Biju Chandrasekharan, President and CEO, ByteWave Digital Inc.
In my previous article, “Five Tips For Making Your Company’s App A Success,” I broke down my top app-building tips for entrepreneurs and business owners. However, given how complex building an app can be, I wanted to take a deeper dive into this topic.
Below is my app-development playbook leaders can use to build a business-to-consumer app. The playbook looks at the three phases of app development and is designed to achieve the following three business objectives:
1. Increase speed time to market.
2. Minimize upfront investment.
3. Build a need.
The Phases Of App Development
1. The Prototype: As the saying goes seeing is believing. The primary goal of building a prototype is to translate an idea into a visual representation as quickly as possible with minimal investment. A prototype allows for efficient collaboration with potential customers to get their feedback before building the final product.
I also consider a prototype to be the best way to gain credibility and convince a venture capitalist to fund a project. As part of a well-developed prototype, you can expect to see the entire customer experience and sample data, which gives the prototype a more finished look.
Simply put, a well-designed and developed prototype can reduce communication gaps and, as a result, reduce the last-minute changes that can creep in during the later stages of development. In my experience, a good collaborative team using agile development can likely expect to build a prototype in three to six weeks.
And remember: The prototype phase cannot be skipped. In other words, before starting either of the MVP versions below, prototyping needs to be completed.
2. The Minimum Viable Product (Silver): Congratulations on building a successful prototype! You’re now in Phase 2, which means your fundamental goal is to take the prototype and convert it into an app. During this phase, the focus will be to prioritize the essential features of the app and launch it to pilot customers. By “essential features,” I mean you should build only the bare minimum of elements required to prove that your app is indeed valuable to customers. In other words, the focus will be on must-have features, and nice-to-have features will move to the back-burner.
It would be best to build apps for both Google Play and the App Store to test both markets. Besides the essential business features, other essential features that can positively impact customers include social media sign-in, payment integration, Google analytics and customer support. Also, an idea management solution designed to allow customers to voice their opinions on the app, share new ideas and rate ideas should be implemented.
Finally, a landing page on the company’s website to build excitement on the upcoming releases and refreshing marketing assets on social media can be very impactful. Ideally, this phase should be completed in nine to 12 weeks, with three planned incremental releases during this period.
3. Minimum Viable Product (Gold): Ideally, by this time, you have gained some active and satisfied customers, and your pilot is a success. Customers have started to voice their opinions, and you have collected a list of new feature requests and modifications to the existing ones through the idea management system you implemented in the MVP silver phase. Overall, the app is (hopefully) showing signs of success.
In the MVP gold phase, your focus should be to get the app to the next level in terms of additional features, enhancements, business intelligence, security, scalability and usability because this will help you compete and win in the marketplace.
Other key features might include:
• Multifactor and biometric authentication.
• Live chat, including video.
• Service level agreement-based customer support.
• Integration with additional third-party systems or services.
• Direct data sharing through the app
• Calendar integration, reports and dashboards.
• A/B testing of important features.
• Selective offline capabilities.
• A customer loyalty program.
• Web-based administration.
Similar to the MVP silver phase, this phase should also be completed in nine to 12 weeks, with three incremental releases during this period.
Putting It All Together
As you can see, there are a few best practices you can keep in mind as you build your B2C app. Remember: Even if you have enough funding to build the gold MVP directly, I would still urge you to build in phases, hit the market fast and test the waters. If you are going to fail, fail quickly, learn and move on. Furthermore, implement the idea management system to capture the voice of the customer and prioritize what needs to be built next. Also, use this data to back your business case for funding and budgeting purposes.
Finally, I would like to reemphasize that the phase-based development playbook can help you achieve your business objectives and ensure that you are developing an app that quickly hits the market, minimizes upfront investment and is flexible enough to allow for pivoting when needed. This approach also allows you to reduce your risks if the idea does not yield the expected results.
Forbes Business Council is the foremost growth and networking organization for business owners and leaders. Do I qualify?
Biju Chandrasekharan, President and CEO, ByteWave Digital Inc. Read Biju Chandrasekharan’s full executive profile here.