We are taught from a young age that doing things right the first time is the best way to go. And so we go through life living by time-worn maxims:
Measure twice, cut once.
Slow and steady wins the race.
Haste makes waste.
These truths usually carry over to the world of software development. Our 20+ years of experience in software development shows us that solid processes and reasonable timelines offer your business the best chance of success.
But sometimes you don’t have the luxury of time, and you need to rush software development.
Your business needs to know when you need to hit the fast-forward button, and when speed will do more harm than good.
So let’s talk about four good business reasons to rush software development. Then, at the end of the post, we’ll discuss what to do if you’ve decided it’s rush hour.
Deadlines are funny things. They create urgency—sometimes for no good reason.
The deadlines that should cause you to rush aren’t the ones that come down by edict from the executive suite—they’re the ones that impact your company directly, that your company has no control over.
Last month, we worked with the Upstate SC Alliance in putting together its bid for Amazon’s second headquarters. The bids had a well publicized October 19 deadline. So when the Alliance approached us about putting together a website as part of its bid, we had no choice about the launch date—it had to be no later than October 19.
So we worked with the Alliance to figure out a website plan that could be built in two weeks or less, while also providing a memorable experience. The result is this site that met the deadline and accomplished the business goals.
When the external deadline won’t move, then you need to rush to meet it. And this means adjusting scope and developing processes to ensure the software deliverables are actually deliverable by the due date.
The Bill's Coming Due
Sometimes, the deadline isn’t coming from a partner or a vendor—it’s coming from a creditor. If you’re paying for Software as a Service, you’re at the mercy of your vendor. And if they want to double (or triple or quadruple) your monthly or annual fee, you’re up a creek.
In that case, you need to find a way to switch over to keep your budget in the black. And you may have to rush a software switch or replacement build to get there.
The same principle is in place if you face fines or liability for failing to comply with regulations or laws. If you know when the fee for non-compliance is coming due, you should do whatever you can to avoid the fine.
Window of Availability
Depending on your business, you may have certain times of year that are busier than others. Usually, these busy times are not good times for software initiatives, because it’s all hands on deck for the day-to-day operations of the business. But if you have a slow time of year, that can be the ideal time for a software project.
Likewise, you might have a definitive start to your year—whether it’s a fiscal year, or an unofficial marker like our clients at Tiger Sports Shop have at the start of every Clemson football season. In these cases, it may also make sense to expedite a software initiative so that it’s ready when you get to that starting line.
These deadlines aren’t arbitrary ones that someone just put on the calendar—they’re hard-baked into your business by myriad other factors. That makes them legitimate reasons for a software rush order.
One of the things your business cannot control is what your competitors are doing, and what they will do. If you get the sense that your competitors are introducing a new product or service to try to take your market share, or an innovation that will put them ahead, then you may need to expedite your own advancement using software.
That’s what happened to our clients Blue Bloodhound. This well funded startup matches CDL truck drivers with openings in their schedule with motor carriers that need drivers for loads. When they came to us, Blue Bloodhound had entered the market and acquired lots of truckers, but with an MVP-level app with sub-optimal user experience.
With juggernaut Uber looking to enter the trucking market, Blue Bloodhound had to act fast to increase usability to build loyalty to their platform. So they hired us to focus on the user interface design of their web app, so they could focus on the actual development. This approach sped up their timeline and let them launch version 2.0 before Uber got out of the starting gate.
Conclusion: So You Need to Rush—Now What?
Let’s assume that at least one of these four reasons to rush applies to your business, and you have made a wise decision to put the pedal to the metal.
What are the first steps toward an expedited project?
1. Plan the workflow and architecture. Draw how users will move through your software, and what they will do on each key view. You’re in a hurry here, so if you can hand draw this and get your development team the information it needs, do it.
2. Make sure that your scope and timeline match. Don’t plan a 1200-hour project for a three-week time period. Set an aggressive but reasonable goal and then attack it.
3. Launch and iterate. With some software projects, you do lots of user testing before launch to perfect things. You may not have time to do this on an accelerated timeline. So launch something that makes sense to your users and provides basic functionality, and then iterate to improve it based on feedback and a feature roadmap. You may choose to call the first version a beta or 1.0 to help users understand that things will continue to change and get better.
4. Don’t forget to test. Ensure that everything in the software you’re launching works. It may not be fully functional against what you imagine eventually, but everything thetas there should work.
With the right approach, you can successfully launch a piece of software, web app, or ERP on a short timeline. It may not be the ideal way to do business, but it will keep your business running.
And that’s the way to win the race, even if it’s a sprint instead of a marathon.