Both for a beginner “garage” project from a couple of programmers, and for a small department of a large company, there is one general rule – validation of ideas. After all, the more attempts you make, the more likely it will be to achieve a high result.
Let’s face it: if only 20% of projects become successful, you will need any help. Here are a few principles from which to validate ideas early on.
- A frequent and objective review of their position
It is essential to be able to evaluate achievements objectively and to imagine what stage your business is. But it may not be so simple if you treat the company as your brainchild – therefore, you should get rid of such an association first.
Then it is necessary to decide on further actions: whether it is worth changing the direction or it is required to continue in the same spirit. For example, you can arrange monthly meetings with top managers or co-founders, analyze current indicators, and decide whether to choose a different strategy or stay on track. The main thing – do not rest on our laurels. Your success should always not be enough.
Thus, you can ensure the continuous growth and development of your business. But what’s important is that you need to base your decisions on real and verifiable actionable metrics, not vanity metrics. The latter can paint the wrong picture and lead to an erroneous decision (for example, focusing on the number of views or traffic, rather than on revenue). In this case, vanity metrics can be merely dangerous and should be avoided by any means.
- Communication with the audience directly
You can begin to communicate with potential customers even before the release of the product, to find out a real opinion about your ideas at an early stage. Contact the representatives of the target audience and invite them to test, for example, your new application, and in the process, write down the results.
Yes, many of the people you turn to will be indifferent, dissatisfied, or busy with something else – but this is a kind of initial validation method that can put you on the path to creating a product that users need.
You will find even more information on the topic in Giff Constable’s book Talking to Humans – it is full of examples of collecting feedback before the project is released.
- Listen to intuition, but rely on data
Instincts are wrong. They can be useful if your ideas and assumptions are based on previous experience, but they are almost always wrong. That is why it is so important to collect information. You should always match hypotheses with specific data. It would seem that such geniuses as Steve Jobs (Steve Jobs) and Jeff Bezos (Jeff Bezos) must have superhuman intuition. But in fact, intuition can offer hypotheses based only on your experience and understanding of the market, and real data should support it. Learning the basics of data science and data analysis should help if you’d like to use more sophisticated tools to test your hypotheses.
Learn metrics – decisions based on erroneous data can be as unprofitable as purely mechanical ones. Therefore, it is so essential to find action metrics – i.e., specific and repetitive data to monitor results. In other words, they are affected only by real changes in your product or service.
- Reduce release time
When Eric Ries, one of the founders of the lean startup concept, became a co-founder of IMVU (a social entertainment site), he worked for six months on the first version of his project, which turned out to be useless to anyone. The subsequent versions, which also failed, took two weeks.
The moral is that the amount of time spent on development does not affect the acceptance or rejection of the offer by the audience – the sooner you receive feedback on the product, the faster you will understand in which direction to move further.
Consider a time tracking tool along with your project management app. Which will give you a clear insight of where your team is spending how much time.
As Eric himself later said, two weeks is too long. Marketers could well learn about product failure much earlier. At a minimum, a simple smoke test on AdWords would show how bad the concept was.
Too long is how much? Unfortunately, there are no definite time criteria for creating a minimum viable product (MVP, minimum viable product), as it all depends on a specific project. MVP is the version with the most basic set of functions, sufficient for an initial demonstration to the user. If some service does not fit this description, its development is not necessary for MVP development.
The Build, Learn, Measure circular diagram of the building, weighing, and evaluating can be especially useful for validating new ideas. It reflects the creation of MVP, analysis of its effectiveness for customers, evaluation of results, and obtaining a new vision.
This scheme can be used for all stages of product development. Whether you make changes to your CRM or create an initial startup prototype, the indicated steps will help to validate and get the necessary data as quickly as possible.
- You will never be too large for validation.
Even large companies with large-scale international projects must validate ideas in the same way as startups. According to “The Godfather of Silicon Valley,” the founder of 8 startups, Steve Blank, the world has changed – the rules that worked in the 90s are no longer relevant. If large companies want to remain innovative, they need to learn from newcomers. Otherwise, they will stay in the shadow of small but more agile teams.
For example, Intuit (holding several cloud-based finance solutions) studied startup technologies, which allowed them to become more flexible and grow faster than other large businesses. It is even practiced by HP, which will enable them to introduce new products and validate ideas more quickly.
Thus, whether you are a small business CEO or mid-level manager, the principles of rapid implementation and early validation are the same for everyone.
But what if Instagram remained a check-in application and not a photo-sharing solution? What if Odeo hadn’t shut down to work only on the new Twitter product? Validation is the key to the heights, and it leads to the development of particularly successful companies. If you are working on a new product, there is always a risk that change can lead to both prosperity and failure of the project. And without early validation, you only build a mountain of assumptions, with the growth of which the risk that the work is going in the wrong direction increases.
The rules are the same for startups and established companies. Early validation works like an error filter, allowing you to make small and quick changes, rather than waiting for the need for one cardinal. Do not be afraid to test and analyze. Always research, always validate. Who knows where success awaits you.