What to expect in SaaS development

These are some lessons that I’ve learned from years of SaaS development that don’t apply to any one thing, but are good to know.

1. Deadlines

If you’re working with a good team, expect for people to make their deadlines most of the time, but definitely not all the time. People will get sick, get hurt, have bad days, and sometimes just not be able to work that day because they can't focus. It's just the way people are, so don't expect to meet all your deadlines all the time. It just doesn't happen that way. Keep your eyes on the timelines and don't let them start slipping, but don't expect to meet every deadline either.

2. Questions

Expect to be asked a lot of questions, a lot more than you expect. You will spend a lot of time answering questions. You may end up budgeting time every day just to answer questions that you thought everyone should have known but didn't.

3. Understanding

That no one will understand the business side like you do.

When you’re working with developers, designers, and project managers, most of the time you are working with people who are paid to do a job, not think about how the business will operate. So don’t expect them to. You and the other stakeholders are the business people, the build team is the build team. Direct them well and they will serve your purpose, but don't expect a cat to be a bird, you'll just be let down.

4. Work time

If you are paying a full time team, they will actually get between 4 and 6 hours of good time in any given day. Or you will have workers that work in sprints for a week or two at 8 to 15 hours per day, but then need a week off. Either way, don’t expect your team to get a full eight hours per day of concentrated effort.

Generally, developers just can’t concentrate for that long every day, day in and day out. Additionally, there is a difference between work time and duration. Duration is how long it takes to do the project, whereas work time is the amount of hours actually worked. These two things are never the same on any large project.

5. Unknowns

There will be things you didn’t plan on. Questions you didn’t realize were going to be questions, and problems you never thought would be problems. This happens all the time, and it is the nature of the system. There are a lot of things to figure out in a SaaS system that you never realized you would ever need to consider.

6. Timelines

Your timeline will be between 1.2 to 3 times as long as you initially planned, very often more. In your head, just plan for it, and tell everyone else that you're on board with their timelines. But internally, always just expect these longer timelines and you'll never be let down.

7. Resources

If you are building your own team, you will almost definitely not get all the right people the first time. If you do, please let me know how you did this.

8. Money

You will spend more money than you thought you were going to.

9. Features

You are going to need more features than you initially planned to build. It is just the way it goes. No matter how experienced the build team or CEO of a system is, there are ALWAYS more features that get realized once the system gets underway than were initially planned. If you think you are, you're lying to yourself.

10. Use Cases

Expect to learn things about your customers that you never expected. It doesn’t matter how you use the system or how you think people will use the system. They are going to find a way to use it in a way that you never expected.

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