After reading Eric Ries momentous book a couple of weeks ago, The Lean Startup, I was inspired to try it out for myself.
More specifically the concept of Minimal Viable Product or MVP. Now MVP is a well know concept in Agile Software Development and sometimes goes under different guises like Minimal Marketable Feature (MMF), or Minimal Useful Feature Set (MUF) and Potentially Shipable Increment (PSI).
Actually to align Ries’s MVP with these is not totally true. In agile speak MMF, MUF and PSI usually come with a definition of done which implies a sturdy definition of done and therefore utmost quality is delivered. However for a startup this is not totally necessary, at least not in the early stages when one is seeking feedback.
This stringent definition of done is relaxed in favour of delivering just enough functionality to gain feedback. That is weighing the economic costs of delivering great quality and maybe too many features with the shoestring budget nature of a startup whereby some quality can be forsaken to gain the feedback from the market. Eric says in the book, when could in the dilemma of what to put in err on the less than the more. This also goes to the premise of validated learning through small experiments as opposed to building something over a period of months or years that customers refuse to use.
The trick is then to put information gained into practice quickly. If it’s a goer then work to start delivering quality but still tempered with the lean mindset. Early adopters will forgive clunkyness but not for long. But if the product does not gain favourable feedback then Eric says to pivot to change the product based on the feedback or to quickly abandon it and move onto the next thing – hopefully with a good learning experience to apply later on. This still leaves one feeling unnerved, that is leaving out features and perhaps the accompanying criticism, but I’m going to have faith in my ability to pivot and in others to provide meaningful feedback.
So with this mindset in place, and still with not a lot of experience with the Lean Startup idea, I’m embarking on a learning experience a Genchi Gembutsu if you will on several levels. I’ve created a startup for an idea to create a social environment for sporting clubs – to make it fun. That is the vision to make it FUN – a fun social environment for sporting clubs supported by modem technology.
So with this in mind with the help of Agile and Lean trainers, About Agile, I’ve created a website with just the one application. It’s an instantiation of the Minimal Viable Product or MVP idea and the first iteration of the Build-Measure-Learn feedback cycle.
So the website in a simple WordPress site with a simple template which took about a day to knock up.
In it there is just one application from last year which is on offer. This, hopefully, is a fun social application for a sporting club. It allows a club to collect votes for a Best and Fairest or Most Valuable Player vote count. With this data a PowerPoint presentation can be created and used with a large TV screen or projector to present the round by round votes.
This application, rough and ready as it is, is just an an Excel spreadsheet which can be submitted to the website. Upon submittal I will process the data and send back the powerpoint presentation. This program took 3 or 4 days last year to create. Notice that there is a manual step in there. I could automate the processing as well, but I want to see first. If I get many requests then it makes sense to do this. If I get 5 a year, well the priority for that feature goes down quite a bit or gets dropped completely.
The site is being hosted by About Agile and the link is teamzone.aboutagile.com. There you will see more information about how the ethos of the project and how to use the materials.
Hoping for feedback. No feedback is just a good as bad feedback and that’s Ok and we move on. Positive feedback will supply the encouragement to continue the project and lets the users of the site drive it to where it should go. I’m hoping for a zoom-out pivot whereby requests for other features will grow the website and a viral model to supply the new customers. A just-in-time scaling model will apply if successful. Progress will be documented in subsequent blog posts on this site.
I’m also sure there are others like Eric Ries who could critique my approach. I welcome this and encourage this and accept the unnerving nature of feedback. I could easily have missed some details. I’ve read the book once and this is the first practice attempt arising from that.