SaaS is a tried and tested model popularly used to deliver software to users. SaaS, or Software as a Service, means that the users get the software delivered to them as a service over the internet. The users do not need to download or install the product in their system. To develop a SaaS product you need to have the resources. It can cost you a lot of time and money, not unless you are a skilled programmer, and willing to spend hours holed inside a coding room.
The following steps, if followed to the letter, might be the beginning of a wildly successful product. There are no guarantees, but these steps have proven to work quite well.
1. Find your Niche
All products begin with an idea. This idea might stem from a problem you have experienced, or you have witnessed people experience. This problem may be a persistent problem, which pushes you to come up with a solution. To come up with an idea and find your niche, you do not have to confine yourself to one industry. Pick an industry and do your research. Talk to your potential customers and find out what they would want in a solution if it were available. This way, you will have pre-sold your SaaS long before launch.
You can get a job in that industry, conduct an interview with someone, or ask to spend a day with someone in the industry for a day, or for as long you think you might need to understand the industry and the problems faced. Once you come up with an idea, you are good to proceed to the next step of action.
2. Prototype/MVP Creation
To build a SaaS product and you need to create a prototype first. Before you create a prototype, you need to:
· Provide feedback before development
A prototype allows you to give feedback to the developers before they build the actual product. You can use a skilled prototype building team or manage a team you have put together. You can only manage a team if you are a programmer with experience. It is cheaper to build a prototype and give feedback than to build the product and give feedback.
· Get feedback from the users
Getting feedback from the intended user before building the actual product is exactly why you need to build a prototype. This allows for the identification of strong and weak product points and gives you time to make improvements before the finished product launch.
· Allows you to test the development team
When working with a new development team, they first create your prototype and allow yourself to decide if you want to work with them as your SaaS developers. The prototype development process should guide you on vetting the developers’ skills, communication, responsiveness, expertise and more.
The prototype must look as close as possible to the finished product as possible. This means you can open it in your web browser and access the dashboard and menu. Your prototype designer needs to make some features functional to a certain extent. You can click and get to see some of the inbuilt mock data so that you get a feel of the SaaS as if it was fully functional
3. Prototype Validation
When validating the prototype, you are testing it. The best test method is to give users a glimpse of what it can do, and ask for their feedback. You can do a beta test with a list of at least 10 to 15 people who match the target user profile. To build this list of target users, you can knock on doors, use your network of friends, family, and colleagues, or just reach out to strangers.
Send the prototype to this list of users and record how their interactions with the prototype go. Ask them:
- What they think the software does
- What think about the product design
- To use the product to do X (X being the intended product purpose)
- Ask them if they feel they need help with X
- Ask them if they have more issues other than X they need help with
- Request them to look through the prototype and give you feedback on the features. Ask them what they understand, and what confuses them
You can make any changes at this point if need be, and then you can proceed to the next step.
4. Create a Backlog
With your prototype approved, you can now create a backlog, which is a list of all the things your development team will be working on. The backlog should be high level, meaning it details the steps along the development course, and also very detailed, showing the purpose, estimated time, languages used, and development platforms.
If your development team is experienced, they will create for you the backlog, which you need to approve. They will then explain every entry in the backlog, making your decision easier. At this MVP stage, they should only add necessary features to launch the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and get product buyers. This is the only stage you can scrutinize your idea and ask yourself if it is a true MVP, or some features can wait after the launch.
5. Development and User Experience design
Building a SaaS product takes 2 to 10 months or longer. For a SaaS MVP, it should not take more than 6 months. Quicker product development saves money on development costs and expedites your entrance into the market. This means you can launch the product to your beta users and paying clients faster.
The developers should check in with you regularly during the development and user experience (UX) design phase. If the project is taking longer than it should, they should let you know so that you can adjustments to the features, depending on the runway amount and your budget.
6. Quality Assurance Testing
QA testing comes in various types, which all fall under two major categories:
Manual testing: QA testers prowl the app searching for any bugs. They may do probing tests and use the product as a real-life user would. The testers go through manual list tests and execute each function and variation for every order. They log these issues on platforms like Github or Jira, allowing other developers to address them.
Automated testing: QA engineers use low-code automated testing platforms or write code to build tests that run day and night, generating reports with issues. QA testing is a step in totality because of the huge amount of testing done before deployment. The best developing teams test all user flows and features as well while building the product.
After a thorough QA testing, (including the testing done as every feature was built), it is time for deploying the software. Different deployment m, but models work with SaaS, including multi and single-tenant servers, on-premise data center and private cloud. Many companies may choose to manage a private cloud; startups are better suited to vendor-managed solutions, which are scalable to fit their needs.
7. Continuous testing
Highly productive teams tend to deploy 200 times as much as low-performing teams. Successful mobile apps and SaaS products are continuously tested and deployed. Ensure you put proven and tested agile processes in place for testing and deploying. An example is Amazon’s engineers who deploy code after every few seconds, to be precise, 11.7 seconds.
8. Building New Features
Once you get into the market you should instantly have a backlog of features to build because if you launched and feel like your product is perfect, then your MVP is all wrong. You most probably have some user flows and basic features that need building. To develop a SaaS product, you need to get feedback from beta testers and paying customers about what you need to build. Send them an email, asking them to take a moment to reply with the type of features that they want you to add.
Entrepreneurs face some of the following problems if they decide to build a SaaS:
- Cannot manage various roles for collaboration improvement and efficiency among the development team
- An inexperienced development team that does not understand what goes into building a true MVP, and they are building one that is too large
- Developers do not use time and money-saving technology such as low code platforms combined with custom code.
- The team makes the process from the product, developing and deploying too complicated.
Developing a successful SaaS product is a complex process that most entrepreneurs cannot hack. Unless you are a master programmer and willing to spend hours every day working on coding software, you should outsource building a SaaS product.
From finding your niche, building and validating a prototype, all the way to deployment, you need a team that has done this for a long time and have acquired the necessary experience to help you save time and money. The outlined steps in this article are tested and proven. If followed keenly, they might just nudge you a step closer to becoming an overnight sensation, even though there are no guarantees.