Assessing Your Market Requirements – Do You Have What It Takes?

You have big ideas, but do you have what it takes to execute them? The answer can often be found with a bit of preparation and investigation. A market requirements document (MRD) expresses a customer’s requirements and desires for a product or services. Specific components of an MRD include the following:

  • Description of the product
  • Competing products
  • Target customers
  • Reasons for customers to choose this product over its competitors

A product manager typically develops the MRD as part of the product management or marketing process based on input from other departments within the organization, including engineering, finance, marketing, research and sales. It’s also a component of the organization’s business case, and its annual marketing plan will typically include portions of the MRD. The Product Development Assessment (PDA) developed by DRM Associates provides a review of the development processes used by organizations throughout the world. This review is based on 250 best practices that allow a product manager to identify specific strategies for implementing an MRD.

The product manager will provide the MRD to a software engineering outsourcing team and the product steering committee if the company has one. Conflict between the product manager and engineering department can occur when one party attempts to assume the other’s responsibilities regarding product development. For example, the product manager is responsible for what is developed and why, while engineering is responsible for how the product is developed.

The product manager must also ensure the organization can execute on the MRD. The challenges in this process may be categorized into time-to-market requirements, resource requirements and flexibility requirements. These requirements are generally common to all organizations, although the strategy for meeting these requirements can vary according to the organization’s size. In particular, a small business will typically use a more direct approach to develop a product from an MRD.

Time-to-Market Requirements

Time-to-market is especially critical for SaaS products. Tim Pullen, director at Saaspoint Consulting, says, “Firms cannot wait around for 18 months… to implement traditional software; they want a quick payback from their business consulting [programs].” Enterprises must determine if they’re able to meet various time-to-market restraints, while small business just need to ensure they can bring the product to market quickly enough to meet their business goal. The process for a rapid-to-market project includes several key requirements such as a clear understanding of the customer’s requirements from the beginning of the project. A software engineering outsourcing team may perform virtual product development early in the analysis phase to minimize the time need for physical mock-ups. Personnel and other resources must also be dedicated for the project to bring it to market quickly. Additional requirements for rapid product development include adding staff as needed to design the product in parallel with marketing it. Minimizing product development through the standardization reuse of designs is also an effective method of optimizing the product development process.

The product manager can implement several staffing strategies to minimize the product’s time-to-market, including the early involvement of personnel in multiple functional disciplines. The use of full-time personnel is also essential, as switching tasks slows down product development. If the necessary personnel and resources aren’t immediately available, it may be better in the long run to delay the start of the project. It’s also important to minimize transition delays when the product moves into production by maintaining the core product development team. This strategy allows the product manager to move resources more quickly to solve production problems and provide feedback directly to the development team.

Resource Requirements

An enterprise should assign personnel with the skill sets necessary to support each phase of product development. A small enterprise needs to focus on ensuring that it has the budget it will need to build and launch the product. NPD Solutions reports that product development frequently begins at the beginning of the fiscal year, without regard to the available resources or priorities of other projects. Furthermore, organizations often give little thought to the risk that a project poses, due to a lack of project planning.

The combination of these factors results in an over-commitment of development personnel by an average of 75 percent. In addition, the cost and schedule estimates of more than three-fourths of all product development projects are off by at least 10 percent. Finally, less than a fourth of all organizations have the resources needed to undertake all of their planned development projects.

Benchmarking can enable product managers to identify the key issues in resource planning and management that will minimize time-to-market. Best practices in benchmarking require an organization to develop an action plan to improve its product development process. This action plan should generally emphasize the concentration of resources on a small number of nearshore software development projects to get them done as quickly as possible. These resources may then be reassigned to the next project with the highest priority.

Another strategy for identifying key factors in the resource allocation for product development involves the level of those resources. A product manager can assume that development activities have a high priority if time-to-market is the organization’s primary objective. The organization must therefore maintain sufficient resources to support all open requirements, even if this means those resources aren’t completely committed at all times. The benefits of a faster time-to-market will typically outweigh the cost of a higher allocation of development resources in the case of SaaS products. The unit development cost of these SaaS products typically represents a large portion of the product’s cost, which implies that development resources should be sufficient to minimize downtime even when it delays other development activities.

Flexibility Requirements

An enterprise must minimize the number of open projects if it is to achieve the flexibility typically required to implement an MRD for a complex project like an SaaS product. This type of development environment requires product planning that largely considers each development project independently of the other projects. An enterprise’s decision to proceed with a particular project implies that it has a higher priority than any other project and will therefore receive the resources it needs to support its development.

Small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) with fewer than 50 people frequently plan development budget on a fiscal-year basis at a relatively constant level. The level of commitment for each project is usually low to accommodate multiple projects. The product plan for these organizations must include a strategy to guide the selection of development projects by defining the competitive strengths of each market. They must then establish the priority of each project and estimate the resources needed for its development. SMEs must also create a high-level schedule for these projects that balances resource requirements against the budget of the overall business plan.

Flexibility requirements for SaaS products also include scalability. SaaS customers typically need to scale up quickly once they determine the product meets their production needs. Luis Aburto, CEO for Scio, says, “Building successful, scalable SaaS applications requires more than Web development skills. It requires an understanding of the intricacies of building and operating highly scalable, multi-tenant architectures.”

Tiempo Development has more than 10 years of experience in nearshore software development, allowing us to deliver SaaS software on time and on budget. We also understand the issues our customers face in assessing their resources for executing on the MRD. Contact us today to find out what Tiempo can do for you.

About Tiempo Development

At Tiempo, we are making the business of software development easier and more affordable with a unique combination of a nearshore business model, agile methodology, and advanced talent management. Our Development teams engineer powerful technologies that align with the goals and strategies of our customers for both their internal and public-facing development initiatives. Tiempo’s proprietary agile product lifecycle management framework, the Tiempo Quality System or TQS, is composed of principals and best practices that ensure productive client and team interactions. The result is highly efficient software development that supports companies in launching software releases sooner without draining resources. To learn more please visit us at: www.tiempodev.com or contact Tiempo Development directly.