I recently ran in to the blogs of Steve Blank and Eric Ries whose posts on product development & marketing, lean start-ups and customer development make very interesting reads. But what particularly attracted my attention was the frighteningly common-sensical similarities between (a) the problems in traditional software product development and (b) the problems in developing a market for the software.
In software development, we have seen how the waterfall model is gradually drying up; how agile/xp/scrum has already made huge inroads; and now we are also witnessing how kanban is heralding the ‘lean’ software development. I infer that similar shifts are happening in market/customer development for software products.
A start-up that builds the software and waits for the customers to find the product will possibly remain an up-start. More often that not, start-ups fail from lack of customers, not from lack of product development methodologies. But the reality is that most companies spend more energy on building products instead of setting up a structured (and repeatable) process for customer development. It is in this context that Steve and Eric recommend a 4-step customer discovery, validation, creation and expansion process. More details are available in their blogs and so I am not going to elaborate more here. Suffice to say that within the context of this customer development model, software development needs to be executed. At least, both should happen in parallel.
PS: Doesn’t this sound like THE thing to do? Why should smart entrepreneurs need such reminders about such basics? My hunch is that entrepreneurs (romantically and rightfully) see an Apple in their companies. Ain’t a software that is good enough for them, good enough for the market???