While I was reflecting on the work BlueFletch did this year, something stood out to me: projects that started with a software prototype were more successful than those where our clients decided not to implement a POC.
Is your organization taking the necessary steps to prove an idea is going to be impactful before diving head first?
Bottom line: if you’re looking to achieve scale and quality for your 2020 initiatives, a well-executed proof of concept is absolutely vital.
What exactly is a proof of concept?
Wikipedia defines a proof of concept as the “realization of a certain method or idea to demonstrate its feasibility, or a demonstration in principle, whose purpose is to verify that some concept or theory has the potential of being used.” A proof of concept is usually small and may or may not be complete.
Tom and David Kelly of IDEO are known for saying that a “prototype is worth a thousand meetings.” That’s because software prototypes give stakeholders and end users a visible representation of what they can see rather than leaving them to imagine what the product might look like based on a hypothetical concept.
At BlueFletch, we frequently leverage tools like Invision, which transforms static designs into clickable, interactive prototypes, as well as Glide, which turns spreadsheets into easy-to-use apps. These are just two examples of prototype tools we use that allow us to put technology out in front of the end-users, developers and supporting business groups so that we can gather feedback and prioritize accordingly.
Where we’ve seen companies go wrong
Nowadays, it’s expected for enterprises to be innovation-forward. There’s a new level of pressure to have the latest and greatest technology for employees and customers, but many organizations haven’t figured out how to take the right approach. There are the three main traits you see when enterprises rush a solution or are reluctant to prove out an idea:
1). They start with the solution
2). They fail to measure
3). They are unwilling to change
STARTING WITH THE SOLUTION
Consider the craze around blockchain. When cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum were making blockchain popular everyone was jumping on the bandwagon. Start-ups were rushing to create initial coin offerings to raise money. Enterprise companies were quick to implement a blockchain as a traceability/tracking feature in order to feel innovative. Instead of validating the solutions in order to make sure it was the best fit, many companies were experiencing FOMO (fear of missing out).
FAILING TO MEASURE
Let’s rewind to the fried chicken frenzy that took place this summer. In case you missed it, Popeyes debuted its new chicken sandwich on August 12, going toe-to-toe with the well-established Chick-fil-A. Two weeks and numerous fights later, Popeyes was out of inventory.
In the words of Biggie Smalls, Popeye’s “reign on top was short like leprechauns.”
Why? Because they failed to measure.
The mile-long car lines that Popeyes experienced during that short period is the norm for Chick-fil-A; the difference is, they know exactly how to operate and provide a consistent brand experience across all their locations.
As a result, people feel more comfortable going to Chick-fil-A because they know they can expect brand consistency. We know they measure how much they sell, how long we wait in line as a customer and have tight control over the supply chain process. The thought of Chick-fil-A running out of a chicken sandwich has never crossed anyone’s mind, because we all know that day would never happen.
UNWILLING TO CHANGE
Without an innovative culture, people are resistant to change and scared of failure. And nothing kills creativity like fear of being wrong or status quo. Companies should look to create an environment where learning through experimentation is part of the culture.
According to Accenture, “While 63% of companies are hiring chief innovation officers (CIOs) and more than 90% are using new technologies to support the innovation process, many still struggle to create and encourage a truly innovative culture across the board.”
Attributes of a successful software prototype
Our most successful proof of concepts shared the following characteristics:
- INVOLVE THE RIGHT PEOPLE
The most successful POCs have diverse and dedicated teams. At a minimum, the core POC team should consist of technical specialists, business experts, and field users. Having a good Project Manager, or champion, who can help close the gap, keep things on track, and boost collaboration is a real added-value as well.
- USER EXPERIENCE IS PARAMOUNT
Invest in user experience and user testing before you start building apps. Talk to your end-users and spend time observing how devices and applications are currently being used. Let this refine your scope and feature list.
- KEEP IT SIMPLE
As Tom Chi, the co-founder of Google X says: “Maximize the rate of learning by minimizing the time to try things.” Try to make the duration of software prototypes as short as possible. The key is to provide just enough time to prove out success, but not to let it drag on too long.
- DATA, DATA, DATA
A POC is as good as the data you have. If modern technology has taught us anything, it is that where there is data, there is the possibility to maximize measurements and analyses. Having measurable, consistent, and easy-to-analyze data is important to help you validate or invalidate your POC.
- BE PREPARED TO PIVOT
Software prototypes should involve continuous learning. Your company will need to support experimentation, questioning, pivots, learnings, and failures during software prototypes. Creating this open-minded environment where POC’s can live and breathe is critical. Always remember that POC’s aren’t designed to be complete or flawless, so it’s okay to call your baby ugly. How you respond to the feedback and iterate is what will ultimately make your project successful.
Making Software Prototypes part of your 2020 Plan
We have found that when engaging in a new project, it’s critical that the development of one or more prototype be considered before diving right into the architecture and design of the final product.
Our Rapid Validation Methodology (RVM) gives teams a shortcut to learning without building and launching. BlueFletch has created a hybrid, human-centric approach based on the Google Venture design sprint model, and we customize our sprints based on our customer’s needs.
Our RVM emphasizes the ground-breaking potential of Design Sprints. RVM allows you as a problem owner to apply the Sprint methodology to a wider array of problems, in manageable chunks of time.
Unlike agency or independent sprint facilitators, our team is also a technology firm. This empowers us to strategically craft a go-forward plan and actually assist to implement and execute production-ready solutions.
Want to find out more about planning a Rapid Validation Design Sprint? Contact us.