The coronavirus pandemic has made its way around the globe, and there is no near-term escape from it. As the world learns to adapt to the ''new normal'', organizations have been forced to re-examine the way we do business. In the tech world, the crisis has caused delays and even the complete shutdown of product development.
It's essential to understand the specific ways in which COVID-19 has delayed product development before we can discuss how to move forward. Here are some of the key factors:
Reduced budget for third-party development
Lockdown coupled with stagnant growth in business has hindered normal operations, leaving companies without much budget for software development. Although this has had an impact on the pace of internal development, it has also disrupted the purchase of services from third-party development companies. Gartner projects that global IT spending has been reduced by more than 8% in 2020 due to COVID-19.
Less spending on venture-backed businesses
In response to market uncertainty, venture capital firms are leaning toward stable companies with a tendency to survive. COVID-19 has slashed VC funding in the US by over 44%, as the pandemic makes VCs apprehensive about the future of their investments. This, in turn has led to companies working tightly or holding off on their product development.
Reduced labor power due to layoffs
Many people have become unemployed as employers are unable to afford salaries. This reduction in the work force has made a huge impact on product development, causing significant delays.
The above factors are collectively a result of money rotation shortage within the market caused by the pandemic. But a well-planned restart to fix these issues and get life back on track is required. This restart has to be made in both third-party and internal development.
Restarting third-party development after COVID
Outsourcing software development to a third-party amidst a pandemic comes with some severe challenges. Any agency that provides managed app development needs to focus on how well they can re-engage clients, prepare the team for upcoming challenges, and come up with new, successful approaches.
Re-engaging paused clients
The first priority for any agency is to restore the confidence of paused clients. This is because it is far easier to resume building an existing project than it is to close and commence a new client from scratch. Agencies that look into the well-being of their clients by maintaining relationships at a personal level will be best-positioned for a restart.
The pandemic has forced teams to think twice before spending. Thus, it may be a good time to offer some discounts and offers to keep your clients engaged. Let your clients know how technology can help their business survive the stress of the pandemic. Make your client believe that as a software company you are well-equipped to work remotely during this pandemic, without losing your workforce. Share your safety measures and upcoming strategies that the client can benefit from.
Decide on the readiness of the team
This doesn't just apply to clients – even the development team needs to be made aware of the safety measures that you are going to take. Your team's safety and health are your responsibility, so make sure to maintain proper hygiene at the workplace and adhere to all the safety guidelines. This will develop confidence among the team members to return to work.
You may ask your team to opt for work-from-home or divide working days among the team. Talk to your team and define a concrete and clear vision about the way forward and how existing workflows should be altered.
Structuring a flexible agreement to resume development (if the client is uncertain)
In some cases, a client may be unwilling to resume full-speed development but open to making incremental progress on a build. While it can be frustrating to dedicate your team's energy to a smaller project knowing that it will get paused again, this is still an advisable strategy for keeping the client relationship alive. If you deliver great work, it's possible that the client will be motivated to push through and finish the project.
Changing your product development approach
In this pandemic, your approach to developing products has to be altered. There are two key characteristics that take on greater importance in a post-COVID world:
- Security, which is an important aspect when we talk about a software development company. In this pandemic, where a majority of the staff is working from home and information is shared online, security is a top priority. To enable sensitive information to be shared securely, endpoint security must be a prime consideration.
- The performance of the product has to be managed. The information that is passed must not require high-speed internet connections; rather, they should be compressed to work smoothly on any home-based platform.
Restarting internal development after COVID-19
Internal development is vital for the growth of a company. Following are some of the key points that one must keep in mind when restarting development internally:
Decide on the readiness of the product/engineering team for development
You can't start at all unless the product/engineering team is ready. You need to understand how well-equipped is the team before resuming development. You should present your team with a detailed plan using metrics like sprint burndown, time velocity metrics, and so forth.
The team must be resilient enough to face any ad-hoc or emergency requests that arise. Make sure that engineers and product managers are aligned on near-term priorities.
Reprioritizing product initiatives based on organizational or market changes
A product roadmap is not “one and done”. It has to be altered and revised from time to time. This crisis has tended to either reduce or dramatically increase a product's demand. In such cases, shifting your roadmap may be required, keeping in mind major organizational and market changes.
Review your communication protocols
Ensure that a clear line of communication exists between you and your team. Are people using the existing channels, or is there a more useful way to connect everyone? You'll need the entire company to be on the same page when you resume development.
It's also important to maintain communication with your customers, which can be done via surveys in such an era of social distancing. An occasional update about planned product changes can go a long way in retaining loyalty during the pandemic.
Keep scope manageable
You can't know when the pandemic will force another major shift. As a result, now is a good time to value predictability over ambition. Shipping smaller features in their entirety will have a tangible effect on your product's value and your team's morale. In other words, you should measure the performance of the product by its completion and not by its complexity.
Pitfalls of resuming development too early (and how to avoid them)
The decision to launch a product is not only based on how prepared you are for the launch, but also about how well the market is prepared for the launch. There are two key risks associated with early launches:
- The market might no longer have a need for your product as you first imagined it. The realities of COVID have shifted consumer expectations, and some "hot" product sectors may have lost their appeal. You can mitigate this risk by conducting proper market research before launching any product.
- A rushed launch creates the risk that the product hasn't been properly tested for compatibility with current technologies. A thorough study of customers’ requirements must be conducted before the launch.
How to protect your organization against COVID-like disruptions in the future
Taking lessons from the current scenario, you may recognize a need to make certain changes to protect your organization:
- Develop detailed guidelines on how remote work will be managed
- Create a head for each department and authorize them with powers to take necessary actions in a pandemic
- Develop a risk management task force that will keep offline and online backups of work and execute your "shutdown preparedness" protocol
As a remote-first company since our inception, Crowdbotics has been fortunate to avoid many of the most severe repercussions of COVID-19. If you are looking to work with a partner to restart your product development, reach out to one of our experts today.