Businesses can now ensure a higher probability of developing products and services that are market-fit – much faster and more cheaply than ever before.
This is made possible by creating ‘facades’ to test on customers before investing into product development, writes Colin Iles, entrepreneur, strategist, disruptor,
So, ‘faking-it’ is a key ingredient for business success. Whether it’s products or services, software or hardware, with some creative thinking and a few basic tools, there are multiple ways to use ‘facades’ to test ideas.
This can be done well before the first line of code is written or the first mould is created for the production line.
Jake Knapp, author of New York Times bestseller ‘Sprint’ highlights the benefit of creating cheap ‘facades’ perfectly. He illustrates what 99% of organisations do 99% of the time.
They basically build stuff, wasting significant resources in development, before they expose the product to their customers. The alternative approach is to conceptualise smart ways to create just enough ‘realness’ to an idea to test on potential clients.
There are, of course, a whole set of secondary benefits from applying the ‘façade’ approach. The compounding effect of learning faster so one can iterate, pivot or fail faster can be mind-blowing, especially if ‘facading’ is not treated as a once-off exercise.
Sprint provides a concise 5-day design process, to help businesses create their own facades. However, one needn’t read the book to start experimenting. Creativity is more important than learning yet another project framework.
Zappos, a multi-billion-dollar online shoe and clothing retailer, is a good example. The company was acquired by Amazon for $1.2b in 2009. However, before that in 1999, the founder Nick Swinmurn had to find a way to test whether consumers would purchase shoes over the internet.
At that time, Google Venture Sprints wasn’t around and neither was online shopping or e-commerce. None the less, Swinmurn was able to create a facade that Zappos was already a viable business.
Swinmurn was creating a facade to test whether Americans would have enough trust and interest to buy shoes online. With no offices, no distribution, no payment mechanism, no warehousing and no staff he created the illusion that he had a real product.
By taking photos of trainers, from the closest high-street shop, and emailing these photos to a few thousand addresses, he quickly learnt that a large enough percentage of recipients would buy shoes from him. To fulfil the orders, he would buy the shoes at full retail prices and post them.
Not a cost-efficient or scalable approach for sure, but remember that’s not the goal of rapid experimentation. The goal was to learn as much as he could, as quickly as he could, to increase the probability of regularly deploying products and services that his clients would love.
So, will faking it help a business make it? Absolutely, but if you’re not convinced about the benefits of using facades, to drive rapid experimentation cycles, consider this. Imagine you were presented with the opportunity to invest in just one of two companies that were identical in every way but one.
Company A builds minimum viable products (MVPs), relying predominantly on its own experiences, assumptions and the odd market survey. Company B spends more time building facades, to help quickly design products and services, based on real client interactions and only then starts to develop MVP’s.
Which company would you choose?