The start of any new application or software development project is an exciting time. However, it can also be daunting as you wonder if the project will catch on. Many of our customers ask us, “Do you think people will like this new feature?” or “You think users will like this?”.
As much as we’d love to tell everyone that yes their genius idea is going to work, there is much more that goes into it.
The specific product features that will generate value in your particular project are highly dependent on your industry and the goals of the project. Often something amazing can be built, but it doesn’t mean that people will use it. As an expert in your own field, you must take on that task yourself to determine if the tool you intend to create is beneficial and will be used. We can, however, give you tools to help you outline and communicate that value for yourself, your organization and your suppliers.
Will Your Product or Application Provide Value?
The essence of any great application or feature is not the slick, innovative design - although it definitely helps. It comes down to the value that is being provided.
Value is generated with simple solutions to tangible problems. Simple solutions, in turn, are based on a clear vision and the ability to eliminate unnecessary features. Simplicity is a demanding art form, but more often than not, it will maximize your return on investment. Apple is a great example of cashing in on simplicity. Their products are more expensive and less complex than those of their competitors, and yet they are turning a huge profit.
Basecamp, a web development company renowned for the usability of its software, has a policy of rejecting every new feature request offhand. They only begin to consider implementing new features after they have been suggested by multiple sources.
New York Times technology journalist David Pogue’s lifehack for all project managers is: “Whenever a programmer asks you whether a new feature should be added, your tasks is to say no!”
So What’s Your Problem?
Before you begin to ponder the value of your product or its features, you should define the problems you intend to solve. This problem definition by Airbnb, a company revolutionizing the world of accommodation services, is a great example:
- Price is an important concern for customers booking travel online.
- Hotels leave you disconnected from the city and its culture.
- No easy way exists to book a room with a local or become a host.
After defining the need your product is addressing, you then move on to communicating your initial solution to the supplier. The best way to start is to craft an elevator pitch.
A Good Elevator Pitch Lifts Your Project to Success
How do you initiate conversation when you contact a potential supplier? Do you hand them a wish list of features and give the desired starting date?
How about starting your request for quotation with an elevator pitch that tells the supplier why your product is a winner? This way, all operations are based on the value generated for the user, and the supplier is able to better assess their ability to meet your needs. Elevator pitches inspire and engage the supplier in your project from the get-go.
A great elevator pitch is an asset in internal and external communications, helping you focus on the essentials. You can also draw a hypothetical physical package for your product and think about the features you’d highlight on the package. A good elevator pitch answers these key questions:
- Who is the product made for?
- What needs does it address?
- What category does it belong to?
- How does it benefit its users?
- What sets it apart from other similar products?
- What is the key differentiator?
- Why should users choose your product over others?
Minimum Viable Product
A minimum viable product (MVP) is an early version of your product which is developed with just enough features to validate the problem and its solution in practice. MVPs are used to collect, and learn from, analytics data and feedback from real users. A successful software development project often starts with an MVP phase.
Your MVP functionality can be derived from your elevator pitch. The first version of your product to be introduced in the market can be built around that same functionality. An MVP consists of the key features that resonate with users and make the product stand out from the competition.
MVP functionality sets a good foundation for your RFQ and you should review it with your supplier in detail. This way value generation forms the bedrock of your project. It is also important to discuss other features and potential future development plans with your supplier.
It might be worthwhile to impose a deadline for the MVP development process. This forces you to carefully reflect on the core functions of your product or service.
On the other hand, an MVP should also include the parts of the project that entail the highest risk. Risky entities are usually pushed back to the later phases of development projects, when in fact they are the very features that often set the product apart and generate the most value.
“I love complex software,” said no one ever. But designing simple and intuitive products is difficult. As mathematician Blaise Pascal once quipped: “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter”. This statement neatly embodies the paradox of simplicity: developing easy to use technology is hard while creating complicated technology is easy. Instead of developing software that comes with a thousand-page-long manual, we recommend designing products that don’t need instructions. Users will let you know what they want (everything!) but it’s vital that you figure out what they actually need.
Do What’s Right by Your User
Choosing a supplier with the best coders won’t guarantee your project’s success. Doing the right things is even more important than having a world class development team. Users demand services with great usability and visual style. Make sure that your supplier uses both service designers and UX (user experience) designers, in-house or as partners.
Service designers work in close cooperation with clients, end-users, and the development team. Their job is to ensure that the software design caters to end-users’ needs and to help the client develop their business model. The latter is called business design. Using methods like workshops and facilitation, service designers help you design world-class services.
UX designers ensure that the service is both easy to use, and easy on the eyes. This entails all the elements that are visible to the end-user. The terminology is still evolving, and you might also come across terms such as UI or CX design (user interface/customer experience). Before your project starts, make sure that you understand your supplier’s approach - and that they are doing the right things.
As you can see, there is a lot that goes into any software development project and its eventual success. There is nothing you can do to absolutely guarantee adoption or success, but follow the principles above and you will greatly improve your chances!
To learn more about starting successful software and application development projects, you can find our whole guide at Vincit's Software Buyer's Guide