Last year I read a book by Simon Sinek called Start With Why. I like the idea of starting with why when it comes to creating a product as an ISV and taking products to market.
Sinek says “Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. When I say WHY, I don’t mean making money – that’s a result. By WHY I mean what is your purpose, cause or belief? Why does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care?”
You may ask what this has to do with building a product on the Power Platform. I feel that if you can get clear on why you are in business, and why you serve your customers, you will get clear on the benefits you bring to market with the products you create.
I have seen many ISVs get too focused on features, forgetting that customers are more interested in the benefits of your software. If you get clear on your ‘why’ you can tell the story of your product in a way that resonates with the customer.
I recommend you read this book and then evaluate your ISV and products through this lens.
Five Whys Method
The five whys method was initially developed by Sakichi Toyoda and was used within Toyota to get to the root of problems. As an ISV this is a useful tool in getting to the core of what problem your product idea solves. The process as explained in The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership is one of asking “Why?” five times to get to the root cause of a problem.
Here is an example.
Once you have watched this video, think about it in context of the problem that your software idea solves, is it a core problem or a superficial one? As you become clear on the core problems your software solves, you can design your application to address these problems, therefore creating high value and impact.
Here is another example 🙂
I like this quote about the importance of understanding the problem before you start building the software.
“First, solve the problem. Then write the code.” – John Johnson
Other Whys to consider
Using the above five whys method, answer these questions about your software idea.
- Why will people buy your product?
- Why will they purchase from you?
- Why is this the right time?
- Why Now?
- Why do you want to create a product?
- Why is this idea the right idea?
- Why You?
- Why Not?
Once you are clear on your why, it is time to consider a plan to move forward. Pull together a loose plan and timeline. There will be opportunity to build this out in more detail later but at this point you need to get some trusted advisors involved. Who will you engage in stress testing your idea?
This is extremely important, as without stress testing you run the risk of looking at your idea only in the context of what you know. It’s time to get people around you that you trust, people who will look at your idea from a different context to yours. Not everyone you present your idea to will “get it”, and that’s okay.
However, if everyone you share the idea with doesn’t get it, proceed with caution. Can you find people with experience with similar products or ideas? Who is going to create the software architecture? Who is going to develop the software? What technology will be involved?
Be careful to build on the cutting edge but not the bleeding edge.
For example, right now if you were to make an application on the Power Platform there are two key things you need to consider, do you build using the Classic UI or the Unified Interface? (By the way NEVER make anything on the Classic UI as it is going away). I see many ISVs with their demos built using the Classic UI and I shake my head.
Make sure your solution is built on Unified Interface. That brings us to the second item, do you build your application using PowerApps Component Framework (PCF) or use web-resources where applicable? My answer to this as of today would be stick with web-resources, PCF is still bleeding edge.
As part of this high-level planning you need to work out the following:
- Who will make up the core team?
- How do you involve experts without outlaying capital, or giving up ownership?
- What level of involvement will they have?
- How long to get a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) built? (I would suggest no longer than nine months with a single developer if they know what they are doing)
- Who can you target as your first ten customers that will be ready at the end of the nine months to purchase the MVP that you create?
- What level of capital will you need?
- How soon can you become profitable? Don’t be one of those companies that burn cash like no tomorrow, yes there are edge cases where this works but it’s likely that you are not one of those edge cases.
- You need to have run the numbers to show profitability within the 12 months. If it’s going to take longer than that, you may need to trim your MVP and become more focused on what the core of your idea is.
- How will you test and validate your MVP with real users? Read The Lean Startup to get clear on the need to verify your ideas early and often, so you don’t burn dev cycles on something that customers don’t want.
- One of the biggest mistakes a new startup ISV makes is not getting their marketing message right and not starting their marketing and sales efforts soon enough.
I hope this has given you food for thought as you start your ISV or begin to bring your product idea to market. If you have questions, please feel to reach out to me on LinkedIn messenger. If you have your own views on what I have covered in this, please comment below.