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Tips for Startups to Minimize Risks in Software Development

April 27, 2022

The startup landscape is constantly increasing worldwide, and we are facing a steady growth in the number of new companies that are investing in software development due to:

  • Lower cost of cloud computing resources and infrastructure
  • Easier access to knowledge development and know-how
  • The increasing availability of new technologies

 Many startups rely on outside investment to get the product to market. Given that this is such a significant investment for a new company and its investors, it is essential to take the necessary steps from the beginning and throughout the project to maximize the product’s chances of success. 

Have a clear vision

Starting a product development project without a clearly articulated and communicated vision can lead to:

  • Developing the wrong product
  • Developing the right product the wrong way 
  • Clearly articulate your product vision
  • Develop a product roadmap
  • Assemble the right team
  • Develop iteratively
  • Use the right tools
  • Clearly communicate your product vision

Starting a product development project without a clearly articulated and communicated vision can lead to:

  • Long development cycles
  • Significant rework
  • Mismatched expectations of stakeholders and team members
  • Poor alignment of the product with the market  

This can lead to significantly increased cost and time to market, increasing the risk associated with product success. At this point, it will be helpful to think about what problem or challenge you are trying to solve or what value you are trying to create with your product. There are many exercises and frameworks that you can use to form a product vision that will help you clearly define what you are trying to achieve, how you will try to achieve it, and who benefits from it.

Develop a product roadmap Once you have a vision and start thinking about what features your product will have, you’ll probably get a lot of opportunities pretty quickly. It’s essential to adopt and maintain a lean mindset to ensure you’re focused on delivering value above all else. Using a high-level product roadmap, you can reduce your project risk by focusing effort and resources on what will deliver the most value, not committing to providing every feature upfront, and clearly defining the order in which features are delivered. Here we’ve listed several ways to prioritize features for development.

This will help you and your team determine what is most important to accomplish now, as well as what will be done in the future and beyond. This becomes very important when you start planning the capacity of your development team, the infrastructure and tools you will need, and your business serving your customers. It doesn’t have to be a very detailed plan; in fact, detailed planning should only be done when you have the most information about how your product is used and benefited. 

Your roadmap should be a living document, constantly reviewed and re-checked by your stakeholders based on the latest information you have.

Assemble the right team Building the right team to execute your product vision is critical to successful product implementation. Many startups, especially those with solid technical co-founders, can build, maintain, and scale development teams to develop their software products. However, for many seed-stage startups, a more economical and less risky approach is to engage the services of a technology partner for the first few releases of their software. 

The advantage of this approach is that it allows you to quickly attract a team with the various skills needed to bring a complete software product to market without maintaining full-time employees (FTEs). Using a technology partner allows you to bring in only the resources you need for as long as you need them while still having access to other on-demand services to support your startup through the maturity stages. Not only will you have access to designers, developers, and testers, but you’ll also be able to bring in business analysts, project managers or delivery managers, and solution architects to help you through all phases of product development. Many technology partners will also continue to help you with operations and product support. 

To choose the right development partner to help you on your journey, make sure you look for one that has:

  • Significant experience in your chosen industry
  •  Case studies that demonstrate their expertise and can share recommendations with customers
  • A diverse team with deep expertise in multiple technologies
  • Proved quality standards or has ISO certifications
  • Interest not only in meeting your requirements but also in adding value to your customers and users.

Apply Iterations

Traditionally, software products and projects have been developed using what’s known as a “waterfall” methodology, where the major phases of a project were done sequentially – starting with requirements analysis, then detailed application design, development, and coding, then testing, and finally product deployment or launch.  While there is nothing wrong with implementing software projects this way, it requires a clear understanding of each detail of what is provided, with minimal opportunity to make changes throughout the development process. It can take many months from the requirements analysis stage to the point where you can verify the work in the testing phase for a major project, which means that if something was misunderstood or refuted by new market information, the cost of making changes and the risks associated with those changes could be disastrous for any company, such as a startup.  

You may have heard of Agile in the context of software development, and many development teams and companies choose to develop software this way. Using iterative development to create software according to Agile principles focuses primarily on delivering value, breaking down the entire product into small, independently deliverable pieces of value. 

There are many Agile systems, the most popular of which is Scrum. You can find more information about the Scrum system here, and we won’t go into the intricacies of this system in this article, but to reduce the risk of complex product development initiatives, the Scrum system includes fixed development timelines with regular checkpoints with stakeholders to ensure that everything developed is constantly being tested.  

Whereas in a waterfall project, it can take months before something is tested. Usually, it’s an all working system, and Scrum focuses on providing something at least every four weeks and ensuring that feedback on what has been provided is considered when planning the next steps. This ensures that we identify any elements that need to be changed to get more value early on, rather than when the cost and risk of changes to the system are high.

In addition to the above, depending on the complexity of your product, you may want to consider using automated testing. Using automated rather than manual testing allows you to quickly perform a qualitative analysis of requirements as they are developed, significantly reducing the time it takes to release new features to the market for testing and increasing the likelihood of identifying defects and bugs. This means that the quality of your software product is maintained at a high level and the ability to respond to changing market conditions is high because you can release new features quickly. 

Final Thoughts Any company starting its software product development must maximize its chances of success and avoid any risks leading to the wrong product release. A clear and consistent product vision, the right internal or external development team, and using the appropriate tools are just a few ways to manage the risks associated with software development properly.

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