I recently read the book ‘The Lean Startup’ by Eric Ries. I was really impressed.
First of all, it’s not just for startups! Eric defines a startup as anyone working on new products or services in an environment of extreme uncertainty. In today’s business world, where we’re living with a volatile economy, the rapid pace of change, consumerisation of IT, and a highly competitive market, I reckon that’s just about everyone!
Since I’ve been into agile development methods for quite a while now, I am naturally pre-disposed to love Eric’s book.
It includes lots of concepts I care passionately about. Short feedback loops, empirical data, and continuous cycles of build, measure, learn.
I particularly like the concept of ‘validated learning’ – the idea that you need to validate the hypotheses and assumptions in your business case as early as possible by working out how you can test and validate them. Or invalidate them, whichever is the case.
One of the things I have always loved the most about agile methods is the fact it allows you to deliver value earlier, and also that it allows you to explore and adapt as you learn what is really required. The main benefit of this is to deliver the right product, rather than what you once thought was the right product.
When you’re working on revenue generating products – as I have always done (or at least for as long as I can remember) – this is so important! The extra money you can make, the competitive advantage, the likelihood of developing sustainable market-leading products. The benefits you can generate on the top line dwarf any savings you can make by using more efficient development methods or optimising every ounce of your development process.
Having said that, I am sure that using the methods in this book will also save you time and money. It will save you from developing all the unwanted, unused features that you might have developed otherwise.
So for me this book is fantastic. It starts to add a bit of science to the art of innovation and the art of discovering the product your customers will love.
And it dovetails perfectly with everything I believe to be good about agile development.
I am actively recommending this book to anyone interested or involved in produce development and innovation. Especially to people on the business side of product development that our software development teams so often interact with and rely on. If this book helps them to understand why product development should be an incremental, iterative process with constant user involvement and testing – rather than big bang product launch with everything including the kitchen sink – that can only be a good thing!