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Breakpoint currently unavailable. I'm working hard to this happen, I PROMISE.

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A post by
Katerina Christou
Q+A SERIES
November 9, 2023

Operating in the space between strategy and implementation; the power of prototyping

Operating in the space between strategy and implementation; the power of prototyping

A post by
Katerina Christou
November 9, 2023
XX
min read

Prototypes play a crucial role in demonstrating ideas at every stage of development; from business strategy to product implementation.

Visualising the digital experience not only aligns teams but also allows us to test and validate concepts before committing to them; highlighting gaps, problems and successes we learn from, to de-risk our approach and give us direction.

Business challenge

In most businesses of a certain size, business strategy > product strategy > product implementation, is a linear process. Even for companies that are using some flavour of 'agile' in terms of implementation, prototyping often comes a long time downstream from the business and product strategy being set.

The problem with these being developed sequentially is that things change; user behaviour changes, market conditions change and business needs change. Therefore all three of these things must be flexible enough to evolve, or else, product implementation becomes an exercise in trying to deliver a product, which represents a strategy that doesn’t make sense.

Startups solve this problem by being small enough for all the key stakeholders to be in conversation all the time; metaphorically, or literally sitting around one table. Sales and commercial teams are getting feedback from the market, and the product team is getting feedback from customers; founders can then make quicker decisions to change the strategy, or product implementation.

Larger companies don't have this luxury; their feedback loops and communication slow the feedback down and reduce their ability to change course, based on feedback from whatever source. This is where prototyping can be invaluable.

Purpose and value of prototypes

Prototypes are preliminary representations of an idea, which help to demonstrate, test and refine thinking. They can be used at any stage of development, in different formats from rudimentary wireframes to sophisticated POCs, to achieve a specific objective.

Early on in strategy development, prototypes can be used to mock up a hypothetical proposition; gauging market appetite with a prospective audience, or simply to align stakeholders on a strategy’s potential. When transitioning between strategy and implementation, mock-ups of the intended product help to build confidence and understanding in how it’s meant to work; visualising the end to end experience (maybe with several options) and seeing how users navigate through it. During implementation, prototypes aid refinement; stress-testing animated interaction models or critical flows, to streamline communication between design and build. Prototypes can even be deployed in live products to test ideas with an active audience before a full-scale commitment, whether that’s testing temporary messaging or conducting 'Wizard of Oz' experiments (like clicking on pretend buttons).

Different types of prototypes, at different stages, to help solve problems.

Visualising complex concepts makes them more accessible. It’s easier to make decisions about something sitting in front of you, than a hypothetical idea with lots of potential output variants. Even more so when there are multiple collaborators trying to align together as a group. Prototypes have a role to play at all stages of development, even at the most generative stages of a business process for this very reason. They can alleviate concerns, pose interesting questions and allow for more effective planning of the next stage. The role of prototyping is not about accuracy, but more about reflection and validation of the direction of travel. 

Live beta test with six in-person and two thousand remote users

Beyond decision making, prototypes can also play a role to sell a vision. Whether that’s for seeking investment or demonstrating long term product potential. Making an idea tangible through a prototype, makes it easier for other people to get on board with it.

Effective framing of prototypes is also crucial. Framing guides the viewer's imagination, focusses their attention on the intended concept, to elicit the most valuable feedback.; ‘Imagine that it’s game day and you open your phone to confirm kick off...’ or ‘here is an example of the potential of this service…’ Good framing prevents viewers getting bogged down in the minutia of a prototype to suspend their disbelief, and focus more on the message being conveyed.

At Ostmodern, we have extensive experience leveraging the power of prototypes throughout the product development process, to help our clients progress at pivotal moments. We are adept in identifying and creating the right type of prototype to meet the need, and framing them for maximum impact. Prototypes create recurrent feedback opportunities during both strategy and implementation, as a cornerstone of continuous learning within the broader team; a vital element of success.

POC interaction model built in HTML, in collaboration with our client

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