Optimizing Software Development: Applying the Build-Measure-Learn Cycle

March 21, 2022

In any software development project, leveraging a modern, iterative methodology remains a crucial part of ensuring a successful result. Iterative is the critical word in that sentence, as older software methodologies, notably the Waterfall, used an inflexible approach. Users typically receive their first exposure to the application after its completion. Notably, any issues discovered at this point became extremely costly to fix.

There had to be a better way.

While the Spiral Lifecycle methodology provided some measure of interaction in those halcyon days of programming, the publishing of the Agile Manifesto in the late 90s allowed iterative software development to truly make headway within the industry. Over time, many variations of Agile entered the mainstream, including Scrum, Kanban, and Lean Startup. The latter of those three methodologies is what we use on projects at Gigster.

Lean Startup focuses on an iterative development process, including the building of a functional prototype known as a minimum viable product (MVP). Project cycles follow the Build-Measure-Learn model, allowing the project team to quickly determine the viability of the underlying concept, its target market, and how well the MVP meets user needs as the project progresses. Here’s an overview of the concept to see if it makes sense for your company’s software development approach.

A Closer Look at Lean Startup and The Build-Measure-Learn Cycle

The entrepreneur Eric Ries first developed Lean Startup as a bespoke software development methodology suitable for emerging businesses. The approach involved quickly vetting a concept and its potential market as a predecessor to acquiring critical venture capital resources for any nascent organization. However, the concepts within Lean Startup also apply to any modern software development project hoping to quickly see results without the inherent risks of using older, obsolete methodologies.

Like other Agile-influenced modern iterative methodologies, a project using Lean Startup gets broken down into multiple cycles. At the heart of this approach lies the Build-Measure-Learn cycle, as noted earlier. This ensures the customer, user, or business stakeholder interacts with the MVP prototype as early as possible, and throughout the rest of the initiative. In the Build stage, the development team crafts the MVP user interface along with any related code to create an operational product. In the project’s first cycle, this Build stage relies on the initial requirements created by senior developers and project managers based on the business problem to be solved.

Future Build stages leverage the feedback discovered in the Measure stage, which informs the modifications defined in the Learn stage. Let’s take a quick look at these other stages. The Measure stage focuses on vetting the MVP from the Build stage. The testing includes the functionality and design of the app as well as any underlying business rules embedded within the code. At the same time, this stage might also look at usage data to verify the market the app hopes to target. In either scenario, a host of data gets generated including user metrics, but may also take into account social media impact and app store sales numbers, if a public release of the MVP is used to vet the market.

Analyzing and interpreting this data is the main goal of the Learn stage. The project team takes the insights and other lessons learned and uses that information to make relevant changes to the MVP’s design. In a case where the app’s market is being vetted, some changes to the marketing plan might be considered. In rare cases where the target market actually doesn’t exist, the project team or business stakeholder might decide to cancel the project.

At this point, the project enters a new Build-Measure-Learn cycle with the developers implementing the changes scoped in the previous Learn stage. Project managers typically provide a rough estimate of the number of cycle iterations at the beginning of the project. However, flexibility remains paramount when using any Agile-influenced software development methodology.

The Benefits of Lean Startup and The Build-Measure-Learn Cycle

One traditional truism remains the main reason for companies to use Lean Startup or any other Agile variant as their software development methodology. The cost of fixing any mistakes – design, coding, market analysis, etc. – greatly increases as the project progresses. In those “venerable” days of the Waterfall, discovering a problem at the end of the project might even result in the cancellation of the entire initiative.

Lean Startup’s Build-Measure-Learn cycle provides an organized, iterative process that generates valuable feedback on all aspects of the app being developed. The project team transforms an initial business idea into an MVP. The app and potentially its target market are vetted, and the data from that effort provides insights to make modifications to the app design. Users interact with the app throughout its development process, offering valuable feedback throughout.

In short, it illustrates how the process of software development evolved over decades. As such, your organization needs to consider this approach on its next project.

Gigster Supercharges The Lean Startup Methodology

At Gigster, we understand the importance of timely feedback, an organized structure, and relevant data on any software development project. As such, we use Lean Startup and its Build-Measure-Learn cycle as our chosen methodology for new software initiatives. We feel this approach – when combined with our data-driven development focus – provides our customers with a repeatable process and, ultimately a successful project.

For each software project, we assemble a bespoke team of industry-best architects, developers, and QA analysts while managing the entire initiative with a proven methodology. Our approach relies on deep data analysis which helps us predict any issues before they get discovered in the Measure stage. Our project management tools analyze hundreds of our other projects, helping to identify patterns leading to delays and other issues.

In the end, we deliver your organization measurable business value by transforming a great idea into a state-of-the-art software product. When your company needs a partner for its next software project, look no further than the team at Gigster. We provide the technical know-how, business acumen, and modern software development methodology to ensure a successful outcome.

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