If you are a business owner, or manager interested in custom software, there is typically one overarching reason why you would be willing to invest in a custom software project, you have a strong hunch that the value of that investment will be greater than the cost aka Positive ROI.
But, how can you be sure that you will have a positive ROI? How do you choose which custom software agency? We believe it is critical to go with an agency whose highest aim is to treat you as a true partner. An organization that ultimately will do what is right for you spending the time necessary to uncover what needs to be built for you to achieve your goal.
At Airship, we understand that establishing the trust required for a partnership mindset takes time to develop. It starts with a general reputation, grows as you interact with the sales team, but begins to deepen as we walk through Discovery Strategy sessions. These sessions are where we do a deep dive to uncover what you want and begin to determine how best to build it for you.
During Discovery Strategy sessions, you will typically spend 8 - 15 hours with your new Airship partners. Describing to us "why we are here." It is critical that you are heard, and are met with not only professional expertise, but also a caring, inquisitive tone.
Part of the expertise Airship can bring to the table is a validation of assumptions from an outside perspective. Everyone goes into a new project with assumptions. For instance, one may assume they can only spend $250k on a project because of a calculation that the product will increase in revenue at a certain pace. If the software team you hire is simply taking down your requirements they are not partners with you and will not challenge assumptions.
What if the software team discovers an additional value add you had not considered that could speed up your ROI positivity timeline? Or, perhaps in the Lean Start-up fashion, the software team discovers a means to launch a smaller MVP that could start generating feedback and revenue sooner?
That is what we mean by challenging and validating assumptions. Looking at not only your requirements but also the three main factors of Time, Features, and Budget. Because finding the right combination between these three will likely be the deciding factor for positive ROI.
There are plenty of agencies who will feature factory for you. Taking down all the features you believe you need to have and pricing them out. But that won't deliver the best product nor will it produce the highest ROI.
We understand you are the expert in your field and we need to get the requirements right. But, too much detail and the partnership loses its ability to be iterative, agile, and innovative. Too little detail and we end up with a useless guess of where we are going, how long, and how much it will take to get there. I like to think of predicting/estimating features too far out into the future somewhat like a hurricane's “cone of uncertainty”.
Meteorologists are not able to confidently predict conditions more than 10 days or so into the future due to the increased uncertainty of variables. Similarly, it is an unusual project that can isolate enough variables to remain accurately predictable more than 8-12 weeks into the future. Too many things will change between now and then. New information will come in. Market conditions will change. Ultimately, too far into the future and we can predict the hurricane will probably go west and that’s about it. If I try to predict too far I am not doing anyone any favors when I predict the hurricane will hit North Carolina in two weeks canceling everyone's plans, and then it hits Florida.
That is why we map out the objectives you are trying to achieve and define in eight to twelve-week cycles how we are going to achieve them. In this way, we can be agile and nimble for you creating the best product possible by incorporating what we discover along the way.
Already this year, our squad has given 3 different clients recommendations that adjusted their expected deliverables because we discovered opportunities that were not initially anticipated.
In one instance, we had a client come to us expecting a need for custom software but as we investigated his start-up business we realized his business was not in a position to get a good ROI on custom software. When we were halfway finished with Discovery we gave him the option to continue gathering requirements and estimating a full-scale custom solution, or we could take the remaining balance he committed to for Discovery and find an alternative solution. Once we fully understood his needs we researched off-the-shelf options and built for him a working prototype that gave him everything he was looking for at about 1/10th of the cost and timeline.
The Discovery Process Overview
In a former life, I was an athlete and a coach. And, I’ve always appreciated a coach who would approach their team with the consideration of
- What is your situation/competition/goals?
- What are this team's assets and liabilities?
- How can I best leverage this team's assets and liabilities to address the competition and achieve a reasonable goal?
Our process at Airship has the same general approach as a coach does with their team. We begin by getting to know one another and understanding the objectives that you are trying to achieve.
From there we move into asking questions and challenging assumptions. Understanding how best to leverage the assets and liabilities to achieve your objectives. Here is a high-level look at how we go through strategy sessions.
- Objectives & Orientations
- Project Background:
- Who, What, When, Why, Desired Budget, Priorities
- Key Objectives
- Riskiest Assumptions
- Glossary of Terms
- Problem Definition
- From the point of view of all parties involved
- Biggest Pain Points
- Jobs to be done
- Existing workflows
- Potential workflows
The results of these strategy sessions are the basis from which we build out the next phase of the process, which we call the deliver stage.
At the end of the day, as you look for a custom software agency to help you, I hope you find one that spends time walking you through a comprehensive discovery process to truly determine what needs to be built and if what you believe needs to be built is actually going to deliver a positive ROI to you and your organization. The Discovery process in custom software can be the determining factor in the success or failure of your product.
If you'd like to learn more about how we work and explore the possibilities of custom software, let's talk.