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How to communicate your ideas to a development company

This is Part one of our  Ship it fast, make it last series  that share  ideas and know-how for building  quality digital products

If you are building a new digital product or redesigning an old one you are probably in one of two camps: you are either doing it in-house or outsourcing it to a contractor or development company.  One of the biggest hurdles for business owners that choose the latter approach is ineffective communication.  Businesses and development companies often struggle to convey their ideas, messages and expectations, which usually ends up with a lot of wasted time, resources and a great deal of frustration among both sides. A study conducted by the Project Management Institute (PMI) revealed that ineffective communication is the cause for the failure of one-third of projects. However, by doing some homework upfront you could be better prepared next time when you knock on a development company’ s door to ask them to do a project together.

Be clear on the scope

Software development is a complex job that requires a great dose of niche skills and creativity. Just like building an automobile or a house there are a lot of materials, time and effort that goes into it.  You should be as much specific as possible about your product and idea. You should try to outline all the functional requirements that you expect at the completion of the work. Document every bit and small details in a concise and meaningful style. Identify all inputs and outputs: every process begins with some inputs that need to be transformed into specific outputs. Don’t be afraid to go visual: a picture is worth a thousand words. Prepare mock-ups or wireframes that communicate your design and functionality vision.

Create User Stories

Another popular way to communicate your idea without writing lengthy requirements documents is User Stories.  User Stories describe every feature of your product by focusing on your user. In order to prepare a user story you should be able to answer the following:  Know your user persona: who is using this specific functionality? What are their goals and priorities?  What value they get from using the feature and why should they use it? Focus on who, why, what? and leave the how? part open for suggestions from the development team. User stories convey ideas on a high level and do not contain enough detailed information. They should be used for  a starting point for more in-depth conversation between you and the development team

Think big but take small steps.

Think about whether you need a full-fledged product with a feature from day one or you could start with an MVP version or limited functionality. Developers are engineers by nature and as such appreciate simplicity and elegance in their solutions. Listen to their suggestions and input and you could save a lot of money and efforts in the long run.

Be clear on timeline and budget

When going for outsourcing, one of the biggest motivations is cost-optimization. Yet many businesses shy away to share their budget expectations for a project even in round figures. That creates a lot of mistrust and confusion from day one. The money talk is one of the hardest topics in business communications, but if asked by development company regarding your budget and what you expect for it, be open about it.  Most companies want your business so they would be receptive and open to some compromise (like narrowing the scope) even if you are below their budget threshold. Also, share your vision regarding the timeline and when you would like certain features of your product ready.  The earlier you clear those things out in the process and reach some agreement, the faster you could really focus on the parts that matter: developing and launching the product.

When working with an external development team, communication is a key. By following the simple tips from above you should get a headstart on the competition. In the mean-time got an idea for a project? Get in touch with us to start the communication.