‘It’ll take at least 6 months and cost about a million quid to build the MVP’
I’ve heard some version of this at regular intervals over the past few years. Sometimes as an observer, sometimes as a recipient, occasionally it was me saying it.
The numbers go up and down but the facts stay the same, even ‘fast’ software projects take many months, are full of waste, cost astronomical amounts of money, and often result in digital products and experiences that miss the mark.
This situation isn’t good for anyone except big, expensive tech consultancies who excel at selling their tools, processes, and frameworks. A few recent headlines tell the story:
- Two years and $32m in fees on a website redesign that never shipped for Hertz.
- £12m of fees on the binned early attempts at an NHS COVID tracing app (FT).
- £100m investment by RBS in ‘Bó’ which saw a year of work before anything shipped to customers, followed swiftly by being shuttered.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
A product-world truism is that we learn far more when we have a real working product in people’s hands, for a host of reasons which I explain below. So why does it often feel like trudging through treacle to ship something?
The incentives of big software/digital/transformation consultancies and the risk-averse cultures of large organisations often work against really moving fast. Add to this a big dollop of delivery dogmatism about ‘the one right way’ to design and build software that bloats teams and timelines and you can see how basic projects start to run into the millions.
Out of frustration, we create tappable prototypes to feed our desire to put things in front of customers (and convince executives that something is happening!) - but all too often contrived test environments and faked data don’t tell us much of value.
This is dissatisfying for everyone involved. Who wants to work on something for two years to find out that customers don’t want it?
You can move faster, and you should.
A new generation of tools exists which makes it possible to design, build, and ship products 10x faster. These include integrated collaborative design tools like Figma, low-code backend data stores like Airtable and Contentful, front-end creators like Webflow and Adalo, development accelerators like Flutter and React, and increasingly mature integrations and automations from Zapier and tray.io among hundreds of others. The big guys are investing in these platforms too, from Amazon announcing AWS Honeycode to Microsoft beefing up their Power Platform and Google acquiring AppSheet.
There’s a lot of hype, so we’ve been putting them to the test and we’ll be writing more about which tools are ace and which are duds in the coming months.
One thing we’ve already found is that a short deadline to ship a product breaks an organisational logjam like nothing else. It works in some obvious, and some surprising ways:
- Urgency forces ruthless prioritisation and makes people get serious about why they’re really doing something.
- Shipping brings to the surface organisational tensions and confusion about the ownership of the product and surrounding services.
- Delivering a live product highlights the processes that need improving and changing, for example, how are you going to fuel this with great content? How are you going to support this new service?
- A live product reveals actual customer behaviour, giving you more reliable data to make decisions.
Most importantly a tight deadline means we have something out in the world and we’re learning. Getting to that point puts you on the path to progress.
Designing for speed
We created Loomery to make it easier and faster to build better things - in short, we ship sooner. In our first two months our teams have delivered new digital experiences for The University of Exeter and NorthEdge Capital.
We bring together great teams and equip them with the best tools, moving fast, keeping things simple and shipping early. How do we do it?
Building bespoke teams - We combine expert designers, researchers, strategists, engineers and product people to form flexible teams with the right skills for the task. We don’t follow a predefined team shape, we create a team based on the needs of the product and our partners.
Using transformative tools - We equip ourselves with the latest design, prototyping, research and low-code development tools to slash the time it takes to get V1 out in the world. Our team has a deep knowledge of emerging tools and technologies meaning we can advise you what to try and what to steer clear of.
Working simply - Our goal is to deliver value fast and we adopt just enough process to make that happen. Our teams work pragmatically and adaptively, keeping things simple and focusing on shipping product early.
If you want to hear more, get in touch below.