In ten years of working with tech companies innovating and releasing new technology I have seen a lot of project proposals. I don’t have a count, but it’s probably over 2k by now. The good ones all have something in common, and so do the bad ones for that matter.
The excellent projects combine a forward-looking worldview, with a reasonable and straightforward technology solution, wrapped around a real problem that is experienced by a real person.
Let’s start with the forward-looking worldview: successful projects aren’t driven in the rearview mirror, and rarely have I seen a 19th century process translate well to 21st century technology. You can’t take an old way of doing something and stuff it into new technology and hope that it solves a current problem. I’d argue that this is why video meetings aren’t as effective or pleasant as in-person meetings. Meetings are a 19th century way of sharing information, and as cliché as it is, most meetings could have been an email.
To ensure that the solution you’re pouring time and money and effort into is really going to hit, you have think about how it will evolve over the next 3-5 years. That doesn’t mean that you need to build all those features now, but you have to at least have a reasonable hypothesis about how the world or the problem will change, and start building that solution now.
Straightforward technology solution
The next piece is a reasonable and straightforward technology solution. This sounds really obvious, and maybe it is, but I can’t tell you how many project proposals I’ve read that gold-plated Rube Goldberg machines! Yes technology is complex; and yes your solution may have many different layers to it, but the user doesn’t want to know about it, and they certainly shouldn’t have to do something at each layer. Look, we’re all a little lazy (whether you want to admit that or not) and this is the whole reason people love Apple, because “it just works”. A great solution is where I only have to push one button to solve my problem; the best solution eliminates the button.
If you find yourself building out an 18-step process that looks like launching nukes from a submarine: look again and see how you can streamline it.
Real people and real problems
The last piece is that there must a real problem that is experienced by a real person. I intentionally use the worlds “real” here because too often I see projects where the user is a made-up persona. If presented without validation this is a giant red flag that there isn’t actually real person, or real problem in sight. The phrase “product market fit” has been done to death, and I would argue that at the early stages you want to find “product person fit”. The most successful projects (at least in terms of revenue) are launched into giant markets, but you can’t get there without solving a real problem for a real person.
If you’re starting a company to address a problem, or working within your company to solve an issue it pays to keep these three things in mind:
- Forward-looking worldview
- reasonable and straightforward technology solution
- real problem that is experienced by a real person.