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Thread: How do you come up with ideas for new products?

  1. #1
    Bronze Member rfnel's Avatar
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    How do you come up with ideas for new products?

    Hi All

    As it is, a lot of folks in my industry (software) provide bespoke software. Someone approaches us with a need of some sort, we develop an application for them, they pay and that's the end of it. That is all good and well, but it's not the most sustainable form income - we only get paid while we are actually working.

    Once in a while, someone like Microsoft, Google or Mark Zuckerberg comes along with a product that revolutionizes the industry (Windows, Google, Facebook, etc). They can then comfortably sit back and watch the money roll in.

    So, here's my question for the day - how do you come up with ideas for new products?

    On a side note, if you happen to be in need of software (either something small developed for a specific scenario, or a full-blown ERP system) please give me a shout.

    Cheers,
    Riaan
    "Fortune favours the bold" - Virgil
    Riaan Nel
    Freelance Software Development | LinkedIn | Skype

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    Diamond Member AndyD's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rfnel View Post
    we develop an application for them, they pay and that's the end of it.
    Surely if you see a need, you write the application, build it around proprietary formats to kill the competition and charge the customers a rudely large annual licensing on a per seat basis as well as a ridiculous amount for telephonic support.....or is it just Softline with this business model?
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    Bronze Member rfnel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndyD View Post
    Surely if you see a need, you write the application, build it around proprietary formats to kill the competition and charge the customers a rudely large annual licensing on a per seat basis as well as a ridiculous amount for telephonic support.....or is it just Softline with this business model?
    Well, from time to time we develop something that we can resell and charge ridiculous amounts for.

    The company that I work for developed an ERP system from scratch - it's an impressive piece of software and we differentiate ourselves from our competitors by means of competitive pricing. Even so, there is still loads of competition and I wouldn't advise a small business owner or a freelance developer to try something like that - I know that I wouldn't be able to do it alone. In my opinion, bigger isn't always better - something just needs to be unique. I recently heard about a kid who made quite a bit of money after developing an iPhone app to help people remember where they parked their cars. Simple, but clever.
    "Fortune favours the bold" - Virgil
    Riaan Nel
    Freelance Software Development | LinkedIn | Skype

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    Site Caretaker Dave A's Avatar
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    Who said "need is the mother of invention"?

    I think in most instances the starting point is identifying and properly defining a problem that needs solving.

    Step one: look for problems.
    Step two: look for solutions that fit your desired model.

    I actually disagree with the "it needs to be unique" line. A little something to differentiate from the crowd, yes. Innovative, yes.
    But if you're relying on being unique... most often for one reason or another it isn't sustainable.
    The trouble with opportunity is it normally comes dressed up as work.

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    Bronze Member rfnel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave A View Post
    Who said "need is the mother of invention"?

    I think in most instances the starting point is identifying and properly defining a problem that needs solving.

    Step one: look for problems.
    Step two: look for solutions that fit your desired model.
    That is an excellent suggestion, thank you for the advice. I'm considering drawing a big mind map with everything that I think can be done in a better/easier way - it is bound to trigger an idea somewhere.

    I actually disagree with the "it needs to be unique" line. A little something to differentiate from the crowd, yes. Innovative, yes.
    But if you're relying on being unique... most often for one reason or another it isn't sustainable.
    Agreed - 'innovative' would've been a better choice of words.

    P.S. Dave, have you had any luck in your search for ERP software?
    "Fortune favours the bold" - Virgil
    Riaan Nel
    Freelance Software Development | LinkedIn | Skype

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    Diamond Member AndyD's Avatar
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    From an outsiders point of view I think the drawback about writing software for specific industries is that you need to know that industry inside out. Unfortunately when a client gives you a brief he does so from a very blinkered point of view, he knows nothing about databases and programming and all to often he doesn't have a thorough understanding of his businesses processes at a low level. You are at the opposite end of the spectrum knowing about applications and programming but almost nothing about the way the clients business works. The learning curve from both sides is time consuming making the software expensive. Obviously with ERP software there would always be a core program and I'm guessing different add-ons and modules to adapt it to specific industries.
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    Site Caretaker Dave A's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rfnel View Post
    P.S. Dave, have you had any luck in your search for ERP software?
    I'm still exploring... at the moment I'm messing around with the "free" version of postbooks and seeing what works and what doesn't.
    The trouble with opportunity is it normally comes dressed up as work.

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    Bronze Member rfnel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndyD View Post
    From an outsiders point of view I think the drawback about writing software for specific industries is that you need to know that industry inside out. Unfortunately when a client gives you a brief he does so from a very blinkered point of view, he knows nothing about databases and programming and all to often he doesn't have a thorough understanding of his businesses processes at a low level. You are at the opposite end of the spectrum knowing about applications and programming but almost nothing about the way the clients business works. The learning curve from both sides is time consuming making the software expensive. Obviously with ERP software there would always be a core program and I'm guessing different add-ons and modules to adapt it to specific industries.
    That is the problem with 'big' applications. In terms of our latest project, my partner and I were very fortunate. The client is a great guy with a technical background (though it is not in IT), and we were able to sit down with him and discuss everything in a lot of detail. We eventually came up with a solution that is sound from a technical point of view, and which fits his requirements perfectly. It did, however, take a lot of discussion and a lot of questions before we could pinpoint everything that the system should do.

    Without the luxury of someone who knows the business, breaking into a new market would be very difficult. But as Dave pointed out, innovation is important. Facebook didn't become popular through satisfying some big business need - all it took was a young man with a bright idea which appealed to the masses.
    "Fortune favours the bold" - Virgil
    Riaan Nel
    Freelance Software Development | LinkedIn | Skype

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