The growth of the current technology-driven business realm is fueled by people’s transforming needs and requirement. Similarly, your clients’ changing preferences make it imperative for the businesses to enhance their core competency so that their products and services remain competitive in the market. This is easier said than done because absorption of the right skills and latest technology is a costly exercise that increase product costs and add to the time-to-market.
To overcome such challenges, many businesses opt for outsourced product development to achieve faster development, shorter release cycles, and better quality products. Even as larger organizations have been doing this for long, startups are now planning to incorporate offshore development in their scheme of things.
However, software product development is still practiced with many misconceptions and age-old methodologies. Whether you are outsourcing or doing it in-house, you should follow the right approach to product development.
Following are some of the most common mistakes in software product development done by a large number of companies. You should avoid these common pitfalls to ensure the development of a quality software product.
1. Not investing enough in market and user research
Market and user research is used at all stages of the product life cycle, from concept to maturity. It serves a range of purposes, such as establishing needs, estimating likely demand, setting prices, shaping the specification of the product or determining optimal price points, to name a few.
Not only that, market research can unravel potential opportunities for new products, as well as revitalize existing products, either by implementing new features or finding new markets. Given the costs involved in innovation, research and development, and commercialization, market research provides a high ROI.
To ensure that your software product meets users’ requirements and delivers value, you must get answers to answers such as:
- What type of products or services does a company sell?
- Does the product or service meet the consumer’s need?
- What does the customer think about the company?
- What are the customer’s expectations when buying and using the products or services?
- What are the customer’s initial perceptions of the company’s products or services?
- Are there alternative products or services that can meet the customer’s needs?
Only market research and answer these questions and facilitate decision making, reduce uncertainty and highlight consumer problems. Market research can benefit your product development initiatives in following ways:
- Identifying new market opportunities and evaluating the existing markets
- Segmenting and analyzing the market
- Selecting the best target market
- Evaluating and analyzing the company’s reputation and performance
- Positioning a product
- New product development
- Planning and implementing a marketing mix that meets business objectives
2. Initiating full-blown product development without testing it small
Most companies believe that once the requirements are defined, they only need to build. Therefore, they usually go ahead with full-scale development of the software product right after the requirements are finalized, and invest heavily right at the beginning.
It’s nearly impossible to know ahead of time, but there’s a huge discrepancy between good and bad development partners. Irrespective of how many good references you got for your development partner, don’t forget that every project is unique in its own way.
Therefore, it’s advisable and logical to test the quality and capability of the development partner as well as the project plan, which can be easily done by initiating a pilot project or developing a prototype.
Testing first, on a small scale, will give you a good idea of the feasibility of the product under development, and make sure that you are investing in a practicable product and a right development partner.
3. Doing Outsourced Product Development without a local Product Manager
While outsourcing product development, many organizations think that they can manage the development team remotely, and there’s no need to hire a dedicated offshore product manager.
Sometimes, it’s usually not economical and easy to hire good offshore product development managers. Therefore, you might be tempted to not hire a manager at all and manage offshore developers remotely on your own.
However, it’s not a wise decision since managing developers is even tougher than managing people otherwise. The manager of a software development team has to obtain first-hand accounts of the team’s activity, challenges and successes and meet each of the developers regularly. He has to be there with them all the time.
There are certain cultural gaps that needs to be addressed. Loss of non-verbal clues and time zone differences that accompany long-distance communication can only add to your problems.
You must have accountability on the ground and, therefore, a single point of contact who is close to the developers and has no cultural or geographical gaps. You can hire a full-time manager or a ‘working manager’ (if the team size is smaller than 5-10 developers), who is a senior developer with management skills.
4. Believing that only very big companies can do outsourced product development better
A lot of people have the mindset that only big companies or big teams are good at product development. They often look for big names while finding a development partner, and they usually get impressed by the large team size, thinking that more people working on a project will result in a better product.
That is not true every time, because bigger company means a larger team and more people to manage for your project.
According to late Harvard psychologist, J. Richard Hackman, “Big teams usually wind up just wasting everybody’s time.”
Hackman says that larger the team size, higher the number of connection points to maintain. E.g. a team of 7 people has 21 connection points, while a team of 60 peoples has 1770 connection points.
Going by the famous saying, “Too many cooks spoil the broth”, it would be wise to opt for smaller, agile team that you can work with to get the desired results in lesser time and cost.
Smaller teams are also easier to manage and there are no communication lags as well.
5. Preferring customization of existing product over developing it from scratch
Most of the companies prefer customization over new product development to mitigate costs and achieve faster time-to-market. They are driven by pure desire to make quick money and by doing so they fail to see that in the fast changing technology world they will fall way behind a more technologically competent product offered by their competitors.
I think most businesses who opt for legacy application customization can relate to the consequences of investing in product customization, when new product development is required.
One of the biggest issues with product customization is that after implementation, the customization layer becomes highly rigid and fails to offer resiliency as and when the business requirements change. Scalability also becomes a big challenge in such cases.
In reality, finding opportunities for reuse, identifying reusable components, adapting them to the current requirements, etc. may cost more than just developing from scratch. Therefore new product development turns out to be lot more cheap and time-saving as compared to customization.
Hence, it is a better idea to develop a new product rather than customize an old one.
6. Not enough coordination between Product Development and Product Marketing teams
Companies that start a development center at a low-cost location and market products for larger or sophisticated markets such as the US or Europe, usually do this.
In such cases, the product marketing team and the offshore development team usually work in isolation. In such projects, people often assume that marketing will come into picture only after the product has been developed, or in the last stages of development.
However, marketing functions should be closely aligned with product development activities to ensure that the product is shaping up as per the market needs and user requirements. The lack of collaboration between marketing and development teams at all stages of software product development can result in a stream of complaints about product features, product quality, and product marketing materials.
The bottom line is not to keep the product marketing and product development teams functioning in silos. Make sure that the marketing department is working closely with the developers, and developers are well-informed about the changing market conditions.
7. Thinking that outsourced product development will work without collaboration
Hiring a vendor for your product development is not like firing a Cruise missile, which once fired is bound to hit the target. Don’t be mistaken, that once you have outsourced your product development to an expert, everything else will fall in place.
Even if the concept is brilliant, if not executed well, the final product will fail. This might not be true in case of the development partners who are capable of and qualified to handling Full-Lifecycle Development Projects. However, even in such cases you must closely examine the project to ensure that all the stages of development are implemented with same level of focus and expertise that they promise.
The success of your company hinges on how well your product does in the market, and it’s not your development partner alone who needs to ensure that.
The right approach would be follow Agile Development Methodology which focuses on dividing your project into small, manageable phases so that you don’t rush toward product release, and get enough time to conduct thorough testing after each phase. It also promotes collaboration among stakeholders, developers, project managers, and quality assurance.
In most cases, the above factors make a difference between a great and an average software product. You need to understand that there has been a huge transformation in both technology realm and user behavior. Therefore, we need to innovate constantly and find the best solutions relevant to the current market conditions, rather than treading on the beaten path.
Make sure that some preconceived notions prevalent in the software product development domain are not leading you to a wrong path. Instead of using traditional evaluation benchmarks, rely more on your end requirements because you are the best person who knows what’s best for your product, your customers, and your business.
So keep innovating and deviate from traditional development methodologies to meet your customers’ needs.