As a leader, you’re aware of the many ideas out there suggesting ways to improve how you do business. The real challenge of any new project, however, has more to do with its execution than the concept. And as businesses look for ways to improve their offerings in an age of technology, this challenge becomes increasingly difficult. Business owners, for example, may not have a handle on specific technology and software options that can make their vision become reality. And having a phenomenal web presence, although helpful, may not be enough. Custom software is a viable way to provide the means you need to improve or build your new product.
What makes your business unique?
Understanding what sets you apart from other companies is the key to your success. The ever-increasing number of businesses can make your company seem almost invisible. Offering a unique product or service can help you rise above the noise. This is especially true for small to medium businesses. With most businesses online, their web development also needs to reflect that uniqueness. This is especially true for startups who have yet to establish their brand. In fact, according to Startup Nation, “Understanding what makes you unique (should be) the number 1 priority for every person and every business.”
Customers research companies before doing business
Knowing your uniqueness makes sense. This is especially true when you realize that customers today go out of their way to investigate and research companies to compare offerings. With the advent of mobile phone and tablets, consumers can explore their options in minutes. They can match benefits and reviews side-by-side before choosing a product or service. It’s important for them to know what makes you special in order to justify their selection. Your web presence suddenly becomes the face of your business and all you have to offer.
But what about your products? Do they have to be unique? According to Inc.com, “ innovative and dedicated companies will continue to elbow their way” into markets. But at the same time, when you think your product has merit, just remember “that you don’t have to change the world or upend markets. You have to add value to customers.”
So, before considering software, it’s important for you to establish what makes your business stand out. What are your specialties? How are you different from your competitors? What are your products or services that make you unique?
Why use custom software to build your product?
For starters, every business uses software. From emails to websites, software is part of a company’s everyday fabric. Some products are simply a new spin on an old product thanks to the miracle of software. For example, your car still gets you around town, but the new ones can also stop for you, check what’s behind you, and help you change lanes.
Now think about what your business offers customers. How can you improve the user experience? Can your web presence go up a notch? What can you provide that other businesses don’t offer? If you’re thinking about custom software to build or enhance your product, service, or web presence, you’ll love what it can do for you.
Start building your custom software with these basics
Custom software is more expensive than ready-made software products but the advantages of custom software are well worth the investment. The longer you employ your software, the more you will save costs over time. But because you’re not getting something that comes out of a box, the process won’t happen overnight. You will need to commit to the time, energy, and resources to ensure its success.
But before you actually start the building process, you need to design and develop a prototype to validate its usability and purpose with all parties, including the tech lead at the table. So, if you’ve made up your mind and are ready to commit to custom software, here are some basic steps to start the build.
1. Establish Product Goals
First and foremost, establish your product’s goals and objectives and how it will fit into your overall business strategy. Be sure to plan for growth and changes in the way you do future business. How will this product increase productivity? Will this software improve business processes? Does it have the potential to increase revenue? What is the expected ROI?
2. Define an MVP
Allow your product every chance for success. Start with an MVP (Minimal Viable Product) build. This will give you the ability to begin with a product that’s void of costly features but ready to use or take to market. You’ll reduce investment risks and allow your product to gain momentum before enhancing its design.
3. Set objectives
Set specific objectives for your MVP and set reasonable expectations and estimates for its progress and completion. Having these markers in place will help you create a better pathway to successful results. What is the product supposed to accomplish? What is the best way to achieve results? What is the budget, schedule, technical and engineering needs, overall size, etc.? Why is solving this problem with custom software development important to the business?
The design of your product has the most direct and profound effect on users. Getting this part right is crucial to your product’s viability. Begin the UX design process by assembling a skilled team. An ideal team is made up of a product manager/owner, tech lead, business analyst, and UX/UI designers. Team members with both technical and soft (communication/collaboration) skills will prove to be the best contributors.
5. Research and analysis
Do research and analysis to uncover competitors and any existing products. And because you don’t have the luxury of knowing what the future lies, be sure to research trends. Find clues to where businesses like yours are headed. How are they changing? Are there any disruptors or potential products that can have a sweeping effect on your industry? Also, pinpoint any potential problems, look for technical constraints, and review any industry standards and legalities.
6. Look at the risks
Products can have potential risks that can result in damage to your business and its reputation. Determine your product’s inherent risks and all the requirements. Will people actually use your product? Is your product user friendly? How long will it take to build? Do you have the right skills and technology in place? Will the product work with other aspects of your business.
Be prepared at every turn to build your product. Make sure you have the right tools needed for the design phase like whiteboards, wireframing and prototyping tools for visual and interactive user flow mockups, etc.
Make the most out of the ideas that can give your product the best advantage. Let the brainstorming process begin to vet out as many viable concepts as you can. An effective brainstorming team consists of 5 members. And the more diverse the team the better.
9. Create a prototype
Find out the likelihood of your product’s success before it’s finalized. Create a prototype that is interactive, usable, and is ready for testing. A good prototype will validate your concept so don’t take any shortcuts. It’s a real-life model that represents your final product so make it count.
10. Test, improve, and repeat
Allow enough time for multiple prototype iterations. The chances of your prototype hitting the mark the first time is remote. You should expect the need for improvements and additional testing before finalizing your product. It’s better to iron out any bugs and issues during this phase before going to market.
At this point you should now be ready to begin your product development with confidence. Enjoy the benefits of your custom software build! If done correctly, you will differentiate your business from competitors with added value that your employees and customers will appreciate. Your business success will be a testimony to the importance you place on bringing the best products and services to your customers.