A new business application has the potential to dramatically transform your organisation. Whether you are improving the way you deliver services, to breaking into an entirely new market, the benefits can be significant.

If you can develop the business application your customers actually need.

In our experience there are seven key stages to developing a new business application that delivers value. This article will provide an overview of each step and you can drill down for more information.

  1. Business planning

Like any new product, there are two questions you need to answer:

  1. Is there a gap in the market for our product idea?
  2. What are our competitors offering?

Business planning is essential to ensuring you are building a product that people actually want, that meets a specific need. This process – market analysis – involves researching your target industry or marketplace. The resulting report will consider factors like volume and value of the market and the competition and regulation of the market.

You also want to be sure that there is not already a viable, successful alternative available by performing competitor analysis. If there is, you need to understand its relative strengths and weaknesses – and what your software must offer in order to ‘beat’ it. Your analysis should take a long-term view, considering the potential for other competitors to enter the market and the effect that may have on your offering.

Learn more about Business planning

  1. Business processes

Great business software is tailored to meet the customers’ needs and preferences exactly. At the same time, the application should also support and accelerate your own processes.

You already know what your app needs to do, but how do you guide customers to that point? You need to map out the entire user journey so that all functions and features are easy, intuitive and as frictionless as possible.

The same is true of the backend processes that your employees will engage with. You have existing admin processes – how will they be implemented in the software? Can functionality be extended further still, opening up processes for use by your partners and supplier too?

This process discovery and analysis exercise will also uncover inefficiencies in current processes. You now have an opportunity to streamline and improve processes – and to enshrine them in the application for greater efficiencies in future.

Learn more about Business processes

  1. MVP + Roadmap

With market and functionality established, your business can begin building prototype applications. The initial step is to build an MVP – minimal viable product – that allows you to prove the concept works, and to establish basic functionality. The MVP can be used for initial in-house testing and to demonstrate the viability of the concept to internal stakeholders.

With an initial model in place you will have a better idea of the software requirements. You can use these insights to build out a development plan and roadmap for the product.

Your product roadmap will identify the features to be included in the initial production release and those to be added at a later date. At this point you are clarifying budgets and arranging the resources required to bring the application to market. This is also the final point at which you can end further development without incurring significant costs.

Learn more about the MVP

  1. Validation

Development now begins in earnest, building on the MVP to develop a product that is ready for release. Following Agile principles, programmers complete a series of sprints to deliver incremental improvements that move the application closer to release.

Development is accompanied by regular testing. Functional tests verify the application is actually delivering against functional requirements (it does what it is supposed to).

You will also need to run a series of non-functional tests to assess other aspects of the application. This includes factors like performance, reliability and scalability which will have a bearing on the user experience.

As your application nears release, you can conduct beta testing. This involves thorough assessment of pre-release versions to ensure that the software is ready for use by end users.

Learn more about Validation

  1. Soft launch

With beta testing complete and passed, you will have successfully developed version 1.0 of the application. This software is now officially ready for release to the public.

A soft launch allows you test your software ‘in the wild’ for the first time. A small group of early adopters is invited to try the new system, providing feedback about their experiences, often collected through app usage statistics running in the background rather than directly.

Small scale testing confirms that the application is ready for full release and catches any previously overlooked bugs or errors. ‘Real’ feedback is also useful for confirming that you have mapped out the user journey correctly, and that the app offers an official functional experience.

Behind the scenes, the soft launch also confirms that the backend infrastructure performs adequately and that there are no additional configurations required before go-live.

The soft launch is vital to identifying showstopping problems before full release – and the reputation damage that would follow.

Learn more about conducting a soft launch

  1. Full launch

Once you have successfully completed a soft launch and confirmed that everything works as expected, you can move to a full launch. This is the point at which your application is released to the widest possible audience.

During a full launch, attention shifts from development to promotion. You will advertise the application to raise general awareness and to encourage uptake. You should also contact your existing user base (where appropriate), encouraging them to take a trial or to sign-up for the new service.

Behind the scenes, you are still monitoring application usage and platform performance.

Learn more about carrying out a full launch

  1. Review, improve and release

Your product roadmap (see stage 3) should not only identify the initial deliverable, but also future enhancements. With the full launch underway/complete, you can return attention to the next stages of the roadmap, assigning resources to development – in effect you are restarting the entire cycle again.

Stages 1 and 2, pre-release research is still ongoing – however much of the data will be coming directly from the application itself. Monitoring usage patterns and system performance will show where code needs to be improved or new efficiencies introduced.

At the same time, user surveys and support tickets can help you understand the customer journey – does it really match your expectations? Sometimes the best way to find out how to improve things is to simply ask your users for feedback.

The information you gather must be fed back into the roadmap. There is no point in developing new features when your customers want refinements and enhancements to existing functionality for instance.

Learn more about the software enhancement stage

Conclusion

Developing a new business application actually begins long before the first line of code is written. There is a lot of preparatory work involved to understand what your customers want, what you want to achieve and how you plan to get to that point.

Because there are so many moving parts, you should seek professional advice and assistance – even if you have in-house development capabilities. Partnering with a provider like Matter of Software allows you to benefit from extensive experience of all seven stages – and the resources required to complete each.

To learn more about our services and how Matter of Software can augment your business application development capabilities, please get in touch.