It is difficult to imagine a world without software, as software products have become completely integrated into our day-to-day lives.
We use them without even thinking about it, whether they are applications for work, entertainment, or embedded systems in our cars, TVs, and appliances.
This means that software is a big industry – expected to hit $1 trillion by 2030.
If you are building a software application that could solve a problem or market need, you’re in the right place.
This article explains everything you need to know about using software product development principles to create and deliver a successful software product.
We will be covering the following topics:
🔹 What Is Software Product Development?
🔹 What Is a Software Product Development Process?
🔹 Stages of a Software Development Process
🔹 Software Product Development Methodologies
🔹 How to Create Your Software Product Development Process
So let’s dive in and see how you can win at software product development in 2023!
What Is Software Product Development?
Software product development is a subset of product development.
A product is something specific that is built and sold to a customer. Before you develop a product you need to understand:
- Your client’s requirements
- The technical constraints of designing and developing the product
Software product development is a series of steps that are necessary to create a new software product. However, as we will see later, these steps are not always sequential.
When thinking about software product development, it is easy to focus only on the “how”, i.e., how will the software product be coded or built? Whilst this is an incredibly important part of software product development, it is not the only part.
The software product development process needs to also answer questions like “what”, “why”, and “when”.
What Does a Software Product Development Process Look Like?
There are different methodologies and approaches to implementing a software product development process. However, all of them will typically consist of some of the following seven stages.
Each stage usually contains multiple steps.
Stages of a Software Development Process
This is the planning stage of your software development life cycle. You’ll identify what you will build and why.
Your first steps are to come up with product ideas, review those ideas, and scope out the product idea that you want to build.
There are many ways to come up with product ideas. You can:
- Look at what competitors are doing
- Identify problems that you or others are having
- Look at industry trends and research
- Talk to customers
Remember to keep the customer in mind, as ultimately you need to solve a real problem if you want your product to be successful.
Narrow down your ideas to figure out what you will build.
Things to think about are:
- Whether it solves a real problem
- How users will use the product
- What it will cost to build
- How long it will take to build
Keep in mind that you are looking for product-market fit—the extent to which your product satisfies a strong demand.
This is where you turn your ideas into something that can be built as a product.
You will test the assumptions and aim to prove the product-market fit.
There are many ways you can validate your ideas, including:
- Internal assessments
- Data analysis
- User interviews
- Competitor analysis
- A/B testing
Validating which problems your product will solve also gives you a good idea of which features you will build.
Plan your project roadmap and create a high-level estimate of:
- The resources needed to build the product
- The total cost of building the product
- How long it will take to build
- Requirements and Feasibility Analysis
Once you know what your software product will offer, analyse what needs to be built and whether building the product is feasible.
There are three areas where feasibility analysis needs to take place: technical feasibility, operational feasibility, and legal feasibility.
Technical Requirements and Feasibility
Determine the technical requirements of your software product development project and whether it is technically feasible to build the product.
Things to consider are your available resources, your tech stack, your team capabilities, and the infrastructure you will use.
Analyse how well your proposed product solves the problems it is being built for, whether it will be adopted by its intended users, and whether you will be able to maintain the product.
Determine the legal requirements for your product and whether it will be able to comply with them. Legal feasibility typically covers data privacy and security laws like the GDPR or CCPA, intellectual property rights, and local regulations.
In the design phase you create a core outline of your product. You have to decide on your product architecture and which cloud platform you are going to use.
Consider technical aspects like data security and scalability that will become critical as your user base grows.
You will also need to define the technologies, tools, workflows and relationships between the different parts of the project, as well as the database structures and data flows.
During this phase, you will typically also design the product’s User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX). Ultimately you want to produce a design specification document that describes what needs to be done and how to do it.
“When designing your product, it is a good idea to think about the data that you will be capturing and the different ways you will be able to use it to inform your product decisions.
With all of the available analytics tools today, there are a lot of novel ways that data can be used to improve products or even create new ones.”
- Nick Solly – Project Owner at MOHARA
This is the phase where your software development team starts to code and build your software product according to the design specifications produced during the previous phase.
It is typically the longest phase of your software development process, as developers have to make sure the code corresponds to the specifications and meets expectations.
Various methodologies can be used for software development, including the Waterfall methodology and the Agile methodology. We will discuss these in more detail later in this guide.
- Quality Assurance
Once the software has been developed, it’s time to test it to ensure that there are no errors or bugs and that the software is usable. Typically this stage of the process is done by a team of quality assurance engineers, who apply several frameworks and tools to conduct a set of tests.
This will usually include the following:
- Functionality testing
- User acceptance testing
- Systems integration
The primary purpose of this stage of the software development process is to ensure that the code is clean and that the product meets its stated goals, requirements, and business needs.
Only once the software product has passed the testing stage can we move on to the implementation and launch of the product.
- Product Deployment and Launch
This is where your newly built software is launched.
Product deployment is typically done using an implementation plan which defines how your software should go live, who is responsible for getting it there, and how it should be maintained.
Your product launch is when you let the market know about your product. You’ll need to have a well-defined marketing strategy to reach your intended customer base.
Even though it is the last stage of the process, maintenance is one of the most important software development stages. Maintaining your product involves:
- Constantly improving it
- Updating it
- Making sure that it stays operational without downtime
- System performance
- User experience
- Any bugs or errors in the system
Finally, get customer feedback. Use it to keep improving your product and make sure that it remains effective at solving user problems.
Software Development Methodologies
The Waterfall software development methodology is considered to be old school and is rarely used by modern development teams. However, it’s still important to understand this methodology to better appreciate the flexibility of more modern software product development methodologies.
Waterfall requires a lot of up-front documentation and typically consists of these stages:
- Determine the project’s requirements and scope
- Analyse the requirements
As you can see, this closely matches the stages of the software product development process that we outlined above. However, the Waterfall methodology requires these stages to be completed rigidly and sequentially.
This makes it inflexible and inefficient. For example, if a change is required at a late stage the entire process needs to be restarted.
This inflexibility in the Waterfall methodology is why it is no longer popular for software development.
However, there are some cases where it can still be useful. This could be if the project is constrained by time and/or costs, and if the project scope and requirements are clearly defined, well understood, and not too complex.
The Agile methodology was developed as a response to the inflexibility of Waterfall and other highly structured software development methodologies. The Agile methodology was designed to accommodate change and to enable teams to develop software products faster.
According to the Manifesto for Agile Software Development, the Agile methodology has the following values:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan
Agile also follows twelve principles. The first two give a good idea of what lies at the core of this approach:
- Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
- [We] welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
The customer’s need is at the centre of this approach. Allowance is made for flexibility and to accommodate changes at any point in the process.
When using the Agile approach, software development teams work in short sprints or iterations. Each of these will typically include a defined duration and a list of deliverables in no particular order.
During sprints, the idea is to work towards the goal of delivering working software (or some other tangible, testable output).
This also means that the software development process doesn’t need to be completed in rigidly sequential order. Instead it can be done in smaller portions, allowing constant testing, feedback, and improvement throughout the process.
Agile is also a collaborative approach. Instead of one team working on and completing a specific phase of the project and then passing it on to the next team, cross-functional teams work in tandem on different phases and communicate and inform each other’s work. For example, testing can happen at the same time as development.
This allows for clearer communication and increases software quality by fixing errors and implementing changes quickly and efficiently.
Within Agile there are several different approaches, so let’s have a look at a few of the most popular ones.
Scrum is probably the best-known and most popular Agile development framework.
The Scrum framework was designed to address two critical software development issues: speed and changing client requirements.
In the Scrum approach the software development project is executed in short cycles of work called sprints, working towards the ultimate goal of delivering the completed software product.
Two weeks is a typical length for a sprint, but the length of a sprint is entirely up to the team. Some teams will do week-long sprints, whereas others might find it easier to do month-long sprints.
If the project is very complex, doing shorter sprints will work better as issues can be detected and addressed earlier.
At the end of each sprint, a sprint review is done. This is where the team shows the work that was completed and stakeholders give feedback.
In Scrum, people work in small teams of 5-6 members. The idea is that team members will have different skill sets, allowing them to learn from and upskill each other.
The Scrum methodology also allows for active client participation at each stage, so that any required changes are addressed immediately and acted on. This ensures that the software project is delivered on time and that it will meet client demands effectively.
Something that Agile emphasises very strongly is ensuring continuous delivery.
The Kanban methodology was designed around three basic principles to provide continuous delivery, namely:
- Teams should not commit to more than what they can deliver in a day
- The work in progress is visualised and reviewed each day
- If a task is completed before the deadline, the next task in line is started immediately
This approach allows teams to plan activities and deliver defined outcomes every day.
The most well-known feature of the Kanban methodology is the Kanban board, which is the tool that allows teams to visualise the work that needs to be completed and optimise the workflow within the team.
The Kanban board uses cards to visualise the work that needs to be done and columns to represent stages of the process. For example, you could have a column for scheduled tasks, tasks in progress, and completed tasks. As a task moves from one stage to the next, the card representing that work is transferred to the appropriate column.
Using this approach helps teams to ensure planning flexibility. They continuously complete incremental tasks in order to ultimately deliver the completed software product.
Extreme Programming (XP)
Extreme Programming (XP) is another popular Agile software development framework. Unlike Scrum and Kanban, it was designed for software development specifically and places a strong emphasis on software engineering practices.
The XP software engineering practices are described as follows:
- The Planning Game
- Small Releases
- Simple Design
- Pair Programming
- Collective Ownership
- Continuous Integration
- 40 Hour Week
- On-site Customer Support
- Coding Standard
For a more detailed explanation of these practices, you can read the article What is Extreme Programming by Ron Jeffries, one of the three founders of XP.
On a high level, we can see that these practices describe a process where simplicity is prioritised. The XP process aims to deliver the simplest design for achieving the stated goals of the product.
Small releases also imply short cycles of work. This is similar to the Scrum methodology, where developers continuously complete deliverables that are immediately tested. The methodology also involves the customer and allows for continuous feedback and improvement.
A unique feature of XP is pair programming, which requires that all code is built by two developers working side by side. This ensures that all code is reviewed by at least one other developer, which results in “better design, better testing, and better code.”
Due to this requirement, XP is typically best suited for smaller development teams working on complex software projects that might require changes during development.
How to Create Your Software Product Development Process
Creating a software product development process that will work for you depends on several factors. These include the requirements of your software product, your team, and the software development methodology you choose.
If you base it on the stages, steps, and methodologies mentioned above, you are more likely to create a winning process and develop a successful software product.
But software product development is still a complex process. Here are some best practices to keep in mind.
- Remain focused on product-market fit and creating customer value
- Ensure that all stakeholders have a shared understanding of plans and priorities
- Keep the process as transparent as possible and have clear lines of communication
- Invest in development tools that support a flexible approach
- Keep testing and improving throughout the process
How MOHARA Can Help You Build a Successful Product
There are many reasons why you might not want to create your own software product development process.
Perhaps you don’t have the technical knowledge yourself, in which case you could hire a CTO or bring on a technical co-founder.
But even if you did that, you would still need to hire a development team to build your software product.
Another option is to partner with a product venture studio like MOHARA that can develop your software product from start to finish.
Using our MO_FLO software product development services, we have helped more than 15 successful startups to create and deliver pioneering software products to market.
Whether you’re a startup, scale-up, or larger corporate, we can provide expert guidance on product development and strategy to deliver solutions that translate into results.
Get in touch with us today to find out more about the MOHARA way and how we can turn your ideas into reality.
Let’s be pioneers together!