5 benefits of applying the Lean methodology while cooperating with a client

The Lean methodology enjoys unwavering popularity in the areas of business operations such as Management, Sales and IT. One day, our CSO asked himself: “how can this methodology be used to improve cooperation with a client?” Today we will answer this question and outline its 5 benefits!

The years of professional experience of the members of our fully remote team at The House of Code allowed us to form appropriate habits and develop a method of operation, which is appreciated by our customers and users. We would like you to take advantage of this knowledge. Ready?

Knowing the actual needs of a client

Let’s start from the moment the cooperation with the client is established, i.e. from the first email! At this stage, in traditional management, we would probably immediately start to prepare an offer and sell our product. However, you can start in a different way.

Example

If we get a hypothetical order to upgrade a website used for selling a SaaS product, it is worth starting by asking about the plans and goals of the client with whom we are going to work. We recommend conducting a workshop in order to get to know the real motivations and problems of the client. As a Software House, we pioneer in using this approach. As a result of such a meeting, it is possible to choose the right technology, which will help the client, go from where they are to where they want to be.

Thanks to starting the cooperation with a business workshop, it may turn out that the product, which the client wants to implement, should actually have completely different functionalities than the client assumes. In some cases, it turns out that eventually we create a completely different product than the one originally requested by the client.

Anyway, let us go back to the example of creating a new website for the client. The graphic design of the website can be stylish and pretty yet the site can still be ineffective. What does this mean? For example, there may be a need to work on a strategy, which would help to reach any potential buyers better or the necessity to improve the intuitiveness of navigating the website. Our competitors, who do not start by conducting an initial workshop, would have executed the original order, leading to the final product not being in line with the client’s business goals.

By providing a strategic workshop, we perform an advisory function that is so rarely offered by software houses. At the same time, in accordance with the Lean methodology, we map the processes and define the client’s values. Thanks to the use of Lean methodology, we eliminate subsequent changes to the project and save the client’s time needed for consultations related to product modification.

Developing a new website may not be enough to increase your profits, especially if the website does not meet the requirements of users looking for your products. The online shop owner will surely appreciate the value of a well-conducted strategic workshop, which would help them to discover the factors that influence profit and loss.

The initial approach we take with the client may affect the result of cooperation and their satisfaction, as well as the satisfaction of our own specialists — no matter whether the emphasis is on increasing revenues, improving the brand image or acquiring new contacts. Proper preparation of the process and its implementation will make us discover the actual goals of both the client and their users — and this is already half the way to success!

Flexibility in product development

Now, once we have agreed on the goal and the method of implementation with our client, we can roll up our sleeves and start working.

At this stage, we introduce another Lean foundation element — implementation. We start by creating a so-called MVP (minimum viable product), i.e. a product with basic functionalities. In the next stages of work, we add new functions and elements to the product we are working on. This work model allows us to thoroughly test the existing solutions and quickly eliminate errors that may affect the final working product.

Example

To better visualize this, imagine renovating your home. You do all the work room by room. After each stage, you check if you have done everything in the room as well as possible. For example, after you have finished working in the kitchen, you may discover that you pulled the cables the wrong way. Instead of waiting until the end of the project and tearing down the walls at the very end of the renovation, it’s easier to fix it at an early stage of work. Going forward you will be sure that the cables are laid properly, and nothing will go wring within the electrical installation at your home.

When you run into a bug in the final version of the developed product, it is very difficult to identify where the bug occurred. The very search and subsequent reconstruction of the project takes precious time. Instead, it’s better to take a moment to verify each version thoroughly before taking the next steps. We know from our own experience that this way you can save time, but also this method does not require that much patience. Thanks to that, we do the work from beginning to end with a fresh mind and enthusiasm!

Detecting critical elements of the process faster

Anyone who has ever worked on a large project has probably encountered an obstacle in their path. What if it’s a problem which stops further work altogether? The previously mentioned implementation and delivery of the project divided into phases helps to minimize the risk of such situations, they are the so-called critical elements of the process. Treating the product as a combination of smaller parts allows us to see where we can save time or resources easily. This leads to a reduction in time wasted and creates a win-win situation for both: the subcontractors and the client who orders the product. So, how can you not love this methodology?!

Example

Let’s return to the hypothetical situation with the home renovation, as both the flexibility in development and the elimination of losses are possible thanks to dividing work into phases.

Think about what you can do when you discover that you have used a poor quality paint roller during renovation. You notice that some fibres remain on the surface covered with fresh paint. There are two possible solutions: continue the renovation with the faulty roller, or use a better tool in the next rooms. Of course, the second option will help you save more time and finish the renovation faster!

How does this work in practice? By dividing the work into smaller parts and verifying after each completed stage, you can prevent various wastes of time and resources. Instead of repeating errors in subsequent stages, we eliminate them immediately. This way, subsequent versions of the application or product will be made more efficiently. This is the most important element of Lean foundation from the procedural point of view.

By breaking the tasks down into smaller steps, companies can save thousands of man-hours. FedEx is a perfect example here. Before the implementation of the Lean-based strategy, they needed over 32,000 man-hours to complete all aircraft control tests. Managers have broken down this process into 68 milestones. As a result, situations where time can be saved have been identified. Ultimately, the crew needed less than 22,000 man-hours to perform exactly the same tests.

Working with facts

During their work, teams very often have subjective opinions on what the final product should look like. This is a trap for people who put their beliefs above hard data. According to the Lean methodology, when creating a product, you should base your decisions on calculations and research. Why is it always the only right way? Often the people who create the product are not in the target group the product is aimed at. When we thoroughly examine the needs of our users, we can be sure that the strategy and vision we have adopted while creating the product will meet the requirements of the users.

Example

You love books and fashion, so you create an application for people interested in clothes, along with a list of books on shaping your style and thoughtful clothing purchases. While interviewing potential users you find out that they prefer to enroll in online courses to broaden their knowledge. Moreover, they rarely resort to literature, even in digital format.

The solution may come to mind effortlessly — the application should include courses and advice collected from various sources, in an easily digestible format which is video. You should also get rid of book references since users are not interested in this way of learning. Nevertheless, you decide to stay with the books because you like reading so much…

This way, products, which do not meet users’ expectations, are created. Not profitable, with no potential for further business development. At the same time, this is how project budgets are wasted. And, according to the Lean methodology, we want to use them as efficiently as possible. According to the research conducted by The Standish Group in 2013, in the surveyed group, users do not use approximately 50% of all functions requested by the Ordering Party, and 30% are used sporadically. Let’s not design products that we, as creators, want to have. Let’s design them so that our users are satisfied and want to use the product for the creation of which we have allocated considerable funds.

Therefore, the habit of researching and conducting thorough interviews with users allows us to obtain valuable data that we should use to create the most useful and profitable product.

It is thanks to the transformations preceded by research and analysis that Netflix has moved from DVD distribution to innovative TV on demand, reducing the need to stock discs and the risk of delay in deliveries. We should remember that proper research is going to help to find hard evidence that there is room for improvement in a company or a product.

Searching for the golden mean

Once we get to know the market and realize what the users’ needs are and what challenges we may face on the way to product realization, we know what we can offer our client within the available resources and taking into consideration their business goals. We design the product and all the processes based on the findings from workshops, and the Lean methodology allows us to meet the client’s assumptions and optimize our work. The most important thing is to work together with the client and to reach an agreement so that the cooperation allows both parties to do their best.

The most important advantage of trying to satisfy the needs of the client and users is that it leads us to meeting the actual goal, and not to quickly performing the necessary work. Thanks to this strategy, our business partners receive products, which satisfy their users. This approach generates strong incentives for the continuous development of your business as the activities you undertake bring profits — and that’s what business is all about!

Do you need more evidence that Lean is worth using everywhere? According to a survey conducted by The Standish Group in 2013, 72% of analysed projects conducted according to the Lean methodology achieved success (defined as the achievement of all assumed goals and the approval of the client). Only 21% of them encountered some challenges, which, however, were dealt with. This data places Lean in the TOP best methodologies implemented into companies’ processes! Doesn’t it give you food for thought?

If you want to learn more about the Lean methodology or see how it is implemented in practice in the process of cooperation with the client and in product development — reach out to us!

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