Eliminate Your Innovation Pains, Part 2

My previous post was about a couple of tools to address the top three pain points in the management of product portfolio according to the Third Product Portfolio Management Benchmark Study by Planview (http://www.planview.com/m1/pd/3rd-product-portfolio-management-benchmark-study-hph).

  1. Too many projects for available resources,
  2. Not being able to drive innovation fast enough,
  3. Decisions that go back and forth, get made late or ineffectively.

In this post, I will address the second pain: Not being able to drive innovation fast enough.

Eric Ries introduces two concepts in The Lean Startup (http://theleanstartup.com):

  • Minimum Viable Product (MVP) – a product that is aimed to test fundamental business hypotheses and learn from. It is not (necessarily) a prototype or a beta version of the product.
  • Pivoting – making changes to product concept based on results from success or failures of MVPs.

Most organizations go through a linear development cycle, which goes something like:

  • Define business model, business goals, requirements, target market, product/service to be offered and its value proposition
  • De-risk technology, develop conceptual design, gather market intelligence
  • Develop product/service
  • Prototype/beta testing
  • Transfer to production, crank-up marketing engine, operationalize
  • Focus on sales

The problem with this approach is two-fold:

  1. The product/service is market-ready only after a lengthy cycle. Depending on the complexity of the product/service, the cycle may take anywhere from a few months to a few years.
  2. There are few opportunities to experiment with market acceptance and change direction (if necessary)

The importance of multiple cycles to reach the final product is not a new concept. Before Ries, many others made the same argument and gained considerable traction (eg. W. Edwards Deming). However, this appears to be a difficult concept to put into practice. We tend to get lost in the race to the finish line and forget that sometimes a detour is the smarter path to the end-result.

My experience, which is learned the hard way, shows that these MVP-pivot cycles need to be explicitly introduced into development process. Each cycle needs to include a decision point where the hypothesis of the MVP is tested, results analysed and one of the following decisions are made:

  • Go – all is well, hypothesis is validated.
  • Pivot – hypothesis is not validated but lessons-learned indicate new opportunities.
  • No-Go – hypothesis is not validated and we don’t know what else to do.

I welcome your comments on my blog. If you have specific questions, please feel free to contact me at ferhan.bulca@intrascope.ca.

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