach brings, particularly if stakeholders are looking over your shoulder. But the more informed they are, the more they’ll be able to help solve issues. The long-term trust this approach builds between developers and stakeholders can’t be overstated, either.
The journey to development may seem long, but it’s imperative not to rush the start of a project. It’s only with the stable platform this approach creates that you’ll be able to shoot for the moon.