My name's Oliver, I'm the CPO of Getnow and I'm writing this article in partnership with John Robert, who works for Wacker Chemicals and is responsible for digital commerce.
Together we came up with the title of lean product development in crazy situations - the crazy situation is obviously COVID-19 and everybody is aware of that. We summarised some topics:
- What changed in that situation?
- What makes it crazy?
First, I think we're all aware of the endless Zoom conferences. Everybody's at home, we have to use Zoom or other software, but we are constantly in video software and video conferences - crazy things.
On the other side, we have some rapid user changes, behavior changes, people are behaving totally crazy. They buy toilet paper until the end of their lives. Totally changing - nobody would be aware of that.
On the other hand, we have an increase of daily active users, take the example of Zoom, which was increasing rapidly because everybody started using that software, which brings it to a totally new situation.
That leads us to the point that we need product improvements or adjustments based on that situation, which is totally crazy again, and maybe some of you know that we have some screaming kids in the background, or other circumstances, which makes it crazy and we have to deal with that.
What distinguishes products between success and failure?
This brings us to the question, what distinguishes products between success and failure? This is a basic question we want to answer today. It's very simple to be answered. It's a product-market fit.
Some of you might know it from Eric Ries's Lean Startup, there he is calling it product-market fit or PMF for short. But what does this mean to have the product-market fit? Well, let's take a look at some examples.
If we take a look at Germany, we here analyzed their search volume for certain products. Take a look at the telephone headsets on the left
Their search volume increased by 900%, just within one week, dumbbells increased by more than 2,000% and board games more than 100%. I guess a lot of you now have dumbbells at home, yeah? You must have had already your telephone headset or your board game at home.
This user behavior changed and definitely this product had a good product-market fit because there was a special need, a certain specific need, which needs to be matched rapidly. So, what is product-market fit?
Desirability, feasibility & viability
You see here on the left side desirability.
There is a consumer or user behavior change, and they have certain desirability. With a home office, you suddenly need a webcam or a telephone headset, but for sure you also need to consider the feasibility.
Are you able to provide a headset, a telephone headset, or what could you basically deliver in order to serve the needs of the customer desirability? And for sure, it's about the viability, the viability about can you do business with this?
- Can you earn money?
- Can you make real money out of this business situation?
How often do you think product-market fit is changing? Amazon who is very successful in these times, is changing their website every 11.6 seconds, so you can rapidly, constantly change your product-market fit in order to match the user and user needs.
How to change product-market fit
How can you do this? What is the process behind it? What can you do to guarantee a good product-market fit? Well, the process behind this is very simple, and we would like to elaborate on it briefly. It's a combination of four methods.
It's a combination of design thinking, which is defining a clear need that has a vision and hypotheses, and which is combining design thinking, lean UX, agile, and growth hacking.
What you see here in the middle, is once you have defined the clear needs and the vision for your product, you're going into the exploration phase, you're prototyping, you're getting customer feedback, and you try to get good initial product-market fit.
After this, you're going to build it and you're going into the loop. But you're not only going into a loop, you're going into an infinity loop.
After you build your first product, you're going to your target customer, you're identifying your growth channels, you're enhancing your offer or product, and you're measuring your success by innovation accounting.
By following this infinity loop between build, explore, prototype, feedback, and going to the target customers, product enhancement in innovation accounting, you can guarantee a good product-market fit.
Well, so much to the theory - it's always about the people behind.
Which kind of people do you need in order to guarantee a good product-market fit?
Well, I believe that a lot of you already know about scrum development. You have this product owner, the scrum master, and the development team behind. What a good product-market fit and rapid changes and lean product development guarantees is the UX designer.
So UX designer will enable you to sketch and prototype your ideas, and directly check it with your customers. You will be much faster than going into the round of developing a new product if you just prototype it with a UX designer, and validate it with your customer, then if you just do it by yourself, or you just go into the programming, and always wait for the results of the next sprint.
What can you do in order to get this product-market fit?
Well behind design thinking, which is just the start, is a simple idea. It's basically the idea of stepping back from a problem and asking the right question, not how can we build it right? But rather, how can we build the right it?
What does this mean? What kind of tools do we have behind it?
Well, there are lots of tools and we would like to just in this article briefly introduce some of them. First of all, you need to market watch - what's changing in the market?
With Corona, it changed within a week so you need to be very much aware of what you're basically going to watch.
The second for the target audience definition is a persona. You could either define a user persona or buyer persona. This might be different, especially if you're working in the B2B field like I'm doing. What else do you need or what else tools could you take in order to successfully develop a product?
Jobs to be done
Well, in order to define the customer needs, you can define the jobs to be done - what are the basic needs which need to be fulfilled for your customer? You can define the empathy map, you can define the customer journey within which you're basically going to build your system or your product.
Based on this, you have hypotheses building. There are many tools, just taking out some of them like point of view, like importance versus satisfaction metrics, product scoring, and value proposition.
In this article we don't have the scope to completely elaborate on all of the above so that's why we decided to take one very crucial, one key topic out of there, which is the customer journey mapping.
Customer journey mapping
How did we do the customer journey mapping for our customers for our specific target groups? What we did is we used Miro. Miro is an amazing tool. It's just wonderful for collaboration, and you find working together on the whiteboard.
What we did there you see it on the left, we mapped the customer journey. What is the customer doing before, during, or after the process, before using the product, or before purchasing?
We find moments of truth in this and we did this collaboratively, we used this narrow whiteboard tool, even within customer interviews, we changed the ideas behind it and we basically used it in order to define our moments of truth and build for the hypothesis and the system on top.
Lean (UX) & MVP
The second part is the development and testing. After the first part of design thinking, is the lean phase and the agile phase, bringing us into the infinity loop. Always the same question - with what should you start?
We always assume that we start with the 'why' and not what the 'what'.
Here's a great method or philosophy by Simon Sinek who did that - this golden circle. So, you should start with the ‘why’.
- Why do you want to do that?
- What is the problem?
Then think about how you can do that, and finally, what you're going to do. I will show you one dedicated example in our company when we did that, and we started with the why.
To go into that we need to understand a bit what is our company about and where are the problems? Where is a crucial 'why' where we have to start?
Getnow is an online grocery marketplace in Germany, and we have the following business flow or business model.
The users go actually to getnow.com and they can buy everything about their daily needs, grocery products, food, and everything they need. They will buy it online, put it into their basket, and click 'Checkout' and buy that.
What we will do then, we don't have a warehouse, we have nothing honestly we are an asset-light model. That means we have pickers at dedicated stores who will do the shopping process. They will take a cart, go into the shop, pick your stuff, choose the best products, go to the cashier, and do the checkout.
Then we will put it into nice boxes, which are either for frozen stuff, for fresh and cool stuff, or for dry stuff. We also don't have our own parcel service, we rather have an external parcel service who is doing the shipping for us, and they will bring it to the customer. This can be done either by home delivery - bring it to their home, by parcel delivery, or we've also started with click and collect services.
Our problem of manual steps
If you look at that process, we have one crucial problem, which was at the end of last year, the problem of the picking process, which was actually pretty manual and that was our biggest problem and we needed to find a solution for that, and I would like to show it to you in a bit.
Build an MVP
We started to build an MVP actually in 45 days. My understanding of an MVP is what you see on the right-hand side.
If you're thinking about an MVP, more of the problems are that you don't know how to start with it, and you start to bake, which leads you to the first line.
If you're thinking about a car and you have the problem that you need to get from A to B, people are thinking, "Okay, of course, you need a car, and you have to build that which means you have to start with the tires, have to build the chassis, have to put a roof on that" - maybe you prove it a bit, that it's driving nicely.
Then you've found a product to solve the problem of getting from A to B. But there is another approach. Take the second one which is getting from A to B - you can do that by foot, which is the most simple one, but you need to have it somehow automated.
So you use a skateboard - this is also solving your problem. You come from A to B much faster, but you get an improvement - the second iteration would be done.
You can learn, does it work with the skateboard or not? And you can start to improve it. Maybe a handlebar? That is great and then a scooter comes out and then it evolves further to a bicycle, and finally you come to the car.
During that journey, you have a lot of experiences and you learn your customer, and this is also our assumption here. We were thinking what is the happy path? And what we should do to improve our biggest problem.
I always say happy path is a great scenario to start with. Think about what is the initial first customer journey, the first floor, the first flow, to get your customer totally happy.
If we look at the Getnow example, as I said, we have a dedicated order and we have to do now the shipping and picking in the metro. Honestly, in the left image you can see where we've come from - paper and pen.
Get rid of paper and pen
We had a shopping list and our picker went into the store and went around to collect all the products. Put it into the boxes you see on the image and have to put a checkbox on the paper to say, "Okay, I found it, I put it into the basket", or "No, it's not there, I need a replacement product".
He wrote what the replacement product was, or it's not available at all so we had to strike it through, and we had to somehow have another manual approach of how to fix that afterward with the correct invoice.
Our first thing was to solve that problem and to find a solution for that. What we did, we definitely defined our happy path scenario and wanted to transform that into an application.
What we built was a really first MVP which is doing the following. You have a device you see that on the right-hand side above. This is a bit of a specialty because it has a QR code scanner or a barcode scanner in it so you can scan products.
The second thing is you have the list of products from the dedicated order and the picker, in that case, can see "Okay, I need that product" and they can directly scan it and check, is it the right one or not?
Moreover, we integrated the ways you should go through the metro or through the supermarket. This helps to improve how to run through that supermarket, and to improve the times they need for doing all that shopping. We built that in about 45 days, and could directly use it in the location, we had one location where we tried it out and did that move from the paper and pen scenario to that app supported scenario, which worked really great.
Stabilize and learn
But we got constant and direct feedback from our users and also from ourselves to get that into the flow. But we solved the problem because we got rid of this paper and pen process and we improved the process a lot.
Based on that we were going deeper into "Okay, how can we stabilize this product and the application?", of course, it's a newly developed application, it's crashing several times, so in the second phase, we had to stabilize it so that it works smoothly.
We got rid of the most common support cases and also maybe the app was crashing when it was loading, so we had to get rid of that. We took the second phase to stabilize it and also to learn how the people are interacting. We gave it to the original pickers and trained them and learned how they were using it.
Integrate and review new features
For example, we integrated two functionalities, which were never touched and never used because we were thinking they wanted to use it, but they never did. We did that phase of stabilizing and learning to improve that thing. Honestly, this is the step where we are currently at right now.
We are in that full infinity loop we showed you before, we are learning from the customer and now we are integrating new functionalities. In that case, in that example, we are now in the next evolution step, which means that we are splitting up the orders in to so-called zones.
You can imagine in a supermarket you have dedicated zones, fresh products, frozen products, dry products, drinks, and all the beverages. You can think about putting people into those zones so they start picking there and they become experts in that, they know where every product is, and they get it much faster.
We were thinking about how can we integrate this zone picking process and you see that in the image above.
Again, we started with a very simple approach so you can choose the zones where you want to jump in. On the right-hand side, you have the same view, you have the same functionality, but you just see "Okay, this is from customer a and this is from customer B".
That is one example of a new functionality we integrated here and also learned from the customer and from the user, how they're interacting with that and what is working and what is not. In these iterations, we are continuing and honestly this is also how we are pretty flexible and pretty fast to adapt to this crazy times we mentioned at the beginning.
We were able to change the product a bit, also our services increased a lot due to Corona because nobody wanted to go shopping anymore, so we had to get deeper into debt and were lucky that we have the second phase of stabilizing it that this product works say 99.9% smoothly and without any errors.
Communication during crazy times
One more thing I'd like to mention is how we did this communication in those crazy times. I guess most of you reading are familiar with Slack, and we use it as a central hub. For me personally, I don't use emails anymore, I like to use slack because I have all of that communication in one central hub. We also used that very much during that crazy time.
We have dedicated channels for different products, for different projects, but also for different support cases where we have directly the correct people together, and depending on who is targeted, he can answer or let's say the follow-up person can answer.
So we have a constant flow and we don't have information lax because all the communication is centered in those channels and in those groups.
Secondly, we have automation and automation is key. We have, for example, simple automations integrated into Slack, which help us to monitor processes - if they are working up and running or not.
Also, automations concerning let's say JIRA integration with Slack, which helps us to improve the process and to create, for example, an incident in JIRA, which goes to the deaf team. We were using that and I would like to share next with you some learnings out of the time using that communication platform.
Honestly, you could also use Microsoft Teams, there might be some other ones that go in the same direction. But I personally really love and like Slack, it's a great tool.
What are our learnings from using that?
Use channel communication
Our first learning is always try to use a channel of communication. I know before there was always person-to-person communication, I want to have something from Person A, so I write to him, or I want to inform Person B, so I'm going to write tp him, but this is totally wrong.
At that time, you need to have cross-communication and you have to inform other people as well. So use the channels which are dedicated for the projects or products and all the other people can read it, they can also just scan it, but they are aware of the problems, of the situation, what is changing, what has to be announced.
If you want something from other people, just tag them and then they know "Okay, I want something from that person or from the other person". This is learning one - use channel communication.
Use guidelines and correct channels & groups
The second one is to use guidelines and use correct channels and groups. Think about how to structure your team, your company and put that into that communication hub, but then use it correctly, make an owner of a channel who owns that and can say, "Okay, this is correct here or this is not correct here" and think about and elaborate what is working, what is not working?
But if you found the right places where to share information, it works really well. It doesn't matter if you are in the office or if a part of your team is in a home office, the other one's in the office or totally distributed all over the world.
Define simple usage guidelines
The third one is to define simple usage guidelines. What I mean is to do a separation of how to use Slack in your company.
For example, what we do in several channels is we use react-jis, which is emojis as feedback. For example, thumbs up is great, that's cool. The eyes are okay, I'm investigating that. The green check box is okay it's solved, for example.
This helps us to give really fast feedback - you don't have to write you just have to put that emoji on there and the other person knows, okay, you read it, you did something or you solved it already. So there are different usage guidelines, but define them, communicate them, and then live them.
This helps us and helps you to solve the problems and solve the situation in crazy times.
What do you need to take away from this article?
Who is your customer and what has changed?
First, and I think this is very, very crucial, ask yourself, who is your customer, and what has been changed?
What is probably changing in the current customer's mind and is redefining his needs? And basically, also your product.
Rethink your value proposition
This leads to the second point, rethink your value proposition. If the customer has been changed, your product must do as well. How can you change your value proposition? Well, live the lean method. Use the expertise of cross-functional teams.
We just mentioned it's not only about the scrum team or development team, but it's also about the designer, the UX designer, so UI designer, whoever is designing your product could be crucial for you and will be crucial for the success of your product. It makes the process flow and integrates lean tools.
We just mentioned customer journey maps, we mentioned personas, there are many others which you can use in order to guarantee a good product-market fit.
Build your MVP
Finally, this is what I can always recommend from a startup, build your MVP. Slice it down, start with an MVP, but slice it down to a small MVP.
Don't make the big car, make the small skateboard and try to build that, and then analyze and consume the feedback.
Start doing it. Don't make concessions for years. Start using it with that feedback and use new ways of work. Try out new tools, new functionalities, and always try to automate your workflows and try to improve yourself to get better, faster, and that you don't have to do so much manually.