There are a lot of things that can go wrong when you’re building an app. We’ve all heard horror stories. To successfully manage an app development project, you must manage risk. Here’s the good news — there are ways to successfully navigate this challenge. And these strategies apply to all software development projects, whether you’re building an iPhone app, an Android app, or a responsive website. Here are four tips for managing a development project that will minimize risk.
1. Build an MVP
One effective way to reduce risk is to build a Minimum Viable Project (MVP). An MVP allows you to bring a problem-solving product to market quickly and efficiently. You can use the MVP to validate assumptions, to make sure the app effectively solves the targeted pain points, to learn if the app needs to more fully solve for the needs or to be easier for the target user to engage with, and to prioritize what features users will value. These insights provide the foundation for future development.
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of building something new, which often leads to throwing all good ideas into the project scope. The problem with this is that it results in a monstrous budget and long development timeline. Trying to build an all-in-one solution immediately can also cause you to lose sight of the business case. By maintaining a laser focus on the specific features required to address your customer’s pain points, you can focus on the initial features that will set up your MVP for success.
Your MVP is the foundation for growth that includes the must-haves in an app that can be continually improved. Leveraging the build-measure-learn process enables you to set the stage for future development by:
- validating that the app resonates with customers like you thought it would
- opening the dialogue for feedback to prioritize future feature development
- learning if the app doesn’t meet the needs of the customers in a meaningful way
Get Stakeholder Buy-In
One sure way for a project to go off the rails is to not solicit input. Anyone impacted by supporting the app, bringing it to market, and interacting with users is a stakeholder. They should have a say when you start the development project and during the course of building it. As important as soliciting customer input is, it is just as important to get feedback from those who will support the app. This includes salespeople and the marketing department, as well as customer service. You don’t want to build an amazing app that fails on the support side.
Have a kick-off meeting and invite anyone with a stake in the project’s outcome. Make sure everyone invited understands the project and how it impacts them. Then, continue the dialogue with a plan for regular communication. Provide them key dates and deliverables and let them know when things change.
Another way to improve your opportunity for success is to establish milestones as checkpoints to measure progress against. If you wait until everything is completely developed before doing this, you’re likely to be disappointed. By creating milestones, you have a way to track whether your project will meet the launch date. If you’re running behind, you know how to adjust the schedule.
Each milestone should have testable functionality that non-technical people can see and use to provide feedback. This removes the reliance on trusting the developers that something works and enables people to actually see it work. Developers can get feedback earlier which helps to keep the project on track. This eliminates the risk of learning too late that the app doesn’t meet customer needs or that it’s not user-friendly.
Test Early and Often
The milestones serve another function as you can use them as checkpoints to ensure regular testing of completed features. Functionality should be tested by the developers, internal team members, and customers. This feedback helps to improve the quality of work by ensuring that the user experience is what it should be.
Testing also helps to ensure quality is top-of-mind throughout the development process. Maintaining quality standards throughout a development project helps to make sure important details aren’t missed. This prevents delays and helps ensure the integrity of the finished product. It also improves efficiency as issues are caught early so they can be fixed without causing significant re-writes.
By managing risk on your development project, you greatly improve your outcomes leading to a higher opportunity for success. These techniques will help you to reduce risk to keep your project on track.
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