How to teach developers to be more careful about the budget

Max B, CEO
Max B, CEO
Jul 26, 2023
9 minutes
No clickbait here, just my thoughts on how product development helps us outsource products for our customers better. But don’t think that we are doing them badly/poorly :)
It's just the practice has shown how, with the help of our products, we have learned to better understand customers. And now we can achieve more win-win cases.

The story of how we came up with the App

Why just an app? Because it was invented, but there is no name yet.

How is development for a third-party client going?

Client comes with his vision, usually something verbal, in words or with 1 or 2 pager documents.
Yes, sorry, we are not working with a large enterprise that often yet.
First of all, we do prototypes, write a software specification document based on these initial requirements. In a word, we bring the client's thoughts into some kind of structured form, so that both parties understand what exactly we will develop, and so that it lends itself to assessment with project budget and deadline. The next stage, respectively, is development.
What kind of mess ups can happen during development with this approach:
For example, investors poured in a lot of money for you to create your application. It would seem that everything is doomed to success, but it's not. Initially invented product can be so huge that it will be developed for almost a year. After that, a lot of ideas will appear, without which “100% product will not take off.” Then some kind of “crysis” will happen in the market (there were so many of them in the last couple of years that you choose for yourself). Further, the search for some new killer features that need to be developed in order to become a market killer, and again development. As a result, you have been at the stage of “promising but unreleased applications” for several years and are simply wasting investor money without understanding how your brainchild will meet the market.
You and your friends are specialists in a narrow field, you know the market well. You fold and decide to launch a new service, but the amount of money you have is limited. At the same time, the product is working, it is clear who to sell it to - everything seems to be OK. And then a “professional” appears among your group who knows everything: how best to draw a design, what the user path should be, in a word: “Give me access, I will do everything myself.” What is the bottom line? A non-competitive product created for one person, who, probably, remained proud of himself.
It should be noted that in both the first and second cases, outsource developers have few ways to influence the outcome of events. That is why you can remember a lot of similar stories. Of course, as well as those where customers are smart sweethearts. All went well and successfully.

How do we create a product for ourselves?

So we decided to make an application:
We assembled a working group: managers, designers, developers. All of them are familiar with the domain (which is very cool). We chose Figjam as a board to collect and share all the ideas.
At the first stage, we threw in all sorts of features that can be crammed into this application. After that, we structured the entire array of ideas into large epics, and grouped all the features into epics. Now we have large blocks of the application and the described functionality in each of them. We worked on prioritization: first we went through the epics, and then inside each epic - through the features.
We gathered a potential audience who would be interested in it - and recorded everyone.
We studied competitors, found out who works in which market, went through the functionality and differences.
By the way, it is not necessary to be the first on the market with killer ideas. A lot of well-known startups were launched second, third, tenth and conquered the market. Therefore, if a competitor looks like you one to one, do not give up, there are a lot of ways to defeat him. You came to do business - you need to be a winner, a conqueror! You can try aggressive marketing, introduce some kind of USP, “play around” with the design, or at least make the application user-friendly. For example, Uber Eats appeared, and then came Glovo, Bolt and others. They all coexist well together.
We put together a list of things that need to be done to launch the product: come up with a name, identity, create a landing page, the product itself, set up advertising campaigns, develop tariffs, think about how we will accept payments.
Is it cool? You can already go draw a design, do development and earn money: there is a vision for the product, who will use it, is also clear. The idea is fire, well, we think so.
But: Know that you don't know your audience. Let there be at least 10 people in the working group, you can all make mistakes.
Therefore, the next stage is custdev - the study of the audience. We are lucky that among our clients there are many potential users of the application.
We compose interview questions based on our ideas, competitors, hypotheses from “it seems that everyone needs this” and “what the hell nobody needs this for”. There should be the most varied and uncomfortable questions. Do not try to formulate them in such a way as to hear that you are doing well and your idea is working. Group them into semantic blocks.
We went to our clients, acquaintances and just establishments that we often go to and where we have good relations with the owners.Yes, yes, the mystery of what kind of application we are developing is finally starting to come out of the darkness. It applies to catering, chain restaurants and shops.
It is important to have different portraits. We interviewed the owners of both one food truck and an entire delivery network with >1000 employees, both small cozy establishments and high-end luxury establishments. It is important to reach as many diverse guys as possible. For 2 days we took 12 interviews, each of them lasted a maximum of 30 minutes. So it wasn’t that time consuming, which is very important. Castdev, by the way, was made by everyone: from the manager to the designer.
We had such a large range for custdev that we have already compiled a list of potential audiences on whom we will test the product. Fortunately, we work in food tech and we have many suitable candidates :) So the first users of our application may be our own clients, with whom we have great relationships.
The results were "inconvenient". Someone came to apathy that no one needs our application, and even more for a fee (everything works well traditionally, in a notebook anyway). Someone returned with new cool ideas, someone is ready to use our product right tomorrow, but is not ready to pay so much. And for some, everything went well, some even offered help.
The next step is to moderate the epics and features. We prioritized everything again and determined point 1.0, from which we will go to customers. Here it is important to keep the edge and not make a raw product, where there will be few features, so no one will see enough value. And at the same time - do not come up with a hippopotamus that will have to be developed for a year. We prioritized according to our own feelings. But there are methods that allow you to evaluate each feature according to different criteria, for example, by complexity, importance, profit, coverage. And then, based on the formulas, you can figure out the most important features.
The remaining ideas were not deleted, but put in the backlog so as not to be forgotten.

Okay, there's a scope of work. Fixed. Already possible in development?

Next, we took the Lean Canvas and filled out this entire table. Already based on custom development, customer opinions, product visions.
At first glance, this stage may seem superfluous. But when there were uncomfortable questions that were uncomfortable to answer, we had new ideas.
Now we have a clearer idea of ​​what should happen in the end, and who will use it, and we - how to work with objections. But most importantly, this process has a profound effect on thinking in development and design. For example, now it is much easier to make a landing page, because it is clear what to focus on in order to hook the client.

At the time of writing, we are here

We went to draw the landing and app design. Then we will do the layout, without the backend yet. Just because now there are no free back end devs, and we save our money and cannot hire from outside.
We will collect feedback and iteratively move forward. Perhaps we will correct something else: delete, change, add. Well, after - dive in the development.
In an amicable way, it was already possible to make a working application. And so, the next step is we will go to the audience that went through our custdev, capture a new one and show our landing page, an application on the phone (just a layout, but with a working interface) to find out their opinion.

What else interesting I want to note:

We made our first product “Giftary” for ourselves, so we skipped these steps and developed everything right away.
Is it important to set up analytics in a project? Some people even forget about counters. But recently I heard from a client that they are already developing a product, they will launch it, see the reaction of users and I will continue to develop. When asked how they would understand the reaction of users, they answered me “well, I will see the number of registered users in the admin panel”. How often do users open the application, and what is the return, and what do they use there? Of course, these questions baffled him. You don't know your audience. Think from the contrary that you made a mistake and do not know your audience and you need to find out about it.
It turns out something like a series. So to see the next episode please like this one :)