The Power of Prototyping
By: Kreisler Ng, cPrime Director of Client Services
In the world of Agile software development, it’s common to hear mantras like “build, test, learn” and “fail fast.” It’s good advice because failure can be expensive.
In an effort to minimize the chance (and cost) of failure, a smart entrepreneur or manager will ask herself, “What is the fastest, cheapest way to test this idea?” That way, especially if the project touches on virgin ground – a unique product with an unproven market, or a radical change from its successful predecessors – everyone can invest as little time and money as possible in an eventual scrapped project.
Depending on what you’re producing, there are many different options for workable prototypes:
• Paper sketches
• Wireframes / Mock-ups
• Interactive prototyping software (like InVision)
• Cardboard, styrofoam, wood (for generic look/feel feedback)
• Feasibility prototypes (for more detailed assessments)
With the variety of options available, prototyping works regardless of the size of the organization or the complexity of the project. It’s a powerful step that allows you to:
Get it in front of customers
By creating a prototype of your intended product and getting it in front of customers and stakeholders, you give them the opportunity to provide feedback prior to the development process. You can iterate the prototype based on feedback, possibly several times, until you’re comfortable that the final product will be satisfying to these ultimate decision makers.
In essence, it allows you to start the development process several steps closer to the Minimally Viable Product (MVP) – the most basic iteration that will actually sell and accomplish business goals.
The fact is, failure is going to happen. It’s a natural part of the development process. However, if you can fail without wasting resources, it’s much easier to swallow and to learn from. For example, creating a series of prototypes instead of investing upfront in the infrastructure and support needed for 10,000 lines of code can save enormous time and money. Especially, if you discover that the customer isn’t interested or the entire premise is wrong before moving to development.
Prototyping even makes sense when a project has already been given the green light and executives are expecting production to commence. It allows you to determine the project is a failure earlier and lessens the amount of production time needed to go from the last prototype iteration to the MVP, which also saves money.
And, when you think about it, failing without too large of an investment in the first place is really a more effective means of removing waste from the organization than moving ahead with a development project only to “cut your losses” down the road.
So definitely take advantage of the power of prototyping as you plan your next Agile development project. It’s a proven means of embracing Agile principles in practical application.