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5 Ways to Test an Idea Without Spending a Fortune

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Inspiration is all around us.  That inspiration can come from something we see or hear while going about our daily lives, from our own experiences, from our customers or from internal stakeholders.

Suddenly you find that ideas start to flow and the excitement builds.  You get carried away and want to start developing right away.  But are all your ideas really the right ones for your product?  How can you know?

Here are five quick tests you can run to see if your idea is a good fit for your product and your customers, cheaply and effectively.

1. Does it support your vision?

If you read my previous blog post, Does Your Team See the Big Picture, then you understand the importance of having a vision and sharing it with your team.  Consider how your idea fits in with the vision for your product and make sure that the idea supports your vision rather than deviating from it.

2. Does it help you progress towards your goals?

Review your product goals.  Your new idea should take you a step closer to achieving one of your goals.  If you cannot clearly articulate which goal you’ll make progress on, this idea might not be a good one.  You can also consider the size of the step that would be taken in the direction of the goal to see if there is a way to adapt your idea to reach your goal even sooner.

3. Have a cooling off period

It’s easy to get carried away in the moment.  Force yourself to set the idea aside for 24, 48 or even 72 hours before coming back to it.  Are you still as convinced about your idea after you’ve spent some time away from it?  Or has some of the shine rubbed off?

4. Get feedback

Reach out to the people that make up your target audience for the new idea and find out if it resonates with them.  Speak to actual customers or users of the product, not just stakeholders.  Does it meet a need?  What problem does it solve?  Would they use it?  How would they make it better?  If the idea seems to be falling flat, maybe this isn’t the right audience or the right idea.

5. Design the smallest possible experiment

Find the smallest, cheapest and easiest way to test your idea and get feedback. It could be as small as putting a link on a website to see how many people click on it.  You might consider a low fidelity prototype for small-scale usability testing.  You could consider crowd sourcing funding to get confirmation that your idea will be something customers think is worth paying for. Think small and be creative – don’t waste money on the feature until you know you’re creating something your customers want.

If your idea passes these tests, build it iteratively and incrementally.  Once you have identified the set of features that must be released in order to start receiving value from the new idea, try to cut it down even further so that you move forward with the absolute minimum required.  When a new feature resonates with your customers this it will ideally become self-funding, generating enough value to pay for future iterations itself.  If it does not then it would be wise to find out why not before proceeding with additional development.

If your idea doesn’t pass these tests, it’s time to reconsider.

These five simple, inexpensive tests give you tools to determine if your investment will result in your desired outcome.  Take the time to ensure that your new idea will help you achieve your product goals and delight your customers.

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Jennifer Rostal

Jennifer is a senior project manager at Perficient. She is a Certified Team Coach and Scrum Foundations Educator with the Scrum Alliance and the Perficient Agile Community founder. Her passion is helping customers, colleagues, and teams build their agile mindsets, relationships, and skills through coaching, training, and mentoring.

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