As a custom software development company Matter of software is often asked to support the creation of new software by our clients to launch to the market as a new business. Whether an established business, a new start up or a business evolving as part of its business growth strategy we have helped clients at all phases develop and deliver the best solutions to market. The following guide details some of our guidance and experience when we engage with clients considering launching a new business venture that is heavily dependent on custom software. Of course, every client and each solution is unique so this is in no way comprehensive but should provide some thought provoking nudges to those interested.
Do you know your market?
An obvious point to start but one so often overlooked by those businesses and entrepreneurs keen to get anything to market – do you know your market. Good old-fashioned market research should be undertaken either professionally or by yourself (with guidance from a mentor who will look impartially at your work) – ask yourself some questions such as:
• Are there other businesses already operating in the market – are they successful?
• How easy is it to find people who might want to buy your product (and how much would it cost to acquire a client)?
• How many clients might you have in your target market area?
• Why will your product be different, and will you have to explain to your clients your proposition?
Where the market is established the risk path to developing and deploying a business in those areas can be reduced by emulating existing successful businesses as a start, where there is no clear market or the proposition is completely new will carry its own risks. In our experience where you have to explain your product to your clients you shouldn’t under estimate the effort and risk involved in getting that right (as that is critical to your success).
Understanding your market also includes understanding what their needs are – what will they be willing to pay for and how much. This will lead ideally to a list of must haves, nice to have and not required feature list which we will use to determine the balance between what is required in your software program development (either as an initial release or over stages).
Defining your Minimum Viable Product.
A minimum viable product is defined by Wikipedia as:
‘A minimal viable product (MVP) is a product with just enough features to satisfy early customers, and to provide feedback for future product development.’
This already starts to elude to our suggestion that our clients should ideally develop initially the minimum required features to enable a product that somebody would be willing to pay for. This serves a few purposes:
1. You start to realise income earlier and with less investment
2. You invest in features that your already established clients would be willing to pay for – helping to define a development path and balancing the return on investment
3. You take the subjective view of what you believe is required and ground that in real world client cases (the more clients that confirm the need for features adds more weight to offering those)
Whilst the process of defining an MVP isn’t always simple the secret is to be honest with the list of features and align with your software development company (such as Matter of software). As part of this process with our clients, we align the features list with a possible delivery sequence and quotation at each stage to allow them to understand the path to delivery and possible investment required. When coupled with a solid business plan and commercials the return on investment at each stage and clear gates (a point at which you stop and evaluate the business before proceeding) focusses the effort on only those value adding features.
Keeping it sensible and spend where needed
Data from companies house suggests that 8 in 10 new businesses fail within the first year of operation – whilst some of those business will never get started other than being registered it does deliver a chilling reminder of the risks of launch a new business let alone a business that requires a capital investment initially.
As with any sage business advice, spending only where required and only on the necessary is an important part of any business finance control – when it comes to developing custom software that the business will either use internally (ERP, CRM, warehouse management etc) or offer as part of its service to its client (Software As A Service etc) – the advice holds.
Back to our features list we now have a view of what features form part of our MVP and what the costs associated with the development of the MVP are. At this stage we look at the options to deliver the MVP with our clients to articulate the different options, benefits and costs (initial costs and return over a period of time due to recurring costs). Our enterprise architects at this stage assess the short, medium and long term needs of the business to provide a series of options in terms of how the solution might look. The goal here is to balance the initial investment costs versus any increased ongoing costs (perhaps due to increased administration costs due to solution choice) and select the most appropriate solution.
Think long term to keep your options open.
Buy Well, Buy Once – now is the time to consider this old wives tail – ask your software development company what the on-going costs will be, what the different development costs will be (you will want to change and evolve over time). Ask if the solutions allow you to move your software to a different company should that ever be needed – after all you want to keep the commercial upper hand in regard to vendor choice.
Some key considerations in terms of keeping your options open include:
• The use of open source versus proprietary – will you be tied to a single vendor
• Availability of skills for the software language used – are there readily available companies
• Administration Effort – how much time has the software development company factored into reducing the admin effort once the system is operational
Note – after all its not in the company’s interest to develop a solution that is easy for you to administer – they will be focussed on the core requirements and delivering those – whatever the impact to your business. At Matter of software we use Business Process At The Heart (BPATH) ® which is our trademarked software development methodology which ensures we consider the end operating processes when designing the software
How to proceed
If you have more questions that before you started reading then that is great – the key is to keep asking questions, keep understanding what your options are, evaluating and selecting the most appropriate (based on your view, those trusted around you and your professional advisors).
Here at Matter of software we are a software development company based in Birmingham who welcome the opportunity to work with a wide ranged size of clients across all industries. We offer a free confidential no obligation discussion about what options are available to you regardless of what stage you are at with your business ideas. Why not give us a try today.