At Blueprint technologies, one of our key practice areas is application development. We find that many do not understand the basics of application development, nor do they properly estimate the benefits of a strong application development practice. We interviewed our Software Development Lead and application development expert, Andrew Redman, to help answer some of the most asked questions.
What do we mean when we talk about application development?
At its core, application development is just what it sounds like — developing an application or set of applications to solve a business problem. That’s really the important part, the applications must solve a business problem and create value for the business. The value can come in the form of profit or process improvements that create efficiencies. When we map workflows on a whiteboard and draw boxes and arrows to map out a current process, the application development team will say, “We can automate this box, this box and this box and take all of those boxes out of the flow.” The functions represented by those boxes still occur, but they do so automatically, with no manual intervention.
What is Blueprint’s perspective on application development?
In a typical development cycle, requirements are gathered, prototypes are designed and solutions are tested, implemented and integrated. At Blueprint we include all those steps in our process, but we don’t work on the typical timeline. Rather than take months for gathering requirements and testing, we narrow our focus tightly on problems that can be addressed immediately or almost immediately. We still perform all the design, testing and integration work that needs to be done — you can’t skip those steps — but when you have the right development scope, it tightens those steps.
How do you shrink that timeline?
Our focus is on building something that delivers a high amount of value relative to the time it takes to launch. A lot of people call that a proof of concept, a minimum viable product or, my favorite term, a minimum lovable product (MLP). We take that MLP idea and we focus specifically on delivering that piece of functionality. Once it’s been delivered, the user can see real value demonstrated immediately. We then ask the question, “What’s the next most valuable functionality?”
We often find that as the users adopt an application and recognize value, their initial requirements for their overall application development strategy will change. New ideas will spring from the new experience and changing business conditions. By delivering in shorter cycles, we get benefit and value into the users’ hands in the real world. Usually the experience with the new application will drive new features and opportunities for expansion, and Blueprint then focuses tightly on those new quick-to-value solutions.
What is the main components of an effective application development practice?
The first component of Blueprint’s approach is the teams we build. We hire only the most talented people who also have a singular focus on delivering value as quickly as possible. The right people make a huge difference, and you can’t succeed without them. And those people must be great at solving problems and solving them in a way that adds value for the user. At their core, developers are problem solvers.
If you have a leak in your roof, you have a lot of options. You can hire a contractor to replace the roof and that will cost you tens of thousands of dollars, but it will definitely solve your problem. You could also put a bucket beneath the leak to catch the water and that could solve your problem for almost nothing. Neither of those options add the value that you want. I’d go with a third option, hiring a contractor to patch the roof, which should stop the leak without costing nearly as much as a new roof.
Your application development team has to have that mindset and always be looking for that solution that drives the most value relative to cost, in terms of money or time invested.
What risks do organizations take by not investing in application development?
The biggest risk is that you’re never going to have applications designed specifically for your organization and environment, and that is going to hamper your future success.
When faced with the need for a business application all companies want a great solution, but many don’t want to reinvent the wheel. While it’s true that you don’t need to rebuild everything from scratch every time, when you purchase an off-the-shelf application, you know you’re forgoing any kind of special processes that might later prove to be a key differentiator or integral part of the business. You’re accepting an average solution, usually one that every one of your competitors has, and you’re using it in the same manner. That’s not going to make you more competitive. With an average, off-the-shelf application your possibilities will always be stuck in a box.
Not only would a strong application development practice have kept you out of that box, it can also get you out of a box if you find yourself in one. A strong application development team can build solutions to get you off the constrictive, and often costly, purchased applications by providing you a means to run your application exactly as you need to, both for the present and the future.
For example, we worked with a client in the South Central region that was leasing a product for over $100,000 per year, increasing with the number of transactions run through the application. We built them a custom application that met all their present needs and easily allowed for future growth, which they would then own, for the cost of one year of their current application. That was a pretty easy decision on their part.
Forward-thinking application development can be a major business differentiator. Blueprint Technologies is here to help architect your next application with growth in mind.