If you enjoyed our previous blog about the three-legged stool of custom software development, you will now understand the balancing exercise required to build successful software and maximise your return on investment. We highlighted how custom software development can benefit businesses of all sizes – but only if it’s approached correctly.
By its very definition, custom software is created specifically for your business needs, as opposed to off-the-shelf solutions that may not fit your requirements perfectly. When done right, custom software can be a game-changer for your business.
But how do you ensure you get the most out of your software investment? Let’s look at 4 pitfalls to avoid when building custom software.
1. Pitfall #1: Starting with technology
The custom software development process doesn’t start with technology. Technology is only one of the legs of the stool. Making technology the foundation of your custom software development can easily see you create things that are not very useful. To avoid this pitfall:
- start with those bits that actually provide value
- ensure the humans involved in the process are central
- understand that technology should power your business.
2. Pitfall #2: Making features your core focus
When building custom software or a mobile or web app, the initial conversation with customers often starts with, “we need this type of software with these features”. That’s usually the first orange flag and where we start asking questions to ensure we build the right product. A list of features is not important at this point. What your users and your business need are the most important factors. Features are in service of human and business needs.
If you want a return on your investment in software, ask these questions up front:
- What business value do you need? A new revenue stream? An additional sales channel? Disruption in your market?
- Who are the people and businesses who will derive benefit from the software? Understand their demographics, psychographics, firmographics and the context within which the software needs to fit.
- What are the underserved needs of the people and businesses you’re targeting?
3. Pitfall #3: Failing to test assumptions
You’re making assumptions about your users, their needs, the solution, your business and much more. Many companies miss the mark by not testing assumptions. When you make the wrong assumptions, it can take longer to get the right product with the right features to the right market. You can waste a lot of money by not accurately testing assumptions as early as possible.
We use lean product development to validate hypotheses in the problem and solution spaces. This allows us to test assumptions and learn where we are wrong. Developing a product this way means we can help our clients launch the right product to meet their customers’ needs sooner and with a higher chance of success. We often discover new opportunities when testing assumptions – especially assumptions about user needs.
4. Pitfall #4: Building the wrong thing
It’s very easy to create things with technology that’s not very useful. Technology is a tool that creates efficiency with humans; it’s not a thing of value on its own. Once you’ve tested your assumptions to determine whether your target market has the need you’re offering a solution to, the next step is to validate – and to keep validating! Make sure you’re addressing the need in the right way so that it’s not just something usable but also something that will fit into your users’ life and work.
Given the maturity of software, you should not be asking yourself Can this be developed? but rather, Should this be developed? If you’ve validated that the answer is a resounding Yes!, then the next question should be How should this be developed?
The next thing to determine is not How much will it cost? but rather, What is the potential return on my investment in custom software development? We’ll talk about how to answer this question in our next post in this series on Clever Custom Software Development.
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