Increasingly business owners are turning towards app development to build on and enhance their services, and to increase engagement with current and potential customers. Whilst designing and launching an app can ultimately prove beneficial for your business bottom-line, the process is often lengthy, with a myriad of different elements making up the project as a whole.

The complex nature of such a project is often overlooked by entrepreneurs and business owners who are keen to tap into the massive growth potential offered by introducing an app into their business model. At worst, this can lead to escalating costs which have not been properly budgeted, and an end product which does not quite hit the mark.

On average, app development takes 4-6 months from project inception to launch. But if you’re an entrepreneur or lean start-up, chances are you’re looking for a much quicker way to launch your idea to the market.

So, is there a way to design and build a real native app in a significantly shorter space of time?

Here at Prototype, we recently launched an app for our client in just 2 months using React Native, Google Design Sprints and Agile development. Whilst this was a resounding success, there are some key take-aways which we will share with you in this article, so that you can see exactly what it takes to deliver an app in such a short space of time.

1. Ensure key stakeholders are ready

One of the key factors which project managers need to take into consideration is the number of cross-dependencies within the team. The more people involved and external agencies dependent on the work of each other, the greater risk there is to timely completion of the project. If you are looking to complete the project as a sprint, then it’s important to look for ways to minimise these dependencies.

When it comes to managing advanced projects such as app development, which involve input from multiple stakeholders, the key cause for delays is the lack of availability of decision makers. Before embarking on any project with a short timescale, it’s vital that you first identify the right stakeholders, and then ensure all stakeholders are briefed and ready to go.

Most projects are delayed because of the back and forth between approvals and submissions rather than the people working on it. If the CEO is the one that is approving the design then he needs to be part of the project team otherwise his input will be based on his opinion, potentially missing huge amounts of background information.

2. Agile design is as important as agile development

An agile working environment provides enough autonomy for you to get the work done quickly and effectively. Within app development, it’s understandable that project managers will implement this way of working during the developmental and launch phases, but if you are looking to complete the project in a massively reduced timeframe, it’s vital that you take this approach within the design stage too.

Before any successful product can be built and taken to market, the market first needs to be tested to ensure its viability. Within a design-led project, this can be a complex process, with the design taking multiple iterations before it is even ready to hit the prototype stage.

In order to develop the app in two months, we took elements from Google Ventures Design Sprints and applied to the project in order to work through the design phase faster. The premise is simple and can massively streamline the process. Work is split into weekly sprints where we ideate, sketch, refine and test our designs over the course of 5 days. By following this model and having a structured plan in place, the team stayed super-focused and we were able to speed through the design stages at a much faster rate, without compromising on quality of work.

3. Don’t fall into the cost trap

Many business owners wrongly assume that if they launch a project faster, it will mean a reduction in the costs. Whilst the end return on investments may be seen quicker, at the onset of the project, it’s important to remember that a sprint requires a dedicated and most importantly experienced team working on the project. As mentioned above, it also requires the removal of dependencies on third parties as much as possible. You don't want to have to deal with another system integration and IT department along the way, but you still need that expertise within your core team.

Whether you're an entrepreneur or a business that is planning to implement new services and develop an app, it remains true that digital change is rolled out in small achievable steps using an iterative approach to brings both ROI and value as fast as possible.

Want to learn more about how to tackle your digital strategy? Download a free chapter of Digital Strategy: A Guide to Digital Business Transformation here.