I’ll start off with an old story from the world of advertising agencies. Reading through the post you will discover how it relates to the development of technology and how this thinking can help in boosting the competitiveness of your business.
An advertising agency from New York used bike couriers to send print drafts to their clients for approval (I don’t know if agencies still use bikers anymore?). This was of course many times more expensive than using the local post service to deliver the drafts next morning.
“Wouldn’t it be smarter to use the postal service and save tens of thousands a year?” a fresh recruit asked from the founder. The answer the founder gave takes us as close to the core of business as possible:
“If we use a bike messenger the drafts are at our clients table within two hours. We get the go/no-go – decision on average in three hours. In contrast, if we use the postal service the package is delivered in the customer’s mailroom in the morning and reaches the decision maker’s table no earlier than noon. Therefore, it takes 24 hours to receive an answer from the client. If we can make changes in three hours instead of a day, we can serve four times more clients on average in a year.”
When you think about it, the ability to compete in the technology sector depends on the speed of new innovations and product development. Where could you get the bike courier for your product development team?
Experience and agility in one stroke
In this post, I’ll write about the challenges we see our clients facing every day with their development ideas and how we help solve them. Here’s what we do in short:
UnSeen helps people within large and small companies to prove their new ideas’ technical feasibility and business potential. And we work as a partner in developing the solution from the first sketch to the full-blown product.
Our team is an awesome mix of experience and youthful vivacity. The experienced crew has worked for over 20 years with the latest technology. We have designed and shipped millions of products to the global markets. We have had our share of scars to remind us of what it takes to move an idea from the starting point to the finish line. It’s good to remember that the client’s life starts only when the product or service is launched. That’s the point when the quality of your work starts to come up.
When we founded UnSeen we though what kind of company would be great to work with; It would be intriguing to play with new wild ideas as your daily job. Our team has accumulated that kind of experience in great quantities. At the same time the younger team members get invaluable chance to work in exceptionally challenging projects alongside the veterans. They’ll enjoy explosive growth of their hands-on skills. Check Niko’s awesome blog post from here.
Do your ideas take an age to lift-off?
While working at a large company the other side of the story became apparent as well. Sometimes a project was worked on years but then it became apparent that the solution doesn’t answer the customer’s needs. And at some point, the final death verdict came for the runaway project. It felt like a huge waste of human work and potential.
We’ve thought of how development projects could be better guided to their goals. It is elementary for the competitiveness of each company. There should be a way to do things differently!
Another typical challenge in organisations is the drag new ideas face, which holds them back. This is familiar to everyone. Advancing new radical ideas took forever.
The slowness isn’t always inherent in the organisation’s structure, size, know-how, or even people’s drive to do new things. The most typical root cause could be the work load coming from daily business. The usual task backlog takes 97% of your time and remainder 3% is all you have for the new ideas.
The start of a typical development project
It’s apparent that all companies need to drive for new innovations. A new technology development project gets a blazing start:
- The management team agrees to start investigating a new technological solution
- An owner is assigned for the project
- Let’s hit the pedal to the metal!
But then the project owner gets stuck in a swamp. A huuuge amount of work is needed to get the project into lift-off. Very often, development projects involve multiple different branches of business, technology, and competence areas. The needed list of experts is long, and the people might just not be available at the right time. Or they might not be even in the whole company.
“We need at least an electronics expert, then an embedded developer for prototyping, someone should point the right technology track, someone needs to dig up the component prices for business calculations, algorithm guy for the acceleration sensor, and then we even need a SW developer for cloud database and at least barebone user interface. Oh, and we have no idea of antennas. I suppose we can get some from AliExpress?”
If you ask for a software developer to help from the neighbour team, the likely answer is: “let’s see in the end of the year, our own backlog is killing us.” In the worst case this means that it can take months for something to get started.
We wanted to change this radically. What if instead of three months, the first prototype would be ready in a week?
The elephant in the room
The typical starting point in our projects is that our client has a new idea, for example from the IOT-sector. It’s great to sit down to discuss the problem and spark out ideas on how to tackle the challenge. The atmosphere is, however, disturbed by the elephant in the room. The question no one wants to ask, but we’ve learnt that it’s better us to pop the bubble: “How much this solution is allowed to cost?”
There are only a handful of people able to give an answer right then and there. Usually there isn’t any idea of how much monetary value the solution brings to the buyer – and that is completely OK!
The business team doesn’t have a glue how much the solution is allowed to cost. They don’t know how much to from the buying customer without knowing how well the solution works. On the other side the development team can’t tell how much it will cost, because they don’t have a spec sheet of how the solution should work. Sound familiar?
You can rarely tell in advance if a new idea will work or not, how much money it will make and how it might change the business models.
You must be able to leap the gap between an idea and the business benefit as easily as possible and keeping the costs and risk as low as possible.
The leap from idea to business benefits with agile experimentation
These problems are the essence for the existence of UnSeen. It was clear from the beginning that we needed to find a way to test new ideas with modern methods and agility. We read Lean Startup books cover to cover and the thinking seemed to match the above-mentioned problems and how we wanted to work on things.
We could be the experienced and agile bike courier for our customers. With our technology know-how we can help companies to find business benefits behind their new ideas.
There is no such thing as a no-ideas-company
I’ve never met a person without ideas. At least no one will willingly confess being such. Even the dullest by-the-book-bureaucracies have innovation pockets, weather they know it or not. These pockets consist of individual people or teams who have vision of what should be done to take the company to the next level. The brilliancy needs just to be dug out and brought to the limelight.
In order for the idea to move forward, the business benefits need to be proven as straightforward as possible. I’d turn the old “Fail Fast”-idea into a more optimistic form: “Learn fast”. So that we can learn, an outline needs to be made fast and concrete.
A prototype held up by bubble gum and duct-tape tells way more than a slide set. You can rest assured that no one reads emails in the meeting when you turn in the latest prototype. Everyone wants to try it.
Protos are not only to validate the technical feasibility. They must be used to figure out the business potential of the idea.
You should consider taking the prototype to your own clients to test out. You’ll get first-hand information weather the idea works or not and if they would be willing to pay a dime for it. Or do they see your competitiveness take a step forward with the solution? Maybe your new business could be based on monthly subscriptions instead of bulk product business.
UnSeen Labs is the bike courier for your product team
All this in mind we created our UnSeen Labs concept. How do your customers react to the new solution? At the same time the idea can be steered towards the goal and massive failures will be prevented. Labs thinking has been inspired not only by the Lean Startup but also the agile manifesto. We have taken the agile approach better known from software projects into development of physical and electronical products.
UnSeen Labs solves the technological challenge around the idea fast and pushes costs down. The working model is based on rapid prototyping, which can be used to test technical feasibility and the business potential. Multidisciplinary team is able to turn around the problem efficiently.
A 20-year experience helps us to keep the big picture in mind while building the prototypes and proof-of-concepts. What’s needed proven now, that we got everything to take the idea all the way to the market? In the end of the day, we’ll need to answer the elephant questions: “How much can it cost?” and “How much it will cost?”.
With this in mind, UnSeen has the answer to the next elephant question lurking already in the door steps: “So, our idea seems to work. What needs to happen to get this to the market?”. The knowledge accumulated works as a roadmap both for the business and product development. With it, we can help in building the final solution.
The bike courier has done his part. It is time for the next leg of the race!