When it comes to startups in software development, a strategic development plan is essential to success. Early-stage companies and startups, especially those in technology, can face many uncertainties and challenges. Strategic development planning and successful execution can help these businesses sustain long-term momentum and attract investors.
Most companies, however, struggle with successful strategy planning and implementation. In fact, only 67% of leaders believe their organization can develop a good strategy, and that number shrinks to 47% when asked if their company can successfully execute that strategy. At the same time, only 10% of organizations actually achieve two-thirds of their strategic goals.
Looking at the statistics, it’s clear that strategic development for any organization is a difficult feat. Only a minority of firms can achieve most of their goals. However, a lack of a strategic plan will likely result in inefficiencies, cash leakages, and potential failure.
The good news is that data is making it easier for startups to plan and manage their strategy.
Before crafting a strategic business plan
A business must have access to transparent data from all departments to craft a successful strategy. Startups that focus on software development have several rapidly growing departments they need to watch over, including the development team, marketing, accounting, and more. The development department, in particular, may end up being subdivided into specialized sections, including front-end development, back-end, and quality assurance.
Startups will also have a combination of full-time, part-time, and contract workers, giving the billing and HR departments a variety of employment statuses to oversee. Transparent data on operations and related expenses can help leaders develop budgets and timelines more accurately.
That said, startups also need to have set up clear communication channels. Less than 50% of managers get access to the strategic business plan, and it’s even less for non-managerial employees. It is important to have as much feedback from employees and managers as possible when developing and implementing a strategy.
Finally, many organizations use consultants and advanced software to provide personalized recommendations on their strategy. Advanced software that provides an overview of your projects and budgets can potentially offer personalized suggestions for optimization. Meanwhile, a consultant can help diagnose more challenging problems or find more efficient ways to implement solutions.
The 7-step strategic development process
Once the preliminaries have been resolved, work can begin on the strategic development plan. This 7-step process has been put together based on common best practices.
1. Select a framework
A framework is used to determine how communications will work and when to expect deliverables. Keeping a consistent framework will help you stay on track through the planning and execution process.
Most companies typically use an Agile framework, a methodology which focuses on continuous development and testing. There are many variations of Agile, and some popular examples include Scrum, Lean, and Kanban.
2. Decide on KPIs
The strategic objectives are determined next. These goals should be specific and have estimated timelines attached to them. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are then used to track your progress, and they are assigned to each specific objective. An important consideration is to set out how KPIs will be analyzed and how results will be communicated.
3. List the software requirements
In this step, the minimal viable product (MVP) for the strategic development software is committed to paper. The MVP will discuss the core features, desired interface, and other essential design factors of the software. The timeline and the order in which different features are enabled can also be estimated as part of this step.
4. Map technical requirements
The technical requirements for the project must be pin-pointed. A few sample questions are:
- What programming language will be used?
- What are the compatibility requirements?
- Does the workspace need certain software or hardware installations?
The technical choices are scrutinized at this point to ensure that the software does not become obsolete within a year or two.
5. Start development
At this stage, a more accurate timeline should take shape as unexpected challenges, software bugs, and other delays arise.
Buffer periods can be included in the original plan to take the time-cost of onboarding and delays into account. This can be a 20% increase in the time allotted to each part of the project.
6. Automate, test, repeat
As progress is made through the development process, procedures can be automated to save time and long-term costs. At the same time, new code or features should be tested frequently to quickly identify bugs and potential issues.
Strategic development is a continuous process, and it is common for the code to be optimized as new features are created.
7. Analyze data
Data is the key to tracking progress and evaluating feedback. It will also be critical to monitoring costs and searching for optimizations. Data should be analyzed frequently, as staying on top of potential issues can help ensure the strategic objectives are met.
Getting started with strategic development
In today’s competitive marketplace, it’s no longer enough to simply develop great products. Startups that create a plan and focus on implementation are far more likely to succeed and grow quickly.
Data, communication, and personalized recommendations are at the core of a solid strategic development process. They should be used to keep team members engaged and investors informed. The ultimate goal of which is to reach the strategic objectives on time and on budget.