How to Improve Time-to-market for your Applications

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Getting applications to market is a common objective for any tech-enabled company. While the motive may vary, some obvious benefits are seen in capturing revenue, sales, staying ahead of the competition in the marketplace and maintaining pole position as a market leader. Making improvements in your time to market can also improve the complete process of management.

When you effectively reduce time to market, the overall focus needs driving towards the development process. For some managerial roles, this can often be misconstrued to be pushing development team to increased hours, but while that might improve the quantity of work in the short term, this isn’t a practical solution for the long run.

Another consideration is knowing which projects are sped up, as no two projects are the same. Some projects that typically have a higher level of uncertainty can often be hard to speed up, and the solutions may lie in calculating a project risk profile to access the priority. IT as a whole is under extreme pressure to get everything completed, and while the overall goal is to deliver solutions rapidly and achieve business goals be met, what good is having a product reach the market faster when the wrong product gets released?

While it may seem simple, sometimes stripping back the process to look at the operational side of your project could prove vital. Collaborative developments such as Agile methodologies (like Scrum) will facilitate the application requirements between both the IT professionals and ultimately the end users. When end users engage during application development as a process, you have less concern about not delivering what the business expects, and meet those needs the first time. These aids a smooth transition from development to production in a much more streamlined and quicker way.

As the team evolves the project development, an increase in efficiency will be required. Independent tasks can operate in a multitasking fashion. For example, various features should execute while test scenarios are under construction. Don’t wait until completed development before creating a test environment; always push the team to split parallel tasks that best match their role-specific talents.

When it comes to enhancing business apps, there’s a tendency to go for the “big win” by changing the application too much, and coming up with too many new features with every update. For reliability and speed purposes, you instead need to adopt an incremental approach, where you develop skilled and controllable enhancements and bug fixes that provide immediate value to your users. Prioritize your “wish list” of feature sets, and better manage and plan the updates that will go future releases. Get buy-in from other departments and build and create an enhancements schedule.

Prototype tools for apps are a fundamental way that allows both users and developers to experience the feel of the apps as they develop. A simple must-have for test drives and comments on the functionality of the application pre-production, as this makes it easier to adjust where and if required. It’s surprising how many errors in data and reports of end-user trouble are generated, all because of a simple oversight in navigation and screen, or even report design. Taking time to get this step right the first time will ensure you have the best opportunity to get your apps accepted when placed into production.

When quality is considered, it is equally important from a technical performance and usability standpoint to ensure you conduct a thorough Quality Assurance assessment on your application. You can reduce or halt IT’s programming time being taken up with software maintenance when the app doesn’t do what it was supposed too, all because the quality wasn’t thoroughly checked. Apps should be tested to be working correctly first-time every time, with mistakes brought down to a minimum, or picked up by a good QA process.

More and more companies seem to be pushing product to the marketplace without getting the basics into place, and another common mistake is not testing the performance for regression. How do you know an app will be able to withstand the transactional load you are throwing at it without testing? How do you know how compatible your application is if you haven’t tested the software it is expected to be used in conjunction with? There is nothing like embarrassment in the face of an IT department when regression testing slips through the net, and avoidable application breakdown occurs.

Training is also a common area that can accidentally be forgotten, as it is effortless to assume that everyone has the same capabilities and understanding within the industry. User training, however, should be a considered task on every application. If a business user hasn’t been given the appropriate training on how they should use an app, then frustrations will occur when they end up calling IT support staff that cannot answer an inquiry within a reasonable time frame or with some conviction.

Modular design structure should always be used with applications, enabling a developer to debug or test specific routines without having to cover the entire program. This method also offers a code that is short and easy to understand, requires less code to be written, and as subroutines or functions are localized enables errors to be identified and resolved.

Once the above areas have been implemented, it’s time to focus on the actual increase in the speed of development. Other automated processes should be put into the development cycle, including environment provisioning, data or API mocking; builds management; and standards enforcement. For instance, automated deployment solutions give DevOps a repeatable process, so engineers have more time to focus on crafting new and improved features. Another example is release automation tools that organize workflow as software moves between development phases to production and testing. Using such tools will undoubtedly speed up the process, but they also minimize the potential for human errors.

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