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Bail fast or fail fast


How many of you spent $17,000 on an internet fridge back in the mid-noughties? We didn’t think so. Because, it turns out there was already a way to send emails from the kitchen (…a laptop). Nowadays, the latest internet fridges can text you photos of that wilted cabbage you’ve been meaning to eat. But, until they work out a viable way to scan expiry dates – which would involve convincing the entire dairy industry to put high-tech microchips on all containers – the product has no new practical applications whatsoever.

This goes to show that sometimes, even the biggest companies in the world need someone to tell them to bail, and fast – before millions are invested in the marketing and production of software that never should’ve seen the light of day.

No before go – testing digital maturity

At KJR, our radar is set to alert teams to ‘bail fast’ instead of ‘fail fast.’ ‘Let’s be honest, if you’re the first person to say no to someone, they’re going to remember you,’ says KJR New South Wales General Manager Adam Bird. ‘It’s how you start to build a real relationship.’ We specialise in getting clients to realise the hard truths about their software in the making. Like whether or not a business is financially set up to achieve its plan, whether a target audience is ready to embrace a product or whether a proposed new technology is mature enough for the production line.

And what if the idea isn’t fit for action? ‘It’s an objective discussion,’ explains KJR’s Victorian General Manager David Poutakidis. ‘It’s literally: you are not meeting the quality criteria you’ve set for yourself so you should take our advice that this product is not ready to go.’ As David emphasises, once our team starts putting new software through its paces, ‘it becomes very clear, very early on whether a company should continue.’

If at first you don’t succeed

Business experts are in agreement on the importance of recognising when to shut ideas and projects down, in the hope of ultimately achieving success. After all, sometimes finding the winning solution is the direct result of a few missteps along the way. Rob Shelton, the global innovation chief of PwC, recently told Business Insider Australia that this approach should be considered in scientific terms. ‘It’s about having a hypothesis, and testing it,’ he says. ‘If the results don’t match your hypothesis, you’ve got data. If the results do match your hypothesis, then you have a discovery.’

A scientific approach is one thing, but managing expectations can prove difficult without some outside perspective. Because if you’re planning to boldly go where none have gone before… you can get lost in the process. ‘Often, people fall so in love with the notion of what software is meant to do; they forget about the pragmatic approach needed to make it happen,’ says Adam. ‘They end up with a version of what the software is going to do; then there’s the thing they’ve actually built – and they’ve got no way to draw the two together.’

Paving the way forward with independent advice

Of course, the flipside of being an independent voice that isn’t afraid to say no, is that KJR are better equipped to say yes when it counts and offer considered solutions. ‘It’s also about counselling you on what you need to do to make it right,’ says David. ‘Whether that’s redesigning one piece of the architecture, or going back to marketing to tell them to revise a particular layout. It’s really about explaining the next steps.’

Ultimately it’s about honing ideas until they’re ready to be revolutionary. And functional. Bail fast before you fail fast; all in the interest of achieving success next time around. If only Adam and David could’ve broken some cold hard truths to the makers of all those internet fridges – they’ve been waiting for homes since the 2006 Fifa World Cup.