You’ve just dreamed up the next big app or program...but now what? Whether you’re a developer, a product manager, or a CTO, turning your napkin sketch into a fully functioning piece of technology will require a lot of know-how and a little elbow grease. But it doesn’t have to be an impossible task.

1. Do Your Due Diligence

Before you sit down to write a line of code, you will want to do some research. Does your idea already exist? Who are the competitors and what do their products look like? Stepping into a space that’s already crowded can be daunting, but if your idea is bringing something new to the table, you’ll be better positioned for success.

Next, and perhaps most importantly, is there actually a need for your app? And would your app idea address the need in a useful way? To answer these questions, Samuel Shields, Open Banking Developer Evangelist for Citi FinTech, says you may even need to take a very basic crack at realizing your idea before you solicit feedback from your network. “A lot of times there’s value in making anything from a low-fi prototype all the way up to some working code that illustrates what your experience may look like. Not something that you intend to be your final vision but something that allows you to ask people, ‘Hey this is my core concept. What do you think? Does it fulfill a need?’”

2. Select a Builder

Once you’ve cleared your idea for takeoff, you’ll need to identify an engineer who can actually make it fly. Do you want to handle the heavy lifting yourself or with a few technically skilled friends, or would it be worth the expense to bring in an experienced outside firm that could tackle the project? Cost, aptitude, and speed to market are all factors to consider. It is always enticing to take a DIY approach, but since getting to market as quickly as possible can be crucial to any idea’s ultimate success, enlisting some outside help may be your best bet.

3. Utilize an API When You Can

As you and your team begin to build the framework for your app, you’ll save a lot of time (and money!) by finding relevant application programming interfaces (APIs) to integrate into your system. If you find yourself having to explain what an API is to investors or other team members who aren’t as tech-savvy as you, help them wrap their heads around the topic by explaining that APIs are simple ways for applications and business to communicate.

So what does this API look like? If your app needs a shopping function, for instance, you can save yourself a lot of work and expense by leveraging the shopping system already developed by a big e-commerce retailer or a payment solution a financial institution like Citi has built. Sure, you could build the function from scratch yourself, but given the complexity of some of the systems you will likely need, you may be setting your timeline back by months or years. Bottom line: Don’t reinvent the wheel when an API can get you where you need to go.

4. Test, Test, Test

Experienced developers and project managers know all too well that every product’s path to reality is dotted with inevitable snags and glitches. To minimize the delays these natural bumps in the road can cause, it’s important to test your product during and after the development stage. By constantly running automated tests as you build your app, you can help improve the stability of your finished product while also gaining a deeper understanding of how, when, and why things break—and more importantly, how to fix them.

Even more important, says Citi’s Shields, is getting actual users on your application. “It’s like that mug I made in elementary school: I was so proud of it and I brought it home to my mom and it didn’t hold water.” Through testing, you may find out your initial hypothesis doesn’t hold water, but there may be an even better thread of an idea that leads to a different (winning) idea.

5. Find the Right Distribution Channel

With your tech idea finally a reality, it’s time to sell it. As with any product, it’s important to know where your customer lives. If you’ve got a consumer-facing product, you’ll probably want to stake out space in one of the major app stores. On the other hand, if you have created a specialized business-to-business product that serves a specific industry, you may be better served with a narrower channel devoted to that industry. Once you’ve identified the right channel, pay attention to both its cost structure and restrictions—your code may need to be compliant with their standards and practices. But once you’ve cleared those hurdles, you’ll be in business!

The right APIs can make realizing your tech dreams easier and faster. If you need a fintech solution, Citi’s Open Banking Developer Hub may have the perfect solution to help you create incredible customer experiences. Learn more at