Why head teachers know best – about the Lean Startup approach in a project for the education sector

One solution for three groups of target users? As demanding as head teachers, teachers, and parents? Designed exactly as its future users require? Yes, indeed! We developed a prototype of such a product in only 3 months. We did it in Lean Startup.

Digitalisation of Polish schools has got unbelievably fast-paced. New technologies in education – that’s the number one topic currently. Mobile education apps, interactive whiteboards, repositories of digital resources for teachers… When the process of education is being converted into digital, can you still use analogue ways to manage schools these days?

Our client, an educational publishing house, offers both traditional and digital textbooks and resources for teaching all subjects at subsequent levels of education. The client wanted to create a modern, digital school management system for head teachers.

Challenge: create a product users will love

Knowing that we offer prototype development and validation within short sprints, the client decided to cooperate with us. We were assigned a task to design and develop a prototype of a system that customers will simply love to use.

The outcome of our cooperation was supposed to be the nucleus of a modern tool for supporting the entire process of education. It was to be a school management system used by head teachers and a repository of quality resources for teachers. In addition, it would enable parents to quickly assess their children’s competence level and monitor their progress.

Apart from that, we took on the task of defining business models so that sold once the solution would bring extra income to the client.

Dear user, we want to ask you a few questions

One product. Three groups of users. Members of each group will use it to pursue different aims. How should we design it to address their disparate needs but make sure it is user friendly at the same time?

It was perfectly obvious that one condition had to be met to ensure the project would be a success. We needed to learn more about the expectations of each target group. Let’s for instance look at an average head teacher. What does her working day look like? What tasks does she have to deal with when she comes to her office every morning? Which does she tackle first, and which can be done later in the day? Which tasks are the toughest and which are a piece of cake? What problems does she have to solve in her work? Does she know how to do it? Perhaps she needs a helping hand? What kind of support does she look for?

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Those were the questions that we had to ask our target customers before we actually got down to the prototype development. What’s really important, or even the most important in that respect – we didn’t even try to answer them on our own, within the team. Do you know the “Get out the building!” idea? It has been formulated by Steve Blank, an expert on startups, based in Silicon Valley, the originator of the Customer Development method. According to the method the better an idea originators know their target customers, the greater chance the idea will turn into a successful business.

But what is that building idea all about? By saying “Get out of the building!” Steve Blank wants to encourage team members working on new solutions to leave their cozy offices and talk to real people. They should find the ones who are going to use their product or service and ask them questions similar to those we asked head teachers. And then analyse their answers thoroughly. Only when that’s done can they proceed to the development. That’s the path we followed, too.

Approach? Lean Startup obviously!

Our innovation and consultancy team, Goyello Protostudio, was the one to take on the challenge. Each member of Goyello Protostudio is an expert in a different field. There is one thing they have in common, though − the Lean Startup approach.

The assumption behind Lean is that it’s the user who’s the source of knowledge about the product being developed. Does it ring any bell? Sure it does! Lean comprises all innovative and dynamic actions based on a close and direct contact with both your client and their clients, in other words, end users of a solution you are working on. Both target groups take active part in the product validation at every stage of its development. Thanks to that the product creators are not in the dark about what they are doing and they can take dynamic actions in response to changing circumstances.

Analysis and research for a start

We started the project with a kick-off workshop we invited the client to. We worked together using various tools such as business model canvas to define the value proposition for each group of target users. We also identified new business models and prepared the so called Customer Journey Maps, which means we analysed needs, behaviour and all possible ways future users would interact with the product that was to be created.

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Don’t wait. Check how it works

The prototype was developed in a number of short iterations. In each of them the development phase was followed by validation, in which end users took part. We ran a series of meetings / interviews to present the working prototype at a certain stage of development. We encouraged the participants to interact with the solution the way they would use the final product.

We wrote down every single opinion and gathered them all in detailed reports following each validation. Thanks to that we obtained feedback which let us learn which modules, according to the users, were useful in practice and which were completely useless and should be abandoned.

We also asked the participants to suggest modifications and amendments that should be introduced to the already developed functions to better meet their needs. The business models were validated, as well.

In this way we gathered priceless knowledge and we could design the product in precise accordance with the users’ expectations. We wouldn’t be able to do if it were not for the Lean approach that we adopted.

And apart from that…

During to the interviews with the target customers one more aim was achieved. We formed a group of so called product ambassadors, selected from among the solution end users – head teachers. Members of the group were supposed to be active participants, ready to get involved in further development of the product. They also promised to recommend more people we could invite to cooperate with us in the future.

Results?

Within 3 months from the initial workshop we designed and developed the interactive, working prototype of the school management system. Thanks to the Lean Startup approach we could define the kind of product ends users expected. As a result, the prototype was well received by the client’s management. The publishing house was given the green light to proceed with the project and received funding to develop the final product.

And as for us, the project let us confirm the belief we had before we started it.  You should always seek knowledge about a product you are about to develop outside your cozy office. No one is able to tell you so much about needs and problems that have to be addressed than users themselves.

 

 

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Aspire Blog Team

Aspire Systems is a global technology services firm serving as a trusted technology partner for our customers. We work with some of the world's most innovative enterprises and independent software vendors, helping them leverage technology and outsourcing in our specific areas of expertise. Our services include Product Engineering, Enterprise Solutions, Independent Testing Services and IT Infrastructure Support services. Our core philosophy of "Attention. Always." communicates our belief in lavishing care and attention on our customers and employees.