What is this 'working backwards'?
There is an approach called "working backwards" that is widely used at Amazon. They try to work backwards from the customer, rather than starting with an idea for a product and trying to bolt customers onto it. An incredibly simple concept and very worthwhile applying to your own project. Ian McAllister from Amazon outlines it here.
How will this help you?
The main idea is that before you start developing a new digital product or service there are steps you can take to increase the odds of success. "Working Backwards" is one of those steps. It is sometimes good to carry out the pre-mortem exercise at the same time, which is covered in another hack.
The way "Working Backwards" works is that you define your new product, or service, in the form of a Press Release. If the benefits you list in the Press Release don't sound interesting or exciting to your customers then maybe you shouldn't build them.
How to do it:
- Start by writing an internal press release announcing a finished product.
- The target audience for the press release is the new product's customers.
- Internal press releases are centered around the customer problem, how current solutions (internal or external) fail, and how the new product will blow away existing solutions.
- Judge the benefits listed. Do they seem interesting or exciting to your customers? Keep / Kill.
The final benefit of this exercise is you will be focused on the outcome and value proposition for the customer from the outset. In the form of a clear story, which is understandable for all team members - tech, marketing, sales alike.