When Justin Shane was launching his first business, Apple was just launching the first iPhone, Facebook was only a few years old, and the app store didn't even exist yet. Based on the technological advances we've made, that all seems a lifetime ago. Today, Shane and his cousin Garrett Lang spend their days at Softserv (aka software services) designing and developing engaging turnkey desktop, web, and mobile applications that push the boundaries of innovation.
The Rules of Product Development Are Continuous
I do a lot of product features, profiles, and breakdowns in this column, but what about desktop, web, and mobile app development? These are products as well, and products that we all rely heavily on, to keep our lives (and businesses) running smoothly. What I've found, in my years of aligning with, and sometimes really battling, tech and software, is that product development, whether you are dealing in software or hard goods, carries a lot of similarities.
So Why Does It All Seem So Mysterious?
There are so many misdirections and myths; and so much bad information, or perceptions that don't align with the reality of what it takes to create an application, and to be able to monetize it. According to Shane, onboarding new clients almost always begins with educating them on the realities of software and application development, the actual costs involved, the timelines that are realistic, and even the difficulties of monetization. "Ethically, I can't bring a company in and inflate their entrepreneurship ego, without also sharing with them the truth about what they can expect once we begin the development process." The reason, Shane believes, people are relying heavily on myths is the lack of solid, consistent, and strong information out there, something the Softserv team is working hard to change.
The Ongoing Time Plus Cost of Product Development
In my day-to-day world, I find myself repeating this messaging often: product development is never a one and done type situation. According to Shane, software product development is the same. Between software updates, making sure coding is up to date, web development, app development, and staying on top of the massive amount of constant change the tech world experiences, is a never ending cycle.
I'm sure we all would love to put on rosy glasses and sell our clients a one-time superstar development package, but any company offering this should be a definite red flag.
With any development, you want developers who are willing to go through those updates with you, experience the ups-and-downs with you, not someone who wants to take the money and run.
The Top 3 Myths of Software Product Development
Shane learned plenty of lessons along the way, as he pivoted and delved deeper into the world of software services, so I knew he could help us dispel the most common software product development myths, to save you and your business time and money.
Price. Speaking of money, let's talk about price because this is the most misunderstood portion of the development process. If you want a long-term, monetized application, there will be ongoing costs. And if you are bouncing around between services, platforms, etc, the cost will be more. I think people see the price tag on custom software development and they start trying to cut those corners first, but in the long run, it always ends up costing more.
Time. Everyone thinks they're sitting on the million dollar idea, and even if they are, those still take time to get right. The things that often get skipped in taking the right amount of time to build out a solid strategy are the things that really matter. Shane referenced a lesson he learned early on with his own launch. "Looking back, we should have first focused on a strategy that build the aspect of our platform we could monetize first, because that would have made things so much easier. But we were in a hurry, and we just didn't build that element first, or even second ... or third. Now, when clients come in, we give them a realistic timeline, talk about realistic deadlines, and walk them through the planning process we rely on to avoid big misses."
First In, First Out. A big way development corners are cut is with the technology platform: there's a new exciting platform or technology, it hasn't been fully tested long-term, it doesn't have the backing of a large entity we know is here to stay, and when that collapses, the entrepreneurs are the ones picking up the pieces. Start on a stable technology platform, develop in technology that isn't going anywhere. And if something happens and you need to hire new developers, it will be much easier to find an expert, well versed in your technology.
Much of what Shane and his team at Softserv offer clients, is very similar to the product design process I talk about every day. I really wanted to point this out because I have so many tech-minded readers and entrepreneurs who will, at some point, begin down this path, and it's so important to understand how things really work. I hope these misconceptions and dispelled myths encourage you to begin with proof, and a strong team, and put in the time to build out your million dollar idea the right way.