How to Prioritize Your App Development Project

By Bobby Gill on August 6, 2019

The old Aesop fable of the tortoise versus the hare has a couple of good lessons that apply to app development prioritization. One being that slow and steady wins the race. The other is that despite the biological advantage the hare possessed over his opponent, his brash arrogance and poor decisions lead to his failure.

The moral in the story couldn’t be truer in business, whether it’s company growth or projects on a smaller scale, such as app development. Growth is good but without the infrastructure to handle the extra requirements this creates for an organization, it instead morphs into a catalyst for a collapse. Moving too quickly on a project causes its own unique set of problems which is why prioritization is key to a successful outcome.

Goals vs Reality: An App Development Story

There is a big discord in the reality of what a team of app developers can accomplish versus the expectations. It’s like a drama that goes straight to video shelves – there’s a grandeur love that suddenly blossoms between two people, someone drops the ball with expectations, there’s a fall out then a happy reunion. It’s the kind of movie you fall asleep to but don’t bother finishing it because it’s just one big cliché.

In software development, the same kinds of problems can occur when there is a failure with setting expectations and boundaries. By failing to communicate between all parties – not just the directives set by product managers and IT managers – this creates friction among various teams.

Poor communication between developers, management, stakeholders and other teams can:

Create challenging or impossible timelines. Great leaders can sell a vision and get everyone giddy about the next project. Naturally, good team players feel motivated and dive into the process. The problem this can cause is that some will either overestimate their capacity to deliver or are too charmed by leaders to think about the timeline they derive. Tensions will raise when deadlines are pushed back or not met and the team can lose motivation.

Increase risk and costs. Delays in a project not only can decrease morale, but the costs can also prove crippling. Without a clear measure of value for the features, this can lead to lead poor projections and a slow ROI which has long term consequences. If there isn’t a clear focus on the most feasible features for an initial launch. Planning to determine a minimum viable product (MVP) that can be tested in the real world will help define direction, allowing the project to be broken into manageable segments.

Lose a user base. If you’re in the middle of binge-watching a show on Netflix but the service goes down, what do you do? Most switch to Hulu or some other service. Should a perception manifest that the service goes down all the time, many will eventually cancel their subscription, go to a competitor and figure out some other way to watch Stranger Things. When you fail to prioritize maintenance and patching or triaging and resolving bugs, users will get frustrated and seek an alternative solution.

Devalue your project. A first launch doesn’t have to have all the features you intend to include. By trying to cram everything in at once, all of the problems become far more likely to surface. Too, when the features that are launched don’t feel polished, users might not stick around for newer features and may shy away from purchasing premium features. From here, the financial projections won’t meet their mark. The only thing worse than having these difficult conversations with investors is telling a child you need to cancel a trip to Disney Land!

App development best practices in prioritization

To keep developers from rage quitting, teams working productively and the project on track, there are a few tips to consider when strategizing. Make sure you:

Develop a roadmap through collaboration. Everyone needs to be on the same page – while it’s generating excitement is useful, don’t allow the dust that gets kicked up cloud discussions. Open up communication channels between developers, management, and stakeholders to generate deliverables on a realistic timeframe. Take advantage of software like Asana or other workflow solutions to plugin your roadmap as this creates visibility, allowing team members to coordinate activities and identify issues before they snowball into substantial problems. This will help fine-tune prioritization as well as allow teams to quickly mitigate bugs among other pain points.

Prioritize features for the MVP. Consider what features are needed to attract an initial user base by analyzing potential value. Look at competitor products and consider what you will bring to the table by improving on an existing design or bringing innovation to the market. Figure out what presents the least risk and work these elements into the first incarnation of your software.

Define a framework and test software with a thorough QA process. Among feature development, there will be problems that will arise with code, underlying dependencies and of course, the “unknown unknowns.” These need to be addressed to ensure the UI/UX is compatible at every installation point, security is locked down, and features work as intended. One of the best ways to accomplish this feat is with a framework to objectively classify bugs as high-priority issues should take precedence over other tasks, such as developing new features.

Obstacles are addressed and confronted early. When a problem surfaces that could create delays, it should be discussed as soon as possible. It’s better to plan for these kinds of issues so there isn’t a sudden, costly halt in the development process. Make sure developers are comfortable communicating problems to get issues out in the open as soon as possible. This allows everyone to pivot and minimize – or hopefully eliminate! – any negative consequences.

Adapt to feedback and build incrementally. Those in retail might argue the validity of the phrase “the customer is always right” – certainly, this fact doesn’t always hold up but the consumer experience and feedback are necessary to understand how to make improvements. Once the application is launched, analyze what features are used the most use. Keep track of user reviews to learn what they like and don’t like. Use this information to fix or change features as well as to strategize the timeline of deploying new features.

Use in-app analytics to track how people use the app. It’s critical to take advantage of analytics solutions like Firebase, MixPanel, Flurry, or a package of your choice to measure how users are interacting with the app. Doing so provides a couple of benefits, such as revealing problematic areas that might fall outside the boundaries of a “traditional” bug. Data also shows engagement which is useful when determining and prioritizing new features during the next round of development. These solutions are easy to deploy for almost any effort and also assist developer communication which enables teams to quickly pivot and minimize – or hopefully eliminate! – any negative consequences.

Touch base with Blue Label Labs for your development needs

At Blue Label Labs, we understand the necessity of creating a sound strategy to build an effective app. Without proper planning and great communication, an app development project can turn into a financial burden rather than positively impact revenue.

Get in touch with us to learn how our prioritization-centered development process can turn into a profitable app for your organization!