Mobile app development is best pursued as an investment of your time, skill and resources – they will certainly consume them. It is worth reiterating that you should have several possible app ideas available for consideration versus being locked into one. With just one idea, there’s no real choice or means of comparing possible outcomes (in ROI). But, just because you have lots of ideas for great apps does not necessarily mean you can run with all of them, or even your best idea, immediately. There are many things to consider when you come to decide, “Which app will you work on next?”
While you want a constant stream of app ideas, you want an efficient decision making funnel to help in sequencing your future projects. You can’t fear tossing aside a bad idea or bog down in prematurely investing in projects that are beyond your means. The funnel works by applying 3-4 of the following sequences:
These questions are not asked all at once – because you normally will not have all of the information available to make an informed decision.
1. Is the app idea worth investigating? - This is the gateway question – and can usually be answered fairly fast and on an informal basis. Does the idea have the potential to be marketable? Does it sound within your ability to do? Do you have an affinity for the project?
Ideas can come from many sources, including your end users (customers) – suffice that some ideas simply are not worth investigating and should be tossed aside.
If an idea for the app is worth investigating further, then you can add it to your prospective projects folder. By deciding the app is worth investigating, it is worth your time to make a detailed description of the app. You will need more information before you can take it further, but this is the starting gate question.
2. Do you have everything needed to make the app? – The second stage of evaluating an app is much more involved and complex. There are many questions that you should answer. There are some very good ideas out there, but the cost in time, money or other resources are too great for what you can reasonably expect. Likewise, some ideas might look good at first glance, but come up short in a marketing analysis.
The aim of this step is to classify each app idea as a) worth doing, b) Not worth doing, or c) better for someone else to do. It involves answering the following kinds of questions:
When defining whether something may be worth doing, you do not necessarily need to base your assessment on current conditions. It may involve learning a different platform or be based upon a device that has not achieved market maturity. As long as you can reasonably expect that you will eventually be able to do it, it can be designated as a “keeper.”
There are ideas that would simply work better or be more profitable if done by someone else – perhaps a big player, a specialist or a friend. You could just “give the ideas away”, but you can also try to monetize them. That needs to be treated separately.
3. Are you going to adopt the app into your development planning?
By this point, you have an idea that is fully fleshed out and you know that you CAN do it. The questions now are If and When are you going to do it? You may have several viable ideas, but you finite resources with which to engage them. Some good ideas may be abandoned or perhaps placed in the “give away” folder for not fitting into your overall business profile (i.e. a focus on games vs. utilities), appear to offer a lower ROI, or any number of other reasons.
Here though, you are able to define which projects you are going to pursue and assign a sequence to them. This is obvious for games with planned sequels or utility apps of increasing complexity for a particular niche.
4. Are you going to develop the app?
This is the final analysis – an ultimate do or don’t. Here we recognize that conditions may have changed since we decided to add the app to our development plans. Maybe a key team member left, maybe the market for an app has dramatically changed, maybe our finances are not up to the task, or any number of reasons. Ideally, you have a few apps which have past your third decision point – others that you have plans to do. If so, you can likely switch over to one of them whether you decide to delay or drop the other one.
Usually these decision points are not made simultaneously. It is not uncommon for #1 and #2 to be consolidated into one step. Sometimes the idea for an app is handed to you in a fully fleshed out form (employee proposals), so you may go straight from #1 to #3.
The process itself may seem cumbersome, but attention to the decision making process can help save thousands of hours pursuing projects that had no chance of getting anywhere before they even left the starting gate.
With my own projects, the primary project I want to pursue is ultimately the last project that I will pursue, partly as a matter of project sequence, secondly in relation to potential funding. If I did what I really wanted to do though, it could easily translate to thousands of hours of wasted effort. Having seen several companies invest considerable amounts of effort into projects that get killed before public launch is indicative that the decision making process was lacking at some stage – usually in defining everything needed in the second decision point.