Hitting a goal on time and within the budget requires a clever strategy and a battle-tested process. Without them, attaining your goals may be not only stressful but also ineffective, and may result in the product’s failure. Following a structured development process suggested by a software development agency with all key roles filled will help you avoid it. A client may see progress faster at first with a full-time employee or a freelance contractor. But over time, the investment in an established process will show its benefits – usually as early as a few weeks into the partnership. How do you reach your goal fast and smart? Read our tips.
Some time ago, we created a list of things to take into consideration when managing a co-operation with a software development agency. But before you start managing it, you need to choose an agency, and this choice should be based on a number of aspects. When deciding on which agency to choose, look for one that is flexible in every phase of product development. The agency should be able to help no matter whether you have an idea for your product and want to start a project, or you want to switch from working with freelancers or another agency. They should be able to help even if the idea is the only thing that you have, and offer a workshop that will help you translate the idea into a vision of a working product.
A perfect client-agency co-operation requires an active approach from the client. Your feedback is essential for the agency to successfully create your product. The agency, in turn, is obliged to let you express your opinions feedback, and then take it into consideration. Before you ask an agency for help, prepare all materials related to the project. It’s not a dealbreaker, though, if you don’t have any materials yet – a good agency should help you create them. Think carefully which type of project methodology you want to follow: fixed price vs time & material. The choice is not as obvious as it might seem. Time & material – which we recommend at Netguru – is more flexible, because it enables you to change your ideas throughout the project, but the final price may change as well. You can always choose the fixed-price method, but you have to bear in mind that every change of plans will incur additional costs. You won’t be able to develop your product fast – instead of focusing on the development itself, you will waste your time on negotiations.
Remember that product development is a team sport, and you need more than one person to deliver your product successfully. Try to fill the key roles in your project with people who are naturally capable of performing the functions you assign them. You need a developer to think about your product’s architecture and write code. A quality assurance specialist will check if the code is the of the highest possible quality and resolve all potential issues. A product designer will build a product with a potential to bring high profits and provide you with both a conceptual idea for your product and its visual interpretation. A DevOps engineer will make sure that what trying to create is scaling properly and that the product is secure. They will also ensure that the solutions you choose satisfy the needs of your clients now and in the future. A project manager will keep all the communication channels open and will make sure you reach your milestones on time, by carefully choosing priorities and managing the team to achieve the highest efficiency possible. Remember that even when someone is good at all of those functions, “context switching/putting on different hats” is super hard, and making one person perform all the functions will end in only one way – you will have extensive delays in your project.
When looking for an agency, choose one that has a well-structured process, which they make available to you from the very beginning. You should start with an initial kick-off as soon as you meet, get to know each other and plan initial milestones. The company that you pick should have existed on the market for some time, because it means that it has the relevant experience and – which is even more important – that its processes have been already tested on many projects. It’s worth paying a little bit more as it will decrease the chance of the project’s failure. Look for an agency which will help you define your MVP and will limit the initial phase of development to 3 months, so that you can show a working product to clients and investors as soon as possible. Of course, it doesn’t mean that the agency should reject your ideas – they should be stored in the backlog for future milestones. In the meantime, you can conduct market research that will enable you to adjust the next steps to the market’s needs.
To hit your goals smart you should ask for feedback and give it to your agency on a regular basis. To be able to do it, look for an agency which has processes build on the culture of feedback and effective communication. The agency should encourage you to stay in touch with all people engaged in the project. Try to stay active and get involved in the project as much as you can, because a successful initial phase will have an impact on everything that ensues. It allows you to understand technical challenges better, which will translate into better results. You should also have access to the code, staging and a project management tool to be able to track the project’s progress on a regular basis. Only a very efficient and fast feedback loop will result in successful iterations.
To sum up, when you want to hit your product goals fast and smart, you should think about the project’s completion from the beginning. After having delivered over 160 products both for startups and well-established corporations, we know that experience and efficient processes are an essential and invaluable part of every project. So if you want to be smart in achieving your goals, be smart before setting them.