Prototyping in new product development: more than an MVP

By Lesley Price, PMI Luxembourg Content Writer Volunteer

PMI Luxembourg organised on March 26, an event open to all members and non-members entitled “Manage effectively a new product development process thanks to prototyping”. The speakers, Adam James Cavallari and Andrea Allessandri, are designers and founders of several companies, including 21am, whose list of product designs is seriously impressive.

New product development in a changing world, according to Adam and Andrea, means that in addition to understanding and adapting to changing needs, they also have to anticipate new needs for the world market. They broke the term “new product development” down for attendees: new can mean initiatives (for start-ups, for example), branches (such as new products in an existing portfolio) and new versions of existing products. Product can refer to physical devices, digital apps and services. Development encompasses design to conceive and shape the idea, validation and production.

Their discussion then turned to the concept of “design instinct” which, judging by the results of one of the many interactive polls during the session, is not viewed by everybody in the same way. Some see “design instinct” as creative ability that some people are born with, others as a vague, intangible concept. Another poll asked attendees to consider the use of data and, given that most were project management professionals, the answers unsurprisingly voted in favour of data as a reliable source of information.

Adam and Andrea explained that, in their view, data and instinct are not actually in contrast, despite popular opinion. They reminded us that although data exposes problems, provides information and enables an accurate evaluation of effectiveness, it does not actually tell us what a problem is nor how to solve it. In fact, for many emerging markets, insufficient data is available today. They went on to explain that instinct is not only an innate creative ability nor is it guesswork. It comes from our wealth of experience. It is about turning our know-how into action.

Another poll asked attendees to say how they feel about testing, is it useful or not. Again unsurprisingly, all attendees agreed that testing is a necessary step in product development. We were led through the steps involved in prototyping, from the various sources of information such as interview and market testing through the steps of the process (identifying the goal or establishing an hypothesis) to the resulting prototypes, a mock-up or an MVP (Minimum Viable Product), for example. Adam and Andrea then shared their formula to achieve the “Perfect Balance” with a mixture of data, instinct and testing.

The final topic on the agenda was all about prototyping. Prototyping, Adam and Andrea explained, helps you to start with ease, drives you to be focused and incremental and enables design validation. They reviewed 3 forms of prototype, a mock-up, an interactive mock-up and an MVP, and demonstrated when each of these might be most appropriate.

During the Q&A, some wondered whether prototyping is always cost-effective and how it relates to Agile practices. In response, our speakers reminded us of 2 very important concepts:

  1. Prototyping is older than Agile
  2. Prototyping can save you from epic fails

At the end of the session, Adam and Andrea showed us 2 physical prototypes they have worked on in recent months and explained why one had gone no further than the MVP, while the other had evolved into a usable product.

All in all, it was an interesting and extremely informative session. Most attendees asked for a follow-up to learn more about prototyping tools and processes. Stay tuned for that as well as other upcoming events from PMI Luxembourg Chapter.