Throughout the series of posts on this project to date, I have made mention several times about my plans to follow a lean methodology with the Picknic App. I realised that what I hadn't done was fully delve into explaining what this means in terms of business and particularly in relation to a startup. I have asked one of our Australian BizSpark Network Partner’s Steve Godbold to share some additional insight into why keeping things lean, testing assumptions and releasing a minimum viable product are a really good idea for Startups.

Steve Godbold is a process consultant with a passion for challenges. Coming from a technical background, and having worked with businesses of all shapes and sizes, he provides consulting for both application lifecycle management and business process. You can find him via http://stevegodbold.com/ or on steve@stevegodbold.com

Growth through learning

While there are many ways to grow a business, not all methods are equal. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports; of the small businesses operating in 2007, approximately one in four had closed their doors by 2009. How can you maximise you chances of not being that one of the four?

Most start-ups have a few things in common. They are packed with energy, vision and a passion to succeed. In fact they are usually so driven, they fail to notice that what they’re building is based on a set of assumptions. The impact of these assumptions can be fatal, so identifying them early can be a crucial step along the path to success. A lean start-up identifies its assumptions and designs a set of experiments to test them with actual customer behaviour.

This is done using a market testing strategy known as a ‘minimum viable product’. Minimum viable product involves building only what is absolutely necessary, and putting this in the hands of the people we want to understand. From this we can gather vital information about our potential for success. What we are doing is designing a low cost experiment to test a hypothesis (our assumption) about market behaviour.

An experiment can be as simple as including a link to a proposed new feature of your application. Without implementing the feature you can track the number of users that access this link. This allows you to gather real data on the viability of the feature before you invest the time and money in delivery.

These experiments create a rapid feedback cycle and enable us to perform pivots based on how our customers react. This helps to make sure what we’re delivering is valuable to our customers, or is going to increase the attraction of our product or service to potential customers.

So how do we start to avoid being that one in four? Simply stated: we focus on accelerating our learning, measuring what matters and not being afraid to change direction if the data calls for it.

If you'd like more information on getting started using a lean start-up approach check out Eric Ries recently released book on the topic