For many start-ups and smaller businesses, software development is an essential part of the success journey. A wide range of new companies rely on having the right software in place to take to market as fast as possible. But it’s a process that comes with its own special challenges. In this blog post we’ll be looking at ways a start-up can map out the process for successful software development.

“How hard can it be?”

Being a bespoke software development company, we often meet clients who have unrealistic expectations on requirements and timescales of developing software. But equally, we also deal with many clients who overestimate the cost and time involved. It’s near impossible to know what’s involved in a software project before you start analysing your needs and discussing them with a suitable partner.

Internal vs white label software

There are two main aspects of software development relevant to most businesses. The first one is software systems designed for internal processes, such as CRM systems or staff appraisal software. The second one is white label software which is created for the company to brand and sell as their own – on a one-off or licence basis.

Regardless of the chosen route, let’s look at some of the key elements of starting a software development project for a new business.

  • Analyse requirements
    The first – and most important – stage of development is defining the problem you want to address. Which processes do you want to introduce or transform? What do you want to achieve through the use of this software?It is very important that the initial requirements are clearly defined. In some cases, you may not know exactly what it is you want to achieve, or even understand the potential possibilities available to you. However, a skilled development team will be able to help you analyse your problems and offer clear definitions with realistic timescales to deliver.
  • Shortlist suitable development partners
    The typical start-up doesn’t have the resources and ability to carry out the necessary in-house development while also focusing on company strategy and management, so an external solution provider is often the answer.As well as taking time to analyse the challenges the software needs to address, it’s important to shortlist suitable software developers and do the relevant homework on them.Do they have the credentials you would expect of a professional service provider? You should be looking for indicators such as certifications or awards, as well as successful case studies and client references. They should be able to show that they are working to good industry standards.A dependable development partner will help you to do three things:

    Create an MVP (Minimum Viable Product)
    to prove that your commercial and technical model will work. Once the market has been tested, you can move on to the next phase of complete feature development.

    Leverage any work already done
    by taking a simple test version of your software, perhaps written quickly with limited skill or resource, and turn it into a solid, reliable product.

    Provide finance solutions
    for funding the development project, where external funding or own funding is not available.
  • Plan, plan and plan again
    Planning never truly stops. All the way throughout the project, you should keep planning the next phase – in terms of development as well as implementation – with constant feedback and improvements. The developers will also be able to provide suggestions as they listen and understand your requirements.
  • Communicate
    Communication is a fundamental element of any software development project. As a client, you need to know what goes on between meetings – and the developers need you to communicate clear direction. There should be progress updates and feedback loops built into the development model, to make sure there is transparency throughout. Often timescales are critical for start-ups, which means that the software team must keep you informed of any unexpected issues or delays – while escalating the problems effectively for discussion and resolution.
  • Test
    You should be able to see prototypes early on in the project, to encourage experimentation, testing and discussion. Once you are able to test and evaluate a tangible software model, you will be able to suggest features or modifications as the project gradually evolves. Testing obviously not only helps with the development of new features, but also helps ensure the end product is reliable and free from bugs and faults.Even after implementation, testing is a useful tool – particularly for a white label solution which will depend heavily on market success. Aim to have a group of end users as designated testers, to provide additional bug reporting and general feedback on things such as functionality and ease of use.