From startups to Fortune 500 companies, everyone is competing to develop the “next big thing”. They have grandiose visions of a disruptive application leaving users astounded that they were able to survive without it. But ultimately, these ideas are only as good as their execution.
In today’s rapidly evolving world, it’s increasingly difficult for enterprise companies to stay agile & create innovative market solutions. Disruptive technology is coming from startups like Tesla, Uber, and Snapchat who in the past few years have displaced traditional business models dominated by some of the largest enterprise companies for decades prior.
Sidebench is a leading Corporate Innovation Lab and Startup Venture Studio dedicated to identifying, developing, and launching strategic technology solutions for our corporate & startup partners.
Thousands of app creators rush to get their ideas to market; to their credit, their passion is inspiring, and their ideas, novel. But, despite this abundance of creativity, very few apps seem to make the disruptive impact that their creators envision. To that end, Sidebench works to change this trend. With our Discovery process, we strive to translate the vision of app creators into a workable product that attracts and retains the most passionate of early users.
Sidebench founder Kevin Yamazaki explains our process and what makes it so unique and valuable to our clients.
Q: First off, in your own words, what exactly is the Discovery process?
A: The way that Sidebench does the Discovery process is very unique – it’s a process we’ve developed for the past five years. Sidebench’s Product Discovery is a very collaborative process between stakeholders and our key project leads in what we see as the most important parts of fully defining, designing, and preparing for the build and launch of a new business or product line. It’s separated into three parts: business strategy and analysis – where we analyze your business objectives – user experience design and information architecture, translating strategy and requirements to visual and interactive design. The third and final part is the technical side – which can include systems integration,technical architecture, and detailed documentation for development team handoff.
During this process, we emphasize extreme empathy between the client stakeholders and our key project leads. We’re building a great working relationship right out of the gate in order to fully understand the client’s vision and business to truly act as an extension of their team. This Discovery phase is the most important stage of any startup or corporate innovation project and ensures that the right product is being built to directly fulfill the business objectives.
Q: What makes the Discovery process so valuable?
A: We’re never designing,engineering or architecting in a silo. There is constant communication and collaboration across these three streams every step of the way. During this process most importantly, we uncover new business opportunities which influence and shift the direction or emphasis of the product and allows us to uncover hidden risks and address them head on while we validate the value proposition.
From a tangible standpoint, the end outcome is a Product Requirements Document (PRD) and an interactive prototype. The PRD is a detailed analysis of the requirements for your application that includes user personas, workflow diagrams, wireframes, fully designed mockups, and a detailed product roadmap. From here, you can go to any development firm in the world as long as they have the capacity to develop your product. Everything is perfectly packaged for an agile development handoff. More exciting than the PRD is the interactive prototype. Startups have often used our prototypes to secure funding, and, at the enterprise level, interactive prototypes have been used to validate concepts with and obtain buy-in from key stakeholders within their organization for a larger budget for development. Coupled with this is extensive and intensive user testing. We go directly to the end user to make sure your product vision aligns with their needs.
This whole process leads to a much smoother design-to-development handoff, which means that all teams are aligned on the product vision and have a clear release roadmap ahead. This can be extremely tricky, but, if you do it right, it can save a lot of time and money.
Q: What if the app creator has already done some of these things for themselves?
A: While we admire the passion and creativity of the founders and key stakeholders, that same passion can sometimes make them blind to the various quirks and nuances of product development, leading to unrealistic expectations of how their product will perform in the market. Sometimes the most valuable thing that we can do during the Discovery stage is to challenge the first assumptions or product design decision that was made months ago and then objectively validating them against the market. It’s not uncommon for us to find critical new market insights and have clients refocus their whole product. Oftentimes, our clients have done the fun work, but it’s our role to help guide them through the more difficult parts of product design and at the same time, educate and evaluate the consumer pain the product is solving.
Q: Can you provide some concrete examples of how this process has helped companies?
A: NBCUniversal approached us because they were using four different marketplaces to distribute digital content and media assets to their partners all over the globe. They had the biggest technology firms as their vendors – yet they came to us because they needed a fresh perspective. After an extensive Discovery process, there was a clear vision for system integration. The process allowed us to map out the visual style and technical architecture, while also managing the expectations of the various stakeholders, making the technical aspects easier. . It was still a challenge – integrating four different systems for so many different users is no easy feat by any stretch of the imagination – but the end result was a single, mobile-responsive app that allowed users to access all of NBCUniversal’s digital media assets.
Another example was our project with Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR), one of the oldest and largest beer brands in the world. Their CMO approached us to find a solution to evaluating performance and tracking Key Performance Indicators for their Field Marketing Team across the country. During our Discovery process, we decided on a two-sided mobile app that would not only solve this internal goal, but also provide a consumer facing experience for PBR fans to further engage with the brand.. In this app, field reps could build a stronger community of brand aficionados by providing a direct channel for them to communicate with PBR fans outside of traditional social media channels. From the corporate side, there were now tangible metrics to be tracked. This added value not only in the short and medium terms, but in the long term as well. This platform has allowed PBR to enact a ton of different programs across all of their channels.
Another great example is Red Bull. Due to vendor constraints and an internal requirement for international use, we proposed developing a white label Photo Booth app for Red Bull that would accommodate multiple international business unit’s varying needs. After evaluating these needs in our Discovery process, we created an iPad app, a web app, and an admin app that allows Red Bull managers across the world to create custom design templates for each of their events utilizing the Photobooth application. These apps are being released at over 1,500 Red Bull global events this year alone.
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