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The Build Measure Learn (BML) framework in action | David Tzemach

Updated: May 4, 2022

The build-measure-learn loop is at the core of the Lean methodology and one of my favorite frameworks for allowing companies to get into the mindset of innovations and trying new ideas. Build-measure-learn (BML) is all about building small chunks, measuring, and learning by getting early feedback and validating ideas. Suppose you are involved in the Agile environment. In that case, this article will help you learn how to use this framework to create continual business value and happy customers at every point of the product release cycle.

Here are a few points worth mentioning about this model:

  1. The BML model can be used regardless of your business model.

  2. It reduces the risk for businesses of building products that nobody wants.

  3. It helps the company determine what product attributes should be kept or pivot.

  4. It helps businesses learn, adapt, and make a decision fast.

Traditional Vs. Modern product development

Companies can use many development methodologies to develop and release their product to the field. Still, if we consider most of them, we can divide them into two approaches to build a product:

The traditional Approach – This is mainly known as the “Waterfall” or “V-Model” methodologies, where months and years are spent until the product is released to the field. Usually, the product development will start with a massive plan that looks great on paper and cool technologies. However, what often gets built this way is an excellent product from an engineering perspective but not likely what the customer needs or asks for.

The modern approach is also known as the “startup way,” where a company must release the product to the market as soon as it has the basic functionality that customers can use to collect feedback to precise the product in the next release version.

The Build Measure Learn (BML): How does it help your business?

When there are so many competitors in today's market, the second approach is much more realistic for companies that cannot spend months developing products that do not guarantee customer satisfaction. AS you may guess, The Build Measure Learn (BML) framework (Eric Ries) is relevant to the second approach and based on three core steps:

  1. Build – The Company will build a minimum viable product (MVP).

  2. Measure – Collect feedback from the field on the MVP by exposing it to potential customers willing to participate.

  3. Iterate – based on the feedback, put your validated learnings into action and make sure you improve the product per release.

This process can help the business deliver continual value to customers faster, with less risk, and without adding complexity to the release process. This is a straightforward approach that you can use in any product management lifecycle; it is excellent for the business and can help engineering teams understand the field and create more valuable product experiences. This makes building a more consistent product experience for customers much less complex and helps keep your team on the right path.

The Build Measure Learn (BML): Deep Dive into the three pillars

let’s dive into the Build Measure. Learn the model and its three pillars.

Build the Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is the very first version of the product that the business can release to the field. It has the basic functionalities that are good enough to deliver value to the end customer. The MVP should be as simple as possible and only contain enough features/functionalities to serve as the first touchpoint with potential customers. A good MVP will allow the business to release it with good quality to enable customers to use it and understand whether the product can solve customer problems/needs and deliver value to the market.

The build step of the BML model is where the engineering and product teams actively work through the development and testing tasks required to create the actual product/Feature/functionality. Sometimes when I present this model, I asked “how the team can know what to build?” so the answer is straightforward as all the planning and research activity is done in the ‘Learn’ step that, if done right, can make this development process as seamless as possible.

Focusing on MVP releases helps the business deliver value to customers faster than any project managed with traditional methodologies, which gives the company real-world data from actual customers. The mindset here should focus on small MVPs to increase their value over time. The feedback and data generated from an MVP can direct the business on handling product development and spend as little time as possible guessing or making wrong assumptions about what customers are asking for.

A few practical examples of different types of MVPs:

The “Wizard of Oz” MVP

This MVP is one of the best MVP types that give your potential customers the impression you have an actual working product, and they’re experiencing the real thing. Yes, it means that you provide your customers with the ‘Illusion’ of a fully functional product, but in reality, it depends on a workforce to deliver the solution.

This MVP demands a lot of investment, such as workforce and time, but in most cases, it’s a very effective way of validating if you have a desirable product or service before you build it. You share an idea with your customers but, there’s “someone behind the curtain” doing everything manually to replicate what your proposed technology will do.

The “Concierge” MVP

In this MVP, the idea is to serve only one specific customer to demonstrate what the product will be like once the development effort is completed. When presenting this MVP type, the customer knows they receive a human service (Everything is done manually). Still, the goal is to show that the product is valuable and answers a customer’s problem/need. Concierge MVPs should be used when you’re not exactly sure of the solution that fits best to the customer, whereas a “Wizard of Oz” MVP should be used when you have a clear understanding of the solution and are testing the market.

Single Featured MVP

The Single Featured MVP allows the business to understand one specific issue or solution of an essential feature of a product. Using this type of MVP will ensure that the customer will focus only on a specific feature and prevent him from getting distracted by other features. Another advantage of using this MVP is that it's more cost-efficient than building a product with many features no one wants.

The Single Featured MVP allows the business to understand one specific issue or solution of an essential feature of a product. Using this type of MVP will ensure that the customer will focus only on a specific feature and prevent him from getting distracted by other features. Another advantage of using this MVP is that it is more cost-efficient than building a product with many features no one wants.

Measure the Impact of every MVP

The second part of the BML cycle is to measure the MVP by simply exposing it to the potential customers (Who you choose to test your MVP on will affect the usefulness and relevance of their feedback) and start generating feedback to determine how the product should evolve per release. Your team has created an MVP at this point in the product management lifecycle. It is ready to release, so you must generate answers to the questions like “Do feature deliver on its intended value?” or “How well does the feature is based on expectations?” or “is there is interest in what you’ve built?” or “What are the friction points, things that could improve.”

When entering this stage, it would be best to start analyzing the business goals and metrics you defined during the Learn step. It will help you to identify what works fine and areas for improvement. You can easily understand what to add in future MVPs to add more business value and improve customer satisfaction. Remember that good feedback is excellent for the business and its motivation, but actual work begins when something doesn’t work out as intended. Using negative feedback, you can make precise the next MVPs and highlight where your product planning and strategy need more work.

This step makes the BML model so powerful- it forces the business and its team to consistently think about how to create more business value with each release. To test your MVP, you always need a hypothesis and supporting metrics to measure it, and you need to provide a framework and gently guide the customer on how to use it.

Learn What Your Market and Customers Need

The third and final part of the BLM cycle is to iterate the MVP based on the customer feedback, Metrics, and any other data you’ve measured. In the MVP framework, an iteration is when you need to turn the feedback you’ve gathered into actual changes to your product, which means that you need to make decisions regarding your product (what to continue to develop or what changes should be made). To succeed in this analysis, you must focus on what is relevant to your customers, which will help you to create a product that customers desire.

Once you start running MVPs in the field, you will see different types of expected feedback. For example, the feedback for the product can be generally okay. However, you still change/add new functionalities to make it even better, or in other scenarios, you will find that the feedback is so negative that you should return and re-design your solution. The key here is to continue with improved product and test it with new potential customers to generate continuous feedback.

In addition to the above, I can share some insights based on my experience with this model:

  1. You should never expect to have 100% of data to make decisions.

  2. If possible, Share the MVP with as many customers as possible to increase the generated feedback (The more information you have on hand, the easier it is to make the right decision).

  3. It would be best to embrace the mindset of “Learn fast and fail fast,” as it will happen. The important thing is to keep pushing and adapt fast to meet customers’ expectations.

  4. Before you build or measure anything, you must learn as much as possible about your target customers and your market (that’s why planning is the first stage of any product management lifecycle).

  5. The most important aspect at this phase is identifying and validating an existing market problem and ensuring your MVP can solve it.

At the end of the learning phase, you should plan to improve the product in the next release and then move on to the next stage of the loop—building.

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