Six months in, and we’ve hit a key development milestone. One noteworthy upshot of this: after focusing heavily on building the foundation for our software platform to this point, we’re now ready to focus on customer-facing features.
From a business standpoint, this marks a shift to more tangible progress. Until now, the stakeholders — most notably investors and potential customers — have provided feedback and support without much to show in exchange. As we start on the customer-facing pieces of the puzzle, it will become increasingly easier to demonstrate progress and tell our story.
In terms of customer discovery, the move from prototyping (we use a combination of whiteboarding and balsamiq) to actual code is in equal parts exciting and scary.
The goal of wireframe mockups is to obtain feedback with minimal effort and commitment: the exercise is purposefully “quick-and-dirty” with the explicit understanding that work product can be discarded without hesitation. Turning mockups into production code, however, is altogether different. It not only generates actual, here-and-now development costs, but it also creates an important commitment as a paths are set for customer interaction and future direction.
Mistakes at this juncture are often not discovered until much later, at which point they are not easily (or inexpensively) corrected.
Getting this right, right now, is a big deal.
Added to this is the pressure of getting to market quickly within the SaaS-enabled concept of iterative development. Essentially, the challenge becomes to plot a course of feature development which properly prioritizes the highest value features with the understanding that customer discovery and roadmap design is dynamic.
We recently held a company-wide (okay, it’s only five of us), day-long, story mapping exercise to ensure shared understanding and set priorities. With the results, we’ve “officially” moved to the next stage for feature development.
We started the process of assessing market opportunities and took our first steps in product design six months ago.
If we’re successful, we will substantively achieve the goal of “product-market fit.” Miscues resulting in technical debt are a fact of life in software development, and can only be minimized by getting as close to the right answer at this juncture. So, best to proceed quickly, efficiently, and with an appropriate dose of caution.