How to Release Digital Products Faster: Reduce the Time to Market
The timing of a product’s release is one of the most important factors in a software product’s success. Learn how to reduce development time and test your product in real market conditions as soon as possible without sacrificing quality and usability
Why software development time to market matters
In a world where new products appear everyday and competition is becoming fiercer and fiercer, time is the most valuable resource. Every week of delay results in lost potential profits and a smaller market share.
Custom software development time to market is even more important, because there are fewer ready solutions, and developers need to work fast without any shortcuts like off-the-shelf software builders. While they still use ready modules to reduce time to market, they can still get trapped in wanting to build a perfect piece of software.
While it’s still important to release a working product that caters to users and their needs, being first is paramount, especially when your competitors are developing their software too. Imagine if you had released a product like TikTok before Bytedance.
Every week of delay results in lost potential profits and smaller market share
Large projects that involve lots of stakeholders and require many features to compete with existing products often take years to be ready for release. Long decision-making processes and new technologies that emerge and set higher standards are just some of the reasons for lengthy development.
Companies can’t afford spending years building high-quality products in hopes that the market will love and accept them once they’re released. In response to these needs, development methodologies have changed: Agile and continuous integration (CI) have replaced Waterfall, but are these approaches enough to accelerate your development?
In this article, we talk about all the ways to release your product as fast as possible while maintaining sufficient quality to succeed on the market and capture the attention of your audience. Testing the waters early is valuable because you don’t want to spend resources on something that won’t work.
Top 7 ways to accelerate your development and release faster
Now let’s discuss how exactly you can reduce your product development time to market by weeks and even months.
Get rid of all that’s unnecessary
Before you start slicing something, you need to sharpen your knife. Spending time improving processes isn’t a waste, and here are some things you should pay attention to before and while working on your project.
- Unnecessary functionality
We’ll talk about the MVP later, but the principle is straightforward: don’t waste time on bells and whistles; develop only what’s necessary to get the job done. This doesn’t mean you should release an unfinished product. Rather, you need to provide the minimum of features your users need to solve their issues.
- Unnecessary code
Though it may seem that checking code will rob you of your time, it’s important to make code concise and clear so that your developers don’t waste precious time looking for bugs and issues. When code is regularly reviewed and refactored, it makes it easier for new developers to hop on your project.
- Complex architecture
Making the architecture overly complex may harm your project and waste lots of your time. However, making it overly simplistic may later cause issues with scalability: when you decide you’re moving in the right direction and need to add more features, this may not be possible. That’s why it’s important to keep a perfect balance in the complexity of your architecture.
- Technical debt
You’re in a hurry, but as your product grows, technical debt will grow with it. Software full of bugs will scare your audience away no matter how fast you release it, so make sure to find a balance between polishing your software and prioritizing what can be left for later.
Plan your project from the start
Approaching product development without a plan is reckless. Even if you’re developing a product for a startup that will probably change lots of times, it’s important to provide your development team with a plan.
For this, many vendors including Mobindustry use a discovery stage. At this stage, we identify business objectives, do market and competitor research, and elicit your project requirements. Then, we create a technical specification that defines every detail of the product, from its functionality and features to its technologies, the backend structure, and the people responsible for the app development process.
Your technical specification can be as detailed as you want, and it’s certainly possible to make it flexible. Moreover, it’s necessary. With a specification, you can track changes in your project and keep everyone on the same page.
Building a product without a specification will lead to lots of unnecessary and messy communication and a lack of documentation — and as a result, you’ll spend lots of time trying to make changes to the project without knowing what’s under the hood, while new team members will spend unnecessary time trying to figure out what’s happening in the code.
Having clear project documentation will make your team autonomous. Say you have a lead developer who knows absolutely everything about your project. What happens if they leave? When a problem arises, you won’t have anyone to ask what happened. Team members shouldn’t be irreplaceable, and planning and documentation help you make sure they aren’t.
Outsource your development
When it comes to the best ways to reduce time to market, outsourcing is one of the best options, especially if you don’t have your in-house team of developers. Sometimes businesses can spend more time looking for developers and other IT specialists than on development itself, while also having to bare the costs of hiring and retaining developers.
Outsourcing gives you an opportunity to get a whole team of developers, business analysts, quality assurance specialists and other professionals without having to worry about their sick leaves, day offs, vacations, taxes and so on.
Even if you have an in-house team, you can still use the outstaffing model, which basically allows you to get a specialist on any amount of hours you need. This specialist will join your team, bring their expertise and experience, and work on your product under your management.
Outsourcing is one of the best strategies to reduce time to market, as it saves businesses lots of time and effort on finding developers and allows them to allocate more resources to market digital products they create.
Outsourcing companies work with lots of different businesses, so they can also recommend the best ways to reduce time to market based on their experience.
Have a clear team structure
Waiting for someone to make a decision is one of the common bottlenecks in software development projects. When the responsibility for a product is shared by several stakeholders, it can be confusing for the team.
Your cooperation strategy should be in place from the get-go. Decide which team members are responsible for each part of the project so that the team members can quickly get a response when an urgent decision is needed.
If you develop your software with the help of a software development vendor, for example, the development and project management is usually their responsibility: a project manager makes sure the development team delivers code on time and according to the technical specifications. However, as the client you should also have your representative in the team who will influence development according to current business needs. For larger projects, this role can be given to a product owner.
Plan your communication strategy early
When do you hold meetings with your team? How does your team communicate urgent issues with you? How often do they provide you with reports on what has been done? Along with the team structure, you should make sure your communication is effective.
Agree on communication methods early, keep reports in emails and discuss urgent issues in the corporate messenger, and hold meetings in a video conferencing app. Don’t overuse communication and involve all team members in absolutely all matters, as it can throw your release back by months.
Your communication strategy should follow your team structure so you can make decisions fast without having to check with people who aren’t responsible for them. However, team members should be informed about your decisions in a timely manner, as miscommunication can lead to the team working on something that isn’t relevant anymore.
Apply the lean startup strategy
The lean startup strategy doesn’t suit all types of products, but you can still apply lots of its principles — or even all of them — to get a fast market response and determine your further actions.
The lean startup strategy states that you don’t even need to build an MVP to learn if there’s market demand. Prototyping is your best friend: Create a demonstration of your product as fast as possible and then market it any way you see fit.
Some startups build a landing page and see how much traffic and how many emails of potential users they can collect after launching ads. Others send out cold emails and look at the response rate.
However, a lean startup isn’t so easy: Without a product, you need to have a clear hypothesis of your product’s main selling points and target audience. Then you can experiment until you find a strong demand and niche for your product. After that, your prototype should quickly evolve into a product that will start bringing in money.
Here are the main principles of a lean startup:
- Gather as much feedback as you can
- Integrate agile digital product development best practices
- Don’t build anything unless it’s absolutely necessary
- Create a prototype before building your actual product
- Deliver fast
- Simplify everything that can be simplified
- Don’t cling to a hypothesis, and be ready to throw ideas in the trash
Not every product can conquer the market by showing the audience a prototype, but you can definitely accelerate the process of building an MVP by applying these principles.
Start quality assurance early
Don’t wait for the last days before the product release to look for bugs, as fixing them can delay the release by weeks. Quality assurance should happen almost simultaneously with development, meaning that each part that’s developed should immediately be checked.
This will help you significantly reduce software product development time to market and end up with a product of predictable quality before the release. When the time for assembling the final build comes, you’ll just need to run final tests and fix minor issues without any delays.
Creating test documentation isn’t a waste of time either. Test documentation allows QA specialists to explore all user scenarios and thus makes the testing process more efficient and structured.
You should get rid of repetitive tasks as much as possible in both quality assurance and development. Implement continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) into your project to automate the assembling and checking of builds.
Automated tests can be costly to develop, but they save immense amounts of time, freeing your QA team from repetitive tasks and allowing them to focus on complex issues that require manual testing. If you can’t afford building tests yourself, use automated testing tools. They will not only accelerate your quality assurance process but will help you reduce the number of human errors.
If you just need to test your idea, use off-the-shelf solutions. For example, instead of building your own back end from scratch, you can use a backend as a service (BaaS) solution and reduce your software time to market. After you find your demand and niche, you’ll be able to create your own custom software that works for your audience.
Backend as a service may not be suitable for all software products, because it can limit your possibilities and functionality. Also, BaaS solutions are harder to control and customize than custom-developed backend infractructures.
Backend as a service solutions are based on cloud infrastructure and allow businesses to focus on their goals instead of spending time developing and supporting their backend infrastructure. Like any ready solutions, BaaS solutions come with less control over your back end and your hosted code.
For many products, however, BaaS is the best option, as you can test the waters without investing much in development. Besides, it gives you search, data storage, and user authentication functionality out of the box, so you don’t need to develop them either.
Here are some BaaS providers to choose from:
- AWS Amplify
- Azure Mobile apps
Use off-the-shelf solutions
When possible, you can use off-the-shelf solutions. You just need to be aware of all the restrictions that come with such products and be ready to invest in your own development when you see there’s potential on the market.
There are hundreds of on-demand software solutions for different types of businesses, from online shops to fitness centers and medical organizations. You can test your idea without investing lots of time and money, then build your own full-fledged solution.
This strategy won’t work for everyone because on most markets the standards for new products are so high that a simple low-quality prototype won’t cut it. Truly unique products like Uber, TikTok, and Telegram couldn’t be built with a no-code builder.
But if you want to create simple software for your own business like a shop, fitness club, or restaurant, you can try an off-the-shelf solution first and see whether your audience is interested in interacting with you in this way.
Success in business often depends on when you launch. A timely release can give your product a large boost, so businesses try everything to make their products go live as soon as possible.
Quick off-the-shelf solutions won’t work for businesses that want to disrupt the industry or create complex products, but there are ways to optimize development and release faster.
Planning, effective communication, and a clear team structure where everyone knows their responsibilities are the most important factors in a fast release.
Technical ways to accelerate development include using continuous integration and delivery, automated testing, early quality assurance, and backend as a service solutions that allow you to focus more on the user experience rather than on creating custom backend infrastructure.
If you want to learn more about how to speed up app development, or if you have a tight deadline right now, make sure to contact us.