Engaging a software development agency: 5 common mistakes to avoid

Dane Eldridge

Dane Eldridge

Founder & Chairman

So you’ve hired a software development agency to develop your next platform, and you’re excited to get started.

Here are five key mistakes to avoid, from our experience as a software development agency in Sydney working with hundreds of clients over the last 20 years.

Mistake #1: Building too many features

When you have an amazing vision, it’s tempting to want to build every feature on day one.

Resist the temptation!

Here’s why building too many features early in a project is a mistake:

  • Usually not all features in a project are necessary to prove its viability and get user feedback. The faulty assumption that everything is necessary for the initial launch delays the launch of the project, and increases costs incurred before proving the concept (therefore increasing the risk). Instead… prioritise your feature set into ‘Must Have’, ‘Should Have’ and ‘Could Have’ buckets to understand what’s truly important. Once you’ve successfully launched the ‘Must have features’ and validated product market fit with users, you can add features from the ‘Should have’ and ‘Could have buckets.
  • Usually not everything needs to be developed from scratch. The most successful platforms are often developed by integrating with API’s or external platforms to achieve a faster/cheaper/higher quality outcome in the short term enabling you to prove your concept, even if the long term goal is to build and own all functionality within the project. Instead… only develop the features, interfaces and automations that differentiate you and create your competitive advantage. You can always build more functionality later as you scale.

Mistake #2: Investing too much in the initial project and not enough on improvements after launch

The initiator of a project (whether it’s an entrepreneur or an executive) often assumes they know everything about what’s required before a project starts.

Whilst the initiator or subject matter expert will often have amazing insights, and a brilliant vision, it’s extremely rare for them to have the full picture – as almost all innovative projects have learnings along the way.

New technology emerge during a project, competitors change their offering or feature set, and new ideas created during collaboration with the development team can all be missed opportunities if the entire budget has been exhausted before the initial launch.

Instead… allocate some budget for enhancements after go-live. It gives you the best opportunity to learn from user feedback, usage metrics, and the performance of your platform against the goals you’ve set. With funds available, you can apply those learnings to improve the user experience and feature set. Having funds available after launch keeps your options open vs having only one shot at success.

In our opinion, companies receive a significantly higher ROI on each dollar invested in enhancements after go-live vs invested in initial development before go-live.

Mistake #3: Insufficient understanding of scope

The phrase “I know exactly what we want” is often heard from project owners before a project commences.

The risks of assuming you have a perfect understanding of scope and giving a half baked idea to a developer, is that they can run with it in a number of different directions.

It increases the risk of the project going off the rails functionally and financially, and ultimately results in a lot of project failures. Many of the projects we inherit from clients who have had bad experiences elsewhere are a direct result of this.

Project scope for innovative projects is rarely perfect – instead it evolves, with the project owner’s vision being enhanced and refined at each stage:

  1. Understanding in the project owners head.
  2. Documentation of that understanding and mapping of process flows.
  3. Refinement of that understanding via technical planning.
  4. Further refinement of that understanding via wireframing.
  5. Real world feedback and usage data.

No matter how deep your understanding of scope is, it will evolve over time as new learnings occur, and as development progresses.

Mistake #4: Neglecting marketing/growth channels

Having a great software solution or app developed is a great start. But if nobody knows about it, it’s going to be tough to succeed.

Having a comprehensive set of marketing channels driving customers/revenue to your solution is important. This may include viral growth/product-led growth,

Partnerships with organisations who can bring customers/users to you at scale can be a great advantage. This enables you to to grow fast with minimal risk (particularly on a revenue share basis).

A great agency will be able to connect you with partners for PPC/Social/Marketing activities to help drive adoption of your solution.

Mistake #5: Believing without seeing during project delivery

A lot of rescue projects we take on from elsewhere, occur when the client has received minimal transparency about the status of their project.

Often it occurs when they trust in a developer or agency who says “It’s 90% done” and wait for a big reveal at the end of the project with the hope that all of their dreams will be fulfilled. Only to find that for a multitude of reasons, that last 10% is actually 80% of the project, and they’re nowhere near complete. A disappointing, frustrating, and painful experience.

Instead… demand frequent demonstrations of the functionality/deliverables created to date. In the majority of cases this is the single best indicator of whether your project is on track, and a great way to de-risk your project.

A great software development agency (like 4mation) will help you avoid these five mistakes (and more!) by asking the right questions and getting to the heart of understanding your business and your goals and challenges.

They’ll challenge assumptions to help you get to the right solution for your unique situation with a robust roadmap you’re confident in.

Here’s to your success!

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