It is very common for startup businesses to pivot (i.e. change their proposition) as their business grows. It is less common for businesses to bake in the chance of a pivot when they start.
What does youTube, Flickr and Twitter have in common?
You may know that youTube started life as a dating platform. Twitter started of life as a podcast subscription service. Flickr was originally a role playing game. All of them discovered that their original business model was not working and they ‘pivoted’ based on early feedback they had obtained. It is common for startups to flex and change their proposition in micro changes as they learn more from customer’s about the problem they need solved.
This is why an agile development approach is often better than waterfall when the problem is not fully understood. At the early stages you are not just developing software, you are testing the market. This is really the whole genus of a startup. You have a great idea and you keep evolving it alongside sales and marketing to try and find the real solution that your customers react positively too.
However, what is not so common is to communicate the likelihood of this happening with development resources from the start. There is a real danger that founder arrogance (which is absolutely necessary to get the process going at all) is so strong that the development team make architecture and design decisions that reduce overall flexibility.
I believe a pivot orientated approach should be taken. This is when the development team absolutely expect the solution will change. This means that there is time given to ‘what if’ thinking during the design stages. It also means the business owners need to keep close to the development team and keep them in the loop.
So, a good development team should architect for flexibility but it is important that the business owners keep the team close and everyone goes forward on a basis that change is good, may be essential for success and should be expected.