Getting a software product from idea to implementation
When setting up Lab08, our cornerstone was that we wanted it to be more than a traditional outsourcing business. Rather than simply developing products, we wanted to transfer knowledge on scaling innovative software ventures to our clients to reach the next level. After all, this was deeply embedded in our DNA as entrepreneurs.
If you are familiar with Lab08, you know that we are big believers in simplicity. We want to solve the problem, causing the user pain. To do so, we always go through a thorough ideation and validation process before we eventually start building products. Think of it as laying the concrete before driving the road. We take this approach to avoid costly errors when building products – making sure that we have the right insights and a streamlined approach to product management. There is nothing worse than ending up with no fuel in your tank when you have arrived at the wrong destination.
In this piece, you can read more about our journey from ideation, where we let everything fly, to implementation, where we go in-depth with the best solution.
Working through ideas at a pace
Once we pick up working on a new product, we go through the ideation phase, which is where we let it all out. The good, the bad, sometimes the ugly. This is an exciting phase, as we generate tonnes of ideas that we can filter, cut, and discuss. Ultimately, we slice away the sub-par ideas and move ahead with the ones that have substance. Fundamentally, this stage is about defining solutions that can solve the user’s basic needs.
To get this right, we conduct various qualitative and quantitative interviews with internal stakeholders to ensure a controlled environment for ideation, we use various techniques to keep us from spiralling in a hundred different directions. Our first approach is called breadboarding. Developed by a guy named Ryan Singer, we use his method to identify all the essential components a solution requires. Then, we visualize the connections between all of them. Getting everything mapped out allows our team to swiftly talk through the different aspects and decide if they fill the user needs. With breadboarding, there are three basic elements we cover: places, affordances, and connection lines. Places are elements to navigate – like sites or menus. Affordances are user interfaces such as buttons or other actions. Lastly, connection lines indicate how users navigate from place to place using affordances.
However, sometimes mapping out an idea requires a visual aspect. Enter good old fat marker sketching. A technique often used here at Lab08. We wish this were merely a snappy name for a fancy method, but this is precisely what it reads. We find the freshest Sharpie in our office and start illustrating big picture concepts on paper. Our approach with fat marker sketching is to agree on a direction before going into the nitty-gritty. Such a sketch provides just enough context and details for a designer to move forward with it afterwards. Plus, we always feel a notch more important when we draw on the big billboard in front of our colleagues.
As you may remember, we are all about products that address basic needs, and we use these techniques to help us identify the best possible solution to run with. Navigating simple visualizations and mapping out products provide us with the necessary information on how to navigate features and functions that are easy to implement. Additionally, we can identify how to scale when requiring a more comprehensive solution that includes performance needs and a few delighters.
Does the idea function as a solution?
Once we feel happy with our idea short-list, we work to validate them as real solutions. The first step is to offer prototypes or mock-ups to end-users, with who we have a close collaboration and trust. The next step is basically a lab study, where our Product Owner observes how our test pilots engage with the prototype. It is a big chunk of touch and go, trial and error here, as the PO proactively searches for ways to improve the product solution.
Our objective is to address the critical pain points and basic needs before developing the actual product. By monitoring how people work with our solutions, we gain first-hand insights into what works and needs improving once we start implementing. It is our take on a qualitative study that gives tonnes of valuable data.
Once a specific solution is deemed solid and successfully fulfils a user’s need, we move forward to defining the minimum viable product, the MVP.
Securing smooth implementation
When we implement solutions at Lab08, we want to simplify and break them down as much as possible. Therefore, we always highlight our user stories and technical objectives that must be fulfilled to generate real-life user value.
We do this to make it easy for the development team to understand who the key user for the product is and what the success factors are, while ensuring that everyone is on the same page. With this, we enable quick navigation in the needs we are looking to solve.
In the early implementation phase, we make sure that all success criteria are detailed and scripted so our Quality Assurance team can complete thorough tests as we move along. Additionally, we start out grooming our backlogs. We do this as we will have numerous tasks and user stories sitting in the product backlog when we start the build. We need to ensure everyone is on the same page with every task before the individual sprints kick-off. This provides a homogenous understanding of the different tasks in front of us.
Once the actual development begins, we work with different approaches to meet our desired outcome. We typically work with SCRUM on specific tasks set to meet the pre-defined user stories and needs. Here, we work in sprints with a designated time for each job, strictly focusing on our end goal. When our set-up is more free-flowing with numerous moving parts, like when we build MVPs, we take the KANBAN approach, as it allows for more flexibility, and we can follow the progress on the board.
From here, the Product Owner takes on the final stage of the actual software development, User Acceptance Testing – UAT. The PO provides end-users with the possibility of real-work testing to see how our product solution takes on the needs and tasks it was designed to address. In this final stage, the PO observes how users navigate the products or new functionalities while ensuring possible feedback to the product team.
If all checks out, we go live.
Evaluating for future improvements
Once a product is in the air, our work does not stop there. We continuously follow and track our solutions for any future enhancements, developments, or features to drop that can add value to the user experience.
We do this, as we want to keep being focused and agile on challenging our clients’ pain points and meeting their needs. This is the Product Owner’s job, as they need to keep this in their scope once the first product has been delivered.
If you enjoyed learning more about the Lab08 process from idea to implemented product, make sure you also check out how it all starts – with a product discovery team. You can also keep an eye out for future articles. We will drop small bits and pieces on our approach to product development. Maybe we touch upon just the right topic that piques your interest?
Head of Product Management
Lachezar Blagoev is the Head of Product Management at Lab08. His responsibilities include defining product roadmaps, managing backlog, and coordinating development efforts in order to ensure that milestones maximize the value we bring to all of our customers
He is acting as the link between customers and business by representing the user’s perspective
Lachezar has made essential decisions regarding all aspects of a product strategy including but not limited to UX, technical approach, business purpose, and compliance with regulations
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