The ultimate checklist for developing a new software product
by Nicolas Jacobeus, on 23 February 2018
Here at Belighted, we talk about software development a lot. However, coding is only a small portion of what needs to happen when you’re creating and launching a new SaaS or other software product. Recently we created a power checklist that walks you through 50 major checkpoints for developing, launching and growing a new app, tool or other software product.
This is not simply a list of the stages of new product development, though you’ll see these points are woven throughout: idea generation and screening, concept development and testing, business strategy analysis and development, product development, test marketing and commercialization.
No, we wanted to create a practical breakdown of the steps and tasks specific to building, launching and growing software products.
As Ash Maurya says in Running Lean, “Startups are inherently chaotic, but at any given point in time there are only a few actions that really matter. Running Lean is about focusing on those and ignoring the rest.”
Our goal was to create an actionable checklist that new startup founders and innovators at existing companies can refer to when defining, developing and launching their new software product idea. By determining what to focus on at each stage, you can strip away the unnecessary things, saving time, money and energy.
The Running Lean process influences our thought processes heavily at Belighted. The majority of our customers are startups and innovating companies. We love the lean mindset. Additionally, we are on the startup journey ourselves as we have created and launched a couple of our own products.
The new software product checklist organizes tasks into 5 stages. (While research never ends, for example, we’ve named these stages according to the priority for each stage.)
The plan is to make sure every each task in a stage is completed before moving onto the next stage. Approaching these checkpoints in the proper order will help you make smarter decisions, because you will have collected the information you need first. You will use your budget more wisely and avoid doing things that can be difficult or costly to undo later.
Some things you can expect to learn:
1. When to begin development of your new software product
Too often a startup founder or business owner wants to begin developing the idea into a software product right away. While speed is of the essence, completing the proper steps to validate the idea first will make sure you give priority to the right aspects.
The new software product checklist provides you with guidance on 20 different things you need to do before writing a single line of code.
Here are just a few new product checklist items in the research and planning stages:
- List the top 3 problems your new product idea could solve and summarize solutions
- Identify and assess size and accessibility of possible markets
- Identify direct and indirect competitors
- Conduct separate problem and solution interviews
- Determine an initial pricing model and test it
- Create your initial product roadmap and a basic budget for MVP development
- And more
If some of this sounds daunting, don’t worry. We’ve included links to in-depth resources from some of the best minds in the industry that show you how to do these things.
2. What and when to outsource
Many startup founders make the mistake of growing their in-house team too fast. Some feel they are at a disadvantage without their own in-house CTO to guide product development. This simply isn’t true. In fact, outsourcing to the right partner can help you keep costs down while accessing deeper experience at a stage when you need it most but can’t take on more costs. See how Rights’Up made rapid progress by outsourcing development of a minimum sellable product.
That said, there is a right time to grow your team. The new software product checklist prompts you to plan your core initial team. This team often gives rise to your “unfair advantage.”
3. Critical items to remember when beginning software product development
The development stage requires you to think ahead still. You will likely start by building and testing a prototype for your tool, app or other software product that lets you explore sales early on. You need to define your most important metrics.
Now you can also begin to define the basics of your brand, firm up your budget and secure funding. See what you need to take into account for that, plus a few other critical items.
4. Steps to create your minimum viable product (MVP) and launch it
Finally, its the moment every new startup founder dreams of. You build the functioning product and launch it to real users. If you’ve checked all the boxes up to this point, you will have a clear plan for gaining your first users.
When it’s time to build your first functioning version, you want to keep it lean and focused on the priorities you defined in the earlier steps. Plan to build in continuous integration, so your product can improve continuously from now on. See what other things need to happen at launch, using the new software product checklist.
5. What to optimize to grow your software product
Congratulations, you’ve gotten your idea off the ground. Coming through the previous stages of the checklist should have you well positioned for growth. But now it’s time to think a bit differently.
At the growth stage of your software product, it’s time to:
- Measure core business metrics
- Consider longer term marketing activities
- Optimize your acquisition funnel
- Optimize cost/price structure
- Plan for expansion of your team and resources
- And more
You don’t want to focus resources on these items too soon in the game or you will be diverting precious resources away from other more stage-appropriate items.
Knowing when to focus on what is critical when you’re creating a new SaaS software product or beginning a startup. This Power Checklist helps keep you focusing you on the right things at the right time.