Thorough preparation can be a major game-changer for a successful software development project. The process of identifying your needs, defining ROI and planning ahead will help you determine the value of your project and how you can contribute to its success. One of the major benefits of custom software development is the ability to truly create a solution that will meet your exact needs. So before you start a development project, consider these steps for preparation.
Identify Your Custom Software Target Market
A successful development project will meet the needs of an identified target market or userbase. There are many tech-driven ideas that are innovative but simply not scalable or don’t fit a current need.
Before starting a development project, consider:
- Who will benefit from this software solution?
- How exactly will this software be used?
Certain businesses develop custom software for internal company use or sell their software to other businesses. Others provide consumer-oriented software for public use. Each target market will have different needs or problems that can be solved through custom software.
What Need Can Your Custom Software Solution Fulfill?
There are multiple ways to develop a software concept, but let’s start by considering what we’ll call a need-based approach vs a consumer-driven approach. The need-based approach will also create a solution that’s useful to a particular set of “consumers,” but it provides a different framework for thinking about your potential solution.
The need-based approach can be more useful in a B2B environment, whereas the consumer-driven approach may work better for B2C business.
The Need-Based Approach to Software Development
The need-based approach involves identifying a current challenge in your industry and choosing to develop a software solution based on that need. For example, the construction industry may benefit from a resource-planning and contractor scheduling platform to keep worksites running on schedule with the correct amount of building supplies.
Identifying ways to make a specific industry more efficient is often how innovative solutions are developed.
The Consumer-Driven Approach to Software Development
Alternatively, you may start with a target demographic and then consider what sort of solution would speak to that population (e.g. a budgeting platform that factors in common unexpected expenses for people struggling to develop healthy spending habits).
This consumer-driven approach is an effective solution if you are considering how to build a solution that speaks to your customers’ pain points. Your software concept may be spurred by the range of currently available software offerings that don’t address all of your clients’ needs.
Take notice of industry trends, conversations online and primary research methods such as polls and interviews to drill down into the data and truly identify a consumer need. This approach may also be more common if you have developed a software solution previously and are looking to expand your service offerings.
Driving the Need
A third, less common approach is for your business to drive the need. This tactic is less common because it requires businesses to have greatly established credibility, popularity, or a cutting-edge idea that can achieve the high rate of adoption that’s required in order to succeed.
Apple is a prime example of a company that drives consumer need. Apple has established a large enough reputation and following that it’s an undeniable industry leader. Instead of simply targeting what consumers want, they often tell or show consumers what they should want.
“Some people say, “Give the customers what they want.” But that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do.” – Steve Jobs
Consumers are prompted to buy additional software and products through their latest designs and innovations. For example, Apple users had to buy their iconic wireless headphones, AirPods, to address Apple’s choice to remove the headphone port on their devices. Consumers turn to them for technology advice and buy more of their latest products to create a useful, intertwined set of digital devices.
Software Development Proof of Concept
Is your software concept just a cool idea? Or is there evidence that your software solution could be beneficial, profitable and sustainable?
For instance, if your business wanted to develop a back-end system to digitally manage your supply chain, it wouldn’t be helpful to simply scan all your documents and dump them into a data lake. Instead, there must be software features to enable reporting and analytics and proper data management to find the reports you need quickly.
It would also be cumbersome to only access this information from a computer. A companion app or progressive web app would allow your users to track orders and inventory on the go, perfect for warehousing, shipping and logistics uses. Making a list of the necessary requirements, scouting out current offerings in your industry or considering similar software platforms will help you determine the right solution for your business.
Software Development ROI
Business leaders are interested in how a software development project will affect their bottom line. ROI may look different depending on your project, but it is important to consider these factors when determining the ROI of custom software development.
- Increased Revenue – Your software development platform or mobile app may help you increase sales directly. However, it could also indirectly impact sales through the tools and technology it offers. Your customers may not even know that you developed a back-end solution; however, you will notice the benefits of streamlined processes.
- Decreased Costs – Custom software can often replace disparate resources that are used across companies. Developing one customized solution can eliminate software subscriptions and fees, leading to incredible savings for businesses.
- Time Savings / Efficiency – Some companies develop a software solution to help them eliminate inefficiencies in their business. Process inefficiencies are a major drain on company resources and employee time, costing businesses a great deal of money each year.
Though ROI is calculated as net profit divided by investment costs, you should look at your calculation along with the time it has taken to achieve that ROI. The success of your projected or current return on investment will be more significant on a tighter timeline.
The Marketability of Your Software Development Project
Next, consider the marketability of your solution. The answer to this question, and the method of how you go about doing so, will depend on the type of development project you are undertaking.
If you are developing a mobile application, you can submit your app to popular app stores or choose to launch through a private app store. Apps can be monetized by charging for the installation, in-app purchases or in-app advertising. Some apps may offer free demos, “lite version” trial periods, or charge based on subscription models.
If the software solution is intended for in-house use, consider how you can help your employees ease into the transition and adjust to the learning curve. Employee buy-in is critical, so it is worth taking the time to explain the benefits of your software solution and even include employees in the development process whenever possible.
If your solution is intended for use by those outside your company, product demos, online advertising, referrals and word of mouth advertising are all beneficial means of spreading the word about your software.
Developing a Sustainable Software Solution
To remain competitive, businesses should monitor industry trends and always be looking for ways to improve and innovate. Just so, software must also be updated to keep up the functionality and continue to provide value to your users. Be sure to factor in updates and maintenance costs when creating your development budget.
Determine how your development project can serve as a long term solution rather than merely a temporary fix to a current problem. By considering the direction your company is heading and anticipating future needs, you can be sure to develop a solution that will serve you and your customers for years to come.
If you are interested in developing a custom software solution, 7T offers software consulting and development services. We help our clients with cloud integrations, data governance and data lake creation, custom ERP or CRM solutions and more. To learn more about our services or to start your development project, reach out to our team today.