Look Before You Leap

Spire Digital
Jul 20, 2016

Spire Innovation Lab leads clients through the early stages of product development. The process involves deep vetting of the product idea and moving it from mere concept to concrete plan that gets the product to market. Innovation Lab is also applicable to businesses that are seeking ways to refresh an existing product and thereby keep themselves relevant in an evolving marketplace.

You have an idea for a product or service – either a new offering or a way to make a current offering better. You think it people would find it useful. You know the target audience. You think your idea is good enough to move forward. What steps do you take to make your idea a reality?

Whether you’re a well-established enterprise, a new stage company, or an entrepreneur with an idea, Spire Innovation Lab can help you move your idea from concept to market. Innovation Lab starts early in the evolution of a concept where we examine your idea and your customers, research competitors and potential customer segments, and look at costs and revenue streams to advise whether to move forward with your concept as is or to tweak it, bend it, or break it completely and take an entirely different path.

Below are some of the highlights in the process of Innovation Lab to give you a glimpse inside the meticulous and strategic process of product development.

 

The Customer Problem

The initial step is to understand what your idea offers to customers. Any successful market offering solves a problem that a customer has; it makes the customer’s life better in some way. The easiest way to frame the question is, ”What problem is your product going to solve for the customers?” At this point we look at your target customers, the market space you think you belong in, and outline the assumptions that exist around your concept.

 

Current Solutions to the Problem

The next step is to look at how people are currently dealing with the problem you are proposing to solve. Have people hacked together their own solutions? Are they simply frustrated and wishing for something better? Are there other products that people use to solve some of the problem but not all of it? What competitors exist, and what are their cost and revenue streams that allow them to make a profit?  These are the type of questions we investigate in order to triangulate and define the customer problem.

 

The Concept

Now it’s time to look at your product. What is your concept? How does it address the customer problem? What value does it provide to the customer, and why would the customer prefer your product or service over other solutions? At this point we’re just learning about your idea, not yet ready to question it deeply. But we will identify the assumptions that underlie your concept so we know the landscape in which we are working.

 

Voice of the Customer Research

Now that we’ve got a good idea of your concept, the market landscape, and your target audience we take a deep dive into understanding the customer’s feelings. You have made assumptions about the customers and now we have to verify whether these assumptions hold up to research. We hold in-depth interviews with multiple people in your target market to understand their thinking. Do they agree that the problem you’ve identified is a major issue for them? Are there related issues that are far more important to them? How much would they be willing to pay for such a solution? What other features do they value highly, and what features won’t have an impact on whether they want your product or not? These in-depth interviews are the most fruitful ways to discover things about your concept or current product that you never considered before. Many times we uncover ideas that our clients never realized about their products or customers.

After in-depth interviewing, another tool we can turn to is surveying. We take the information we learned from the interviews and shape a survey around it. Since a survey goes out to many more people than we can interview, it serves to confirm or negate the information we learned on a much wider basis.

 

Analysis and Recommendations

As we uncover information our research plans may change based on what we learn. And after each stage of research we analyze the results. After all the stages of research are complete, we gather the disparate sources of data and consider it all to gain insights from the greater whole. Sometimes the analysis points to moving forward with your concept, but with specific changes in certain areas. Sometimes the analysis points to making a significant pivot in your concept, such as targeting an entirely different audience group that you had not considered earlier. We don’t know what the data will point to, but we do know that it points to things based on what the customers think, not based simply on assumptions about them. If you want to provide something of value to people, listen to them to find out what they think is valuable. The underlying importance of this cannot be emphasized enough.

 

Feature List

From the knowledge we have gathered, the next step is to create a list of features that should be part of your product. It is important to prioritize these features based on your business goal, development technology, and budget. Considering the practical restrictions that you face, what features should be built first? Which features should be left out altogether? What is the reasoning behind these decisions? These are the types of questions we answer so that you can develop your product in a smart manner with the least amount of waste possible.

Business Plan

Many of our entrepreneurial clients seek a business plan to help them succeed once they have an initial product to offer. What Spire provides is an evolving set of lean business canvasses. Clients use these as a guide for developing their product for a window of time. The business canvas maintains clarity on the product, the target customers, as well as on channels, costs, and revenue streams. Simply having a good product is not enough. You need an understanding of the various options for your business and the costs and potential revenue that comes with each one.

 

What Comes Next?

All the steps described above are part of early stage product development. It is the research into and vetting of your concept. At this point, no code has been developed, and no design or prototypes have been created. The purpose is to ensure that your idea is valid and that your business is realistically viable before you start spending money on creating the actual product.

At Spire Digital we have helped many clients launch new or refreshed products. With our experience, we can help you determine the risks associated with launching your product, the potential upsides and downsides, and ultimately whether or not you, with your particular level of risk tolerance and window of time you can wait before profit, should move forward with actually developing your product. If you decide to not move forward, you’ve saved yourself years of turmoil and a lot of money. If you do decide to go forward, then you have a clean list of features that is backed by data, not assumptions, and that are prioritized by customer desires, the technical realities of development, and your financial budget.

Once you have decided to move forward with your product, Spire can provide you with a Roadmap for development. The Roadmap takes into account what features to build, what order to build them in, what technologies to use, and a timeline for development. It’s essentially your guide to making your dream a reality. Now that we know your dream is practical and can be profitable, that is.