HBO’s comedy Silicon Valley, which is coming to the end of its third season, often receives praise for its accuracy—both in terms of technical details and capturing the start-up journey. You might not expect to learn much from a show meant to draw laughs, but there are plenty of product development pitfalls you can take as cautionary tales.

* Slight spoilers ahead if you haven’t yet seen Silicon Valley season 3. *

The following are 4 anecdotes from Silicon Valley that can teach you valuable lessons about the product development process for digital transformation.

Lesson 1: Know Your Why

Richard, the mastermind behind the Pied Piper compression algorithm in the show, discovers his CEO has shifted direction to a business focus. Instead of building a consumer platform, Pied Piper would become a box for enterprise data centers. This disconnect derailed the company for much of the show’s third season.

Inner turmoil and an unclear vision of your “why” will prevent you from succeeding in digital transformation. If you don’t have your “why” defined from the start, you risk losing the time-to-market battle and developing a product that no one actually wants.

Lesson 2: MVP vs. MLP

The box vs. platform debate throughout the early part of Silicon Valley’s season 3 boils down to a minimum viable product (MVP) vs. minimum lovable product (MLP) debate. Jack Barker, the new CEO of Pied Piper, wants to build an enterprise appliance (the box) so the company can get to market quickly, make a profit, and unlock the remainder of the company’s funding.

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However, sacrificing Richard’s vision for the compression algorithm leaves Barker with an MVP that, in the long run, will not prove successful for digital transformation. The lesson to learn here, though, is that the box is being developed because Richard isn’t focused on creating an MLP.

The platform has taken so long to develop that the company can’t afford to delay any longer. Don’t make this same mistake. You need to develop an MLP so you can reach the market quickly with a product that can actually win. From there, you can iterate and add features to improve what customers already love.

Lesson 3: Design Thinking

When the platform finally launched, it took off in terms of downloads. However, 500,000 downloads don’t mean much when daily active users are down around 19,000. People hate using Pied Piper and the root problem is user experience.

Pied Piper was developed entirely by 3 engineers with no input from designers at all. The engineering is received with rave reviews, but the intended consumer audience feels the product development process is too “engineered” and it almost unanimously “freaks people out.”

We talk about the importance of design a lot, but you might be tempted to focus solely on coding and engineering in digital transformation. Take a lesson from Pied Piper and make sure you’re welcoming design thinking—balancing the bigger picture “why” with the technical processes of your project.

Lesson 4: Continuous Feedback

Pied Piper made two mistakes when it launched a beta version. First, the platform was essentially completed when people finally saw it. Second, the closed beta was only distributed to fellow engineers—not the consumers Pied Piper planned to target.

In digital transformation, companies can’t afford to spend months or even years creating a product blindly. We’ve said it before, but you need to adopt a “try fast, iterate fast, fail quickly, and stop” motto. As you iterate, you need to be collecting continuous feedback so by the time you’re ready to launch, you’re positive you’re delivering a product that meets the target’s needs.

Without continuous feedback, your digital transformation projects will fail repeatedly and executives will stop granting budget to new efforts.

There’s More to the Digital Transformation Story

These lessons are essential for any company looking to gain competitive advantages through digital transformation. However, they are only small pieces of the much larger digital transformation story.

If you want to learn more about what goes into truly successful digital transformation, download our free white paper, The Pillars of Digital Transformation.

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