Sketching out product ideas

Today I’m writing with a work hat on and am sketching out some product ideas. From these I may then expand them out into one or more long-form service offering pages for my website.


My company Siftware specialises in providing maintenance & support services to the owners and managers of complex PHP applications. We have been building and maintaining custom PHP applications for 10 years and I started writing PHP applications in 1998. We currently employ a team of eight, including five PHP developers (not including me).

We are looking to productise some of our service offerings with a view to helping our friends and colleagues that are designers or frontend developers who may not have core backend development skills in-house.

We want to help them win more work, keep their existing clients happy or to streamline their workflows.

Technical Road Mapping

You have a lead on a great sounding job, but there’s a backend component and you’re not sure whether you should go for it. How will you capture requirements? Will you miss anything? Could you end up under quoting and taking on a lot of risk?

We will partner with you for a road mapping phase that you bill your client for. We provide a template for the initial proposal, which you can brand as you wish and our part of the job will be fixed price, removing any risk for you.

Sitting in the same room as you and your client we will take a comprehensive dive into their business, the domain they intend to work in, and the risks and challenges that the project might face along the way.

Road-mapping will leave you (and your client) with a clear understanding of how you can tackle the development project as quickly, economically, and reliably as possible. It will consider what additional suppliers you may need to engage with and will cover at a high level a number of other subjects including:

  • A discovery of the features that the backend needs to provide
  • Consider the development timeline
  • Considering the success criteria for the project. What is the break even, what are the minimum revenues required to make the project a success?
  • Scale. How is the system likely to grow, what sorts of transactional volumes are anticipated in the short, medium and longer term?
  • Considering regulatory constraints, if applicable
  • First-pass architectural design. How many servers are required, what technologies are best suited?

Once complete you will receive a document that will give you a plan of action on how to move the development project forward with clear calls to action for the next stages.

Optionally we can also provide some estimates for technical delivery of the project which you or your client can then take to your favourite freelancers and ask for a second opinion.

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Ongoing Support

Do you have a project you delivered that has grown organically over time and is now getting tough to manage on your own? It’s live and making your clients money but you’re now drowning in their support requests for new backend features and bug fixes?

You might be looking for someone to provide a bit of ad-hoc support now and again or, if you’re worried about stability, you’re looking for a trusted partner to provide a retained service to look after the backend whilst you keep the client happy and retain any frontend or design work.

We can help you stabilise any PHP application, to keep it running & secure. We can take responsibility for support requests, passing any on to you that relate to your area of specialism and leave you to take the lead on any commercial conversations.

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Streamlined Development Workflows

Fed up wrestling with MAMP when developing more complex PHP applications? Every time OS X upgrades something breaks?

We can provide you with a push button development environment that Just Works for your existing project, with ongoing support when things go wrong.

What about deployment? Has the application got rather complicated now. Do you need a test servers? A support ticketing system? Or automated build processes? Hint: the answer is probably yes.

We can work with you to get a best practice build process that’s customised for your client. Better yet we can structure things in such a way that you can pass the costs directly on to your client as part of a support wrapper that you provide (but we handle).

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Not ready just yet?

We have produced a 10 part email course providing lots of valuable insights on the best ways to manage more complex backend projects. It will cover build processes, version control, scripted server building and automatic deployments. We’ll also go into more detail about road mapping and how to pitch more technical projects.

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Word count: 827

Time spent: around an hour, in between distractions.

This post is one of 30 I wrote daily during April 2016 as part of the 30 Day Writing Challenge.


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