We talk a lot about how repeatable growth requires structure. Systematically finding problems worth solving for customers and envisioning solutions they desire. Getting specific with solutions by designing products or services that are feasible to build. Connecting your customer with your solution using a viable business model that makes you money.
These three structures–customer desirability, product feasibility, and business viability (aka “the ilities”)-–are extremely useful to help enterprises define the processes and systems needed to build a repeatable path to growth. All are essential for any individual growth initiative to be successful. And all can be addressed by either building internal capabilities or finding partners who can address one or more of them well.
But problems arise when the ilities are addressed with discrete, disconnected activities that are executed one after the other. It gets even worse if the activities are executed by different teams within your organization or by different partners who do different parts of the whole well while ignoring the others.
Success rarely looks like this:
- A creative ideation agency finds a problem your customer hates and comes up with a brilliant idea for a solution that they love.
- They kick things over to your product development team who thinks about the idea for a moment and the available technologies to make it. Eureka. It can be done. They design it.
- The product development team kicks the design over to a build or manufacturing partner who goes to town on it. The thing is created exactly to spec and ready to sell.
- A team of your economists, strategists, and marketers take the product to market with a brilliant plan. Their model sells the product at a price that optimizes profitability and volume to maximize value creation for your enterprise.
- You corner the market. Everybody gets promoted and rich.
The reality is that the ilities are not discrete activities to be executed in series. They’re interdependent. Making them best managed together by the same team all along the entire, messy process. Enterprises who recognize this, who connect the ilities end-to-end from the beginning, are more likely to make smarter decisions faster. Here are three common pitfalls end-to-end thinking can help you overcome to increase your likelihood and speed of success.
But Will They Pay For It?
Many teams that are great at empathizing with customers to uncover painful problems and beloved solutions don't have the capability to find signals that a viable business opportunity exists. “Find a large customer base and we’ll find a way to monetize them later,” is a flawed mantra we sometimes hear from business leaders. (More later on the term “monetization”. Shouldn’t it be “profitization”?) In reality, problems with business viability can and should be addressed early on to avoid wasting time and resources on unprofitable propositions.
Don’t just test desirability in a vacuum. Add a layer of viability testing as early as possible. Study willingness to pay before you have a defined solution. Run some quick-and-dirty market sizing and cost models. Analyze as early as possible which assets and capabilities give you a right to win–and which that you lack–to help you project whether or not your business is likely to be successful with any new endeavor.
It Can’t Be Done
The connection between feasibility and viability can be highly nuanced. One obvious issue is another mantra that we often hear from technologists. “Anything is feasible given enough time and money.” And of course limiting time and cost are kind of important to business viability.
But an overlooked nuance here often happens in the reverse. Let’s assume we have separate teams working on technical feasibility and business viability. The viability team (who usually holds the purse strings) has some idea of willingness to pay for the product and establishes a cost target for the technology team to meet. “Can’t be done,” the technologists say and the program dies a quiet death.
The problem with this result is that the simple, binary “yes or no” handoff between technologists and strategists ignores nuance that could create optionality for business success. What if there are technology options that reduce cost but deliver most but not all of the solution? What if technology cost constraints exist today but not forever and a path to future profitability is well understood? The “what if’s” might be endless and might lead to successful options that “yes or no’s” overlook. The answer here is collaboration–within one team–that includes both technologists and strategists discussing, ideating, and solving problems at the intersection of feasibility and viability.
Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys
Accountability for the different ilities is often assigned to different teams with different expertise. It’s easy for each team, operating independently, to miss opportunities or problems at the connecting points between the ilities. Like the ones listed above. And to ultimately kick the can of accountability for overall success or failure of the program to someone else.
“Teams do it best” isn’t just one of the values we list on our website. It’s a way for enterprises to make smarter decisions faster by accounting for connections between experts that add risk, slow things down, or reduce optionality for success when overlooked. We believe that the best end-to-end thinking from the beginning includes bringing end-to-end experts together from the beginning to solve problems and capture opportunities together along the way.