Senior Marketing Manager
While every app development project comes with its own challenges, there are a few that tend to surface time and again, regardless of the nature of the project itself. This post looks at three of the most common app development challenges that will kill your project, and solutions that can help overcome them.
Product Delays & Budget Overruns
Delays are one of the most significant challenges faced by companies trying to get a product shipped. This problem is universal, but is particularly prevalent in larger-scale, complex projects. Delays happen for a variety of reasons, but are often a result of poor process, improper capacity planning, dependencies, and talent gaps.
Budget overruns are often explicitly tied to product delays. The “time is money” adage holds true in this scenario. The longer it takes you to release and the more waste you incur as a result, the higher the cost.
How To Deal With It
Product delays and budget overruns are not easily avoided, but there are ways to reduce time and budget risks in projects:
- Iterative Development: One of the biggest impediments to product success is trying to achieve absolute perfection with version one. The problem with this is that perfection is usually subjective, and aiming for it means you aren’t able to get to market quickly. It’s more effective to ship quickly and frequently, allowing you to continually improve based on user feedback.
- Capacity Planning (Predictable Velocity): Product delays and budget overruns are often the result of improper capacity planning. If you can’t accurately estimate team capacity, you can’t properly estimate time or budget. Creating a process that allows you to determine team capacity and compare it to the project requirements means you can predict velocity with a fair degree of accuracy. For example, our development team is structured into squads, each with its own known capacity which is expressed in story points. We break projects down into total story points, so we can estimate how much a team can accomplish within a given period of time.
- Flexibility: Inability to adapt to changing needs can have a huge impact on both time and budget. Building flexibility into your app development process helps you better manage both time and budget and adapt quickly as requirements evolve. As a result, you can maintain velocity.
“The longer it takes you to release and the more waste you incur as a result, the higher the cost.”
Lack Of In-House Experience/Talent Gaps
Many organizations (incorrectly) assume that they can use existing development and QA teams for mobile projects. In some cases, that could be true. But more often than not, there are talent gaps, particularly when employees are not trained as mobile developers. There also tends to be an assumption that in-house teams can learn the mobile technology quickly enough to meet the company’s mobile development needs. These assumptions can be harmful because developing a mobile app is an entirely different discipline, and like any other discipline, experience is crucial.
How To Deal With It
Generally speaking, there are two options: hire talent or source a specialized app development partner. When hiring new staff to fill talent gaps is too difficult operationally or isn’t the best option based on needs, sourcing a specialized partner is the logical move. However, you need to ensure the vendor you partner with can fill those talent gaps. Apart from project experience, you also want to look at aspects that include:
- Ability to integrate with your team
- The process of knowledge transfer and retention
- Experience with similar engagements
- Change management processes
- Overall development process
These considerations will allow you to account for concerns that include the ability to deliver on product requirements; the ability to manage and account for change; and the reduction of risk (time, budget, personnel, etc.).
“Developing a mobile app is an entirely different discipline, and like any other discipline, experience is crucial.”
Many Stakeholders With Differing Priorities
This is particularly difficult to deal with as changing priorities can throw off timelines, affect scope, and kill budgets. If you have a rigid app development process that doesn’t cope well with change, this challenge can have devastating consequences.
How To Deal With It
Effectively dealing with differing priorities and changing requirements comes down to being flexible and adaptable in your process. In particular, following practices like rolling wave planning which assume and account for change allows you to adapt on the fly without losing project velocity. As a result, when priorities or requirements shift as the product evolves or stakeholders re-evaluate, your team has the flexibility to pivot without wasting time or resources.
While there is no way to guarantee you don’t run into these common app development challenges, the solutions discussed above can help to significantly reduce the risk of them occurring. Remaining cognizant of the fact that issues are a reality of product development – and taking steps to account for this in your process and otherwise – will help you avoid the biggest blockers to product success.Mobile App Development, Product & Project Management