The middle class is becoming increasingly internet-savvy. One of the big challenges is transferring your own business model or a new business idea to the digital world: – what does my software need to do? Which complex relationships should be considered? Which technology is the best for my project? Is there a need for my product on the market? Are users willing to pay for this service? Targeted prototyping can shed light onto darkness. In particular, early user feedback can counteract costly undesirable developments.
But what makes good prototyping? Which methods are suitable for which project? Which tools offer the necessary features? A new research project wants to create more clarity. Under the title ProFI – targeted prototyping for enhanced innovation, a consortium of partners from science and industry is developing a viable concept and practical tool recommendations for professional prototyping.
Minimal viable product
Minimal viable product (MVP) literally means a minimally functional product. The term comes from the lean startup idea, which means there the minimum requirement for the market success of a business idea. Starting with the MVP, it can lead this through iterative steps into a mature and customer-oriented result, regardless of whether it is a commodity, a service or software.
The research partners of ProFi have transferred this term to prototyping and provide for a “minimal viable prototype”, on the basis of which software can also be developed iteratively to its optimal state on basis of user feedback, for example. In particular, they want to identify the methods and tools that can be used to cost-effectively and effectively implement and test MVPs in order to add value to SMEs in the development of innovative new ideas.
It thus provides tremendous benefits in terms of speed and efficiency while minimising business risk.
Because instead of first perfecting a product in theory to then determine in practice that it cannot achieve the desired market success, iterative prototyping relies on the early integration of theory and practice, which already reveals the potential of an idea at an early stage of development.
Aim and project objectives in detail
The aim of the project partners is to present the following results at the end of the project:
- an idealised prototyping process including a characterisation of which tools can be used to create which kinds of prototyping,
- a best practices collection of all important prototyping methods and tools in the form of a method/tool finder,
- a collection of prototyping tools on selected contemporary technologies that are not yet covered by known tools – with particular focus on IoT (Internet of Things), AR/VR (augmented reality/virtual reality) and web apps. There is also the matter of bringing them together in a common framework.
Advantages of professional prototyping for companies
The advantages of ProFI for SMEs are profound.
1. Innovative capacity is increased substantially, since new ideas can be evaluated with little effort and low costs before a decision on implementation is made.
2. The product properties can be tested at an early stage – and also with particular regard for customer and user requirements.
3. Communication between the project stakeholders is significantly improved, since misunderstandings and friction losses are greatly reduced.
“The possibilities and opportunities in the digital world seem to be limitless – so the opportunities and challenges in terms of establishing new digital products are also increasing for SMEs”, says Moritz Fröhner, head of UX at Micromata.
The research project ProFI aims to provide SMEs a tool that enables them to evaluate their business idea early and sustainably.
The research partners in detail
- Ludwig Maximilian University Munich, Department of Psychology
- Mannheim University of Applied Sciences, Faculty of Computer Science
- Micromata GmbH
- IXDS GmbH (as consortium leader), IT agency specialising in IT services and service ecosystems
- Neuland Medien, Internet agency with core competence in the field of digital marketing
ProFI is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as a research project with 100,000 euros. The project term ends on 31 March 2019.