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7 steps to getting software innovation projects to market, fast

Digital business, Innovation - October 2, 2015

Customers today make big demands of your digital services. To keep people engaged and connected, you want to get innovative products to market faster. Traditionally, IT projects could take years to see the light of day, often for minimal returns. As you introduce quicker creative IT projects, you need to take a different approach to project management.

These seven steps will help your business speed things up.

1. Know what you're building and why.

Once you’ve spotted a market opportunity worth exploring, define your project. This requires a business case that articulates the value the you’ll deliver. Innovative projects usually involve learning and designing as you go, so even though you might not have a perfect picture of the product you’ll deliver, you need to know the problem or painpoint you’ll solve for your customers. Making people’s lives easier is true value. Software is a means to that end.

Your business case should include:

  • a description of the target audience
  • an outline of the problem you’ll solve
  • well-defined objectives
  • measurable success criteria
  • the duration of your pilot campaign (which is step 6 below).

2. Get the right people.

A successful innovation project relies on a lot of things, but your team could well be most important. The right people, who have the right skills and access to the right tools, will set you up on the right path. Everyone needs to know their role, own their responsibilities, and effectively communicate across work streams. 

Cross-functional teams (with skills in technology, product development and marketing, business, and sales, for example) provide fresh and unique perspectives, which really help the innovation process.

3. Prepare your organisation.

Before your innovation project begins, every stakeholder needs to understand their contribution. Identify and work with stakeholders as early as possible - internal marketing and IT support, for example, are often left out of early preparations and take time to get up to speed later.

Treat innovation projects differently to traditional IT projects. Day-to-day red tape isn’t always appropriate, and managers can make a big difference by clearing the path. Lightweight technical, legal, risk and compliance requirements help keep projects within tight time constraints. 

Innovation initiatives don’t always achieve their desired results. In truth, many fail. When you set expectations within your organisation this might be unfamiliar, but without failure you’ll never find that game-changing product. It’s important - and realistic - to prepare people for either outcome.

When it comes to defining success, be clear and choose appropriate KPIs. Financial outcomes don’t suit every initiative: customer loyalty, retention and increased brand awareness can all be successful outcomes. 

4. Have a plan.

Good planning lets everyone know what needs to be done, and when. It saves wasted effort by keeping the team on a clearly defined path. Define the project’s timeline, individual responsibilities, and deliverables. Set milestones for the team to hit along the way. Everyone needs to know the timeframe and success criteria you’re working to.

If your organisation has a ‘stage-gate’ approach to budget approval - that is, multiple times when you need new approval to keep going - this is not a recipe for speed. When getting to market fast is important, reverse this process: seek commitment to the entire project cost upfront and set agreed checkpoints along the way. That way you can order steps by what works for delivery, not for budgetary approval.

5. Build a lean solution.

A lean approach reduces waste and keeps costs down. Start by identifying the minimum viable product (MVP) - that is, the simplest and lowest-risk version of your product that still offers a return on investment. The MVP can prove your business case (or hypothesis) before you invest in the complete solution. MVPs are often not feature complete, can require manual processes, and might contain temporary design elements.

Alongside this lean product definition, agile processes let you handle changes to requirements while you build. Technical roadblocks, feedback from user testing, or even a change in legislation can all lead to slippage, and even affect the value proposition. The team should be agile enough to accommodate changes like these, and trade between features where there is a clear benefit.

6. Run a pilot campaign.

A soft launch to a limited, closed set of customers lets you gather valuable feedback and measure the solution against your initial hypothesis. Small-scale pilots reduce the impact of any potential negative customer experiences while you learn what to improve. You can scale your results and estimate the likely full impact of the solution if you roll it out to a wider group of customers.

Use analytics to see how customers behave: the journey they take, what they do, how they get places, and where they drop out. Look for possible changes to increase uptake, or improve the customer experience. By analysing the behaviour of a small group, you let real customers inform your solution before you launch to the public, which gives you a better chance of success.

7. Keep measuring and improving things.

Once in production, measure the solution against your original success criteria. Identify pain points and the value in addressing each one. Do the same for general improvements, too: which changes would be most valuable? You’ll soon see which modifications to add to the team’s backlog. Software should keep evolving to stay relevant and compelling. 

Innovation projects need continual teamwork, planning, and collaboration to get to market. These seven steps will go a long way to ensuring successful, fast delivery of your next innovation project.

At Jade we work on innovation projects with companies all over the world to transform businesses and create world-class customer experiences. Talk with us about how we can help make your next innovation project faster and more successful. 

We’ll help you to answer the big questions.

Contact us now. info@jadeworld.com.

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