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What to Consider Before You Start Developing an Enterprise Software Solution

Laura MacPherson December 21, 2017

After the initial energy of a brainstorming session on developing an enterprise software solution, the reality settles in. You have a lot of great ideas. But you don’t know how to make sure those ideas turn into a working solution that people will willingly adopt. The last thing you want to do is spend time and money building something that isn’t what your people actually need. Or building something that disrupts people’s workflows and ends up gathering virtual dust on the desktop. Or worse, something that morphs into a money-chomping monster that continues to grow but never is finished.

If you’re developing a complex software that involves pushing data to a CRM, processing ERP data, or selling products on an ecommerce platform, your risk of derailment is high. How can you find the simplest way to eliminate the pain points, solve the needs of each stakeholder, and ensure that your project stays on time and on budget? This article outlines our proprietary SolutionLAB process to help you think through everything you should before getting started. We use this four-step process with our enterprise software clients to bring clarity to each initiative before it moves forward. 

1. Identify the Problem

The first step is to identify or clarify the main problems or pain points that inspired the need for the software solution. What triggered the initial discussion? When you met to talk through the issues, how did each person describe his or her frustrations with the status quo? What consequences does each pain point bring with it? List all the concerns each stakeholder has expressed, and prioritize them.

2. Craft User Stories

The second step is to get a concrete understanding of your users. This process involves modeling the users’ current behaviors. You’ll see what functions or data the software will need to capture. And you’ll identify how using the new product will fit into people’s current way of doing things.

Your goal here is to see the project from the perspective of your users. You need to gain a thorough knowledge of how they work and what they actually need. You also want to start examining what functionality is essential. And you should envision what kind of interface will allow users to quickly adopt and gain value from the new software. At the conclusion of this step, craft a persona story for each user type to provide a concrete way of thinking about this information.

3. Gather Requirements

The third step is a deep dive into the minds of your users. You need to make sure your understanding of your personas is accurate. In this step, you’ll capture essential information, data, and behaviors from users and stakeholders.

Conduct both one-on-one interviews and focus-group-style sessions where you can get detailed insight into users’ current processes and learn their priorities and goals. You’ll also need to analyze existing data and determine what data needs to be captured. This step is also a good time to overview existing technology to see what you already have to work with.

4. Propose and Analyze Solutions

The fourth and final step involves right-brain creativity and left-brain analysis. You’ll outline potential solutions, identifying the pros and cons of each option. Then you’ll gather feedback on each option from each user type or stakeholder. At the end of this process, the required functionality should be clear to you, and one option will emerge as the leader. At this point, you’ll have all the information you need for a well-planned software solution that should fulfill its purpose and solve the problems it intends to.

Create Your Roadmap

After we’ve completed the four steps for each of our clients, we create a SolutionLAB roadmap that describes what we’ve learned and highlights our recommended solution. It includes a sitemap or product screenflow and outlines next steps.

We think of this roadmap like a set of blueprints for constructing a beautiful-yet-highly-functional building — it contains everything you need to ensure a successful project. Everyone who’s involved in the creation of the project can refer to this roadmap at any time, guaranteeing that everyone stays on the same page. It also keeps the project from expanding on impulse, ballooning costs as people get new “inspiration” for the final product.

Want to talk through ideas for your new enterprise software solution or learn more about SolutionLAB? Get in touch.

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