Every project is different. In each one, clients have a different objective that drives the engagement model and determines the delivery standard.
We at Slash offer 3 kinds of services: good, fast and in some cases cheap. Clients can pick any they want to focus on, but it is going to be optimization at the expense of the other types. For instance, if the client chooses to optimize for the cost of delivery, quality will suffer, and if the speed of delivery is key for the client, they typically get it at the expense of quality and cost. Likewise, optimization for the quality of delivery happens at the expense of cost.
As the popular joke goes, you can only pick 2 services 😉 We at Slash offer 3 standards of delivery, or quality levels, for our clients.
This level is the best for startups or clients, who have completed limited concept validation and user testing (typically via interactive wireframes or perhaps a rapid prototype), and now seek a working MVP to achieve a commercial milestone: B2C end-user signups, a corporate pilot signing an MOU, securing funding, securing a board approval for the next stage gate of a project, etc.
The rapid MVP allows the client to demonstrate a narrow-scope solution that works and is feasible, desirable, and viable.
The primary focus at this stage is either cost or speed. A rapid MVP can be optimized for either. Typically, the rapid MVP requires less effort and a team that can work lean and fluid – and in some cases, ‘agile’.
Key considerations for a client include:
- Balance cost vs speed. The faster you want to go, the more experienced and routined your delivery team needs to be to deliver on target.
- When is the right time to build a Rapid MVP? After 10 target users have validated the concept? Once the test users have played with the UX? After you have a branded UI?
- How focused is the feature set for a Rapid MVP? The broader the feature set, the more costly and time-consuming.
- Is the Rapid MVP meant to set the foundation for future versions, or is it acceptable that it is built as throw-away code? This will determine cost and speed.
A scalable MVP is the next step: this level is best suited for the clients who have more confidence that their concept is ready to be commercialized.
What they seek is an initial product release that can be marketed at a scale that can acquire and serve a sufficient number of target users with the right set of features.
Here, the speed of delivery is usually the primary focus – at the expense of cost and to a lesser extent quality. Since the MVP needs to set the foundation for future releases, though, the client needs to consider the standard of quality that is right for them.
To deliver a Scalable MVP, it requires a medium-level of effort, and team culture and tech organization that is more evolved, i.e. planned and organized with proper practices.
The key considerations for a client include:
- Balance Speed vs Quality. The faster you want to go, the more complex it is to deliver at a high quality and vice versa.
- How far ahead should the client think of their product roadmap and architecture runway beyond this ‘scalable’ MVP? 1 version? 2 versions? More?
- What is the right set of features for v1? What can be pushed for v2 to accelerate the release of v1?
- What kind of utilization (e.g users, DAU, compute, etc) does the client expect for the first release?
- Where will quality come from at this early stage of development? How deep should we go into product design, requirements engineering, test-driven development practices, quality assurance, automation of devops infrastructure, workflow?
- What is the right way of working for the client based on the granularity of the requirements, the team mix and team skills, budget, timeline? Eg. agile methodology, kanban, RPF vs retainer?
An Enterprise IT product is the most advanced level. This standard is for the clients who seek to launch a mature product ready for prime-time from Day 1.
The motivation depends, but typically it is for:
- More mission-critical applications
- Applications that need to meet external regulatory or internal compliance requirements. One such reason may be to avoid potential reputational risk in case of failure.
- Corporate products that need to be integrated into larger core operating systems or workflows.
The focus here is on optimizing for quality, and the speed of delivery is secondary; and cost is usually the least important consideration. Such products are demanding, and the team culture and tech organization required to deliver this need to have mature and streamlined practices.
The key considerations for a client include:
- How much quality is enough, and where will quality come from? Product Design, Requirements engineering, test-driven development (TDD) and QA, DevSecOps, etc.
- Mothership management (in case of the product sits in a larger organization or group of companies) to make sure key stakeholders are aligned on success and risks, and can mitigate for potential risk losses (e.g. reputational risk).
- Maintenance and extensibility of the product after release, including the choice of tech stack.
- Data privacy (e.g. GDPR, PDPA), security (e.g. ISO27001, VAPT – vulnerability assessment penetration test).
- System integration into existing infrastructure, core or 3rd party systems.
- Similarly, as for Scalable MVPs, what is the right way of working for the client based on the granularity of the requirements, the team mix and team skills, budget, timeline? E.g. agile methodology, kanban, RPF vs retainer?
- Any non-functional procurement considerations that have to be factored upfront into the project design and vendor selection process.
Picking the right level for your project
Picking the right level depends on your objectives: cost vs speed, quality vs speed.
Selecting the right partner to deliver against this level is a careful balancing act of many factors including cost, customer experience, time zones, longevity of the relationship, software craftsmanship, product thinking, venture building.
Most agencies focus on 2 of the 3 Levels:
- Budget software houses typically cover Rapid MVP or Scalable MVPs. The considerations there are that you need to provide very granular specifications and micromanage delivery. The risk is that they may not have the product thinking skills to challenge your specifications and designs.
- Industrial scale system integrators and outsourcing firms typically can cover Scalable MVPs or Enterprise IT, often at the expense of customer experience, product thinking, and venture building.
At Slash, due to our venture studio and tech studio model, we cover all three levels, which is quite rare.
- We build on average 4 startups a year, where we have equity stakes. These require careful consideration and trade-offs between financing, go to market, product development (typically speed vs cost), team skills etc.
- We conceptualize and validate half a dozen new venture concepts a year, and product design many more products each year, some of which fall in the Rapid MVP bucket, others in Scalable MVP, or Enterprise IT.
- Our tech studio delivers agile development projects for startups, corporates and multilateral organizations like the United Nations. As a result, we get our fair share of exposure on all 3 levels.
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