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Verifying hypotheses saves nerves and the budget

Key Visual Hack of the week

If you want to successfully implement an IT project, you have to check your hypotheses - that means you have to verify if the solution you have in mind will actually achieve the desired goal. Otherwise you run the risk of unnecessarily straining your nerves and, above all, your budget.

 

by Daniel Keller

There can be different reasons why companies invest in their IT solutions. However, it is clear that the aim is to create added value - for example, to ensure more efficient work processes and save resources for employees or to make life more pleasant for the end customer, i.e. shopping for a product or receiving a service.

We can take an app for online shopping as an example. Whoever thinks that the creation of an app will automatically lead to the result that people will now shop more easily and thus more, is wrong. In the end, success or failure is determined by whether the app is accepted and understood by the users and whether the developed features are also used. If the app is too complicated or there are other hurdles, it will not be successful either - and the barely rolled-out solution will have to be revised, which will have an impact on the code and data quality, but also on the budget. The following hacks explain how to avoid this as much as possible and create acceptance for a solution.

Noob Hack

As good as the idea or hypothesis for a new technical solution may sound - if its impact is high and our knowledge about it is low, it needs to be tested. In this context, this does not mean testing whether the solution works technically, but whether it actually meets the needs of the users. In the example of the online shopping app, this would mean whether customers are effectively able to find and purchase desired products more easily and quickly than before.

This check should be done before the first line of code is written. It is therefore worth investing a few hours right at the beginning of the project to engage directly with the end users. Even if you are convinced that you know the needs of the users, experience shows that their involvement brings many new insights to light. Because often users behave differently than you think and focus on completely different points.

This works best with concrete visualisations of the situation and/or solution. Abstraction often leads to misunderstandings or the problems of a solution remain hidden.

This is usually enough to gain surprising insights and to recognise possible problems already in the initial phase of the project. Through this procedure, adjustments can be made afterwards with little effort, which further improve the solution.

Pro Hack

To carry out the process described above in a structured way, it is best to proceed according to a simplified user story in three steps:

  1. Understand users
  2. Develop solution idea
  3. Verify solution


Let's take the example that our online shopping app is to be improved. Then the concrete procedure looks like this:

  1. Contextual Inquiry: The users are observed as they interact with the online shopping app and their processes and needs are explored with targeted questions.

  2. Conduct an ideation workshop: Solution ideas are generated with suitable methods (divergence), feedback is given and improved in several iterations. In the end, the team decides on one or more approaches to a solution (hypotheses), which now have to be verified.

  3. Create prototype & verify: To verify the solution, a non-technical prototype should be created for the solution decision. Ideally, this should be used where the impact on the users is high in order to gain as many insights as possible. Suitable software for creating such prototypes include Figma and Axure. The prototype can be used to test whether the concept is understandable and purposeful from the users' point of view.

    Of course, this example does not fit every situation. The methods must be chosen to fit the situation and differ depending on whether it is the introduction of a new product, a replacement or entire processes are being revised.

    The aim is always to validate at the lowest possible cost. However, it is certainly most expensive to expose misconceptions in a finished product.

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