1. Elevator pitch

What problem are you trying to solve?

You need to be able to describe what problem you're going to solve and make a legitimate case for the problem being genuine. Go out and talk to people and don’t stop until you've been convinced that the problem exists for someone other than yourself.

2. Target group

Who are you trying to solve the problem for?

You need to be sure of who you're solving the problem for in order to be able to research and test your hypothesis on the right people. Spend some time to understand more about them, their demographic, typical behaviour and attitudes towards the market you're entering and then build up detailed profiles about those people.

3. Market research

Is there sufficient market appetite?

Stop asking your friends and relatives if they think you've got a great idea (hint: they always will) and start talking to the people who you want as customers. Research the size of your market; use the internet, social media and stop people in the street if you have to. There's little point in solving one person's problem and it costing you a fortune in the process. Be brave and face the criticism – it’s a lot easier to change your plan before you’ve built any software.

4. Business goals

Focus on goals, not on features

Focus on defining the main project goals. Put metrics against them and try not to think in terms of ‘features’ or ‘technology’ at this stage - features and technologies are just facilitators for achieving your goals. Accept that it's OK not to know exactly what it is you're going to build and what technology you're going to use, because it would be a huge waste of time and money to pretend you do.


5. Your risk assessment

Identify and tackle risk early

Risk is everywhere and it's not possible or a good use of resources to mitigate against it all. Start by identifying different risks and categorise their severity so you can judge whether or not you need to mitigate against them and when you feel the risk is sufficiently high, consider what you're going to do to reduce it to an acceptable level. For instance, if there's a particularly high technical uncertainty in a core part of your proposition, you may choose to do some R&D to prove feasibility. Whatever you do, tackle anything high risk head on: leaving it to later will end in tears.

6. Your release plan

Plan an MVP with less than 50% of your budget

You know the least about what you're doing at the start of your project because the decisions you make are made with the least supporting evidence. Until you get your product in front of real users, every decision you make is an educated guess. It doesn't make sense to commit all your money to guesswork does it? So plan to get to market with a significant portion of your budget unallocated and then use that budget to improve your product based on data generated by real users.

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7. Your efficiency

Stop doing 'upfront anything'

It's natural to want to finalise everything upfront and to tie all the details down; some people like to wireframe an entire application, whilst others want to see visuals or to architect a ‘complete’ API before anything else is done. But it’s much more efficient, to make decisions about design and implementation only when you need to. It may feel counter-intuitive but by postponing decisions - creative, technical or otherwise - until absolutely necessary will result in more informed decisions and minimised waste.

8. Your adaptability

Be prepared to change direction

Never pretend to know what it is you're going to build until you can validate your hypothesis on your end users. You may think you know what the next killer 'feature' is but the real test is what your customers think. Prepare to be amazed by the feedback you'll receive and don't try to second guess what that will be. Instead, be prepared to change course, make sure you have created a process for embracing new, enlightening information and be able to react to it quickly. Don't dig in and insist the customer or the 'data' is wrong.

9. Your adaptability

Deliver early and incrementally

You've got a great idea but it won't amount to much if you don't get it to market before someone else steals your thunder. In a competitive world, it's all about getting to market as soon as possible and then responding quickly by delivering improvements to your service based on what you're learning from it's use. Remember that other organisations will always find it hard to regain the initiative or break into a new market when their competition (you) is always on the front foot.