[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hatever the question, it seems that engineers, marketers and designers all come to different answers. What else would you expect from such a mix of creative and logical minds? At the AVG Innovation Center in Amsterdam we believe these different views are fundamentally complementary.
We categorise these different mindsets like this:
At the AVG Innovation Labs, our engineers, marketers and designers all work closely together and are in regular discussion so that each gets a better understanding of the big picture. The approach — a mashup of tools from Agile Engineering, Lean Startup, and Design Thinking — is intended for use at the beginning of greenfield projects (i.e. projects without constraints imposed by prior work.) In Agile terms, the approach might be called “Sprint Zero”. At AVG Innovation, we call it the “App Lab”.
Given enough iterations, a basic Agile process would no doubt cover the same ground; but our checklist is more efficient as it puts the first proper development cycle on solid ground.
The App Lab approach was refined over the course of 9 “greenfield projects” to develop new products or service propositions (including Family Center ). It was developed to ensure multi-disciplinary teams start new projects with a clear and shared set of priorities. It is basically a checklist.
Scanning the horizon
The App Lab checklist encourages a 360° view of the project, including User, Business, and Technical considerations. Working through the checklist leads team members from different disciplines to discuss what they already know about the problem, to develop a shared understanding, helping the rest of the project go faster. By the end of the checklist, the team has a set of working hypotheses on what it will take to make a product that is Desirable, Viable, and Feasible.
In principle, there is a natural order to the checklist, with items relating to Desirability first, then Viability, then Feasibility. Because Why we sell a product determines How we sell it, which determines What we sell. This means that customers drive business which drives technology.
So the natural order would be design, then marketing, then engineering. In practice however, it’s not possible to address either design, marketing, or engineering in isolation. An award-winning design that can’t be built, an incredible technology patent no one needs, or a fast-selling product that loses money are not successes. Successful design, marketing, and engineering are inextricable from one another.
Innovation projects commonly start with a compelling inspiration from design, marketing or engineering; but usually two out of these three perspectives are only vaguely outlined. In these cases we’ve found it’s better to approach App Lab as a comprehensive checklist rather than an ordered set of steps.
Use the App Lab checklist to surface what you already know, and to fill in any gaps. Be prepared to revisit items on the list as your understanding of the problem evolves.
How long does it take to go through the list? It’s possible to go from inspiration to coherent, validated product/service proposition in 4 weeks, but we plan for six weeks for two reasons:
- Multitasking. Many team members will be working on other projects in parallel so it’s important that we set aside enough time for each project to be done to a high standard.
- Quality assurance. The extra fortnight ensures that any considerations or tasks aren’t rushed to meet deadlines.
The checklist validates that an idea has been considered from design, marketing, and engineering angles and confirms that the core proposition provides value to users. It validates that an idea is worthy of further investigation. The final deliverable is a pitch to start work on the first iteration of development.
To get a better idea of the process please see below an overview of the App Lab list.
Disclaimer: All opinions are those of the author and not those of AVG or Innovation Labs.