Product Development: bringing an idea to life

Agile software development comprises various approaches to software development under which requirements and solutions evolve through the collaborative effort of self-organizing and cross-functional teams and their customer/end user.It advocates adaptive planning, evolutionary development, early delivery, and continual improvement, and it encourages rapid and flexible response to change.

As a product manager, Agile development has been integral for me to create a software startup. Products built through Agile development are designed to receive immediate feedback from consumers. This feature ensures that the product will adapt to the market accurately and efficiently. With this data, I can see rather than guess what arising issues will be by analyzing consumers’ demands. Agile development’s main advantage is its scrum framework.

Scrum describes a set of meetings, tools, and roles that work in concert to help teams build their organizational structure and manage their work. The strength of scrum is transparency, inspection, and adaptation. The transparency results from the ease at which everyone can see the overall deliverable. Inspection is built in because the cross-functional team helps keep everyone in check. Adaptation stems from the fast and continuous feedback loops that keep the project on task despite any variances. Ultimately, scrum’s processes culminate in a framework that uses sprints.

Sprints are continuous development cycles, in which a planned amount of work must be completed in a set time and reviewed by a team. Typically from start to finish, sprints are executed within one to four weeks.

All of this had sounded very complicated to me at first. But I found that once I planned out the steps, I was able to start developing my product.

Planning:

Technical:

In the planning stage of the scrum, my team and I discussed our goals and the best way to fulfill the customers’ wants. For the software portion, my team and I analyzed the appearance of the website (frontend), the data that would be used and stored (backend), and assigned jobs for each team member. Once the project was broken down into smaller parts, the team was able to discover the minimum viable product (MVP) that would satisfy consumers.

Once the MVP was approved, we began planning our sprints. We established both the time frame for the sprint and methods to test our work. We used this time frame as a guide to build the other parts of our business too. We had to align business opportunities with the development of the product. We needed to decide the right time to market.

Marketing:

The marketing stage is a mixture of market research and outreach. Research gave us a basic idea of the market size, government regulations, social media influencers, and competitors in our industry. Our goal was to complete a SWOT analysis to determine the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to our product.

With the SWOT analysis completed, we then identified the consumers who were likely to be interested in our product. We attended events and reached out to influencers in order to build a following. The goal was to get a conversation going about the product so that users would be willing to test cases. If any potential stakeholders had specifications for the products, we provided data and a space for them to give us feedback These clients helped shape the project.

Leadership:

An overlooked but important part of the project is leadership. We provided team members with responsibilities and allowed them to complete tasks in the way they felt was best. We made plans to meet with teammates each day to hear their concerns and suggestions. Those who take responsibility can lead the team when necessary, but it is vital to remind everyone of the scope of their portion of the project.

Budgeting:

Once all the basic culture and norms were established from the planning, we then discussed the project’s cost. We had to project a budget while keeping various scenarios in mind. We felt it was best to calculate the lead time with the allocated budget and allow at least a ten to twenty percent factor of safety. For example, if our budget had been one hundred dollars, we would do our lead time calculations with eighty or ninety dollars.

Always leave room for unexpected contingencies.

Useful Tools:

Here are some useful free tools that can help product managers keep track of their products build phase:

Gantt Charts are a bar chart that illustrates a project’s schedule. It shows the interdependent relationships between activities and the current schedule status. With this, the entire team can see the tasks that need to be executed, and it helps calculate lead and lag times.

GitHub is a code hosting website where programmers can host their code for the team to see. It allows the repositories to merge the different branches of coders together and provides a master branch where the working updated code should be hosted upon approval. Having a branch where creators can test all of the code written before pushing to master is crucial.

Trello is a web-based Kanban board style list-making application. Kanban boards depict work at various stages of a process using cards to represent work items and columns to represent each stage of the process. Cards are moved from left to right to show progress and help coordinate teams performing that task. The Trello board can then be used to help track everyone’s work. A simple model to follow is to have a Task List, In-Progress List, Delayed List, and Completed List. Move each task as it flows through the work cycle. I found the combination of the Gantt chart and Trello board is an organized way of keeping the team on track.

Slack is a cloud-based proprietary instant messaging platform. It is an easy way for teammates to exchange information. Communication is key, and Slack helps get the messages across.

InVision is a platform that enables web design and sharing. Even before coding is complete, users can visualize how their website would function. This creates a clearer picture that can be communicated to the developers without losing time.

Business model Canvas:

Business Model Canvas is a strategic management and lean startup template for developing new or documenting existing business models. It is a chart that illustrates a firm or product’s value proposition, infrastructure, customers, and finances. This tool allows firms to align their activities by illustrating potential trade-offs.

I have found these tools extremely useful for communicating and tracking the team’s progress. But the best part about the ones mentioned above is that they are FREE to use!

Typical Day:

Within the first hour of the day, I would have a standup with the team. At this time, team members would talk about what they worked on yesterday, what they are working on today, and what they plan on doing tomorrow. They would also bring up concerns if they need help. We try to keep judgment and patronization out of these discussions. This is when we assess which part of the project needs more resources.

After standup is completed, my time would typically alternate between meetings and updating the tasks. I would read the users/clients’ input and relate that information back to the appropriate team. Our goal is to improve workflow so that issues are resolved as smoothly as possible.

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Problem solver with experience in Software, and Mechanical engineering. Interested in web-dev, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and new technologies.

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Avitosh Totaram

Avitosh Totaram

Problem solver with experience in Software, and Mechanical engineering. Interested in web-dev, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and new technologies.

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