6 Effective Steps to Accelerate the Product Development Process
These tips will help you focus on parallel testing, Agile methodology, proper documentation, and more for a quality product and fast time to market.
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Striving to achieve remarkable product speed without compromising the quality of the product is a challenge companies often face. Hence, they are always on the lookout to accelerate their product development, because only speed and quality can get them ahead of their competitors.
Did you know that Amazon has a software change every 11 seconds, about 8,000 changes every day? So you can just about guess what this would do to their competitors who do not make changes so often.
It is also important to note that making changes to the product every now and then is not expensive or time consuming at all. In fact, continuous deployment can be cheaper, with lower risk, because it is all automated and when done in small development teams, would bring in better coordination.
As the projects become larger, the code bases also become complex and testing new software releases becomes a must. Quality assurance professionals run elaborate test procedures, but traditional testing procedures can always take up time and still miss the errors. So, they opt for automated testing options.
Through expertise and long-term commitment, companies are able to create strategies by which they can market their products faster, minus the errors, but with no compromise in quality.
Through fast product development, companies could take less time to launch their product on the market, i.e; less Time To Market, or TTM. The faster they get a perfect product into the market, the better it is for them, in terms of sales and leadership position and flexibility.
Companies look forward to improved requirements management (gathering the requirements for something that is yet to be designed) because it lets them market their products faster and with improved quality. This is because getting the requirements in a clearly articulated format would help ease the design and development stage.
No system can be perfect, but adopting the TTM strategy along with "improved required management" would help companies deploy high-quality products on the planned launch date.
How Can You Speed Up Product Development?
The success of a company depends on how well it keeps its word – to the shareholders and to the customers. This is why launching a product on time is one of the most important challenges for them.
Over the course of product development, a number of obstacles may crop up; some of them expected, but a good number of them, unexpected. These hurdles can really slow down development.
Given below are six steps, which, when correctly followed, will help you speed up product development without compromising quality.
1. A Well-Defined Product Development Strategy
Having a product development strategy is the first crucial step in planning a product. The strategy can be defined only when you know the purpose of having the application around. For example, if you are going to have an app released by Christmas, it has to be out by Christmas; it cannot be released in January. Or maybe you are going to release an app that allows seamless switching of trains between stations. In that case, you have to be really very careful with the coding because you cannot afford to have the trains crash because of a software failure. In a situation like this, cleaning up the code and making it free of bugs is most important, rather than timing.
Before kickstarting product development, create a well-planned roadmap that will detail all the necessary steps – right from product iteration to product launch.
There are three main tactics that can be applied to the product development strategy. Here is a deeper review of the tactics:
a. Identifying the Market
Before releasing any product in the market, it is very important to do research on whether it will be accepted by your users or not. You can do surveys and hunt the community forums and social media channels to know the pulse of the audience.
Here are certain things to consider while on a quest to understand your people:
What are the needs of your target audience? Get to know the real people who will be using your product, so you understand their needs well and create apps accordingly.
What are the benefits of the new product? It would be a great idea if the product could solve a problem a user is currently facing. For example, some of your users would like to know where your ingredients are sourced and their health benefits in your restaurant app. You can create an app just so the users can collect all the information they want.
Will the product fit into the current market? Deep research will tell you whether the product you are planning has become obsolete or will still have a market once it has been released. This way, you can save energy and time and concentrate on what people really want.
What are the features that you intend to incorporate into your product? Research would tell you the likes and interests of people, so you can incorporate only those features that people will use, so when the final product is out, you have a lightweight, feature-rich product.
b. Fixing a Time Frame
Deciding on a timeframe for the release of the product is so important. This will help in allocating the project to different team members and deciding on the different iterations on which it has to be completed. Choosing the right team for the project is so important here. Your timely release will depend on the experience and skill of the people in your team.
Team efficiency and coordination are so important for a successful development process, so your product is released on time before competition sets in. Depending on the features of the product, user needs, and the skill of the people involved in the project, you must decide the correct launch date.
c. Determining the Key Approaches
It is important to have certain key approaches to do away with the challenges that come with product planning and launch. Mentioned below are some of the main ones:
- Wireframes or prototypes
Prototyping is one of the important steps to be taken while designing a product. Before actually creating a product design, it is imperative to create low fidelity wireframes that act as rough blueprints of the application. This will give the UX designers an in-depth idea about the designs, features, and functionalities that should be included in the app’s UI. All the elements that make the app user-friendly will be added here. These wireframes act as the link between a theoretical idea of the app and its final outcome.
- Product specification requirements
All the details about the app have to be detailed in the product specification. This includes pricing, design features, and functionalities, marketing specifications, etc.
The documentation part of the product must be detailed clearly because different teams will be handling it, and each person on the team has to comprehend it. Any unclear part of the product specification will delay the product launch because of unnecessary resets or other inadvertent defects.
- Define testing strategy
The product development team must go through the testing strategies that are both time-saving and effective. They have to choose a test automation suite consisting of frameworks like Selenium, Appium, Loadrunner, JMeter, etc., which help in conducting parallel tests, including regression testing and performance testing.
- Hire a development team
Choosing the development team for your product is the next important stage in product development. In order to launch a high-quality product in the market on time, you need to outsource product development to a dedicated engineering team that has the right mix of skill and expertise.
Sometimes, hiring skilled developers for the in-house team can be highly expensive for the company in the long run. Outsourcing software development is a smart strategy in such cases. The right people on your team can reduce the TTM, helps you come up with innovative products, and control costs effectively.
2. Using Agile Methodology
The project management team peruses development methodologies and chooses the one that’s best suited for their project. Agile methodology, based on the 12 fundamental principles of the Agile Manifesto, is the most popular one of all. It breaks down the project into several iterations of equal duration, spread across a time period of 2-8 weeks.
What the stakeholders and clients like most about Agile methods is that it lets them see into each and every development stage of the product so they can make decisions throughout the project. If “time to market” is of greater concern, then Agile lets you quickly produce a basic version of the software product, tested after several successful iterations.
Through Agile methodology, it is possible to create an MVP, or Minimum Viable Product, with all the user-friendly features, and release it in the market. For each stage of the product, more features can be tested, added, and then again tested after getting feedback from customers.
This works mainly because cross-functional teams can work with each other on a consistent basis, right from the designing stage to the developing stage, and most importantly, the testing stage.
Each team (designer-developer-team) will work in parallel with each other, checking the quality of the work as they go along. Agile actually saves times compared to the Waterfall method because in this approach, tasks cannot be overlapped, and each task can be started only after completing the previous task.
3. Periodic Automated Testing
It is imperative for software tests to be conducted at regular intervals for development cycles to go smoothly as planned. Each time new source code is added or modified, testing has to be done so that the product works well on all the supporting platforms. Both automated testing and manual testing procedures are adopted. However, the problem with manual testing is that it takes up a lot of time, human effort, and money.
On the other hand, a Test Automation suite can considerably lower the testing time. What was done in days and weeks can be done in a few hours now. And time is not the only factor. Automated testing lets you go deeper into the tests to improve and increase software quality. Manual testing doesn’t allow this advantage during lengthy tests because somebody has to constantly watch the tests results.
Test Automation suites give you better insight into each product, analyze the codes memory contents, data tables, the contents of the file and internal programs to check whether the product is performing as expected.
This lets you improve the accuracy of the software, and of course, this depends on the type of automated software testing you are planning to do - Unit testing, Functional testing, Regression Testing, Integration Testing, Data Driven Testing and Smoke Testing are a few of them.
Whenever a new functionality is added, executing regression testing is one way to check the code and how well it functions. The tests can be repeated several times, and as they are automated, there is no time loss. It is faster, gets really in-depth into the code functionality, and you can finally release a perfect product.
Parallel testing is another major benefit of test automation suites. It lets you run multiple test cases on several operating systems and browsers at the same time. This approach eventually reduces testing time, whereas testing in a sequential manner on a single machine eats away your time.
4. Right Software Development Technologies
There are plenty of software development technologies on the market. They come with their own stories, positives, and negatives. If you don’t choose the right technology stack for the product that you want to build, then you will simply run into roadblocks that will delay the product launch.
In a test software framework, Application Development Environment (ADE) plays a crucial role in the test systems. System developers spend plenty of time with their ADE, so it is imperative to choose an ADE with multiple platforms and integrate it with measurement and control services. An ADE should also help with the presentation and report features of your app and provide training and support worldwide.
Keeping those aspects in mind, let us look at some other points to consider while making technology choices for your product development.
- Keep tabs on the latest industry trends.
- Is the technology suitable for the new product's development?
- Find out about the technology adoption lifecycle.
- Is the software development technology open source?
- Know the long haul expenses of your technology choice.
- Can the product be ported to other platforms?
- How important are execution and versatility?
- Would you be able to profit from third-party code?
The documentation describes the architecture and functionality of a product that is under development. It is intended for everyone involved in a software development project - designers, developers, testers, marketers, end users, stakeholders, etc.
Documentation helps to improve the quality of a software. This becomes very effective as software teams usually come with their own informal best practices in the coding documentation and code review process. Once you start formalizing these practices, formal documentation takes place, and this helps in tracking the forward progress of the project.
When written in a clear and concise manner, documentation can speed up the development process. It helps the developers reach a consensus on how to implement a particular functionality in the product.
Proper documentation makes it easier for new developers as well, and this is both time- and cost-effective for companies as well, as they can skip the training and plunge right into product development. Properly documented error codes and FAQs guide developers to troubleshoot production issues as well.
Documentation can be mainly:
a. Design Documentation
Design documentation helps developers by providing the details on how the end product will look. There will be a narrative and graphical documentation on how the software should look, feel, behave, and so on. This gives an understanding to everyone in the team ofn how a product is to be built, helps users understand it quickly, and actually simplifies the product.
b. Technical Documentation
The correct technical documentation is quite important to the success of any product. It describes the architecture and functionality of the software in its intricate detailing and is used by developers, designers, and quality analysts.
This is very, very important for large projects because it keeps everything from falling apart. It contains the exact outcomes of the different functional parts of the software, API calls and responses, the final look of the project in the hands of the end user, and elaborate discussions on various sections of the code.
c. User Documentation
Good documentation helps users understand how code works. Developers generally assume that people who use the software know how the code works, and they create documentation by skipping the essentials. As long as the user understands the language, it will be fine, but if not, then it will be of little use to them.
So, when creating documentation for general users, make sure it is clear-cut and easily understandable. The documentation should be in a good layout so the developers can easily scan through what they need. The documentation for Wordpress and Bootstrap are good examples of this.
d. Marketing Documentation
Marketing documentation contains a basic overview of what the software should give back to the company - the ROI. Documentation acts as a good marketing tool to help maintain a good process and helps in scaling better heights in software quality.
6. Removing Unused Code
It is so very important to remove unused code because it can lead to a number of issues. In large projects (especially in complex ones), the documentation could get into the hands of many people, even developers who are new to the project. They might make changes to the code, even to dormant code, and inadvertently introduce bugs.
Maintaining any code is a burden because you really have to go through all of it and if unused code is there in the codebase, it can only create more confusion. It is highly unlikely that unused code will ever be used again, so even if you have taken the time and effort to create code, just remove it if it serves no purpose.
Team members working on the code must know which is the used and the unused code. Code cleanup can speed up the development process and improve the quality of software.
Companies must concentrate on reducing time to market of their products. To eliminate the risks associated with product delays, it is imperative to focus on parallel testing, Agile methodology, proper documentation, and the right technologies. If the development team has sufficient resources, the project will take off successfully.
Also, it’s important to rely on TTM tactics to gain marketing advantage and acquire a competitive position because, in certain situations, it could be a matter of pure survival. Last but not least, besides focusing on speed, make sure you uphold the quality of the product in development.
Published at DZone with permission of Pratiksha R Prasad. See the original article here.
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