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Creating great products is a necessary investment - but how we actually make them is just as crucial. Without a proper leash, ambitious ideas and plans about a product can run your business into the ground. So, how to save on product development without sabotaging quality?
No plan, no gain
Planning as a business activity seems… underrated? We still far too often focus on the outputs of planning - the fat Gantt chart, the conflict between specific dates a couple of months into the future, etc.
But at its core, planning is about making the main assumptions about the reality of the product, its production, and desired final results. The plan is just as much what we know is possible, as what we just assume. It is okay not to know everything at the outset - but how we manage this imprecision and risk is what separates the best from the rest.
Let’s run through typical elements of product development planning:
- Goals - what we want to achieve by creating a product. Depending on whether we want to increase sales, recognition, create an educational platform or provide a service, the way will be different. By setting goals, we’ll be able to decide whether we need a website or an application, what functionalities will be key for us, and in what channels will be the best to distribute our product.
TIP: In a British comedy series, Peep Show, a mid-level manager, Mark Corrigan, asks a stripper for advice on presenting new ideas to the board. She brutally says: “If you can't sum up all the aims in the first line, then they're too diffuse”. While it is an exaggeration, watch carefully for mission creep. Not all goals can be fit into one product.
- Target group - who is our user or customer, which people we want to reach. By identifying our audience, its age, place of residence, lifestyle, and needs, we’ll be able to more accurately choose which solution will suit them best. This is a great place to re-litigate if a feature is a must-have or a luxury for my chosen groups.
- Timeline - assuming the time needed, it’s worth taking into account not only the creation and testing itself, but also the internal approval process in our company: how many people have to accept the project and the time needed for feedback to the software company. A realistic and accurate schedule is extremely important for increasing work efficiency.
TIP: We have seen many products being developed in a business vacuum - with little thought given to their marketability and commercial viability. A timeline (and other plan elements) must take launch and marketing activities into account early - or risk waiting months for a late campaign to take effect.
- Budget - how much money do we have at our disposal determines which solutions we choose, so it’s worth writing it down carefully in the planning process in order to optimize the use of funds in the best possible way.
- Solution - what product we’ll implement, and how. Having many technologies at our disposal, even large corporations consult third parties like software houses. During the discovery call, using the knowledge of specialists, we’ll be able to establish the best fit between tech and product goals. On that basis, we then build a detailed plan of product implementation.
Keep it simple
'Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler' - this soundbite from Einstein translates well into product transparency but also into effective budget management. The excessive complexity of the products often makes the process of creating a website or application difficult.
Wanting to have a feature-rich product is understandable. We easily fall into the trap of excessive development of our systems, while every innovation and functionality costs money. If we want to make savings, it’s worth defining what our users really need and what they use, while additional features can be implemented in subsequent stages. Less is more, especially when it comes to budget optimization. Maybe make an MVP first? Or consider some early consulting?
Bad products cost more
We all know that value and quality cost money. Afraid of ballooning project costs, we search for cheaper alternatives. IT development, however, can easily backfire if treated as a bottomless savings generator.
It soon turns out, however, that developing a faulty product that generates errors is much more expensive than releasing an effective one. The need to make numerous corrections and rectify errors in the long term generates more costs than an investment in cooperation with a trustworthy, expert company.
Agility is a key
Agile software development is widely accepted. But what does it really mean? There is such an avalanche of agile-sounding bullsh*t out there, that even the US Department of Defence had to put out their guide to detecting agile charlatans. The agile strategy involves increasing efficiency by basing work on short-term cycles, reducing excessive planning. This doesn't mean that we abandon long-term assumptions - quite the opposite.
By working in shorter, more interactive cycles, we can achieve goals more easily, avoid delays, and implement any feedback much faster. Through constant contact within the company and with the customer, we can reduce the need for reworks because we react immediately to potential errors and actively participate in the entire development process.
Reduce the number of subcontractors
When carrying out a more complex project, we often employ many subcontractors and freelancers, each responsible for a different stage of product development. Such a solution often generates a problem in the form of a lack of information flow between individual contractors, and as a result, leads to a loss of synergy and more errors than in the case of entrusting the whole implementation to one expert software house.
Outsource product development entirely
Many companies try to carry out as many in-house projects as possible, but maintaining a full-time team of developers can be expensive. In a situation where we don’t need IT services all the time but have individual projects to complete, it’ll be much better to outsource product development.
Outsourcing is basically buying technical and management expertise, immediate access to another company’s experience and manpower. That can often save considerable time and money as well.
Looking for more on product development?
- These Companies Built Successful Products With React.js
- Top SaaS Analytics Tools: Use Data to Grow Your Business
- How to Create a Product Roadmap?
- 10 Things You Can Do Better While Working With Programmers