Updated November 9, 2021
How to Effectively Plan for App Development
All successful development projects have three major things in common: 1) they fulfill a need or business requirement; 2) they adhere to expectations and are delivered both on time and on budget; and 3) they accomplish a clear business goal, providing both inherent value as well as tangible ROI.
Software development is best compared to a well-oiled machine. With so many moving parts, it’s important to identify the pieces that are required to keep it running smoothly and effectively, and to remedy anything that could potentially halt or break the machine.
Over virtual coffee, we asked our developers and our project delivery team to share their views on what makes a successful project and what all project team members should focus on in order to make their projects a success. Here’s what they had to say:
1. Take an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) Approach to Developing Your App.
The biggest reason we encourage an approach is that it allows you and your team to launch your core feature set without over investing in secondary features, then collect valuable information on your Users to inform your product roadmap with minimal effort and spend. Through careful observation, and by eliminating distractions and other variables, you can get a clear idea of how Users behave when using your product. These learnings are critical to understanding the direction you want to take your product and will help you build and follow an effective product roadmap. Furthermore, it’s a product management best practice in the software industry.
Here’s how to lean into a MVP development approach:
- Clearly define your main business goal.
- Identify how the application helps to achieve that goal. At this phase, if it’s not necessary to the greater goal, put it on your wish list and validate it later based on user feedback.
- Stack-rank your feature requirements. Treat number one as the most important feature that directly impacts your ability to meet your goal.
- Refine your core feature set (1-3 features max). If you need help narrowing down your list, lean on an app developer or tech consultant to advise on applicability, timeline, and cost.
- Weigh project timeline and cost. Considering the different factors that play into cost and timeline helps ensure that your MVP is still in line with your main goal. If you find it’s not, make changes and start modifying or minifying your feature list to get back in alignment with your main goal.
If followed effectively, taking an MVP approach to product development sets you up for future success; you’re effectively investing in the features that make the biggest impact on your business, first.
2. Achieve Organizational Alignment Before Beginning Development.
This is always easier said than done, but no doubt, achieving organizational alignment in a cross-functional working dynamic will make your project more successful. By following an MVP approach, you’re already going through the important exercises that help you distill your messaging, goals, and product requirements down, but what happens next?
Assuming you’ve picked an app developer, and clearly communicated your business goals and product requirements, here’s what you can expect next:
- A detailed Feature Summary that leaves nothing open to interpretation.
- User Flows that map out and organize your application and minimize the chance for holes later.
- A fully Clickable Prototype for you to review and approve before beginning development. Think of it like a concept car - it shows exactly how the app will look and feel and demonstrates how users navigate through it.
- Written Requirements (or user stories) that clearly communicate your app's features to our developers and deliver exactly what was agreed upon.
- Mutual buy-in and approval on designs before development takes place. Engagement is key in this phase of development, and the more you are engaged, the better your outcome will be.
3. Become Familiar with the Development Process.
Many software developers work in an Agile environment, while some work in a hybrid Agile and waterfall sprint format. AppIt’s 4 step process is straightforward -- 1. Discover, 2. Design, 3. Develop, 4. Deploy. But what about the steps within steps, and what does all of the development terminology around the process really mean? Understanding how app development timelines and deliverables work together is important in setting proper expectations and understanding where your input and feedback is critical to moving forward.
Here’s a general idea of what to expect when working with AppIt:
- We work in two week-long sprints to show progress and to make sure we're aligned throughout the development process.
- We test apps thoroughly and expect clients to do the same. You’ll have opportunities to test your application during and after development. Both are important in ensuring we’re on the right track and will help you get more comfortable using your application..
- We provide technical expertise. Our technical consultants work closely with you and with our development team to ensure business and technical objectives for the project are met.
- We're consultative. We’ve seen a lot of different applications in a wide variety of industries. Our experienced team members can recommend the best technological solution for the business problem you're solving.
For questions about our development process as well as our document deliverables, visit our process page.
4. Communicate Honestly, Openly, and Frequently with Your Development Team.
Not unique to the software industry, communication is the single-most critical factor for any project. Without effective communication, seemingly small details are missed, and a minor misinterpretation could lead to additional costs and drawn out timelines. Remember, you are the ultimate owner of your product. Our job is to bring your vision to life, so the more concisely you can communicate your business requirements, feedback (both negative and positive), and overall objectives throughout the development process, the happier you will be with your final product.
Here’s how to hold yourself and a developer accountable to being a great communicator on a project:
- Set proper expectations at every phase of the project. AppIt will always work to ensure you understand the goals of each phase of the project and you know what’s coming up next. For example: we set meeting agendas in advance and ask if there is anything that would make that meeting time valuable for you so we can stay in lockstep throughout the project.
- Ask for help. If you are unsure about something or don’t fully understand a developer’s terminology or process, ask for clarification. Most developers are happy to share their knowledge!
- Make it collaborative and don’t be afraid to offer feedback, even if you are in disagreement (especially if you are in disagreement!)
- Obtain a shared project plan.
- Ask about post-launch documentation and resources. After launching the application, you’ll become the application owner. To ensure the handoff is seamless between teams, make sure that your app developer knows you need documentation on the technical specifications of the app and how to manage it once it is live. This is the holy grail of understanding the ins and outs of your application.
- Bonus: Here’s a list of 7 questions you should be asking an app developer before kicking off a project.
Of course, in addition to these 4 major components of a successful development project, there are many other factors that can affect the overall prosperity of a project (download the full list of factors to save your company significant time and money).
For additional resources, you can also check out our New eBook, “Mobile App Development: Estimating Project Cost and Timelines,” or contact us today for a fully disclosed and complimentary consultation.