Virally: Our First Lean Development

This week marks the launch of Virally, our new hosted service providing an easy and convenient way for marketers to generate leads with downloadable content. We’ve all seen those forms you have to fill in to download a pdf report or podcast, Virally replaces that form with a simple connect with Facebook button. Lean development has been central to the process of developing Virally, and so far has been a resounding success.

Lean Development At Fruitbowl

Lean software development is a set of practices and principles designed to increase value and efficiency of the development process. The seven principles of lean software development are:

We aim to be as efficient as possible at Fruitbowl and the Lean principles help use do that. The key for us is to “deliver as fast as possible” thereby testing assumptions and discovering fallacies early in the development process. We want to get products to market and in the hands of users fast, delivering only the most essentially functionality. The key benefits of this are:

  • Users can be getting value from the essentials whilst we work on the extras.
  • We can test the fundamentals of the product early on before too much time has been invested in to it.
  • New features and changes can be prioritised based on what users tell us is important to them.

Prototyping & Rapid Development

You can ask users what they think of an idea, but you will never really know whether or how they will use a product until you let them use it. To do this without investing too much time and effort in a potentially bad idea we build a “Minimum Viable Product“. An MVP is a glorified prototype and presents the primary core value to users; it lets customers test and feedback on your value proposition.

The initial prototype for Virally was built in about a week and in our first customers hands shortly after that. We then spent another week or so bringing the prototype up to a more polished, but still basic standard, also adding in payment processing for new accounts.

Virally already presents considerable value to customers, and we’ve only spent 3 man weeks on it. Is it finished? No. Is it perfect? No. But it is now in a position to be used by real clients, with real users, in the real world. Future development and design decisions will be directly influenced and directed by the their usage and feedback.

Lean Is Efficient

This makes for incredibly efficient development going forward. All the time we invest into Virally from this point on will have a much greater level of insight, and be based on facts, rather than guess work. The alternative, that you so often see in software development, is pouring time and money into developing the “perfect” “finished” product, only to launch and find all the assumptions you made to build it were wrong.