Quick Guide to SaaS Product Development - 3 key steps to follow
What do you mean by ”3 steps”? It's not that easy!
I'm not so sure.
I was once looking for help about this topic myself, and it was a drag to cherry-pick actual useful information from all the 75-step in-depth guides.
There are tons of blog posts about this topic on the net. You must have seen such headers while searching for help:
The 10 steps you should follow to develop a SaaS product
And then the first step is:
Make sure that you double-checked your idea
Stating the obvious to sound professional looks really funny to me.
Nevertheless, I have to start by touching upon some of the ”obvious” facts for this post to reach you for obvious SEO reasons.
Okay. Enough of the intro. Let's start with learning something actually valuable:
What is SaaS Product Development?
As the name suggests, Saas Product Development is the process of creating a development process for a product that is demanded by the target audience. If your company is a SaaS company, you would have to be extra careful since your business model requires more precision than hard products.
The product development process is one of those business processes.
One that sounds familiar, seems easy, but requires a solid plan, a good product roadmap - or else it will fail like a balloon that's not tied good enough.
And the reason why SaaS development requires a bit more effort is that you have to consider the cloud service provider and the restrictions that it puts on you.
But that's about all.
And also, a software product doesn't come to life by itself (not yet, at least):
What does product development in SaaS consist of?
Here are the gems, the hard workers, the ones behind those success stories:
The product owner could be the CEO, the founders who no longer actively contribute to the development, or the person (or people) who acquired the cloud product.
The role of the owners is to find financial support for the product, set the product vision, and make sure that the rest of the team is doing all good.
Product Managers interpret the vision of the CEO and CTO and turn it into a process so that the rest of the team knows the expectations. In other words, the PM is the bridge between the expectations and the outcome.
The product designers are the stylists of the newly blossoming beauty - your product. Appearance is everything in today's mostly-capitalist world, and the same goes for cloud-based software.
The product designers can be counted as a part of the development team since they work in parallel with each other.
The developers are the craftsmen of the team. Since you are building a cloud platform, the engineering and development process will be the longest. Thus, you have to choose the team wisely.
You could hire a development company to get the job done or hire freelancers that you see fit. As long as they enjoy working with each other and speak the same language (not literally), the outcome will be the same.
The testers are as important as QA (quality assurance) developers. That's because ıf you don't have elaborative feedback about the functions of your product, you won't be able to convert the potential customers into loyal promoters.
In other words, the tester feedback is as important as customer feedback for the best results.
And the analysts... The heroes behind the scene. Data analysts and data scientists allow you to predict further development costs, help you shape further business plans, and translate the data numbers into a product success scenario.
And just like that, you have the components, the team ready.
It's time for action:
3 Key Steps of SaaS Product Development
I know first-hand that software application development doesn't happen like this:
Day 1... You have an idea
Day 2... You bring the idea to life
Day 3... You have a 78463593% ROI
That's not why there are Three Key Steps.
The three key steps are the milestones, the relief points, the checkpoints.
They cover lots of sub-steps, which could be considered separate steps. That doesn't change the fact that there are three most important processes to have an entire product.
Here they are in a nutshell:
And here are the details:
1- Market analysis
The market analysis step is where you see how other people with similar ideas executed theirs.
During the market analysis process. These four focal points deserve extra care:
- SaaS Requirements
The SaaS requirements are general aspects of a cloud application. You have to select a cloud provider, clearly define the security requirements and legal regulations in advance, and decide on possible integration options.
- Competitor Research
During the competitor research, you should closely look at their common features since those are hints to what works best in your market. They could be:
- Button colors
- Logo similarities
- Use of language
- Specific UX/UI elements
- Similarities in the onboarding process
And so on.
- Pricing Analysis
Pricing analysis needs to be more comprehensive than just looking at competitor rates. For example, you will have to take into account your development and maintenance expenses, office costs, currency changes, and the cost of your value.
Simply copying the competitors or deducting a few dollars won't do any good for you in most cases, and launching a product that is more expensive than the average is not a sin.
You only have to make sure that the target market can afford your product, and you provide a value that makes up for the cost of your services.
- Project Strategy Defining
If you have an outline ready about what you want, what you can, what you have to, and what others have done, you are ready to decide on the "how."
The project managers come into the scene in this step, and decide on what kind of a strategy method they will use.
- Will you base your project on a solid waterfall model, or will you secure everything on an agile development model?
- Will you focus on user experience or marketing strategies?
- At what point is your project going to be ready to launch?
This brings us to the next key step:
2- Defining Your Minimum Viable Product
You have a product plan ready, and you started building it. You have completed the pre-start steps.
Now you have to pinpoint when the product is ready to run (for testing).
Almost there, but not yet.
And here is what you have to do to smoothly decide on your MVP:
- Technical Analysis
This step is probably the most "easier said than done" step.
You have to decide on the technology that you are going to use. Things like the tech stack etc., must be decided on and purchased in advance.
It's vital to choose the proper technology for your SaaS product since if it doesn't confront your users' expectations, it could directly impact the cost and time you put into app development.
- Feature Defining
After deciding what to build with, you will have to define what exactly to build.
- Beta testing and Feedback Collection
After running internal tests and getting a green light from higher-ups, you are ready to launch your MVP, and leave it to the mercy of the beta testers.
Unlike professionals, potential customers and regular beta testers will be harsh while giving feedback.
That harsh feedback will be your air and water.
That feedback will lead you to the highest ROI since it tells you what actual users expect.
And then, you will finish the last updates after the prototype launch.
3- Prototype Launch
For some, this is the final step.
For professionals, this is only one of the final steps — the last, but not the least.
That's because there is a bit more to do after your product goes live. Those are:
- Feedback Gathering
The more testers you have, the better you can improve your vision. After you start getting actual users and sincere feedback, you will start getting genuine feedback and support tickets.
Just like the beta testing phase, they will be your leads towards a better roadmap.
- KPI Tracking and In-Depth Analysis
Don't Miss The Bigger Picture While Being Drowned In The Details
All in all, SaaS product development is not "that" different from other product development processes.
If you have a good team that is in sync with each other, a good vision, and an even better product-market-fit, the chances to mess up are low.
In other words, the details will only keep you stuck on one step of the whole process. Some experts say there are five must-follow steps, some say there are eight, some say there are limitless. It's not the steps themselves; it's the flow that matters.
PS: I hope I was helpful to you. Feel free to reach out to share your SaaS Product Development Journey!