Most software companies understand the challenges of the current market environment. Product innovation in the modern digital landscape faces all sorts of issues regarding product stack, accelerating disruptive forces and all sorts of changing dynamics. Independent software vendors, in particular, have to cope with the brunt of these pain points.
Software often breaks into the market as something that addresses a very specific need. But then, after achieving a significant level of market influence, the product begins to diversify. New customer needs are met, new features are added and the product becomes more flexible. This is usually the path of the successful independent software vendor.
This added flexibility has enabled successful ISVs to expand into adjacent markets. This is an example of the type of growth that can be achieved if a business is able to appeal to many different use cases, and can adapt to changing technological, cultural and market conditions. This is what it takes to be a key player in the current and future independent software market environment.
However, a strange thing tends to happen in these advanced stages of product evolution. When software adds new functionality and augmented design in order to meet ever increasing and diversifying customer needs, that software runs the risk of becoming oversaturated with features. These features can gradually render the software difficult to update and can make user experience and profiles difficult to understand. Over time, the growth and diversification that helped accelerate your business can turn into a sort of Frankenstein’s monster — an out of control sum of parts that no longer cooperate well together.
It’s difficult to see this sort of thing coming, but it is almost inevitable in the realm of independent software development — especially if you’re developing software that has any potential to grow and achieve significant market influence. It’s important to see this feature overgrowth coming so that you know what to do and what not to do when the time comes to address the problem.
This is the essence of the legacy system: a product that is so integral to operations that it inadvertently precludes its users and administrators from foreseeing its potential shortcomings. And once those shortcomings begin to have measurable effects on clients and customers, the task of replacing the legacy system seems overwhelming if not impossible. Ironically, careful planning and strategic design are what imbued it with the lasting power to become a legacy system in the first place.
One big problem is that despite new software’s ability to meet new customer needs and solve new user problems, architectural paradigms have remained consistent throughout the years. Specific widgets and design trends might change, but the overall approach toward full stack development still looks about the same as it has for a long time.
The dominant trend among software products is their inclination over time toward personalization and configurability. At first, this seems to give users a lot of freedom over products. But over time, it burdens those users with the task of configuring components that would work more to their advantage if they come pre-configured.
Of course, there are some customers out there who don’t mind the complexity, and some might even prefer it. But there are already so many existing products out there within this category that, not only are they cumbersome, but they also saturate the market. The point is to offer a unique product with a unique value.
The answer is to change the way that we view information architecture, and this will translate into better products.
‘How do we change?’ you might ask.
Here are a few items that should be taken into account moving forward:
We’ve now lived in an age of user-centrism for a long time, but user experience as a design praxis is not going away anytime soon. In fact, user expectations are evolving and becoming stricter. But the good news is that there are many new tools (research methods, testing, data analytics, etc.) to help your business do what it needs to do in order to serve the user. The landscape is shifting, and the user remains at the center.
Cloud technology is not only changing IT but also virtually every aspect of software business strategy. Learn to leverage it in your favor. What services are available? How can the cloud be leveraged to maximize ROI? Which methods add more security and which add more risk? These are just a few questions you should be asking yourself.
In the realm of independent software development, human labor is something that is rarely given the consideration it deserves. Automation will allow you to minimize certain costs in the near future, but your team will remain at the core of your business. Consider new ways to look at how you can structure your staff, including remotely. Unity of purpose is important in achieving your business goals, but cognitive diversity can help you develop new methods to help build new paradigms for product development.
The years ahead will be challenging but also very exciting. There is so much room for creativity and growth as old methods become obsolete and new solutions can fulfill old needs. Look to experts like Aloha Technology in order to help you gain the most leverage possible in the flourishing digital ecosystem.