When in doubt trust Agility

“Success today require the agility and drive to constantly rethink, reinvigorate, reach and reinvent” — Bill gates

So true and relevant in today’s context of product development, agility and drive.

Agility in product development would mean rapidly iterating and adapting to customer needs and demands. These principles are reflected in the Agile (software development) philosophy as well.

Startups by very nature are in uncharted territory and do not have a set course of action. It’s like sailing the turbulent sea of VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity).

So when you are in untested waters with no maps and guides the best way to move forward is to rapidly test and learn. And that’s what Agile provides, ability to fail and fail fast.

“Strength without agility is just mass” by Fernando Pessoa

Agile at its core is to respond to change and deliver a working software, which is the only measure of progress.

It’s like not waiting till Christmas to get a gift, but making every Friday (may be alternate) a Happy Friday!!!

Suppose a FoodTech company Zomato-esque has to decide feature roll-out like “Rate/Review a Restaurant”, “Restaurant Search Filters” & “Online Food Ordering”.

Lets try to understand startup’s business model before planning product increments or iterations. Key here is your product evolution should compliment your business model.

Assuming startup make majority of its revenue from sponsored restaurants listings. And short-term goal of the company is to make restaurant search and listing rich and engaging, which is core to the product. And long-term goal is to create new revenue sources.

Scenario 1

Assuming startup is seeing decline in its monthly active users and engagement metrics are not looking good.

In this scenario top priority is to make platform more engaging rather than finding new sources of revenue.

Startup can increment their existing product first with basic “Rate/Review a Restaurant” feature — minimum desirable product, hypothesizing that user generate content will increase the customer engagement.

  • Rapidly publish the basic restaurant rating and review feature by defining minimum desirable product
  • Evaluate feature adaptability by monitoring customer usage and engagement metrics — trust terrain more than map
  • Once published feature looks promising, decision should be made to iterate this feature with advance features like comments on review, share reviews, reply on published review etc. to make product more engaging
  • So rather then waiting for all the requirements to be documented, designed and developed and then evaluating whether it will improve the engagement or not. Philosophy is to rapidly test, learn and move on

Once user engagement is back to the expected level, startup can start thinking of the new sources of revenue like online food ordering. Whether this happen in serial or parallel depends on the resource availability.

  • Rolling out basic online food ordering
  • Basic feature, minimum desirable product, could include offer food ordering only to limited markets to the restaurant who do their own food delivery. Supporting limited form of payments etc.
  • Again test & trust terrain and carry on
  • Once feature looks promising, feature can be iterated with additional capabilities like multiple form of payments, integration with food delivery services etc.

Scenario 2

Assuming startup’s engagement metric looks healthy and its looking out for new sources of revenue.

In this scenario startup should first focus on incrementing product with online food ordering functionality and in parallel focus of rolling out other features like rating and review or search filters. Again with the philosophy of moving rapidly and testing and trusting the terrain more than map.

Agile gives this playing field where startup’s can test, learn and adapt. I believe time is here when this rapid pace will no longer will be a hallmark of startup’s but rather will become a defacto in the industry.