Building new software for your business, creating a mobile application to assist your contractors in the field, or building a web app to get your product to your customers can seem like a daunting task. You have a great idea – how do you get started? We’ve compiled a comprehensive guide to help you move forward with creating the technology that will propel your business forward.
1. Identify your Business Problem
Everyone knows that software can solve a plethora of business problems, from increasing efficiency, managing employees, tracking and managing inventory, helping your business scale, assisting team members in the field, to resolving workplace disputes. There are very little limitations in the current world of technology; if you can dream it up, it can probably be built.
To build software that is truly effective for your business, first sit down and identify your businesses’ biggest blockers to productivity, earning and growth. Once you can clearly define the issues, you can start looking for ways to either improve on them or eliminate problems entirely.
2. Brainstorm Effectively with your Team
New research shows that the old concepts of brainstorming (toss out many ideas, don’t criticize, build on the ideas, etc.) can actually limit the flow of creativity and volume of ideas. The reason the old method isn’t necessarily the most effective is multidimensional. Essentially, when working together, peoples’ ideas converge, and as soon as an idea is thrown out, the group’s memories change from what they were thinking about individually, which can steer their thinking toward a more similar path than before. This results in people coming up with less unique solutions to the problem.
You can make the most of this new information to get effective from your team. The key takeaways:
- Let individuals work by themselves initially
- Encourage sketching ideas
- Keep the conversation flowing
If you don’t have a team, don’t fret. You can alternatively use any market information you have available to analyze solutions. From identifying where your website traffic is coming from, what drove your customers to contact you, or what potential users in the field might need.
3. Define your Goal
Now that you have identified the largest obstacles and issues that need to be resolved, it’s time to choose a goal in resolving these problems. A few things to keep in mind: make it a measurable goal, confirm the goal is relevant to the direction of your business, and make sure it’s achievable.
Goal: Bring my floral business to the online world via a global eCommerce platform.
Measurability: Tracking online orders and business growth, confirming the inventory is available to service new and existing customers.
Relevance: Broadening my geographic reach will grow my business.
Achievability: I have inventory and a global shipper lined up to fulfill my needs.
4. Do Your Research
When starting into building your own software, it’s important to identify if you need to go the route of building it yourself, or if an existing solution is available that can be integrated to fit your needs. We delve into the custom vs. off the shelf discussion in one of our recent articles: https://www.essentialdesigns.net/custom-software-or-off-the-shelf/
With software development, it’s helpful to find anything comparable out there so you can fully vet ideas to build into your software. Research parallel business verticals to get ideas on UI (User Interface), UE (User Experience, aka behavior of the features and how a user interacts with the application) and get ideas for features, flexibility, and scalability. Your software developers will have the knowledge to recommend hosting solutions that are scalable, but it is your responsibility to know your own industry best and help guide your team to deliver a useful and relevant product for your business.
5. Create your List of Needs and Wants
As we’re all aware, there’s a big difference in wants versus needs and the same rings true for building software. Start by creating a list of features, then separate them into two lists: needs and wants. It is most logical (and economical) to start your software off with your base needs. We call this first iteration of the software the MVP – aka Minimum Viable Product. This is the base, core functionality of your software application that will allow you to get started, test the efficacy of what has been developed from a user standpoint (perhaps a customer standpoint) and ultimately from your business needs standpoint.
Once your MVP is complete, you can expand it to include your wants, add in all the bells and whistles and features you can dream of! But starting with a solid baseline will help you keep your budget, timeline, and goals on track.
6. Create Something Tangible
Now it’s time to create something that your development team can work with. Whether that is a specification document that lists in written form every detail you can think of, a sketch or drawing to visually represent the application’s functionality, or a PowerPoint presentation or a professional wireframe, it’s time to get as much information laid out as possible.
We always recommend customers start with the easiest step: write down exactly how you expect things to work. The more detail you can include about every single step, the faster it will be to create the wireframe, get a quote, and design a User Interface. If you are looking at a global E-commerce floral website, for example:
1. Admin Page
I can log in as a Super User on my administrative backend that is not customer-facing to add floral vendors and delivery drivers to the system.
There will be 4 types of user: Super Admin, Vendor, Driver, Customer
I can add or remove Users manually. I can add or remove products manually and they will also be automatically generated when an employee scans a unique QR code for that item.
2. Home Page
Logo in top left corner. The logo will be a link to the home page if you are elsewhere in the site.
Cart icon will appear in the top left corner and will dynamically indicate if there is anything in the cart.
Cookies will remember if a user has visited the site before and added something to their cart.
Users can create an account to log in.
As you start flushing out the ideas at this stage, it helps you to fill in the gaps and think of things that might be missing or are important to be addressed.
7. Consult the Experts
Now that you have a tangible roadmap of the product you want to build, it is time to consult with your development team. In general, the building software process can be broken down into five stages:
At Essential Designs, we have over 10 years of experience building software and have really honed-in this process to become experts in the field and deliver great results. You can read more about our process and the breakdown of the 5 stages of building software here: https://www.essentialdesigns.net/software-development-process/
By Mary MacPherson