For many years I have had an interest in what I call economical software development. Eric Ries’s minimum viable product is an example of an approach to achieve economical software development and there are many others.
Usually when I hear someone talking about a minimum viable product (MVP), they are thinking of it in terms of a beta or simply conducting initial testing to validate their concept. Once they are done with this phase, they are back to business as usual. My economical software development philosophy assumes that you never stop asking tough questions and validate everything with real customers prior to writing software.
You should continuously ask yourself, “Do we need to build this?”
Innovation workshops such as the Google Ventures Design Sprint are a great example of a way to conduct validation in a constructive and collaborative fashion. These workshops can help you understand if your idea is worth building or if there are tweaks required prior to writing code.
Not all companies are the same and neither are their problems. It is important to consider all context when designing a workshop. While the Google Ventures Design Sprint is versatile, I often modify the process. Sometimes my modifications are as simple as compressing some portions and expanding on others. Other times I draw from other systems such as Liberating Structures and Gamestorming.
I’ve written some helpful posts regarding Design Sprints. I encourage you to check them out. If you are in Austin, come join us at the monthly Austin Design Sprint meetup where local Austin companies share their experience and learnings.
What is the simplest way to deliver your solution to the customer without jeopardizing the user experience?
Regardless of your technique, once you validate your idea and determine the best solution, it is time to build the software. Now you are once again confronted with tough decisions to make. Most early stage founders I speak with are in need of a trusted advisor to help them establish how to execute on their ideas. My advice is to seek the path of least resistance. You should continuously ask yourself: “What is the simplest way to deliver your solution to the customer without jeopardizing the user experience?”
This is a quality I look for when interviewing for any product team. Some engineers are enticed by technical elegance and beautiful technical solutions. If they are too intoxicated by their craft that they are blind to the customer needs, you will experience a painful misalignment with business needs and the software they deliver to you.
Always stay committed to learning about your customer’s needs and priorities.
In closing, consider how you might align business concepts and marketing goals with software development that is affordable, effective and allows your organization to smartly grow over time as your budget grows. Never take your eye off the customer. Always stay committed to learning about your customer’s needs and priorities. Never over-build.