It’s impossible to pin down a price for a SaaS project because every business will have different requirements. Developing a Minimal Viable Product (MVP) can significantly reduce development costs. However, effective SaaS project management will still be critical for creating a viable, robust product your customers will love. Here’s what it takes to manage a SaaS project and how you can ensure you get the product your business needs.
Every SaaS application exists to add some benefit to the end-users life. Therefore, when working on a new application, the best way to ensure the product fits your vision and gets essential features is to develop a prototype.
What is a Prototype?
Prototypes are critical to removing some of the risks of developing a product because you can test your hypotheses and get feedback on improvements before making a significant investment. A prototype is not an MVP (Minimal Viable Product). Instead, it is an interactive mockup of what the end product could look like.
Prototypes are developed quickly so clients will have a better understanding of how the MVP will look and function. When developing the final product or MVP, the time spent on the prototype can accelerate development because developers only work on ideas that have been shown to meet the needs of the market.
Benefits of Prototyping
Prototyping is a low-cost method for transforming specifications into a visual representation that helps get all development team members on the same page.
Requirements are ratified, ideas are validated, and everyone understands the projects’ goals because they have a visual representation of what the software needs to do. Prototyping improves project agility, as modifications can be made quickly with minimal impact on the project’s cash reserves.
Agile software development is the latest project management methodology that breaks large, cumbersome projects into smaller, more manageable chunks. The design philosophy maximises value with more potential to deliver an exceptional product that precisely matches the customer’s needs.
Each stage of the development is completed in short bursts by small teams working in parallel on different aspects of the software. This iterative approach gives customers more opportunities to work closely with the development team, share their impressions, and provide feedback and input during the development.
Because customers have such a high degree of input during the design and development phase, the end result is guaranteed to be a product they will love.
How Does Agile Software Development Work?
Agile development projects are split up into smaller development cycles called sprints. Sprints can be assigned to different teams and worked on in parallel to significantly reduce development time and costs.
Once each sprint is complete, the customer can review the results and provide feedback before development begins on the next sprint.
This iterative approach to SaaS project development significantly increases the team’s agility. When changes are required, they only impact one development cycle or can be rolled back to a previous version.
There is also the added advantage of customers being more involved in guiding the project, which helps the development team deliver a product that exactly fits their needs and wants.
How is Agile Development Different From the Waterfall Method?
The Waterfall project management methodology has been around almost as long as coding has been a thing, so it’s interesting to compare the old with the new when it comes to managing SaaS projects.
Waterfall project management is so named because every project stage is completed in steps. The team does not start the next step until the previous one is complete. Steps in the Waterfall would go something like this:
- Requirements phase
- Design phase
- Implementation phase
- Testing phase
- Delivery phase
The Waterfall model is appropriate for some projects, so it’s still popular today and used in a wide range of industries. A construction project is a great example of the waterfall methodology in action.
A client discusses their building ideas with an architect, and the architect creates a visual representation for preview, feedback, and approval before construction commences. As you can imagine, the design phase is critical to the success of the project. It’s almost impossible to change parameters once a construction project is in full swing, or prohibitively expensive at best.
In a similar fashion, designing a SaaS project using the waterfall method gives clients plenty of opportunities for input during the initial requirements phase, but once the project is in motion they are generally not consulted until the implementation phase.
The waterfall development team follows a rigid protocol with no opportunities to adapt to a customer’s changing requirements. There’s a lot of hope pinned on the client still loving the project when it comes time for delivery, and the potential for months of work to go down the drain is real.
Agile development does away with assumptions about what the customer wants. Instead, they are an active part of the development through every stage. When project managers want to know if they are on the right track, all they need do is ask the stakeholders.
Agile Software Development Principles and Benefits
Agile software development measures the project’s success by accurately delivering on the customer’s needs. This is made possible through the stakeholder’s continued feedback and collaboration.
The development team and customers enjoy a range of benefits through agile development, including:
- A more motivated team
- Improved teamwork and collaboration
- More control over budget and project duration
- Customer feedback is included in the development process for improved satisfaction
Agility improves adaptability because each sprint allows the development team to quickly pivot according to changing customer needs. Software developers do not have to undo months of progress because of a minor change or new feature request.
The testing phase of SaaS project management covers a broad spectrum to ensure high-quality deliverables that meet the expected requirements. Testing will cover areas like business logic, security, privacy, data integration, interface compatibility, performance, and scalability, to name a few.
Why Testing is Important
Inadequate testing usually results in a flood of early adopters overwhelming a support team with requests for help. Customers will put up with a few minor glitches, but significant errors that make it into the launch product will significantly increase your churn rate and create a less than stellar reputation on review sites. In short, it’s critical to your cash flow that paying customers are not the first time you hear about performance issues.
What Gets Tested
Various validation tests are necessary to ensure your Saas project delivers on expectations.
When word gets around, SaaS environments that don’t perform well often fare poorly in the marketing department. Therefore, testing performance should be a high priority for every area of the system.
The performance of the SaaS should also be scalable. How many customers does it service? Are current customers increasing the number of requests? Is there enough throughput or capacity for the system to cope with multiple clients making requests simultaneously, and can it continue to process transactions at a steady pace?
You can simulate real-world usage to ensure the SaaS software can handle the strain. For example, simulating a sudden surge of users, such as what usually follows a successful marketing campaign, will ensure new clients will have a positive onboarding experience.
Functional testing determines if the application is performing as required. Manual testing is performed within predefined or written test plans to validate the SaaS product will work as expected, with a heavy focus on user requirements.
One of the advantages most customers will expect with a SaaS product is to be able to run it from anywhere on whatever device they have handy. Not only will it need to run efficiently on various hardware such as Android Tablets, iPads, and laptops, it can also be accessed through different web browsers. It’s impossible to test for all hardware configurations, but you will want to ensure you cover most hardware options your target market uses.
Giving your customs further customisation options with third-party APIs will make your SaaS product more competitive. Therefore, API interface testing is essential to ensure your product maintains high standards in safety, reliability, and performance when customers use add-ons.
A SaaS application needs to be protected from the usual suspects in web vulnerabilities, such as SQL injection, as a web-based product. Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) and Cross-Site Request Forgery.
Testing Best Practices
Create a thorough test plan in advance, as this will create less chance you miss something during this critical phase of SaaS development.
Perform regular security checks. Security is even more critical when migrating the product or integrating third-party applications.
Do load and stress tests frequently, such as adding users from various sources and creating requests to see how well your SaaS product handles the stress.
We place a lot of emphasis on testing at Flying Donkey. Similar to our development process, testing is also iterative. For example, if your SaaS includes a five-step automated process, we will test each step and only start on the next when we know the current one is working.
This process makes pinpointing errors a lot more straightforward and cost-effective. When the entire process is complete, further testing ensures that all steps work together holistically.
The production phase is about deploying and maintaining the SaaS application, including product delivery and server checking. Monitoring software allows you to keep tabs on the software’s performance, so you can quickly get on top of any issues that arise.
Your customers will need some help with onboarding, which is why the production phase also involves the creation of user manuals and technical documentation.
SaaS products are dynamic entities that evolve according to the changing demands and needs of its customers. The environment in which SaaS is used is constantly changing as well.
Products that work fine on iOS, Android devices, and web browsers right now are likely to eventually become incompatible with these operating environments. Regular updates are essential for ensuring the continued compatibility of your SaaS product.
The production phase is usually when subscribers come on board and generate cash flow. Make sure your marketing team has started getting the word out a little while before completion. In general, marketing campaigns should be full-steam ahead when the project reaches 90% completion. Getting in early, but not too early, can help generate some enthusiasm around your product and motivate people to subscribe.
At Flying Donkey, we don’t ride off into the sunset once your SaaS product has been successfully deployed. We consider our clients our business partners, and we always make ourselves available to them. We can produce complete documentation, even if that means getting in front of a camera or creating a comprehensive user manual to support your SaaS product. We can even help you deliver the best customer experience by providing professional help desk or in-person training.
Once your SaaS project goes live, customers will always need some support to ensure they get the most out of your product. Some people may not fully understand a feature, bugs could make themselves known, and servers may go down for maintenance. Any one of these instances will be reason enough for your customers to get in touch or ask for help.
The support phase is not just a bug finding and hand holding mission, it’s also time to focus on building out the roadmap for new features. We cycle back to the prototype stage where the iterative design process can begin anew. This time with the advantage of real-world analytics to guide some of our design decisions
A SaaS project is a significant investment in time and money, which means you will be relying on it for years to come. At Flying Donkey, we understand how a good SaaS product can be the foundation for your business growth, so we strive to develop long-term partnerships with our clients. Get your SaaS project created with the confidence that you will always have professional support available long after the initial deployment.
So if you need help to build out your SaaS product or development team, then just get in touch now.