The ultimate software development guide for the non-technical founder | Digital Asia
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As a non-technical founder, don’t let lack of technical skills hold you back from building the next unicorn
Skype’s beta version was built by three Estonian developers. Slack outsourced its mobile app development and even their logo. Alibaba, Etsy, Mahalo, Snapchat, Pinterest, and Amazon were all founded by non-technical business people who didn’t know how to code. Do you think Jack Ma was a pro at coding? No. Or Evan Spiegel? No. He dropped out of Stanford and founded Snapchat!
The point is non-technical founders can develop software provided they have a promising concept. Coding is not a skill that can be learned overnight. But what you can do is thoroughly research the market, test your ideas through focus groups and get the right resources in place to successfully execute your plan.
Outsourcing increases productivity at relatively reduced costs. Outsourcing can save companies as much as 60%, found a study by Intetics. It’s easy to outsource the development of your software globally. The trick lies in finding the right software outsourcing partner.
1. Don’t complicate your idea
Developing a software is an exciting process. But you must be extremely clear about the purpose it will serve to your target audience. And you can only fix a goal once you have conducted a proper market research. Take three to six months to study the market, identify the loopholes and how your software can possibly fill them. What pain points does your audience face?
Remember — your software application is not a Swiss Army Knife. It isn’t supposed to fulfill numerous functions — at least not at the initial stage. Keep one core value offering. It’s great to be ambitious but narrow down your vision. You can always expand the scope of your software as and when its popularity grows and demands increase.
2. Start learning how to code
Since you are a novice in the world of coding, it is best to start frequenting websites such as Quora, Hacker News, GitHub, PC World, and Wired. The information will prove to be invaluable to help you decide whether to build an in-house team or outsource the development.
There are plenty of high-quality resources such as Udacity, EdX, Code Academy and more on the internet that can help you learn to code for free. Join code bootcamps. They effectively help in learning programming.
You may not do the actual coding, but it is essential to stay abreast with the terminologies used in the software domain, such as sprints, SCRUM, agile, MVP and iteration.
An additional advantage being, you know the timelines for the product development at each step. This reduces extensions and mistakes.
3. Create a visual roadmap
A great way to realise your vision and to limit any risk revolving around it is by creating a roadmap. Determine what wonders your software will accomplish in the market for your business. Work on a high-level strategy that includes dev process, costing, and more.
Speak to industry experts if you don’t know from where to start. You can use any of the affordable and easy to use prototyping and workflow tools like Proto, LucidChart or Adobe XD. More importantly, they will make long-term planning easier and help you quickly validate your concepts.
The average software application development budget is between $50,000 and $100,000 – depending upon whether you choose your in-house team to create the software or outsource it to an agency. However, with the right process and execution, you can optimize your costs and also raise capital.
Give ample time to test the efficiency of your software, make changes and repeat. No product is perfect in one go. And your software won’t be an exception either.
Also read: 6 tips for building a successful software development team
4. Calculate your ROI
The ROI depends on your business model – which gets fixed only after conducting market research and evaluating your monetary resources. If you haven’t done your homework, it is a bit difficult to estimate a number which your software will make.
Therefore, create a measurement plan. Identify functions of a business that cost – such as app development, infrastructure, marketing, customer services and app maintenance. Make the metrics measurable. Keep aside a few monetary resources as a part of your contingency plan.
The most important thing to remember is, you can’t just build a software application, onboard a few customers, earn some revenue and put a full stop. Your target audience needs and market trends change and technologies evolve, and therefore your software should also be flexible enough to pivot in that direction.
5. Find an outsourcing partner
27% of businesses opt for outsourcing just so they can reduce their expenses, reveals an Intetics study. Outsourcing is a viable option for non-technical founders if there a knowledge gap. End-to-end processes are taken care off, including software application testing and future iterations by a well-trained talent pool.
Outsourcing app development will help create time for you to prepare for software launch and post-launch activities. If you are experiencing a shortage of time, your outsourcing partner can build a software without compromising on the quality because that’s what their major SLA is.
The three things you should look for in a software development partner are:
a. Price or quality: Software developing partners fall into either of the two categories – price-first or quality-first.
The price-first vendors’ expertise lies in finding the right resources and quickly deploying the solution. Transactionally focussed, these vendors provide fixed-quote deliverables. This works well for developing a minimum viable product or products with a limited scope.
Quality-first partners are comparatively expensive and best suited for complex or critical long-term projects.
b. Security: For companies handling private data, it is imperative to opt for partners with international certifications for data privacy. Reputed software development partners generally meet the certification requirements.
Ask for case studies where they worked with clients having trade secrets and how did the vendor handle the client security. Clarify the security issues beforehand to avoid disasters in the future.
c. Testing the agency: Each software outsourcing company has unique strong points. The following core questions will ensure that the partner will be a good cultural and methodical fit for your project and brand:
- What has been your previous experience with software outsourcing projects with foreign companies in our domain? Has the vendor worked with similar kind of clients in the past, were the services valuable and efficient? Ask for 2-3 references to prevent being the vendor’s first foreign client.
- Which are the most crucial risks in a client-software outsourcing partner and how do you manage it? Gives you an idea about the development agencies’ real experience and what they care the most about in the relationship.
- What are your strengths and how are you different from the other players in the industry? This helps you gauge the strengths and quirks of the vendor.
Onboarding a software outsourcing vendor who is an overall fit for your company is of utmost importance.
As a non-technical founder, don’t let the lack of technical skills hold you back from building the next unicorn. Keep a regular eye on the software development and evaluate the progress at each stage to provide constant feedback and checking the quality. If you are truly committed to your idea, you will find a way to make it work.
Working with a software outsourcing vendor enables you to focus on other areas that require your time, attention and expertise. There are so many valuable aspects of a technology business, such as preparing a marketing strategy, implementation the launch, building a user base, gaining feedback and striking partnerships while the development is still going on.
If you are truly committed to your idea, you will find a way to make it work. Focus on the skills you possess and let the development company do their job.
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