Software Product Development to Help Achieve Business Growth

Undoubtedly, the topic of software development has been covered extensively. However, the information provided on the web is more often than not just a large collection of articles and posts. Each one dwelling on a specific angle like software product development methodologies, what product development is, or new product development examples. 

Consequently, it can be challenging to put together a comprehensive product development description. To remedy this problem, we have decided to create a series of articles devoted to different aspects of software development. This article will cover the following areas:

  • Product development definition
  • Product development steps 
  • Product development challenges 
  • Product development best practices

What is product development?

Software product development is the process of creating and maintaining applications, frameworks, and other software components. 

Despite its name though, the concept is much broader than just development. It incorporates a product’s entire journey — from identifying a market need to its service cessation. This is why software product development is often referred to as the Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC), a more comprehensive and apt name.

What are best practices for your product development process?

So, what is the new product development process? Well, essentially, it is a collection of practices and rules designed to transform a concept into a viable product. While these rules will always vary from case to case, at least five steps of product development always remain unchanged. Let’s take a look at these steps in more detail.

Strategy and planning

Meticulous planning is in the primary phase of the software development process. It goes beyond just conceptualizing a great idea. Depending on your requirements, the strategy and planning process might or might not include the following: 

  • Identifying a need. Solution is another name for a software product. Essentially, you will need to identify the problem that your product, or solution, is trying to solve. To do this, you will need to conduct a market analysis. Remember, often people want all the problems to be solved in one go, so the key here is to clearly see the priorities.
  • Conceptualizing the product. Once the user’s needs have been identified and quantified, your next step is to define how exactly you will address the problem. You will need to brainstorm different options, tech aspects and market best practices, investigate how your competitors solve similar problems and come up with a solution.
  • Idea screening. Before you spend too much time on prototyping and design, you first need to make sure your idea is worth pursuing. You can use requirements analysis to help identify potential risks and elaborate on mitigation strategies from the very beginning. 
  • Building the product roadmap. At this point, you will decide which aspects of your product are important and which require your immediate attention. This stage requires an exceptionally scrupulous approach taking into account every single detail to be documented and validated. 
  • Design. The majority of teams include design in the planning, others,though, view it as a separate phase. While we believe there’s no wrong way, make sure during the product design development process that all the requirements are analyzed and transformed into a UX/UI prototype. This prototype will then undergo an evaluation with real users. 
  • Product architecture. Finally, the architecture for your product will be designed and the tech stack will be chosen. The recommended team composition can also be suggested based on the stack and other technical requirements.

The order of steps above is by no means obligatory. You should approach the product development process definition based on your own business case, strategic priorities or an advice from the industry practitioners 

Software development and сoding

Coding is by far the longest phase. It’s the actual development and transformation of a suggested design into a functional product. If you have followed all of the steps during the planning phase correctly, the software or solution will match all of the requirements. Even if everything seems to be going well and appears on track, quality assurance and testing is the necessary next step.

Quality assurance and testing

It has to be mentioned that quality management practices have to accompany every stage of your product development lifecycle from its initiation to support and maintenance. The very encyclopedic quality assurance process starts when the software is built, the QA department will need to be ready with test cases to start its execution. Below are some key examples of different test types: 

  • Functionality testing to validate the solution against its functional requirements.
  • Performance testing to check the system’s behavior when it’s under significant load.
  • Penetration testing to check the system’s resistance to potential cyberattacks.
  • Usability testing to see whether the solution is intuitive.
  • Acceptance testing to see if the system meets the business requirements.

When all of the testing activities have been successfully completed, and all necessary fixes have been made, it’s time for the next phase:  implementation and deployment. 

Software solution implementation and deployment 

This is the stage where the actual product is released. The solution is finally ready for users to try it out. Depending on the product’s complexity, the release process can be either staggered (implemented in several steps) or straightforward. 

Operations and maintenance

The software product development lifecycle doesn’t just end when it is released. That’s why during this “final” step of product development (which never actually ends), the solution will be maintained and updated based on new coming requirements. 

Product development strategy: Its importance and main points

According to Clayton Christensen, Harvard Business School Professor, 95 percent of new products fail. Despite this statistic, every industry prioritizes innovation and growth to gain a market advantage. It’s well known that even though innovation can be risky, it also presents a huge opportunity to any business. 

Software product development challenges

So, why is the danger of developing an unusable or unprofitable product so acute? Below are some of the main challenges of software product development. 

 → Explore How to Overcome Challenges when Launching IT Projects

Time constraints

In the fast-paced tech landscape, you are almost always too late. If your product development process takes four years, but your competitor’s takes only two, you are simply going to be too late. That’s why tech businesses are primarily concerned with finding ways to accelerate time-to-market without affecting quality. 

Inability to make precise budget estimates

While many businesses falsely believe they can estimate accurate development costs before a project starts, this is unfortunately not the case.  It is impossible to do this before the solution and its functionality has been decided. During the testing phase, this is especially relevant, as you don’t know how many components your QA team will need to test and how many bugs they will find. 

Frequent changes in requirements

Even with the best understanding of your end product, there is always a chance that your requirements might change or your solutions won’t work. Customer requirements can change, competitors can introduce similar offerings, trends can shift, new technologies can emerge, and so on . . . all before you roll out your product. 

Diversity of Technologies

Software development is more than just HTML, JavaScript, and CSS. There are constantly new tools and technical products available. This perpetual innovation can complicate things, making it difficult to choose a technical stack and find developers skilled with it.

Key Drivers for Successful Product Development 

As the challenges above suggest, software development can be an arduous process. Luckily, there are proven ways to overcome the difficulties. Below are the key points to consider when working on your product development strategy definition.

Don’t Neglect Pre-Coding Phases 

Neglecting the pre-coding phases of the new product development process might negatively impact your bottom line or even lead to project failure. 

If you skip the design phase, your team will have to fit the design around an already functional product, making the latter unusable. And, ignoring proper market research might result in a product that doesn’t bring value to anyone. On top of that, without a clear product management plan, you may find yourself unable to release the product. 

The moral of the story? Never rush to get started with your product’s development. And keep the customer experience in focus. Always.

Foster Collaboration and Knowledge Sharing

The power of teamwork is indisputable and 86 percent of employers consider the lack of collaboration to be the primary reason for workplace failures. Meanwhile, according to Forrester, using digital collaboration tools can result in a 10% productivity improvement. 

That’s why screen sharing, video conferencing, instant messaging tools, and robust document management systems are a must for effective software product development. 

We also recommend you have a repository for necessary project information that is accessible to everyone involved in the development process. By giving your team a firm grasp of project goals, deliverables, and dependencies, you’ll minimize the mistakes and accelerate time-to-market.

Process Work in Small Batches

A large batch size (the size of the change in a product) is one of the key reasons for long work queues. It can result in increased system complexity, greater cost of change, increased overhead, greater risk of failure, more severe consequences of failure, and delayed feedback. 

That’s why shrinking batch sizes can greatly improve efficiency. According to the Harvard Business Review, one company managed to increase its product testing efficiency by 220% and decreased its defects by 3% by reducing its batch sizes. 

Although, this doesn’t always mean the smaller, the better. The optimal batch size is unique and depends on your business case. There needs to be a balance between the cost of deploying the software and the cost of not releasing the feature earlier. So, before proceeding with your development, take the time to calculate your optimal batch size. 

Strike a Balance Between Planning and Agility

It goes without saying that poor planning is one of the main reasons why projects fail. But at the same time, in this era of fast-paced digital transformation, having an inflexible plan can be ill-advised, too. 

→ Have a look at SAFE: Digital Transformation with speed and scale.

So, yes, planning is crucial. But whichever product development methodology you choose, remember — any plan should be treated as a roadmap that needs to be constantly revised.

Simplicity Is King  

Many teams are often tempted to add as many features as possible. But in most cases, this approach can be harmful. Why? 

First, this can make the product too complex to use. Second, your team might omit core functionality to stay within budget or meet the deadline. 

To prevent unwanted outcomes, we suggest you get to the heart of the problem and concentrate only on the features that solve it. Remember, knowing what to omit is just as important as determining what to include. After all, customers prefer simplicity.

Pick Tech Carefully

There’s often a huge temptation to pick the latest tech and to immediately proceed with development. 

However, using untested tools can cause serious challenges. If your developers are using new technology for the first time, they might fail to properly address issues when the development is in progress. It’s also possible that the chosen tech might not fit the product’s needs. When you choose a tech stack, make sure it addresses the following criteria: 

  • The problem/need that you want to address with your solution
  • The product’s core functionality
  • Your development team’s’ expertise
  • The deadlines and blockers
  • The product’s need for scalability

Professional consulting services can help you with this. Now, once you’ve chosen the tech, the next step is to find (or make sure that you have) software engineers with the corresponding expertise. 

Hiring the Right Software Product Development Company

Even if you know all of the vital considerations for successful product development, with the wrong vendor, failure is inevitable. 

It might be hard to believe, but globally there are more than 1 million software product development companies, according to Forrester. That’s ten times more than a decade ago. You might be misled to believe that finding a good partner is a no-brainer, but unfortunately, that’s just not true.

There is an extremely high risk of hiring an unsuitable vendor in terms of expertise, experience, industry knowledge, and attitude towards clients. You should always approach choosing an outsourcing service provider  with careful consideration. 

Luckily we can help you avoid spending weeks sifting through hundreds of options. Why? 

You are already in the right place. You are at Avenga, trusted strategic partner for full-cycle product development. With over 20 years of experience developing software solutions for our clients, a team of more than 2500 skilled professionals is ready to help you manage your challenges, no matter where you are in your software development journey.

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