10.07.2018

MVP Development: What To Expect Before We Begin?

Article by
author
Marta Brzosko
7 min read

In this post, we are laying out the practices we employ prior to MVP development process. You will know exactly what to expect from us: from the moment we get in touch for the first time, up until signing the contract.

What information do we need from you in the beginning?

What kind of assets can we offer you before the development?

How do we estimate project duration & budget?

How do we use the agile methodology to plan the roadmap with you?

We answer all these (and more) questions below. If you will still have doubts about our working process, you can always contact us directly. We are always excited to hear from you!

***

If you are now looking into your MVP development options, there is a scenario that might sound familiar to you:

You have an idea. It is either an idea to scale your business, transform it or offer a brand new service, based on a custom web or mobile app. In any case, you are looking for a development agency to bring your business concept to life.

Unless you are lucky enough to have a friend recommend you a software house they worked with – you likely start with a Google search. You might type phrases like “reliable web design agency”, “mobile app development” or “custom software development” – depending on what the core of your idea is.

Soon enough, you find that the options are abundant – you get hundreds of thousands of results in Google search. Skimming through the offers, you try to make sense of which software agency is worth contacting. But how can you possibly assess that?

Are their services within my budget? What kind of information will they need from me? What will be the next steps after exchanging first emails? What is their working process like? These are possibly some of the questions popping into your head.

Talking to our clients and prospects, we realized that there is a common struggle, shared by first-time founders as well as entrepreneurs with decades of experience. When approaching a new software development agency, everyone wants to know what to expect. And more often than not, the process of working with an agency reveals itself only as the work progresses.

In other words: there is not enough information for product owners about working processes of software agencies.

Recognizing this problem, we decided to walk you through our pre-development process, step by step. By the end of this article, you will have a full understanding of what to expect if you decide to contact us about your MVP idea.

Q1: What information do we need before beginning MVP development?

We can start working on your MVP with a minimum amount of information and help you figure out the rest as we go along. Knowing that, be aware that the more specifications and materials you deliver – the faster we will be able to proceed. Having more information right from the beginning also improves the accuracy of our time & costs estimations later on.

“Concept informs implementation.” – Jarek Ziembiński, PM at Ideamotive

Ideally, when approaching us for the first time, you would send us a brief of your product idea. It doesn’t have to be a massive document – but what we find very helpful is to have your MVP idea written down. Even if the brief contains just a few sentences.

If you also have any type of wireframes or mock-ups – by all means, send them! Even hand-drawn, they make things a lot clearer and help us understand how you envision your digital product. But if you don’t have any materials of this kind – don’t worry about it too much. We can always work on that together during our workshops (read more about them below).

Once you express your interest in working with us, we will want to learn more about you, your business and your MVP idea. In order to get to know you, we will schedule a Discovery Call, free of charge.

What is the Discovery Call about?

The Discovery Call is our first meeting when we exchange basic information about our businesses. We are excited to hear from you – as well as explain our agile development philosophy.

Be prepared to answer a set of questions from us! What we ask you during the Discovery Call usually falls into two categories.

First, we want to understand your business model and mission, as well as the goals you are trying to achieve with your MVP. This round of questions might include some of the following:

  • What is your mission/vision/context in which you operate?
  • What is the purpose of the product/service you are trying to create?
  • Which market demand is it answering?
  • Who are your customers?
  • Who is your main competitor?
  • Who is going to be the product owner representing you throughout the development?

Second, we would like to focus on your experience with building digital products and the practical aspects of our future work together:

  • What is your experience of working with external contractors?
  • Have you ever worked with a software development agency before?
  • Are you familiar with agile?
  • Do you have any materials in place? (e.g. sketches, user stories, wireframes, mock-ups)
  • When would you like to start?
  • What is your estimated budget for this project and how are you funding it?

Once we have an idea of what you are trying to achieve and how – we will introduce you to the specifics of our agile workflow. We want to make sure that you understand:

  • why we charge you based on time & materials,
  • the way we organise the scope of work into milestones & epics,
  • the way we track and document our progress in JIRA and Confluence,
  • what it means that we work in iterations,
  • our system for staying within budget.

The Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA)

To protect sensitive information about your business, and the MVP idea in particular, we usually sign a mutual Non-Disclosure Agreement. The NDA aims to protect both yours and our business. We believe that it is important to establish a sense of trust between us right from the beginning.

To request a template of our NDA document, contact us here.

Q2: What additional assistance can you expect?

Even if you come to us with MVP development in mind – this is just one among many services and assets that we can offer you. It is common among our clients that they need some extra assistance, other than just coding down their MVP idea.

Often, they don’t expect that services such as business consulting, user research, optimizing business processes or product team workshop can come from a software house. But because Ideamotive has come a long way in the digital business world, we can offer you those additional deliverables.

This is because our ultimate objective is not really to build your MVP; it is to scale your business.

You bring the idea. We’ll bring our business and technical expertise to make it a reality.

Project Manager assigned to you

Each of our clients gets a project manager assigned to their project. He helps you keep things organised and stay on track with all the updates – which are numerous and frequent in agile software development.

You will meet your project manager already during the Discovery Call. He is responsible for gathering your product requirements, as well as documenting the outcomes of all the meetings. Additionally, he will be in charge of guiding you through our communication and tracking system if you decide to stay with us for longer.

Running  workshops

Before getting started with your MVP development, we need a complete set of information. This includes the questions we ask during the Discovery Call – and more. For example, we might need to envision the general principles of the algorithm, assess technical or legal feasibility, and so on.

This often requires holding workshops that involve product owner (client), project manager, UX designer and lead developer. We treat these workshops as a collective thinking process, during which everyone is encouraged to ask questions and think of possible solutions. The ultimate goal of such sessions  is to come up with enough detail about your MVP to be able to:

  • Create the product design specification,
  • Work out an estimation of time & costs required to build your MVP.

Designing wireframes/mock-ups of your MVP

Additionally to the workshops, we might offer some visual deliverables, such as low-fidelity wireframes and mock-ups. This is the best way of making sure that we are all on the same page when comes to envisioning the MVP we are about to develop!

Visualizing your product at such an early stage of our work together has numerous benefits. The most important ones are:

  • Clarification of your product’s features,
  • Pushing usability to the forefront of priorities,
  • Making the whole design process iterative – which saves tons of time.

You can read more about the advantages of wireframes here.

User & Market Research

Sometimes you and we struggle during the workshops and/or have a hard time envisioning your MVP in the form of wireframes or mock-ups. This might mean that we simply lack information about users or markets that we want to target.

In this case, we will offer you a user and/or market research, to deepen our collective knowledge about the context in which we are going to create your MVP. This may include researching your competition, creating user stories or conducting a basic survey to understand user needs and market demands better.

Business consultancy

MVP development is often connected to some bigger shifts in your business. For most entrepreneurs, an MVP usually means either starting a new business or revamping the one that they already have. In both cases, holding the big picture of business objectives in mind is crucial.

We have worked with numerous clients to whom the asset created by us became the core of their business. Therefore we understand that MVP development is more efficient and scalable when carried out with long-term objectives and roadmap in mind.

If you want us to, we will be happy to get involved in optimizing/automating your business processes, helping you design a roadmap or conducting an audit of your existing assets. We also have experience in leveraging the potential of numerous start-ups (read more in our Case Studies).

NOTE: All the above services may be paid or unpaid during the pre-development phase of our cooperation. It all depends on the scope of work required for us to deliver them.

Q3: How will we estimate your project (time & cost-wise)?

If you know the basics of agile, you will understand that estimating time & costs of projects is a crucial part of our work. The first estimation needs to happen way before we sign a contract – but after we know your project requirements well enough. Here is how we go about it.

The first step is holding an Estimation Workshop with you. This usually takes 1-3 calls, depending on a number of factors. The primary objective of the workshop is to collect enough data to put together a product design specification, which is the starting point for making estimations.

During the Estimation Workshop, we usually touch upon five main areas of your MVP:

  • General vision of how your product will be used,
  • Identifying possible problems in regard to technology, marketing or legal issues,
  • Brainstorming solutions and their implementation,
  • Envisioning technicalities of the system architecture,
  • Thinking about the marketing

After arriving at a solid specification of your MVP, it is time for our team to make estimations. We need to assess the scope of work required to complete the project. This brings us to think of well-defined milestones and epics that would be the building blocks of our work. We also assess how many developers it would take to build your MVP.

Once we consider all the above – we arrive at an estimation of a number of hours we would need to build your product. This is the time estimation, which we need to make in the first place.

Based on that, we then proceed to calculate the costs. We bill our clients based on the man-hours spent on the project and materials we need to purchase to complete the work (such as server fees, graphics, fonts, etc.). Therefore, the estimation of the costs is a direct function of the estimated man-hours it will take to build your MVP – topped up by the price of assets we would need to buy.

Keep in mind that an estimation is not fortune-telling and it can change (e.g. if you modify the product requirements) throughout the development. Having said that, we do have our trusted practices to maximize the accuracy of our estimations:

  • We involve product owners in the estimation process. Their business knowledge allows us to be more realistic.
  • We invite UX designers and the project manager to estimate together with the developers. The diversity of perspectives allows us to expose potential
  • We divide tasks into near-term and long-term. This is crucial not just for increased accuracy, but also getting the priority list right.
  • We use story points to assess the complexity of tasks. To read more about how this works, go here.
  • We learn from previous projects that involved the similar scope of work.

Q4: How will we plan for your MVP development?

Provided that all the pre-development preparations go well and you are interested in creating your MVP with us – we will set out to prepare a roadmap of the development process. Of course, we will do this in the spirit of agile! This means that we will gradually break the work down into more graspable chunks.

We begin with defining the milestones which are the consecutive versions of your MVP. Each milestone will be achieved by a number of iterations, or sprints – the defined timeframes in which the development takes place.

Every milestone will be broken down into epics, which are shippable pieces of your product. An epic is usually focused around developing a specific feature of your MVP – such as creating user dashboard or adding a new payment method.

Finally, all the epics will consist of well-defined tasks, assigned to particular developers in our product backlog.

***

What we really do before getting started on your MVP development are two things:

  1. Understanding your business model and MVP idea, so that we are on the same page as you.
  2. Creating an agile roadmap for the development process, which is backed by product design specification and time & cost estimations.

When taking these two major steps, we want your input – as much of it as possible. First, because it is about your business – and who would know your business needs better than you? Second, because we believe in the power of collaboration, which is at the heart of agile.

Do you have more questions about our pre-development or development process? Write to us, and we will be happy to answer them.

author

Marta Brzosko

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We are software developement house located in the hearth of Europe - Warsaw, Poland. Our main areas of expertise include Ruby on Rails, React and React Native.

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