Fernando Parra is Pollenizer’s Product Manager. It’s been a big year for Fernando and the Engineering Team. They’ve been at work building the Startup Science app – a solution enabling Startup Founders and Innovation Managers to measure and manage new growth in their companies. Building an app can be a daunting task, so we asked Fernando to share his 10 tips on how to make progress whilst doing this.
- First, validate that your app is solving a real customer problem. If you build a beautifully designed app with flawless UX, but it doesn’t help a customer problem, then your app may have difficulty getting traction. Start talking to potential users before you start building. Validate that the problem exists and that there are a segment of individuals affected, as this segment will form the basis of your target market.
- Envision the app on paper, then build this using digital tools you know well. You need to be able to visualise what the solution will look like. Getting it out on paper is a quick and easy way to do this. For example, if part of your app is a dashboard, sketch this on paper. Then find a digital tool you already know quite well (i.e. Powerpoint) and use this to build a simple prototype. By this point, you’ve effectively created an MVP that you can test with customers.
- Be well versed to work with a developer. It’s important to have a basic understanding of programming. By knowing basic programming concepts and terminology, you’ll be able to better articulate your needs and ideas on how you’ll execute your app (i.e. “To develop this marketplace, we are inclined to adopt React.js because…”) . As a result, you’ll attract better developers to your project, and it’ll be easier for you to work with them.
- Keep it simple. Clearly identify what the “must haves” are in your app, and what are peripheral features. This will help prioritise tasks in your team. It will also make your core value offering clearer to users.
- Balance “I need to do it right” vs “I need to get it done”. Be careful of paralysis by analysis. Be comfortable with taking two steps forward, one step back.
- Don’t outsource your app. Find a partner who believes in the same idea. By outsourcing your app, you expose yourself to the risk of accepting tradeoffs, resulting in reduced quality software. If you don’t have a relationship with the developer, your project may be less of a priority and timelines may be pushed back. If you’re a tech company, this app would be part of core competency, so you would need to partner with someone with a vested interest in your idea. This way, you’d be more likely to have someone that is motivated to build something new and scalable, without compromising quality or taking shortcuts.
- Rather than adopting technology as a means to an end, place it at the center of your unique value proposition and develop it as your unfair advantage. For example: Amazon is not just an e-commerce platform. Tesla is not just a car manufacturer. Partner up with talented people who you believe can deliver more than the MVP of today. Look for skills in technologies of the future such as Machine Learning, VR/AR, Internet of Things and Blockchain. Ask them to pitch to you about how your idea can scale, if they were to build your app adopting the latest technology trends in their field.
- It’s not going to go smoothly. Make peace with this fact. Just be prepared for this and be flexible.
- Have a deadline. If you do have a deadline, stick to it or you risk dragging it out. Deadlines help break your workflow into chunks, so you’re always moving forward.
- Use product roadmaps. A product roadmap is the plan for building your solution.. It’s where you define key milestones important to building your app. There is no predefined way to designing a roadmap but it defined by your objectives. You might get anxious as you might want to build things all the time. A product roadmap will help you work on what’s important. This isn’t a waterfall approach to app development, but treat your product roadmap as a collection of assumptions around your app that eventually start materialising.
Overall, to make progress, keep fixed on the goal. It doesn’t matter if it isn’t going to plan, or the execution isn’t right. Just keep moving. React quickly to unexpected situations that may arise. Don’t overbake it. Be prepared to learn a lot and enjoy the ride!
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Fernando Parra joined Pollenizer as the Product Manager of Startup Science. Before Pollenizer, he was responsible for coaching to early stage companies through programs like NEXT and Lean Startup Machine in Buenos Aires. Fernando's vast technology experience has seen him working closely with global consulting firms like Microstrategy, Accenture, and KPMG doing research and analytics.