Using Prototypes to Drive Innovation

By March 15, 2016Blog, Insights
Using prototypes to drive innovation - Leafcutter

Innovation is the key to continued, sustainable growth. Every market is under constant change and the players within it make up relentless competition, you are either biting at the heels of a much larger competitor or someone is biting at yours, nudging and bumping you from all sides. No matter how big or small you are, business owners, operators, executives and employee teams would all have at some point felt the pressure of market conditions.

So what do you do to maintain your edge and deliver more value than those around you?

In a world where more is being replicated and adapted for improved results, how can businesses move forward on multiple operational fronts and develop innovative solutions to put them ahead of their competition?

The answer is innovation through technology.

Technology is an enabler on so many fronts; customer or staff engagement, streamlining and re-imagining operational processes, improved customer service delivery. Technology takes many different forms but it’s most true translation is doing something more effectively than we are able to do without technology.

Technology the Enabler

Information Libraries & Storage

Gone are the days when you had to manually search through an alphabetical filing system to find the Isle the book you are after is located. Today, many books, academic journals and other publications have electronic versions enabling students and academics alike to quickly browse through the maze of information to find exactly what they are looking for in a few clicks, a couple words and some scrolling.

Transport & Navigation

Apps like TripView in Australia have transformed the way consumers interact with public transport timetables and navigate through cities, making it of particular relevance to the tourism associations and bodies in Australia. Navigation technology like Google Maps has changed the way people travel and find their way. To demonstrate how much technology has adapted the way we think and do, mull over this question for a moment: Do you remember how to find a route to your destination via a road directory?

Ever improving internet connectivity, further improvements in device speed and improved user experience is seeing the world develop a reliance on this new way of navigating. We’re making the point now, this will be super awesome to witness it develop and evolve over the long term. The next phases of Google maps will be absolutely brilliant. On top of this, the future holds some great innovations that enable navigation to be ever more integrated into our daily lives in increasingly personal and ever present ways.

Banking and Finance

This sector has undergone significant change at the hands of technology. The ability to manage your own finances online without the need to physically interact with a bank representative has provided banking customers with transparency and control and has saved the bank the need to have as many physical qualified resources in place (saving money and simplifying operations!). Email communication has, and is, progressively phasing out the need to send out printed paper statements saving banks time and money. This innovation also reduces negative environmental impacts and provides the customer with greater convenience and less hassle.

There are many other examples of  efficiencies gained through major technology driven shifts automation, which in turn inevitably leads to scalability and improved service delivery – assuming of course that scalability is what you are after. However for many, growth and scalability are not the key drivers and therefore maintaining and refining an existing model can be equally valid and relevant. We will cover a further list of other examples in a separate post over the coming weeks.

Now we all know the reality of course which is that only large companies are able to invest and afford the time and money required for significant technological innovations, and that innovation is a long arduous process which in large corporations is not easy to do.

Well first of all, the above two statements are of course not true. There are many different but still effective ways that businesses of all shapes and sizes can innovate and transform for the better through technology. This post however will focus on large national and international organisations because it is based on the experience we have gained and our understanding of the issues faced by this segment of the market.

A Proven Digital Innovation Model

So how does a large organisation innovate through digital technology? And, can measurable innovation be achieved quickly?

The answer is ‘rapid prototyping’ and ‘proof of concept’.

We believe in rapid prototyping. Most businesses with turnovers of more than 5 million can afford to invest in developing tools and applications via technology that improve the underlying business – in fact many rely on technology solely as the means to getting them to those revenue figures (like seen in software-as-a-service or ‘SaaS’ products).

At very least, they can afford to consider the use of technology in their business to increase profitability through efficiency gains and better insights, as well as engage with customers to gain and maintain competitive advantage. These are Innovations that bring to life and test ideas that your team comes up with, hence making it a very valuable proposition. Developing prototypes or proof of concepts is a great way for businesses to innovate and prove the value of their ideas.

Prototypes enable the testing of ideas without throwing exorbitant resources into attempting to make them happen, often with little guarantee of success or proof that the innovative and/or transformative concept will deliver the intended ROI.

The Leafcutter team specialise in working with medium to large organisations on bringing ideas to life and developing prototypes to demonstrate their value – shortly followed by larger investments for updates and additional functionality to make the software product ready for market release.

How Leafcutter Rapid Prototypes

What is involved in using rapid prototyping? what are the steps involved? For us it takes an understanding of:

  1. The organisation (what it does, how it does it, how it make money, who is doing what).
  2. The goals and objectives of the intended initiative and how they tie back to the bottom line (how does making the investment in an idea generate more money or save time).
  3. The problem/opportunity/challenge. What have we been engaged to provide a suitable solution for?
  4. Relevant and available (including soon to come) technology. Our solutions are based on technology, digital in particular, meaning our teams value add is our breadth and depth of experience with technology.
  5. The key audiences in depth, really getting to know them and their technology centered interactions with your organisation.
  6. Practical testing of technology options to fully understand capability and value proposition versus other potential offerings.
  7. User experience and interface design. The costs here can vary (as will your ultimate end product) depending on your budget. More budget allows more time which finally allows more thinking and refinement for absolute optimum output quality and implementation results.
  8. Build, testing and deployment
  9. Focus group testing and initial use of beta version and collecting feedback.
  10. Recording key findings and presenting to key stakeholders.
  11. Determine that proof of concept has been achieved.
  12. Outline and document required updates and added features are required for beta version creation.
  13. Schedule to commence next phase scope of work.

This process is one we wholeheartedly believe in, because it has proven itself time again with fantastic outcomes for clients including the RSPCA, Cerebral Palsy Alliance, Fujitsu, AstraZeneca and MSD Animal Health.

Once completed, the market-ready iteration of your product will need to be rapidly observed and adapted to evolve into an increasingly useful and valuable investment. This is part of the process we have developed and we help plan and work through each iteration together with our clients to ensure the best outcome for the investment.

For those of you reading this article, should you feel that the rapid prototyping approach may be relevant for you and help you achieve your objectives, get in touch with our team and let’s discuss how we can apply our process most effectively to achieve your desired outcome.

Or if you just liked what you read and wanted to chat through it further with us, then again – get in touch and let’s arrange a catch up.