How the feasibility study stage of product development saves a lot of nerves, time and money

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In the previous post, we covered scenarios when IoT goes wrong. Taking a closer look at the most common asset tracking, positioning and connectivity mistakes is definitely the right path to follow, but frankly speaking - often it’s just not enough. Some of these issues are easy to spot and address, but sometimes things are a bit more complicated.

 

Including a proper feasibility study stage during your product development endeavors is a great method of avoiding frustration, not bearing extra costs and keeping away from wasting time on repairs, bug fixes and technology adjustments. In this article we’ll shed some light on how to do it right the first time.

The silver bullet of product development

Let’s face the truth - there are no magic wands in software or product development, but if there were, then a well thought-through stage of feasibility study would be the closest you can get. Unfortunately, it’s seldom on the schedule of stakeholders, which is a shame indeed.

 

It happens that the business, when thinking about the product concept, already has a technology in mind and is only trying to add this extra layer of IoT functionalities and software on top of it. In fact, that’s a good recipe for failure.

 

If you’re planning to match the IoT solution with features that are just not designed to work in this certain technology, then the chances this mixture just might not end up with success straight away do rise noticeably. Of course there are plenty of great tools which were born without a proper feasibility study stage, but it’s important not to forget that each solution has its limitations and a designed use that’s fit for purpose. Not including these in your plans is just asking for risk and costs. 

 

 

It’s crucial to understand if there’s a fit for a certain tech solution prior to basing your whole product and investment on it, before you jump straight into technology-lock, feature limitations, extra frustration and brand damage. And that’s what the feasibility study comes handy.

A recipe for a good feasibility study

Here’s how this process should look like, step by step:

- Start with functional requirements

You surely have heard it plenty of times already, but this mantra has to be repeated over and over again - always start with the very basic questions:

 

- What do you want to build?

- Why do you want to build it?

- Who is it going to be built for?

- What features will this solution have?

- Why are these features required?

Never go forward without answering the above. You wouldn’t start building a house without a proper foundation, would you? Then why do it with your investment?

- Add some technology on top of the answers

What’s important is to ask yourself the questions above without the context of technology in mind. Focus purely on the feature, functionalities and product side of the solution. Once that’s done, and only then, you can move towards specific technology, following the initial analysis.

 

The functional requirements should guide you on the path towards the right IoT technology, never the other way around. When the technology is chosen, quickly build a simplest possible demo version of the product re-using existing components to verify if the tech choice was correct in this particular scenario.

 

- Technology never exists in the vacuum

Another stage of the feasibility study is about adding a layer of environmental conditions on top of the newly and quickly pulled together Proof of Concept. The goal at this point is to replicate the real-life situation the IoT solution will have to face during its daily operations.

 

If the product is exposed to extreme atmospheric conditions, then so should be the MVP. Same with electromagnetic waves, humidity, radio frequency, location, human aspects etc. All these conditions could be recreated in a lab, to prepare the product for what's going to happen out there, after the go-live.

 

In fact, the goal of this stage of the feasibility study is to break the demo version of the product, or at least identify the most fragile elements of it, that are most vulnerable to failure later on. This way we can not only point out the weakest parts of the solution before going out to the market, but also implement improvements when the time is right.

- Pivot until it’s not too late

Probably the most important argument why it’s worth investing in the feasibility study stage of product development at the very beginning of its life cycle is the fact that implementing potentially identified changes in the product is still possible and is usually relatively not expensive.

 

Frankly speaking, the sooner you pivot, the easier it is to execute and the less it costs - it’s as simple as that. At the very beginning it’s possible to change the technology, the sensors, the tech stack, re-thing the feature list and their limitations and only then make well-informed, key business decisions. Later on, some - even seemingly simple - changes might be impossible!

- The more you get into it, the more complicated it becomes

The truth is that skipping this stage may be a path towards frustration. Consider it as an investment that perhaps has the best ROI in the whole product development process. The later the stage of development, the more complicated and costly implementing the changes is. Often it turns out that some pivots are just too expensive or at some point not even possible. Sometimes this builds technical debt and the cost of change can be a real killer for your brilliant IoT business idea.