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At MAQE, we’ve delivered hundreds of projects since our start in early 2012: microsites, websites, e-commerce systems, e-learning systems, mobile apps, business apps, Software-as-a-Service platforms, and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). And while each and every one of these projects have offered its own unique blend of challenges, we have, over time, manage to discern a few patterns — commonalities, if you will, shared between seemingly disparate projects.
Since 2017, we’ve worked these patterns into a framework called Digital Evolution. And we use this framework to better manage stakeholder expectations in regards to the scope and complexity involved in the development of digital products. MAQE is a consultancy — a services business — meaning we design and build web-based software for external customers. And so we’ve always had a need for clear and efficient communication. Digital Evolution addresses that need.
As mentioned, we’ve completed a lot of different projects since we got our start, and we’ve done it for and with a lot of different customers. Having worked with numerous startups, lots of Small & Medium-Sized Business (SMBs), and quite a few Multinational Corporations (MNCs), I can confidently say that when it comes to predicting customer needs, size isn’t all that important. At least not in this context ;-)
Instead, we’ve come to the conclusion that the most important thing to consider when reviewing new opportunities is the stage of the Product Life Cycle (PLC) in which the customer finds him or herself. That, more than anything else, determines their need.
The PLC suggests that products move through a series of stages as it matures. We’ve experienced much the same in our work creating software products. And while it seems obvious after the fact, it wasn’t until a few years ago that we fully appreciated just how important this was
Nothing predicts customer needs as well as the stage of the PLC they are in. And while the PLC provides five stages, we need only consider the first three (this is an artifact of our business model more than anything else and may not hold true for everyone).
The three stages of Digital Evolution are:
Stage is the first piece of the puzzle in determining customer needs. And we thought it so important that we actually built our entire service offering around it.
The second tell tale sign we must consider is the customer’s objective. What are they trying to achieve? And here again our past work building a variety of products for a variety of customers comes to bear. Because in our experience, it all boils down to four overarching objectives.
The four objectives in Digital Evolution are:
The insight of Digital Evolution is, essentially, that this objective, in combination with the stage of development, will tell us a lot of what is actually at stake.
Identifying stage and objective in new engagements isn’t difficult. But it is important. Software is hard but communication is harder, I often say. And this initial conversation between customer and vendor is a good way to align expectations across many different topics:
In the end, it all comes down to this: Digital Evolution is a framework with which to manage stakeholder expectations regarding the scope and complexity involved in the design and development of digital products.
Like most good frameworks, Digital Evolution is deceptively simple. There’s only two axis and a handful of data points to consider. But there’s more to it than meets the eye. Because underneath it all sit three guiding principles.
The three principles of Digital Evolution are:
These principles combine to form a sort of lens through which we can analyze the circumstances that prevail at the intersection between stage and objective.
To recap: Digital Evolution is a framework with which to manage stakeholder expectations regarding the scope and complexity involved in the design and development of digital products. It covers three stages and four objectives. And it’s built on three guiding principles that, when combined, provides a lense through which we can more readily discern customer needs:
When you have a problem in need of a solution
When you have an idea that needs to be realized.
When you have a digital business that you want to grow.
|Likely small engagement. No paid discover. A few conversations. Focus on design, brand, and think/feel/do of end-users.||Fixed-price. Small feature set. High touch: design, motion, content. Details. Fully featured, no phases. Kanban or Scrum.||Likely not needed. But on request, small hourly retainer will do. Limited to support and small updates. Kanban most suitable.|
(e.g., ERP, CRM)
|Paid. Needfinding incl, interviews and workshops. Design research. Rapid prototyping. Many stakeholders. Difficult to calculate ROI.||Fixed-price. Functionality over form. Co-create with end-user. Large feature set. Many stakeholders. Scrum more suitable.||Fixed-term retainer. Continuously improve as long as value is delivered. Limited user base. Scrum. Rely on qualitative end-user feedback.|
|Paid engagement. Highly technical. Value stream mapping. May be politically sensitive. Straightforward to calculate ROI.||Fixed-price. Little to no design. Highly complex. QA intense. Must work 100% on first try. Longer timeline Scrum appropriate.||Fixed-term retainer. Continuously improve as long as value is delivered. Test automation key. Scrum. Limited user base. Rely on data/KPIs.|
|Paid engagement. Business focused. Revenue modeling and product design. Lean canvas. Aim to validate product/market fit.||Fixed-price. Minimum Viable Product. Time-to-Market in focus. Launch early. Adoption built and AARRR built in. Kanban over scrum.||Ongoing retainer. Build/measure/improve based on analytics, experiments, and user feedback. Startup mode. Small team. Kanban still preferable,
For more on Digital Evolution, visit www.maqe.com