At SURFnCODE we designed the Continuous Validation Framework (CVF) with the customer center stage. The idea is always to keep the target audience in mind for every step of the product development process. The framework reduces the risk of creating the wrong product by validating and iterating in quick succession. We rely on a close contact with target customers early on, an adaptive frame of mind and the ability to pivot when the data confirms it.
Start with the problem, figure out the solution
Work out what the problem is. Who does it impact? What is its significance? These high level questions frame the work to be done in terms of discovering an opportunity and should come before founders think about Product-Market Fit and building an MVP. That’s why in our Continuous Validation Framework, stage 1 is about Discovery and making sure a founder’s idea solves a real problem, with an audience that would value the solution.
Some key questions: how big is this problem? What is the size of the audience? Is it a viable and scalable market? What is the opportunity? The process to get these answers is iterative - we constantly seek validation from potential customers, whose feedback is then measured qualitatively and quantitatively. Focus groups, surveys and interviews can be useful tools in assuring founders they are on the right track. Through each iteration, the discovery focus narrows and feedback - real, live feedback from potential users - is incorporated into the loop.
The foundation work that will support product definition ends when founders go through enough validation rounds to identify potential Problem-Solution fit options. Stage 2 of the CVF - definition - begins. Here, the team works to identify the best product + customer opportunity. Who is the right audience and what would they value? What's the business mode? How will we measure success?
In order to get there, we test these multiple product options. Depending on the case we can use wireframes and mockups, but also build functioning software and working prototypes. Two important steps were taken by the founders and their teams - discovering the right problem, and starting to design the right solution.
How to build the right product, the right way - from the start
The third stage is devoted to learning how to design the best solution. We put the concept to the test, and iterate through feedback from customers. In this stage, we add functionalities, revise features, add new concepts, or test other approaches. The goal remains the same - to build the best solution that answers the initial (validated) problem. Here, iteration and validation keep being relevant in order to expand the scope.
All these steps mean founders can start work building the right product from the start. With each sprint and iteration they get a step closer to the most viable solution - instead of coding blindly without having real insights on the customer mindset.
Organically, founders arrive at an MVP, with less risk and less expense. This fourth and last stage of the framework is focused on measuring whether we’ve arrived at Product-Market fit and if we’ve achieved a Minimum Viable Product. We focus on the traction we're getting, the speed of customer onboarding, and engagement.
All through the four stages, we constantly match the vision of the founders with the requirements of the external environment. This way, we reduce the risk of innovation and save them time and money on the road to market fit.