Real-World Case Studies and Closer to Home Case Studies
PART I: Real-World Case Studies
1. Webvan should have started small by targeting grocery store deliveries of perishable foodstuffs with a longer shelf life in a single city and avoided those with a shorter shelf life. The use of such foods would be to take advantage of its relative knowledge of the traffic snarl-ups and the average distance of a customer’s home from its warehouses. This would form part of its minimum viable product, as it would test the number of interested customers and their reactions when deliveries delayed. Continuous deployment of this technique would also have assisted the company in realizing the most preferred groceries and at which time of day they were in high demand in order to have them readily packaged well before orders are made. For example, people had preferred for their groceries to be home delivered and not at their workplace. This would have ensured that items in high demand were properly packaged early and reasonably priced to cater for the varying distances of different delivery locations.
In addition, actionable metrics like the number of early adopters would be tested by the purchase of fresh produce that was to be delivered in unsullied condition. The more there was an uptake of these products, the more this approach would be persevered. Careful consideration would have been taken to include customer feedback on the need to have the groceries either frozen or moisturized with each response triggering a change in the respective packaging materials. Furthermore, there would have been no rush in the expansion of the company to other cities without validation of some essential leaps of faith in the pilot city like whether the package and subsequent sale of ingredients that go together without prompting from customers was viable (Ries 72). This period would also heavily rely on innovation accounting in which the different demographics of customers would be studied to find out the popularity of certain groceries by various races to be replicated in similar locations nationally (growth hypothesis). There too would have been a pivot from heavy sudden spending on advertising and buying of trucks because the target market would have been narrowed down to a specific city at a time.
2. Pets.com should have from the onset pivoted away from using a lot of money on advertising by leveraging its unique concept for the same service from Amazon.com. When building its business model, a background check on the types and number of different species of pets was to be paramount. This would in turn inform the management on the varieties of accessories to stock. Since pet owners are choosy in what they buy for their pets hence a no one size fits all, split testing of a minimum viable product would have been appropriate. A collar ring for instance would have been made of different colors and texture depending on the gender and size of the pet. These items would have been displayed in the web portal with a dialog box for comments. The comments would have been programmed to originate from customers who had successfully bought any accessory therefore, a tab on the potential niche market would be available for analysis. This would also have helped in formulating assumptions on whether their tastes would change with the maturity of the pets hence advance the build-measure-learn loop.
Rather than rush to spend on acquiring warehouses to store pet supplies nationally, that money would have been better utilized in catering for field agents who would visit supermarkets and retail stores to find out the volumes of pet merchandise sold say per month in different regions. This would offer a clearer picture on priority areas because it would eliminate the vanity metrics such as the more inventory present and wider network coverage, the more attractive to customers the company would be. Thus, as information is collected gradually, learning milestones would be made along the way that would hugely improve the company’s profitability. The overall expansion of Pets.com would not be abandoned but operating within means would have a positive outcome. Only when the demand and reach of the customers would increase, would the circumstances then demand for greater visibility in terms of advertising.
3. The first port of call in the Motorola Iridium concept would have been to build a single yet simple gadget that used satellite technology. This device need not have been complete with fancy features, as it would be used for experimentation purposes. Consequently, a small box-like structure with a transmitter, receiver and telecommunication capability would be used as a minimum viable project. This would be released to a select few early adopters such as businesspersons as they were the target market and their reviews carefully noted. These would form the mosaic of validated learning in which things like better signal reception, estimated size of the phone and cost per unit would be included.
Similarly, an A/B test would be conducted whereby different versions of the phone would be quickly made and released in order to gauge their suitability using the innovation accounting technique. Meanwhile, a survey of available devices from other firms would be necessary to avoid duplication because this would mean that the demand had already been met. The device with the most reasonable modifications would be put for production after confirmation of preparedness from all manufacturing stakeholders. Essentially, engineers, software developers and hardware manufacturers would be ready to go. If the newfound technology lacked in the marketplace, then perseverance would prevail but if not, pivoting to a superior one would have been great. The assumption that businessman in remote areas needed smaller phones with no voice delays would be tested with the actual buying and usage of these devices without them being returned as problematic. Any product recall would negatively affect the actionable metrics. Upon production, the testing needed to be rigorous to avoid setbacks and conform to customer requirements for maximum return on investments. This would have saved costs incurred when it filed for bankruptcy after spending $ 5 billion.
4. Segway, as originally conceived would have had to undergo a series of trials or experimentation. The minimum viable product would have been a simple two-wheeled board with a motor and computer. In order to reduce the cycle times, continuous deployment of the prototype to random but carefully selected customers would be necessary to incorporate their views in the subsequent engineering triumphs of the Segway. Other critical components as well as luxurious finishing for comfort would be added later on. The leap of faith that any normal two-legged individual would own one of these would be the guiding factor when applying Genchi Genbutsu, which is a firsthand account of the product being used in real life.
Consequently, a customer archetype would emerge and the prototype would have undergone more modifications with the reference point being customer opinions before the roll out of the finished product(Ries 83). Split testing of several versions would also be done but a lot of care taken not to compromise safety with comfort as this could prove to be detrimental. A lot of research and trials would have been done to establish the best weight, stability and power ratio due to the varying measurements in body weights among people. Any malfunction in the two wheeled vehicle that seriously poses a risk to its occupant would signal a pivot to a more safe and user-friendly automobile. This would also involve an intensive testing regimen of the device’s handling capabilities at different angles and speeds.
The eventual demand for the product would justify the systematic approach employed and increase the growth hypothesis. This would translate to increase in sales because the product would have been a device that the customer had wanted all along.
5. Google+ is faced with an identity crisis whereby it has not shaken off its Facebook look-alike tag. Some of the features also have been controversial resulting in a backlash that potentially scares away customers. However, it has made changes to its one-login policy by not automatically tracking one’s movements incase he or she is using another of Google’s products. This was prompted by a large negative reaction from its customers and politicians alike.
The site as it is now should be subjected to beta testing whereby customers from all over the world would be welcome to analyze it. All users with Gmail accounts would be notified via email to participate as well. Their opinions would matter because they have experienced the site before so they too understand its shortcomings and at least have ideas on what they feel should be included or removed from the site. In fact, whatever feature had resulted in a backlash would be instantly removed. After a reasonable short period, new features would be added and the reactions carefully studied in order to guarantee positive continuous deployment. Each change in design and content results in a minimum viable product, which is then polished to attract more and more users. The value hypothesis in this case is the need for people to interact online while the growth hypothesis would be an increase in the number of active users of the social networking site.
Similarly, the actionable metrics would not be limited to the number of new account holders only but also the frequency with which they visit their accounts and make use of them. The viral engine of growth would be suitable in this circumstance because it would brilliantly execute the actionable metrics thus increasing the revenue stream for the company. Importantly, constant monitoring of the site should be done so that if a change is desired by a sizeable majority of users, they need not have to wait too long as this could drive them to other competitors.
PART II: Closer-to Home Case Studies
1. In order for Jubble to gain traction, the new browser needs to be released through the internet on a trial run. This trial period should have a deadline. However, over the course of the trial period, its usage should be monitored and any challenges internet users experience noted for improvements. An address should also be provided for any form of feedback to be given particularly on user interface, browsing speed, graphic design and volume of content. The popular aspects of the browser need to be identified and made a permanent feature of the browser as well. Proper encryption would also be done as will the installation of strong antivirus software to prevent crashing.
2. General knowledge about disease prone regions and frequency of natural disasters should be factored in the primary blueprint. This would then be released in a portal as a minimum viable project with a plea for residents, experts and officials from these areas to give detailed insights. This would be on the season of the year, time of day, duration of disaster or disease, emergency evacuation measures and other relevant additives. This information would be sifted and only accurate content posted. The actual outbreak of any disease and its subsequent warning would be used to gauge the correctness of the system. Where necessary, modifications would be done since the cycle of build- measure-learn would be repeated.
3. The basic algorithm would be delivered to technological experts and engineers with a brief memo on the objective of the task ahead. This minimum viable product would then be applied in the routing system and the number of hidden paths that offered lower latency noted. From the build-measure-learn theory, the minimum viable product would be the build, while the number of paths detected would be the measure part and finally any modification afterwards would be the learn category. After a series of continuous deployment, the draft software with the highest ability to detect paths with lower latency would be split tested for different games. Therefore, the most efficient would become the flagship product.
4. The students would be engaged from the initial conceptualization by either answering questionnaires or interviews in which relevant questions would be asked like which are their favorite subjects and why? The initial site would include subjects that are commonly shared by a majority of the student population in order to attract many early adopters who would gradually influence others to join. The language used on the site would be slightly informal to tap into the youth population with a steady change in features as the circumstances demand. Emphasis would be placed on privacy and confidentiality because this is a very sensitive issue especially when it comes to matters of academics. A change in the core popular subjects would automatically cause a pivot to completely new subjects (Ries 73). The site would also not focus entirely on academics but also on other co-curricular activities that are of interest to the students. This would be included in a very stylish manner after prior consultation with them.
5. Creation of a search, find and store software would be a great starting point. The initial program would not be complicated as it would be a minimum viable project. Different concepts would be explored and programmed before being tested. The results of this experimentation would be weighed to see which one works best at optimal conditions. Probably a feature that would sort out the data to be stored before storage would be fixed in the early stages of storage. The number of people using the service would not be a good indicator of the success of the venture. That would be part of vanity metrics. However, the amount of data stored would form the basis for actionable metrics because the price of storage would rise with every increase in amount of data. There too would be another feature that would assist in managing the stored data for easier access by the user.
Ries, Eric. The Lean Startup. New York: Crown Business, 2011.72-83. Print.