6 Significant Custom App Development Risks and How to Mitigate Them

custom app development risks

Creating a custom app can lead to huge payoffs for your business. Given the potential benefits, enterprises and startups alike are eager to develop custom applications that help them achieve their business objectives.

So what’s the problem? Risk is inherent to the software development process. You can’t eliminate it entirely. The good news is that time and experience have told us what many of the risks are. When we know the risks, it’s absolutely possible to mitigate them. It’s also possible to use your risk mitigation activities to generate measurable ROI for your business.

At Distillery, we’re strongly focused on doing all we can to reduce risk, create ROI, and ensure our clients’ success. With that in mind, below are six of the most significant risks we see in the custom app development process. We’re proud of our ability to help our clients avoid these risks, as well as many others. For each risk, we examine the problem and provide practical guidance on how to avoid it.

custom app

What’s the Problem?

You have an idea for an amazing custom app. Your creative juices flowing, you come up with all sorts of ideas for features and functionalities you want to include. You ask your development team to build all these features, because you assume your users will want them.

The problem is that you don’t yet know what your users really want. If you go too big right out of the gate, you risk wasting time and money building features nobody really cares about.

Creating custom software can be an expensive and time-consuming endeavor. That said, if you direct your efforts thoughtfully and strategically, you can cut costs and save time. That’s why it’s crucial to invest your development efforts where they’re most likely to provide measurable ROI — by building only the features your users actually want.

How Do I Avoid It?

Focus your development efforts on building a realistic V1 of your app — your minimum viable product, or MVP. Launching your MVP gets it in your users’ hands, so that they can tell you which features are needed and which aren’t. This lets you iterate and adjust while you continue to gather user feedback. That way, you direct development efforts where they’ll matter most, delivering the most ROI.

To be clear, the «minimum» in MVP doesn’t always mean you’re building something small. We aren’t advocating that you build something so slight it doesn’t serve its stated purpose. On the contrary, the goal is to start by finding the smallest way to solve your users’ problem. You begin there, and then start iterating as needed.
custom app development risks

What’s the Problem?

You want your custom app to be perfect right away, make you a bunch of money, win over thousands of users, and provide optimum value to those users ASAP.

Does this all sound too good to be true? That’s because it is. Setting unrealistic goals for your app sets you up for failure. That’s why it’s important to step back and think about what you want most from V1 of your app. That way, you can create realistic goals that are genuinely within reach.

How Do I Avoid It?

Begin by working with your development partner to agree on what success looks like. In this context, «success» represents goals that are realistic and attainable for the app you’re building and the timeframe you’re building it in. For example, maybe success for you is:

  • Streamlined internal processes that improve your operational efficiency
  • Acquiring a large user base as quickly as possible
  • Being able to monetize right away

The important thing to remember is that your definition of success can’t include ALL of these goals at once. That’s neither realistic nor attainable.

Once you’ve agreed on what «success» looks like for your app, focus on working with your development partner to create a V1 MVP that helps you achieve those goals, generating the ROI you seek.
product strategy

What’s the Problem?

You’ve got a strong vision for your app. You feel ready to start building.

The problem is that even the strongest vision won’t help you turn your product into a reality. Before you build, you need to do the work to translate your vision into a well-thought-out product strategy.

Your product strategy creates a framework that helps you understand everything you’ll do to build your custom app. It has an overarching effect on every feature and functionality you include.

How Do I Avoid It?

Work with your development team to create a strategy that encompasses everything you need to do to build your application. Your strategy should align with your overall business goals and objectives, meeting the needs of your business and your users.

What does a product strategy for a custom app look like? It includes a diverse range of activities, including (but not limited to):

  • Defining a proposed product roadmap that describes your goals, growth plan (including defining your target market), and the development path you’ll take to make it all happen
  • Deciding how you’ll prioritize your investments in developing features (which features to build and when)
  • Developing a plan for performing competitive research
  • Assessing how market conditions or changing customer behavior may impact your product
  • Making a plan for how you’ll obtain user feedback
  • Developing a marketing plan to reach your app’s users
  • Planning for ongoing improvement and maintenance (software is never «done»)

app platform

What’s the Problem?

Native, responsive, cross-platform, or progressive? What’s the right choice for your custom app? It can be difficult to know which path to choose.

All platforms have pros and cons that impact what you’re trying to accomplish. Picking the right platform(s) for your app, business, and target users can make the difference between success and failure.

How Do I Avoid It?

Working in tandem with your development team, put some serious thought into which platform(s) you’re building for. Your development team can help you understand the technical advantages and limitations of each platform. In addition, it’s crucial to consider your users’ preferences. That’s why you should never base your decision solely on assumptions. Instead, validate your assumptions via user interviews and/or user research.

What’s the Problem?

Based on the development plan you’ve outlined, you assume that certain things are being built. If you don’t communicate with your team regularly, how will you know what they’re really building?

Too often, clients let themselves fall out of the communication loop. Unless you’re checking in regularly, this is bound to cause issues. To stay on track and avoid wasted efforts in the wrong directions, your development team needs frequent input and feedback from you.

How Do I Avoid It?

Communicate consistently and frequently, checking in regularly to review progress and resolve any issues. If at all possible, attend daily stand-ups with your development team. If that’s too much for you to manage, ensure at least one touchpoint every two weeks. For example, if your development team uses Agile/Scrum processes, you should participate in sprint reviews (generally every two weeks).
post launch

What’s the Problem?

You’re certain your app will be awesome. Surely, after you launch it, users will find it and love it. All it’ll take will be fixing a few bugs and adding a few new features. Right? Wrong.

Launch is just the beginning. When you launch your app, you need to plan for its big picture. That means thinking about your custom app as a holistic experience — as a business in and of itself. It means pre-launch planning for post-launch sustainability.

If you don’t plan adequately for post-launch, you’ll get crickets. Nobody wants crickets. What you want is ROI.

How Do I Avoid It?

For your custom app to be a success, you need to plan and drive efforts focused on generating ROI. Accordingly, well before launch, make a holistic post-launch plan that accounts for your app’s marketing, sales, customer service, and operational needs. For example, your plan may include:

  • Adding new features in Agile development
  • Creating a marketing plan to help people learn about your custom app
  • Increasing usability through testing or user feedback
  • Hiring a customer service or sales team, or formulating a plan that enables you to manage those functions yourself
  • Monitoring general application performance

Bottom line, it’s important to proactively plan for your app’s future. Your plan should be focused on driving regular progress that delivers measurable ROI and keeps your app moving forward. Don’t let those crickets anywhere near your app!

Want to learn more about how you can avoid risk and increase your custom app’s chances of success? Let us know!

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