Software development is a field with many myths.
Here's three, following by a myth busting extract from an application development tasks list.
There's the myth of a first mover advantage. Very few successful IT companies were first in their field. Not Google for search engines, not Microsoft for PC operating systems, not Apple for phones or digital music players, and the list goes on.
Then there's the myth that business planning is redundant. This one had its glorious day in the sun ten years ago in the "dot com boom". Those who invested without plans were scorched.
Finally there's the myth that if you build it customers will come. So many software ventures build it, finally, and then discover they have too little cash, strategy or content for marketing. Others discover they've built an app for a market over-crowded with suppliers, too small to generate sufficient returns or even with nothing special to brag about. The jargon for that last one includes no competitive advantage, no unique selling proposition, and to quote the great Muddy Water, no mojo working.
Beginning a software venture with a plan helps dispel myths before everyone gets lost in the details.
There's certainly a genuine concern to avoid analysis paralysis in planning work. But that's not a justification for avoiding even a plan in bullet points over say 2 to 5 pages of writing.
Which brings us to an illustration about using an action plan or tasks list. A basic version of this might be a table with three colums. These columns can be populated with task descriptions, then who will attend to specific tasks, and finally a target date, budget cost estimate or other key observations.
For a client, yesterday I prepared a major iPhone and iPad software development tasks list. In this four page list I wrote 31 tasks in a table format. From venture start-up to app launch it lists, prioritises, allocates and costs the following:
tasks for intellectual property legal agreements, IP registrations, and record keeping
tasks for proprietary company incorporation and shareholders agreements
tasks for programmers, including for prototype development, market testing, and repurposing for Android devices
tasks for software and venture market research and launch marketing, including creation of website, blog content, video demos, and social media presence
After emailing the tasks list to him, I called my client to explain why item 2 in the tasks list was so detailed. I've reproduced item 2 below.
As you've read so far, dear reader, you don't need that telephone explanation. If you've been wondering why a lawyer is doing an app development start-up task list the answer is because in some projects we deliver integrated legal and consultancy advice. Here endeth today's epistle.
2. Create software development project plan, bullet point business plan, and description of module functionality. To meet the launch deadline in the first quarter of 2012, this work should be conducted in parallel with tasks above and below. This will involve discussions with Apple, Inc.
Consider Basecamp - www.basecamphq.com for project management tasks below.
Planning for the software:
(a) Project file management
(b) Pricing and financial plan
(c) Product testing and pilot
Planning for the venture:
(d) Customer needs analysis and detailing the core functions of the product for SMEs and how SMEs would use or migrate to the software
(e) Functionality market research for release version and upgrade path for future versions
(f) Market testing via customer interviews and round table sessions, app market segmentation, competitor analysis (creating folders profiling each), & identifying partners
(g) Project file management
(h) Team register - list team members and their contacts to identify name, contact details, skills and relevance to venture
(i) Product information architecture and workflow
(j) Gantt chart for project scheduling to target launch date
(k) Begin thinking through the marketing action plan
Photo credit: iPhone photos of Apple Store on George Street in Sydney.