SaaS Product Development · Business Development

Developing an SAAS with NO Experience?

Chanel Carlascio

August 25th, 2016

I have at least two SAAS projects I want to put a team together to develop. Should I hire a CTO, or contract with an agency? Given I have no experience with coding, what should I look for when hiring someone to help me develop my projects? 
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Shardul BHATT Chief Executive Officer at BoTree Technologies Pvt. Ltd.

August 25th, 2016

Hi Chanel,

As Dan has rightly pointed out, you need to be able to put together a clear and a detailed specification of the SaaS product you need.

I understand that as someone who has a great idea, there is a very strong urge to get started and get it done as quickly as possible. The challenge is the technical team's thought process is not aligned with your because they come from a different world (as in they do not really know your domain yet).

This is how I would recommend approaching it.

  1. A detailed requirement specification cannot be written overnight or in say 2 - 3 days. In my experience, it could take anywhere between 1 - 3 weeks depending on the complexity of the application, the integration points with existing systems etc.
  2. Once you are done, I would suggest you share it with two people who you believe understand the idea. Their job is to poke holes in the specification you have drafted. They would identify loop holes in the user flow, they would uncover certain assumptions and much more.
  3. After a brainstorming session, you would need about a week to put everything together again.
  4. With this specification in hand, you can start looking for agencies who can build it for you. I am recommending working with an agency because putting together a team with a technical manager, programmers, testers and a UI/UX designer is a large project in itself.
  5. When choosing an agency, I would recommend picking an agency that can provide solutions in PHP / RubyOnRails / Python / Java. Technology is usually not a concern (unless you are building a bank transaction or a guided missile system) if the system design and architecture is good.
  6. Ask for estimates (time and cost) from say top 3 agencies you select. Have a clause where you receive a discount if the deadlines are not met.
  7. Plan 2 week milestones with the agency you choose, and monitor. With a good agency, if the specifications are clear and changes introduced during the process are not more than 20%, it should be smooth sailing.
  8. The implementation phase would include User Experience (UX) design, User Interface (UI) development, backend programming, testing and so on.

Approach for Writing Specifications

Writing requirement specifications does not require any technical skills. It can be all in plain simple English and there would always be some gray areas.
  1. Identify the roles in the system. User, Admin, Staff etc.
  2. Identify what would you want each one of them to do.
  • User Registration
  • Login
  • Search etc.
Identify areas of interaction between the roles of the system. Can an Admin block a user? etc. Identify at which points would the existing system integrate with this new application. What data would be fetched from the existing systems and how should it be processed and what would be the result. You would also have to identify the corner case scenarios in the system.
If you are interested I can send over a draft of user requirements.

The agency you pick should have experience working with startups and team of 2 - 3 co-founders. They should also believe in the idea and have a strong sense of ownership. A team that would view this engagement as just another project would not be fun to work with.

Best,
Shardul.


Shobhit Verma

August 25th, 2016

I have never heard a success story of a technology product without a technical "real" cofounder. A real cofounder invests time and money and is equally passionate about the problem as the non-technical cofounder. If you pay them before the business generates a profit, they are not real cofounders.

That said, if your saas product is really a website for a service business, where most of the value is provided as a non-tech service [costs human hours], it might work out.

Joy Montgomery Continuous Improvement for Cleantech Companies, Connector

August 26th, 2016

Look for someone with the appropriate skills AND a passion for what you're doing.

Chanel Carlascio

August 25th, 2016

Because I have several SAAS projects I want to develop in this market, I'd ideally like to develop a team of people that I can work with long term. Any advice on how to start finding those team members? 

Anonymous

August 25th, 2016

Hi Chanel, Sorry I'm not an IT person but just googled HUSH meditation and would be interested in being part of your team if you are looking for a non-tech person (attaching resume, 30 year starting and helping start companies & raised alot of money).   Just took 4 years off to travel Asia, SA and now back.    In any case, best of luck and love what you started at HUSH!  A quote I just saw in BI researching HUSH below, well said. Joyce "We usually try to feel better by decreasing the intensity of painful experiences; in mindfulness practice, we work instead to increase our capacity to bear them".

Nizamudheen Valliyattu Co-Founder & Digital Marketing Specialist at SocialTiger.in

August 26th, 2016

It's better to have your own team if you want to build a SaaS product, I have a product named www.toolyt.com, which is a salesforce automation product. I actually had all my documents prepared before starting the project, but when we started developing several tweaks were required, and if you get it outsourced from a vendor, it will be very hard to get those done or revise requirement. 

Option 1: hire a technical co-founder
Option 2: Hire your own tech team, if you can monitor inhouse and train them
Option 3: Hire a team from vendor (we used are a service based company and we used to outsource our team based on client requirement, you can make use of them)
Option 4: Outsource to a vendor who can understand the pain points of building a SaaS product

Cheers !

Olivier Chaine SVP, LPO at The Search Agency

August 25th, 2016

You said it best in your first sentence. You want to put a team together to develop.. Its hard to hire an agency effectively to build something unless you know what you want to build and how to make some of the tradeoffs between features and technical complexity. 
There are part-time CTOs if you're not ready to hire full time. There are also very good product managers who know how to work with agencies, etc. 
Once you've decided who is your product lead / advocate for your SaaS vision, then the choice of who builds it can be made.

Ed Jeffers MD at EDGE +

August 25th, 2016

Same as before I would find an off the shelf scheduling tool and just develop an API to talk to your application. If it is the core the same thing. You might have a look at salesforce.com as they have a platform that is already in the cloud and very broad in its capabilities. They have several spin offs from people just like yourself who subscribe to the platform and add the unique capability of a particular application. You should check with their partner portal as there may be people out there that could help you with this. They have about 40,000 development partners so good chance you will be able to leverage one of them. Besides that there are several fantastic off the shelf scheduling programs cloud based out there in the market now. In my opinion always better to buy and customize versus build. Regards, Ed Jeffers 0404 835 176

Viet Ngo Software

August 25th, 2016

Dear Chanel,
From my past experience working with external vendor for developing our mvp product:
  • it's quite hard to find suitable vendor, we talk with number of them, most of them want to take the job, but only one or two willing to ensure the deliver of the product
  • the cost is quite high, depends on the rate and size of the vendor
  • the plus size is vendors usually have good processes of development, but the down size is when the product facing with difficult problem (eg: new features or something not very common) usually they not very efficient in solving it
for our mvp we was facing with a problem that dragging for quite sometimes, so at the end I have to take the technical role and solve it for the agency's developers :( So my advice is it best to have a good CTO in related area (saas), and then let he hired one or two experience developers. You could have your product done much faster and high quality that way. 

For the specification, I think you don't need to worry too much a bout the technical details. Usually, if you can have a general writing of what you want with the product (what users does it serve, what feature/information they expected, is this a website only or include the mobile apps etc) the CTO then can break it down to the technical level (specification, design, architecture etc) so the developers can work on it. Usually, a 1 page writing description would do for most SaaS product.  

Just some sharing from the past experience, hope it help :)

Ed Jeffers MD at EDGE +

August 25th, 2016

OK, Couple of things for you try this for your prototype or a cool way to spec out your project. https://www.invisionapp.com This is what they used to build a MVP for Uber. Its drag and drop and dead easy to use. Next have a look at www.ennoview.com. Its is a scheduling platform that you can build on top of also cloud based. Regards, Ed Jeffers 0404 835 176