Understanding Software Product Development
The development of a software product is a multidisciplinary effort which requires knowledge from different areas. Most of us often tend to think of products in terms of the number of features. That is not to say you should not have a big vision. But very soon, you will need to think about a small and feasible version to start from. You have limited time and resources. You will never be able to start with a complex product or a complicated business model.
ideas are cheap, acting on them is quite expensive
Understanding the customer mentality
A software product should answer to the pain points of the end users. One of the key drivers that makes people buy a software product is because they need only “certain features” out of it. As software product creators; our focus should be to help the target customers of the product to lower the barrier of accomplishing their work.
Roadmap to a successful Software Product
- Break your big idea into manageable pieces
- Focus on what matters and systematically test your idea
- Build just enough and no more
- Find early customers(aka early adopters) and get them to want to pay
- Continuously learn from customers
- Communicate progress to customers, advisors, and potential investors
Remember that a software product startup is much more than the product alone. At the end of the day, a startup is a business. And a business is there to make profits. The true job of an entrepreneur is to systematically de-risk the business idea over time. This is key to finding customers, team members, advisors, and investors.
Ask yourself these questions
- who is your customer?
- why would they buy from you and not from someone else?
- how will you reach your customers and how much will it cost you?
- how will you make money?
- how big is your market?
- can you make a viable business case?
Key components to build a Software product from scratch
- Product domain expertise: It all starts with an idea and a thorough understanding of the industry vertical or domain which the software product will help solve. So make sure that you have the right amount of knowledge about the domain in which you are working. Its all about understanding the unmet needs of your customers and creating a solution around the pain points.
- Product management: This is the knowledge needed to identify problems that can be solved by means of a software product. This also involves making decisions that will be best for the customer, user, and market. So make sure you have a good understanding of the domain and industry, market dynamics, user and customer behavior.
- Project management: Project management ensures that all parts (software v1.0, website design, marketing, campaign, product, etc.) are in sync, on-budget and on-time. Simply put – this requires the knowledge to coordinate different activities done by different people that should culminate in a single defined and attainable result.
- Software development: This is the place; where it gets technical(as we are building a Software Product). Its all about choosing the right Tools & Frameworks including IDEs, Application Servers, Web Servers, Database Servers, Dev and Testing.
- User experience: You are building a product to solve someone’s problem. A good user experience is important because – if the users enjoys the experience they might recommend the product to their friends. That’s where User Experience or UX comes in. Its the interaction flow, simplicity and easy of use that creates a good experience for users.
- Quality Assurance: This is a planned process to identify the correctness, completeness, security and quality of a software product. Its a continuous process where defects are identified and made sure that they get fixed with every release. Bug tracking tools and twitter are great ways to identify bugs and provide great customer service.
- Product marketing: This is the phase where you need to demonstrate the problems that your product solves to your prospects through the execution of a software product marketing strategy. Inbound marketing, B2B online marketing are great ways to promote the usefulness of your product.
- Licensing & Entitlement: Software products are easy to copy and redistribute. Imagine what would happen if your software product is released on a P2P Torrent site. Even if you report and file case; the damage would be done already. That makes the licensing and entitlement very important. There are different ways to license a native app, windows app and a SaaS app. So its better to go for a professional software licensing service than experimenting and regretting later on.
- System administration: In case of a web software product – users should be able to access and use it from anywhere without performance issues. This deployment can be either on a shared server(cheaper option) if your application runs on a low memory footprint. But for large Apps; either a VPS or Dedicated server must be used for deploying your software product. It must be also monitored to check if it is running with acceptable performance. This is system administration. It also involves backup of user generated data periodically, verify how much the database is growing, define a scale strategy.
Its not possible to be an expert in all every aspect of building a successful software product. But to increase the chances of success of a software product – it is important that you are familiar with the above. The more you know, the better, so you can better manage the contractors or the outsourced team you’ll certainly hire to help you.
Why agile over waterfall model?
Whether you manage the product and project management by yourself or outsource it. Agile project management is all about simplifying your product until you have something which is implemented in 1 or 2 months – if not weeks – that is already useful to your customer. And making sure the customers agree and are willing to pay for your software product. The first paying customer is the proof that your idea might work. So make that first sale as early as you can.
These are the principles to build and launch software products ranging from high-tech to no-tech. We would love to hear your comments