A great many projects are hatched by business owners everywhere, but they don’t all become a reality. Just like not all businesses survive the first five years, not every project is executed in a way it can be successful. I recently gave a presentation to a group of small-business owners about how Web apps are like houses. If you’re scratching your head, then keep reading and I’ll explain.
Application development and building a house have a great many things in common. Building a house requires a blueprint, good building materials, skilled laborers and a brilliant project manager. Sometimes that project manager is the architect, sometimes it’s a general contractor, but everything else is a must for the house to be built right. Web and mobile application projects are no different.
Execution Is Everything
You can have the greatest plan in the world, but if you don’t have the ability (or hire someone with the ability) to execute that plan, you’re finished before you even start. The key person in the equation is the project manager — the person who is coordinating the effort between you, the business owner, and the highly skilled programmers who will work in the trenches to breathe life into your idea. Most often, this person will have a business background; however, the best project managers have knowledge and understanding of the technology behind the idea and can communicate that to non-technical people.
Plan. Evaluate. Repeat.
Obviously, the goal is to create something that helps your business succeed. Doing that requires a plan, a blueprint if you will, and continuously evaluating the plan to ensure it is working and the end result is beneficial. It is possible to overthink this to the point that nothing ever gets done, but bear in mind that creating any Web or mobile app is a complex and ongoing conversation with your project manager and your team. These types of projects aren’t “fire-and-forget” — you can’t expect the project manager to know every facet of the idea after only one or two meetings. There will be questions, and the details obtained by asking those questions will impact how the application ultimately comes together. If the project manager isn’t asking questions or plans to deliver a finished product after meeting with you only a few times, it’s time to consider whether this is the right project manager.
Your ultimate goal is to build out the minimum viable product, or MVP. Once you have that, your team continues to maintain and improve the MVP based on feedback, and it is this process that ultimately generates the many facets of the grand scheme. Sometimes, the MVP is just the prototype and it will take time to get feedback from customers about what changes are necessary (and they will be necessary). Remember to include the ongoing needs of the application into your budget, because lack of maintenance can lead to unpatched security vulnerabilities and unsupported components that can be costly to address.
Peter Adams is the Owner & CTO of Ping! Development