4 Steps to Optimize Your Product Prototype for Your Business Goals

Jennifer Fraser | Caroline Zenss | December 18, 2020 | 6 Min Read

Don't let your prototype disappoint! Whether you're building a prototype to get stakeholder buy-in, prove your product can be built, or secure further investment, do these four things before you start building so that your team can make prototype design and development decisions that support your objective.

 

Right now, businesses across healthcare are experiencing drastic change.

Many are feeling financial pressure, requiring them to reevaluate their current product lines and make very smart, strategic product investments.

Some are having to completely change how they do business and provide services, shifting from in-person operations to digital.

Some health tech companies are emerging out of new market opportunities and must act fast to be first to market.

Regardless of your circumstance or specific market within healthcare, prototyping is a great way for teams that are either redesigning a product or building new products to validate and de-risk development decisions and gather customer feedback for iteration.

And the key to a successful prototype?

Making design/development decisions that align with or support your overall business goals.

How to Align Your Prototype to Your Business Goals

Oftentimes product teams approach prototyping with a desire to “have it all” – a common prototyping mistake we see.

They want the prototype to demonstrate technical feasibility, they want it to look beautiful, and they want it to have functionality.

But often (not always), this is unrealistic because of factors like timelines and budget.

And sometimes teams actually don’t need a prototype that has it all based on what they’re trying to achieve.

Here’s how your team can make design and development decisions that will optimize your prototype to achieve your business goals while using resources effectively.

1. Identify Your Audience

Consider who your prototype will be presented to or tested with. Is it end-users, a business audience or a technical audience like engineers?

You’ll want to understand the context of who your audience is and what they’re looking for/what they value. Consider things like how sophisticated the audience is and if they may have a hard time visualizing the product.

If your team believes your audience may have a hard time imagining what the end product will look like, a prototype that prioritizes visual aesthetics may help them, and so will demonstrating functionality. If your audience is engineers, it may be more important to demonstrate working code.

For example, a client of ours had developed an algorithm that evaluated different indicators from patients in intensive care or critical care units to help predict those at risk for developing health complications.

They wanted to create a prototype to help articulate the product, get investment and start designing and developing it.

In this case, the purpose of the prototype was to tell a story around their algorithm and the intention was to pitch it to internal stakeholders for funding.

If the audience is a mix of business/technical/end users, then you may need either multiple prototypes, or you need to compromise on some elements of the prototype in order for its value to resonate with all key stakeholders.

2. Identify the Desired Outcome of the Prototype

After you’ve identified why you’re prototyping and for whom, think about what your ideal desired outcome is once you’ve got this prototype ready.

What do you want it to accomplish?

Are you trying to prove that the product can be built? Does your team hope the prototype will help secure funding for continued development? Are you trying to validate a new concept?

In our previous example above, the product team was looking to get approval from investors internal to the company. And so, it was important for the prototype to illustrate the value that the product could bring to the hospital by predicting patient health complications so that the care team could intervene, improving both patient outcomes and decreasing hospital costs.

In situations where you’re validating a new concept, you may want to illustrate key workflows within the prototype to gather end-user feedback to de-risk committing to that concept.

Clarity on what you’re hoping to achieve with your prototype when it’s complete can really help frame what it is you want to illustrate within it.

3. Identify Your Primary Business Goal

Think about what your primary goal with this prototype is and how you want to frame it to achieve that goal based on your audience and your desired outcome.

Something to keep in mind: within your prototype, you want to illustrate enough of the product to demonstrate the value of its high-level functionality.

Do you want to demonstrate technical feasibility, represent a breadth of features or articulate product brand?

Let’s continue with our example of AI for the ICU. Given that the audience was internal stakeholders, and the desired outcome was to get approval for continued development from these stakeholders, the product team had to consider how their prototype would facilitate the decision-making process for a remote nursing command center, and specifically, the staff in the ICU.

The team needed to tell a story in terms of the value the product could offer all these different hospital stakeholders (users of the product and also hospital management).

Because the team was trying to demonstrate the value that could be delivered to the hospital to their internal team, the prototype didn’t need to have working code. In this case, it was created using a designer’s prototyping tool because product value could be effectively communicated by visualizing how the algorithm would work and telling a story around it.

4. Identify Prototype Priorities

As mentioned before, sometimes budget or time doesn’t allow for a prototype to “have it all” or sometimes going that route isn’t necessary.

Once you’ve identified your audience, what you hope to achieve with the prototype and your primary business goal with the development of the prototype, you’ll want to then use this information collectively to decide what is most important to include and prioritize within your prototype.

3 Components of a Product Prototype

4-Steps-to-4 Steps to Optimize Your Product Prototype for Your Business Goals: prototype triangle

Our team uses this triangle tool with our clients to help get alignment on what should be prioritized in prototype development so that they reach their desired outcomes and business goals, as we just discussed.

Functionality means: what’s the breadth of functionality you want to try and include in the prototype? How many features should be included?

Durability means: does this prototype need working code? Does it actually need to work by connecting to a live data source and updates in real-time? Does it need to demonstrate a working flow?

Beauty means: How should the prototype appear? How does it look? Does it follow your existing branding guidelines? Do you need to demonstrate a customer’s branding within the prototype? How “finessed” is it in terms of its appearance?

Think back to the audience, desired outcomes and business goals you’ve identified. Now place a dot within the triangle that represents how you should prioritize each of these prototype components in order to achieve your objectives.

Does your product really need to look beautiful or have functioning code to demonstrate value to your specific audience? Should it truly have everything?

Also, have a discussion around the implications of your dot placement. What does it mean if your prototype doesn’t have working code? What are the associated risks, if any?

Now when your team goes to make decisions regarding prototype design and development, refer back to where you’ve placed your dot within the triangle. This will help ensure you’re spending your time and money on the right things.

Create More Successful Product Prototypes

It can be challenging to get your product team aligned on which type of prototype is best in order to meet your business objectives. But by going through these steps and exercises, your team will have a much clearer roadmap to success and will have an easier time making decisions.

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