THE OMIT SYSTEM. PART 02
How to burn yourself out. 100% results guaranteed.
During my exchange year in Milan, I took a marketing course taught by the brilliant Antonio Ghezzi. We once were discussing company strategy optimisation using the BCG matrix and he said something that got literally drilled into my brain. He said: cut the crap. It was the most accurate definition of what needs to be done when it comes to any kind of optimisation. Since then it has become the golden rule in product management for me.
CUT THE FUCKING CRAP
When you launch a new product, it often happens that you have a bunch of ideas. Let's take an example. You are developing an app prototype. Let's say it is tinder for cows (I hope you have already read Part 1 and do not think this is a great idea because this app already exists).

What does a typical dating app have? Actually, if you look at today's messengers, they have a whole bunch of features. For example, you can send images, share location, edit messages post-factum, create groups, set custom profile pics for users, or send self-destructible messages. I can name 50 more. Let's imagine you actually want to implement all these features. I would challenge you with one simple question:

- Do you really think that location sharing is a MUST-have feature for your target audience?

This is the point where entrepreneurs usually start having their first doubts. Because unless you have infinite resources, which most of us don't, you gotta set priorities. This is when you start thinking about what's really important and what can be dropped for the time being. This is your enlightenment moment. This is the moment when you realise that not every one of your product's features is vital for its future success. And this is the time for you to take a very sharp imaginary knife and start cutting pieces off your product to create an MVP. As Wikipedia suggests,
A minimum viable product (MVP) is a product with just enough features to satisfy early customers and provide feedback for future product development.
In my method I suggest that in order to arrive at an MVP, teams should imagine pushing the initial requirements list through 2 filters: UVP and MVP.
UNIQUE VALUE PROPOSITION
I can't count how many times I have asked the same question to early stage startups: what is the unique value proposition of your product? What makes your product special compared to your competition? Why do I need to choose you instead of them? Why Tide and not Ariel? Why Pepsi and not Cola? Why Camaro and not Mustang?

Unique value proposition is a set of requirements that are put together to convince a potential customer that your product or service will add more value or better solve a problem than the one offered by your competitors. It must not be complex, it must be

  • simple
  • concise
  • specific

The sad truth is that most startups do not have any answer to this question. And if you do not, then you have no idea what you are doing or why. Do not venture beyond this step until you find your UVP.
MINIMUM VIABLE PRODUCT
These 3 words alone may already sound painful to perfectionists, and I can confirm - yes my dear entrepreneur, it is going to be very painful. You will once again pick up your sharp scissors and trim that UVP tree comprising all those brilliant features you have previously so carefully selected. Branch by branch. Because uniqueness does not guarantee minimalism. Until the moment when you can safely assume that

  • you are able to test the product using minimal resources used
  • you can ship it to early customers ASAP and it will still be the same product

If you haven't complied with these two rules, you are simply wasting your company's resources and you are on a slippery slope towards a burnout that will stem from perpetual deferment of the launch date.
SO HOW CAN YOU PRIORITISE?
Now that you have passed the first stage where you had a bunch of different ideas and selected the one with the greatest potential, you are ready to make the next sacrifice. This sacrifice is the ORDER. Each product you build can have an infinite number of features, creating an ever-growing list that is only going to increase with time. This is where you need to learn to be rational and select only the most essential features into your MVP. If you don't, you will end up in one of two situations:

  • Never launching your product because the scope is too large
  • Burning more cash than you need to achieve the same result

So it is very important to acknowledge the fact that you cannot do everything at the same time and focus on requirements which make your product unique and do not take ages to deliver. Below you will find an overview of the most popular prioritisation techniques proven over the years by thousands of successfully launched products.
01.The MoSCoW pattern
The MoSCoW pattern is the simplest yet most efficient technique to sort your ideas by priority and convert them into an MVP. In fact, its application goes well beyond project and product management. I personally use it on a daily basis to sort mundane tasks in private life. If you are creating your first product, I highly recommend starting with this method before getting into more complicated ones.

The idea is simple as a smile - each requirement in your list gets labelled as MUST, SHOULD, COULD and WON'T. I hope it is needless to explain what they stand for. The rule of thumb is to mark your MVP-scope with MUSTs and postpone the rest.

You can read more about it here.
02.Hundred Dollar Method
If you are already familiar with the MoSCoW pattern, you already know that one of its biggest downsides arises when the option (opinion?) of multiple stakeholders needs to be taken into consideration. The 100 dollars (or points) method is perfect for such circumstances.

All stakeholders get a virtual 100 dollars, which they can bet on any requirement they like. They can choose to give all 100 points to a single requirement or distribute the points according to their own preferences and common sense. The higher the amount allocated to each requirement, the higher its priority. Eventually, the total is counted and the requirements are sorted based on the number of points received.

More details here.
03.Five Whys
Asking why 5 times is a simple and powerful technique to use when it comes to problem solving and prioritisation. Unlike the previous 2, it will help unveil the fundamental basis for each requirement (or root cause to a problem) before taking the decision . You simply ask the question "why" up to five times.

- Why do users need to send voice messages?
- Because they cannot type.
- Why can't they type?
- Because they are on the go.
- Why are they using our app on the go?
- Because it's urgent.
- Why do they need to send a message urgently? It's a tinder to match cows.
- You are right, there aren't many urgent situations.

As you see it may take just 4 questions to kick a requirement out of the priority list. The important thing is that you use the Why question to peel away the layers that envelop any problem. When repeated, the question prompts us to think about the problem more deeply. More details here.
04.The value matrix
This diagram is simple and easy way to find the shortest path to your MVP. All you need to do is draw a big plus sign on your white board and mark the axes with Value and Cost.

Value demonstrates which business and economical outcome the feature can generate for your product. Cost measures the resources needed to complete the task. These resources may include finances or human capital but are not limited to them.

You can find a good guide on this technique here.
The first and the main goal in the development of every new product is to find a sustainable and scalable business model involving the lowest possible resources. Pushing your initial requirements list through the UVP and MVP filters is the key to success.
© Wild Ma-Gässli

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