Our Lean Studio Manifesto

in Leadership, Delivery

Code Computerlove are on a journey - to be a modern thinking lean digital studio.

We've always done things a little differently to traditional 'digital agencies', but it's so easy to be labelled 'digital agency', and with that it is assumed you suffer the same bad habits.

So how do we explain our fundamental different approach as a lean digital studio compared to traditional digital agencies?

We have created a Lean Studio Manifesto, so everyday we reinforce the behaviors on the left side of the manifesto internally and externally, while differentiating from the right (traditional digital agencies).

This is our 'Lean Studio Manifesto'

SOLVE PROBLEMS over Predefined Solutions
EXPERIENCES over Designs
PRODUCT over Project
VALUE over Volume
INSIGHTS over Opinion
ITERATIVE over Big Bang
ADAPTABILITY over Constraints

Makes sense right? So let me explain each point in plain english to give you some context.

SOLVE PROBLEMS over Predefined Solutions

"It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do" - Steve Jobs.

Code is home to some of the brightest thinkers, creators & makers across digital, strategy, design, engineering and optimisation disciplines. It's wrong to ask clever people to simply cut pre-defined shapes.

Clever people love to solve problems - it motivates, inspires and provides room to innovate around a problem so we can explore a range of possibilities to deliver higher value return.

Most briefs focus on solutions, we work with our clients to understand the insight behind the brief, so we can uncover the real problem that needs to be solved.

EXPERIENCES over Designs

"We spend a lot time designing the bridge, but not enough time thinking about the people who are crossing it."Dr. Prabhjot Singh, Director of Systems Design at the Earth Institute.

A common early failure is come to the table with a preconceived view of design for your product to implement, either because someone has spent 6 months designing every option & feature, or it simply is aesthetically pleasing to the sponsor/stakeholder.

The best products are created with only person in the centre - the consumer. Our teams use customer led design thinking to quickly create insights and validate them with real people through a range of tools in Code’s own UX Testing Lab.

The experience is then created iteratively & collaboratively as part of the product delivery - releasing and validating, and tweaking as fast as we can. This ensures that the best customer experience is supported with real data, reducing risk and increasing value.

PRODUCT over Project

"Building things is easy - building the right things is hard!" - Anonymous.

We don't believe in projects, by nature a project has a preconceived start & finish, whereas a product evolves and stays current. Project mentality encourages a range of bad practices, from the constraints of the Iron Triangle)*, to bloated requirements and slow, risky delivery.

Once a project is considered finished, the deliverable lacks investment to keep it current & valuable. Roll the clock forward 12-18 months and it's time to do it all over again.

We believe this is wrong; products (not projects) should evolve. This allows us to focus on the 'must have' items, reduce 'should have' items to a minimum and cuts out the 'could have' items so we can quickly release, validate & learn at a micro level. More importantly this approach returns value immediately while spending less to get there.

Being able to operate like this creates an ability to adapt. We call this an iterative product roadmap - using data & feedback to steer the future direction of the product.

VALUE over Volume

"The Pareto 80/20 Principle; where 80% of the value comes from 20% work" - Joseph M. Juranof, Management Thinker.

It's easy to fall into a just build it mentality, where the only thing of importance is hitting a deadline, feature list or budget. However so many businesses continue to work in this way - creating a number of features that are either not really required and/or perform at a sub optimal level - lacking the fine tuning to deliver the return or value that they could do.

Multiply these sub optimal items by a few hundred, and the overall value of your product has an exponential curve of waste and inefficiency due to compounded sub optimal items. Over time, the poor performance of the product results in a need start again!.

You may have a metric - that indicates value, but traditionally this is a single Hero Metric - with hundreds of levers and switches. As your business uses multiple tactics to increase this hero metric - you have no idea what is actually driving positive or negative outputs.

We believe that product value drives out many of the bad practices above. We work with our clients to challenge and define the value of features upfront. Being able to define the KPI at a granular level derives a return on investment for each lever within the product. Understanding value, also allow us to test the hypothesis through an MVP - (Minimum Viable Product) approach - and return value fast.

INSIGHTS over Opinion

"If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it!" - Ferris Bueller.

Every day we see decisions being made through old school practices like 'HiPPO' (Highest Paid Persons Opinion), and 'JFDI' (I'm not going to spell that one out!). This approach promotes a few bad practices.

Firstly, as we have covered, telling people what to do over setting the problems doesn't empower and motivate talent to deliver or create space for innovation.

Secondly, decisions based on opinion are rarely supported by evidence, insight & data. If there is data to support it - make it visible as this is valuable context to the 'Why' - and something that can be measured.

At Code, we strongly advise our teams and clients to identify insight, or measurement that supports the validity and value of an item of work - aiding with prioritisation. Having data to support your hypothesis takes away the things that can derail what we do and why we're doing it - this is because it takes the emotion & personal opinion off the table and only leaves the facts.

ITERATIVE over Big Bang

"It's not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change" - Charles Darwin.

There still seems to be some attraction to spending a huge amount of time frantically building a load of features, so at the end you can pull back the curtain, set off the party cannons and unveil your new feature rich product. It's the defining moment in your 'Project'. Weeks/months of stress and high risk stakes all worth it?

Our approach, to iterate and improve relies on more moving parts to increase its effectiveness.

First, define the functional journey your product must supply to satisfy your customer. This simple flow is an example;

  • Step 1: Home Page & Search
  • Step 2: Search Result Listing
  • Step 3: Product Detail
  • Step 4: Product Enquiry / Purchase

Then, as you identify the features you need for each step (using the MoSCoW principle), you can start defining a 'Walking Skeleton' level of functionality. This allows you to get a functioning journey in front of real people as soon as possible (as we do in our UX Lab).
Iterative Delivery through MVP principles

The MVP line is the minimum set of features (driven by their necessity, value and user feedback) that you believe are the items that you can go live with. Going live here reduces risk from the technical delivery, but also creates revenue far earlier. For example: We could release something that generates revenue in say month 1 - as compared to big bang where it all goes live in month 6.

By iterating fast, releasing feature by feature, gathering insights, data and feedback to drive prioritisation changes in your backlog - you deliver what people really want today and tomorrow. This just wouldn't have been possible in a big bang world - as you would have built what you thought was right 6-12 months ago, and not what customers want today.

ADAPTABILITY over Constraints

"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." - Albert Einstein.

So here's the one that most people only figure too late. Products need to be adaptable so we can change their shape and direction to meet an ever changing consumer world.

At Code Computerlove, we repeatedly see constraints in the products we inherit from previous suppliers. Products that were thought of by the client as a strategic investment long term business growth, but have been delivered in what can only be described as a tactical constrained product from their supplier (through cheapest supplier & fixed cost, fixed scope, fixed time) with high amounts of technical debt and risk.

These products are initially appealing to the client, however within 6-18 months the ability to adapt it to a changing world has resulted in an increasing cost per change, high risk and a high total cost of ownership (the red line). The client then falls out with their supplier and once again goes to the marketplace looking to build it all again - and once again goes for the cheapest cost - crazy huh?!

Our approach, is to ensure that we use all of the practices in our Manifesto, to create products that will be that strategic pillar for the client. From a technical perspective, we employ a loosely coupled architectural model to any integration (CMS, CRM, Payment etc..), so that elements can be swapped out easier with less impact and no need to build it all again. We push modern engineering practices around test driven development, automated regression to minimise risk, and enable products to be refactored at a lower cost point for the long term (the blue line).

Adaptability - Total Cost of Ownership / Cost per Change

So there you have Code's Lean Studio Manifesto - thanks for reading!!

We'd love to hear what you think, why don't you say hello@codecomputerlove.com