Software product assessments happen for a lot of reasons, but the three most common reasons are:
- There is a transaction happening – usually a funding event or the sale of the company – and the people on the other side of a transaction want to see that your product works as advertised.
- Your company is conducting a portfolio review and wants to compare your product with others in the company that could also use investment.
- Your company is going through a budgeting process to see what level of investment you need.
When you prepare for your next software product assessment, technical details are just the starting point. You have to keep in mind the business problem your product hopes to solve. Thriving – not merely surviving – through a tough technical audit should be the end game. Here are seven key secrets for conquering your next software product assessment.
1. Be Organized from the Start
Software product audits happen over a short period of time – and with a lot of intensity. Therefore, you need to have your data and documents in a form that is easy for the assessors to digest. If you are doing a presentation, it should be clear, concise and provide a guide for how to use the other data you provide. Your assessors will expect to see:
- Technical and functional specifications
- Detailed design documents
- Source code
- Product plans
- Org charts and resumes for your staff
- Documented use cases
2. Be Upfront About Your Product’s Strengths and Weaknesses
The last criticism of your software you want after an assessment is that the product doesn’t perform as expected. You should be upfront about what your software does well and what your software doesn’t do well. Otherwise, the experts performing the assessment will not be able to judge whether or not your software is up to par or will judge your product poorly. If your product has significant weaknesses, be sure to identify what it will take to address them in terms of resources, time and budget.
3. Share Your Future Plans and Identify the Risks Involved
Be honest and forthright as you discuss the future prospects for your product. In particular, you should remember to include risk analysis as part of your disclosures about your future plans. This step will help auditors give you their honest, fact-based opinion of your product.
4. Have Numbers in Hand, Ready to Present
Frequently, numbers rule the day during an assessment. There are many different types of numbers: staffing, budgets, revenues, profits and the performance product characteristics. You need to be able to explain what drives them clearly and concisely. Having the right numbers at hand is particularly important during an M&A or investment transaction. You gain instant credibility as a transparent, open business partner.
5. Be Optimistic, but Realistic
Being overly boastful about your software’s capabilities is one of the surest ways to fail a technical audit. You should stress the benefits of your software in addition to its technical capabilities and also clearly articulate the challenges that your technical team are facing. By taking this step, you will show that you have a complete understanding of your software’s pros and cons.
6. Be Ready to Explain the “Hows and Whys” of Your Product
Here is where you can truly shine during a technical audit. You should jump at the opportunity to explain the technologies you have chosen to use; however, don’t forget to include why you have made these choices. This aspect is key to conquering an assessment because you want to guide auditors through your justification process for the choices you made during development.
7. Know Your Audience
Knowing your audience is as important as organization, honesty and forthrightness. Acquirers and investors need to know different things than internal evaluators. Listen carefully to what the evaluator wants and directly answer their questions.
In the end, you should remember that no software product is perfect, so take the advice coming out of an assessment as worthwhile input. More often than not, the feedback from assessment will make your product better, not worse, and, frequently, the assessment creates a tighter, more collaborative bond between the technologists who build the product and stakeholders who sell, market, fund, and use the product. This makes your product more successful, your job easier and more rewarding, and, at the end of the day, helps your users get things done, which is the whole purpose of software.