To Build or Not to Build: 5 Tips to a Successful App or SaaS Product

by
David Romeo
and
Brett Grosvenor

There is an App for everything, and just about everyone is using them. There were 204 Billion, yes BILLION, app downloads worldwide in 2019. This is a 45 percent increase since 2016. Whether it is a dating app like Bumble, a fitness app like Wakeout, Apple iPhone’s app of the year, or an app you never knew you needed—like RunPee, which tells you the best time to go run to pee during a movie—chances are you’ve downloaded an app recently. Businesses capitalize on this trend by developing their own Apps/SaaS products to serve hundreds and thousands or even millions of customers or for much smaller niche groups of users.

Here at Allata, we don’t subscribe to a one size fits all approach when it comes to App/SaaS development. Over the years, we have partnered with our trusted clients on hundreds of commercial software platforms from ideation to launch and beyond. The platforms we have helped build serve audiences ranging from small, targeted groups of business users to hundreds of thousands of marketable customers. We’ve seen it all, and we’ve learned that it’s imperative to spend time understanding your goals and where you are in your development journey.  

Here are five tips that will make or break your App or SaaS product:

Do You Need To Build It?

Building and maintaining software is not for the faint of heart. It takes time, people, and money. Before you start building any new software product or platform, ask yourself and your team why you’re creating the product. Gaining a competitive advantage or creating a new revenue stream are the only two reasons to build a new app/SaaS product. If the proposed app or platform does neither of those, see if you can buy or license pre-existing software. Don’t waste time and energy building things when you can buy ERP and CRM packages straight off the shelf.

Customer Experience

It’s all about your users. Defining your customer base and customer objectives is one of the most critical factors in designing an app or software platform. You can create customer personas to help build toward your audience. Prove your thinking early on in the process before too much code is written via short design sprints and rapid prototyping. If you don’t understand your audience or their needs, your platform will have limited success.

Speed to Market

Remember, great minds often think alike. This means you need to assume that other organizations or people may be working on a similar solution, especially if you are building a monetizable software platform. Keep your technology flexible in order to build, test and deploy your product quickly. You can start with an MTP (Minimally Testable Product) to get something out to market so you can start testing and learning right away.

Feedback Loops

How many times have we seen a client put a ‘killer’ feature in an app only to find out it is not important to their users? Let’s just say it happens to the best designers and developers all the time. Creating focus groups to gather feedback with every software release will help you learn valuable lessons and find out what’s important to users and what’s not. Build these feedback loops into your software development cycles to be able to use what you learn.

Plan for the long term

Building the software is just the first half of the battle. You want your App/SaaS to stand the test of time, which means once your software is live, you must keep it updated, make regular improvements and ensure it is maintained. Do not, I repeat, do not start down the path if you are not ready for this part. This will require, among other things, a great team of people to make it happen. You will either need to hire that team or partner with an organization that can take ownership of the ongoing development and long-term support. Your App is your baby, and someone has to raise it.

Our clients regularly come to us to help them build Apps or SaaS products because they know we can put these five tips into action. When the pandemic hit, we were able to do just that for one of our charter clients, the Freeman Companies. As a world leader in the live events and brand experience industry, they knew they had to pivot—and fast—when the industry ground to a standstill because of COVID-19. They used the slowdown to realize their vision for a new entirely online digital experience.  

With our help, Freeman was able to evaluate commercially available features and look at the possibility of integrating a suite of apps. We were also able to help them increase their speed to market. In eight short weeks, they successfully launched their digital live event platform, allowing them to shift their business from physical events with live interaction to a true digital event. By following the tips we laid out here, a tireless team of Allatians worked to make Freeman successful, and I couldn’t be prouder. I know they will be ready for the next challenge that comes our way.  

At Allata, our mission is to inspire our clients to achieve their most strategic goals. Let us better your business through better technology. Reach out today, and let’s talk about what we can build together.

David Romeo

David Romeo is a Vice President for Allata and is based in Dallas/Forth Worth. He has spent the last 10 years providing technology solutions and architecture in a variety of industries, including retail, healthcare, financial services, and logistics. Prior to Allata, David was a Senior Manager at Pariveda Solutions where he was responsible for project delivery, solution architecture and thought leadership. David’s passion in technology includes Cloud Architecture, Identity and SSO, MicroServices and event driven systems. David has a daughter with his loving wife and enjoys golfing in his time away.

Brett Grosvenor

Brett Grosvenor is a Senior Principal for Allata and resides in Abilene, TX. Brett has over 10 years of experience delivering custom software solutions for a variety of industries with a primary focus on full-stack web development. Prior to Allata, Brett was a Senior Manager at Pariveda Solutions where he led multiple high-performing teams throughout the entire Software Development Life Cycle. Brett is an avid golfer, die-hard Texas Rangers fan, and loves spending time with his wife, young son, and numerous pets.

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