All that sounds very good but how exactly are good collaborations done in real life, you ask? The answer to that is: with simple, value creating tools and techniques. And now our story really begins.
The starting point of any fruitful venture is collaboration and the true value of a good collaboration is the impact it has on the business
Defining the problem is half the solution
In the beginning we were sitting at our client’s office with one pressing question: how can we evolve our product so that it benefits our customers and improves our business? Our client had a clear answer to that question: we want to add something to the product that will help the customer find what they want and therefore generate higher purchase conversion. Fantastic! So we knew exactly what we wanted (“the number”), and that isn’t often so simple. So we were ahead of many at this point.
We wanted to generate a higher purchase conversion rate which is one of the major economic drivers for this particular client. But how could we achieve it?
But our problem was still far from solved. We wanted to generate a higher purchase conversion rate which is one of the major economic drivers for this particular client. But how could we achieve it? We wondered together. We thought long and hard and in order to find the necessary answers we resorted to using product development techniques that allowed the Product Owners and our client’s teams to focus on Value Generation instead of doing just “one more sprint full of user stories” or “adding yet another feature” that would inevitably bloat the product with too many features.
We used brainstorming techniques to generate an impact map of all the options we knew how we could increase the purchase conversion. We wanted to keep people in the client’s website and in the same buying process step across devices. We hoped that this strategy would increase the conversion per user and develop the concept of a permanent search and purchase loop that would persist across all the users’ devices.
So now we have gotten to the point in our story where we know what we want but we still don’t have a feature that would translate that into reality. And so the story continues.
Transforming a goal into a backlog: The Spouse FeatureAgain, we sat down and adopted a simple approach. We thought, discussed and planned and after spending several post-it note blocks, we eventually came with an idea of how we could keep people in the purchase loop. We decided to develop a feature, which would allow a person that had been on the site always stay in the same purchase step as if they had never left (so that they wouldn’t have to search again, which would – in our hypothesis – discourage the purchase).
To amuse ourselves and also to credit all the wonderful life spouses out there, we fondly started calling this “The Spouse Feature”, because we all know how important it is to have one’s spouse’s approval for any (bigger) purchase. In addition to The Spouse Feature our brainstorming also resulted in the development of a feature that enabled people to invite friends to the site by using social media. At this point the Product Owner and the Team were as pleased as punch with themselves! We had done a lot of brainstorming and critical thinking and consequently had managed to come up with two lean and mean features. Quick and to the point!
We had come far already but our work was far from over. On the contrary, we were only really beginning our journey.
Just when you think you are done… Until you test for value, you are not DONE!
We knew that as the next step we needed to establish how we would test the swanky new features we had chosen to develop. We had a lot of faith in those features and we strongly believed that we weren’t hedging bets on something useless, but that they could work. Once the feature idea was finalized we shifted focus to establishing our testing criteria: how will we know if these features actually deliver value?
Together with the Product Owner we established clear acceptance criteria for the success of the feature – not just the quality, but also the metrics that would make the feature worthwhile from an economic point of view. For example, we defined the cost of maintaining the feature over time and defined that the feature should generate at least as much revenue as it cost to maintain, aka “The Kill Criteria.”
We defined the cost of maintaining the feature over time and defined that the feature should generate at least as much revenue as it cost to maintain, aka “The Kill Criteria.”
At this point we had developed the features and were ever so keen to test and go live with the features we had developed. As usual, we wanted to keep things uncomplicated and make testing as easy and quick as possible. Therefore, together with the team we designed the features to fit in one sprint so that we could go from idea to measurement of success in only 2 weeks!
This single-minded focus on testing our ideas was important for 2 reasons:
- We were only allowed to deviate from the already existing backlog for a short period of time;
- We don’t want to invest into a feature too long before we test that it actually works as intended when the customers start using it.
The d-day drew closer and it was time to take things to the next level. Excited, we moved on from planning to implementing and testing the new features.
The proof is in the pudding: testing the features in real lifeWhen the big day finally came, we were all confident that our strategy and features were good.
The first sprint after going live was all about collecting information about the value of the features. As often is the case, we experienced a few surprises. In the initial stages of the planning, our client’s team was very excited and confident about the “share on social media” feature. It was clearly the bookie’s favorite, but it turned out to be less efficient than we anticipated. However, we weren’t devastated because much to our surprise the second feature (share by email and purchase later, aka “the spouse feature”) showed some real promise during the first sprint: it generated the first purchase conversion in the first day of operation! Well of course it did, you say, because we all know that spouses are always behind any and every big decision. Trust me, we all know and believe it now.
Much to our surprise the second feature (share by email and purchase later, aka “the spouse feature”) showed some real promise during the first sprint
After careful analysis of the data we gathered during the first 2 weeks of the features being in production, we concluded that “the spouse feature” had real potential and we decided to hold off on the “share on social media” feature and focus on the latter. At this stage we thanked all of the creators of Lean Product Development, we had gone from idea to revenues in less than 3 weeks! We kept “the spouse feature” live after the first sprint and continued to develop it by making minor adjustments to improve it over time.
However, the testing wasn’t over yet. So we rested and regrouped and embarked on the second sprint.
The real work starts when you get the first test results
This time our focus was primarily on measuring the impact of the features. As we all know, testing can sadly consume a lot of time and money and produce very little results. We did not want to, or even had the time to, spend too much time and effort on testing, so we decided to go at it with a compact testing period consisting of two carefully planned and executed sprints. What’s even better is that we managed to complete our “in the market” testing in four weeks. Highly effective? Absolutely. Simple. Yes, thanks to the Lean Product Development ideas and techniques we put in place.
At the end of the testing period we sat down to analyze all the data we had gathered. Again, numerous coffees were consumed and permanent markers ran dry as we feverishly ran through figures. Our hypothesis had been that both features, or at least one, would help increase conversion in the purchase loop for the client. Did they?
Testing is step 1, reviewing the results of the tests is step 2
We were right in our predictions, although we had also experienced some surprises. In our case the bookie’s favorite feature (share on social media) failed to meet the acceptance criteria, but the dark horse of the race (“the spouse feature”) went on to be a real winner generating up to 35 000 euros revenue to our client every month since going live.
What did we learn? That by keeping things simple, applying Lean Product Development techniques and being structured in our approach we had managed to focus on the essentials and thus have a real business impact in conversion and revenue increase (an extra 400K Euros in revenue per year!)
From idea to a real business impact: revenue increase by an extra 400K Eur / year!
Our primary focus had always been on the business value: we had a clear business goal and we measured the features against it. Now some might argue that we took a simple approach. On the contrary! Our process was just quite simply systematic and with clear success criteria at all steps. These success criteria steps also implied that we were constantly limiting our risks, while allowing surprises to deliver (as it happened) a large upside. Here are the key questions we asked in all our decisions:
- how much time to invest?
- What to try given that we have a very concrete metric for business success?
- Can we get results quickly? (aka: are the ideas testable and small enough?)
- How to measure success for the features we chose?
All of these questions were considered before we made our first move to implementation.
Thank you to the team: you rock!Most stories are dedicated to the near and dear ones and our story is no exception. By now we’ve learned the importance of spouses, but we could have not achieved our goals without the collaboration of our fantastic team and client. Our work was tremendously helped by the fact that our client had the courage to think outside the box and focused on a real value items with a direct connection to the business goals of the company. Furthermore, we had a clear action plan and we ran concrete, useful experiments to test the features and collected all the necessary data. A big thank you also belongs to our client’s team. Our client really went out their way to motivate the team and got them involved in the development. And the results speak up for themselves: our client generated more than 250 000 euros in revenue in 7 months. Needless to say that we were all thrilled with the results.
At this point we’ve gone through business goals, planning, features, testing criteria, data, post its and a few permanent markers. So is there anything more left to say, you wonder? We like a good story and all the best stories come with a teaching. And because we are suckers for stories, ours is no exception. So here it comes: never forget, that clear experiments and precision, not many features/changes, is the key to success.
Clear experiments and precision, not many features/changes, is the key to success.