NASA's Technology Readiness Level (TRL) and Steve Blank's Investment Readiness Level (IRL) are great, usuallyâ€¦
However they are inappropriate for software-based products and services. TRL is too specific, it is unapologetically hardware-focused. Meanwhile, IRL is too general, as it tries to be applicable to everything.
But something is better than nothingâ€¦ right?
Developing a new product or service is hard enough, even Google gets it wrong, which is why you want your resources to be a little more than better than nothing.
Trying to apply TRL and/or IRL to your app's development timeline probably is better than nothing; however, this does put you at risk prioritising the wrong milestones and tasks or missing unique steps that apply only to app development.
For example, TRL suggests that you should start by researching the basic principals of your idea in peer-reviewed papers. Yes, knowledge is power, but speed is of the essence. Reading back issues of Accounting Programs Quarterly will only help you so much. (Meanwhile, Xero's YoY growth rate has been 100% or more since 2008!)
Creating a business model is the opening and most important step towards commercialising your idea.
There are some great templates that streamline this task. Alexander Ostewalder's business model canvas (BMC) is one.
Your business model needs to be testable assumptions or validated statements.
Next you must validate that there is indeed a problem to be solved and that your business model aligns with possible solutions to that problem. Reaching this level requires a basic market overview.
To be SRL 2 you should have validated at least one market-solution and invalidated another through end-user interviews. It is recommended that you conduct between 50 and 100 interviews.
Engaging your end users early is the best way to avoid the quagmire that is redevelopment.
At SRL 3, you must have completed, at a minimum, a detailed map of the total addressable market divided into subsections, an estimated return based on total market value and expected market share for each of these subsections and a petal diagram of competitors
You should then integrate this map and diagram with your problem/solution learnings.
Although you will not know the true cost of your app until your app developer has scoped your idea, it is important that you make steps to secure adequate funding prior to partnering with a developer.
The Global State of Enterprise Mobility 2016 report estimates that most apps cost over $100,000 and more than 25% cost between $250,000 and $500,000.
At this stage, your idea's EXACT technical requirements should be recorded alongside a roadmap of when each of these requirements will be developed and what this will cost. This roadmap should organise your requirements into (bite-sized) sprints with the intention of delivering a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) as soon as possible.
Your backlog should be a high-level vision of the pieces that make up your app (Epics, User Groups and User Stories).
Epics are the big picture ideas that make-up your idea. For example: Web Portal.
User Groups are types of people using your product. For example: Admins and Customers.
User Stories are how a User Group interacts with an Epic. For example: Customers can log into the Web Portal on Desktop or Mobile and do X, Y and Z so that this result is achieved.
At this point, you and your developer have partnered to develop a specific backlog of requirements.
The question is: do you adopt an agile methodology or develop your backlog using a traditional, waterfall approach? Both methodologies have their advantages and disadvantages and while we've been advocates of agile in the past, it's not always clear cut which option is better.
An MVP is a version of your app that meets your end user's minimum needs. More specifically, some parts of your app are must haves and some are nice to haves. It is common practice to develop the must haves initially and the nice to haves later. This way, you can begin testing your app's UX and raison d'Ãªtre as soon as possible.
To be at this stage of readiness, your app must be ready to be used by your end users, who could be app store customers, employees or a client's employees.
Your software is ready and you have started making sales.
This is not the finish line, you should continue to iterate on your idea and its technical expression.
We have reworked NASA's hardware-focused Technology Readiness Level (TRL) and Steve Blank's Investment Readiness Level (IRL) into a NEW and EXCLUSIVE software-focused model: Software Readiness Level (SRL).