I always joke that my knowledge about an MVP (minimum viable product) came from HBO’s hit show, Silicon Valley, where a motley crew of developers race to create prototypes for clients. But, it’s true.
When Mueller partnered with the IBM Garage to create the Material Estimator app, I knew that we’d work together to build a working prototype that would streamline the pricing process for our sales team and our customers. During the Design Thinking workshops, I expected to sit in a room together and brainstorm about the tool’s functionality and design. What I didn’t expect was for the IBM Garage team to put on hard hats and come out to Mueller building sites to talk directly to our contractors and construction workers.
Direct real-world feedback shapes app development
Getting this type of real-world feedback and insight from the field, from the actual people who will be using our app, was a complete game-changer. In some cases, construction workers confirmed assumptions that we’d made about how we thought the app should work. In other cases, they pointed out issues we never could have known because we don’t have that field experience.
For example, we had the innovative idea to include smart voice search in the first iteration of the Material Estimator app. This was genius … until construction workers pointed out that they often have jackhammers or other loud machinery roaring in the background of job sites. So, voice search would never work. Text search, even though it wasn’t as revolutionary, made much more sense.
A new approach to business
Seeking out this type of empathy, not just for the user’s problem, but for the users themselves, was so different from how Mueller had worked before. We looked at the customer relationship in a new way, and our product is so much better for it. Instead of guessing what the user would want, we knew what the user needed – because they told us. Talking directly to our customers was so simple, yet so profound. The IBM Garage has taught us a completely new approach to business.
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