Why a start-up mentality is essential to deliver real value

Why a start-up mentality is essential to deliver real value
Photo by Marvin Meyer / Unsplash

Ever noticed the disconnect between the people who come up with solution and product ideas and the people that actually add value, manage the risk and make it happen? I’d say it’s one of the most challenging elements to making progress and delivering a strategy.

By disconnect, I’m talking about the point at which someone decides that a new feature needs to be added to a platform, product or site but the idea gets side-swiped by management and becomes something very different.

Anyone in product or solution design will tell you they have three things in their mind when they come up with ideas to improve a process or a function:

  • a clear vision of the feature
  • a sense of when it will be needed
  • and a sense of the value it will add to the business.

But as is all too often the case, especially in technology driven environments, this can be the last time these three pieces of information will be in the same place at the same time. The idea morphs as it goes through the chain of command, different people claim ownership for the idea, and it becomes more complex, more difficult to build and more costly.

Yet in a world where we want to do more with less, we need to apply some thought and process. And to my mind the best way to think about any of this is like a start-up.

What do I mean? Well, in an ideal world, the person with the idea would be able to ask an expert for a proof of concept and for them to build a prototype to show the value it will deliver. Validate the idea and get it moving to launch. And that’s the approach we take at VDP.

For any platform we own, manage or develop we have a short meeting once a month, usually coinciding with a show and tell of the last two sprints, with the most experienced brain we can lay our hands on.

Everyone comes to the meeting – developers, testers, designers you name it. The purpose being not to talk about our progress but to talk about the evolving vision of the product. Because things change.

We ask questions: What have we heard from potential customers? What are competitors doing? What are we most excited about? What seems less important than it did?

All this information and, crucially, the ‘what/when/why information that underpins requirement ideas, is then shared directly with those best placed to find ways of delivering the solution.

But to make it highly effective we have a rule that no requirements can come in directly from this route. We still review ideas and pull together specs and opportunity costs, but when these requirements make it into the backlog they have done so because they meet the original what, when and why criteria.

If this sounds a bit like a start-up approach then that’s because it is. Start-ups are good at this stuff and there’s no reason not to take advantage of the process.

We may be growing at VDP but we will continue to work using guiding principles like this. It ensures internal communication happens effectively and delivers the outcome stakeholders want and expect. It takes a very deliberate effort to ensure the quality of information and the flow of information isn’t buried by growth, but it pays dividends when you do it.

What does that look like in the real world then?

There is always innovation happening in the world of pharmaceuticals and one emerging trend is the use of BioSimilars to transform the way outcomes of drugs are measured. In a recent client project we developed an app that patients use to manage their medication and lifestyle for autoimmune conditions.

The initial requirement was to build a web based tool into which people would log their daily exercise, diet, mental health, medication regime and so on. But in terms of user experience that’s quite cumbersome compared to an app that could be linked to devices people already use, like smart watches with heart rate monitors built in.

So we looked at how mobile could not only facilitate the client’s ambition but greatly improve use, improve outcomes for the patient and therefore the return on investment, and the uptake of the drug.

Our approach was to integrate APIs for medication platforms with existing mobile based health kits monitoring blood pressure and heart rate etc. It was also an idea that could be extended to include a “Buddy App” whereby approved family and friends can see how their loved ones are doing on a daily basis with a simple happy / sad emoji. It also offers relevant educational content related to the patient’s condition with advice on how they can better manage or pre-empt symptoms.

This absolutely met the what, when and why criteria and has proved that when you focus on how people live and integrate existing technology well, you can create tools people want to use.

If you’re interested in knowing how you can take advantage of agile approaches like this and make very real change happen in your organisation then talk to us.