For ages, decision makers came only in the form of royals, church heads, and high-ranking military officers. In the past few decades, however, technology and democracy advanced, and the power to build something from scratch ended up in the hands of millions of people from different industries. Nowadays, one particular area that is known to drive innovation at a global scale is the software development industry.
Nonetheless, this planet-wide evolution wouldn’t have been possible without people who not only had great ideas but also knew how to put them into practice in a predictable and sustainable way.
Getting All Variables on the Same Page
An important side of execution is knowing how to identify and organize all the variables of your particular product development project. From this perspective, building software isn’t that much different from building a tower block. The foundation needs to be solid enough to sustain the equivalent of 100 storeys. Knowing what functionalities to develop, how and in what order can make the difference between a challenged project and one that succeeds.
Here are the main factors that could influence the success of your SaaS development project, provided that you give them the attention they are worth.
1. People Are the Main Driver of Innovation
Not just any people, mind you, but the ones with the right skills and the right mindset. Too often we hear of how projects became challenged as a result of not giving the human element the attention it deserves. If you’re just getting started with your SaaS development project, keep the following list in mind. Chances are that you are going to need each of these roles, at one point or another:
- Back-end developer
- Front-end developer
- DevOps engineer
- Mobile developer (iOS, Android or hybrid)
- QA automation engineer
- Database Designer / Administrator
- Business Analyst
- Designer (Graphic, UX, identity)
- Project Manager
- Product Manager
The methodology and the goals complement this list and enable you to anticipate when each team member is needed.
2. The Methodology Keeps Everything in Check
Knowing what’s next is one of the best things that could ever happen to you in digital product development. Over the years, we’ve realized that segmenting every software started from scratch into 3 distinct phases works best:
a) From Zero to Product Design
b) The launch of the minimum viable product (MVP)
c) Further development to reach One
a) During the Product Design stage, the keyword is “creativity.” This is needed for putting ideas on paper (the more, the better), and for answering the question: “Who are we building this product for?” Identifying the buyer personas is an essential step at this point. Going through this phase helps everyone involved understand the context better.
The outcome of the Product design phase is a prototype of the digital product (visual or functional) that can already be used to get feedback both from investors and users. Based on their reactions, you can adapt your product to better match market needs.
b) Following next is the development and the launch of the MVP, when the keyword to keep in mind is “focus.” Developing an MVP with a small team should take anywhere between 3 and 6 months, depending on the key functionalities to be built. Any MVP that pasts the 6 months mark has too many functionalities.
The foundation and the first two storeys are represented by the MVP, therefore you need to be very efficient at creating it. That means covering the product with automated tests and sticking to the functionalities and technology chosen at the beginning. Only after you’ll get your product on the market and validate the idea you can consider major product changes.
c) During the last product development phase, when the MVP is turned into a revenue-generating product, the keyword is: “growth.” As such, the following components are subject to increases:
- The Team
- Number of roles included in the team
- User base
- Code base
- Issues and difficulties that could appear along the way
At this point, the team needs to find a balance between the Waterfall approach, which is unrealistic in the unpredictable environment of software development, and the pure Agile approach, where the team starts building a product without an initial plan.
In our experience, it’s best to rely on a flexible process that’s correlated with the particularities of the digital product to be developed. By minding each product’s specific context, the team can find the best solutions to every challenge that arises.
3. Working as a Real Team
Another key success factor of predictable SaaS development is heavily based on team communication and collaboration. The chances of success can only grow when everyone involved in the project works and feels as part of the same team. This is valid for communication and collaboration between the development team members, between departments and even between you and the stakeholders.
A real team is more than just a group of people. It’s an aggregate that has:
- A common goal
- Complementary competencies and abilities
- Common values and beliefs
- Responsibility for their actions towards the other team members
Leaving things to evolve on their own diminishes the chances of developing a real team. This is where decision makers need to observe the criteria listed above to see if the team they’re working with can manage itself, has all the needed skills and appreciates the same values.
At the core of all the three success factors discussed above sits the same constant: trust. It’s not enough for people to have the right skills if they don’t trust each other. Nor is it enough for the methodology to exist if the people using it don’t believe in its efficiency. Lastly, it’s not enough for communication and collaboration channels to be open if people don’t act responsibly towards one another.