Lean startup methodology has many approaches and methods to achieve a single goal: reaching product-market fit with the least amount of resources. In this article, we will highlight one of the most relevant ones for digital product development: the build-measure-learn (BML) cycle.
Build measure learn feedback cycle is a part of lean startup methodology. What is more important is to recognize the concept, to understand its benefits and ways of application. If a new product developed in the lean startup framework using the minimum viable product (MVP) development approach, build measure learn framework is usually applied the system naturally. It’s because comprehensive set of functionality is only created and developed after taking user feedback into account in order to effective use of resources. The build measure learn cycle may seem complex; however, it can be applied as a basic framework for any digital product development process easily with the right tools.
Roots: Lean Startup
In his book, Lean Startup Eric Reis gives practical advice on how to develop the product a customer really wants at the very beginning of the process. The methodology requires to follow these steps:
- Build, measure, learn,
- Validate, pivot or persevere,
- Release and measure gain,
- Go back to the first step.
Lean Startup, as a method, is based on one key idea: if you’d like to create successful products, you have to solve real life problems. The most efficient way to get this is to talk with them, hear their needs and fears, collect the best feedback and build a product that truly meets their expectations.
Lean startup methodology is an approach to build an MVP that will reach the product market fit. It has several benefits with respect to product development and it allows startups to save time, effort and money. In return, this leads to an improvement in the effectiveness of the work, which contributes in the ability of making validated learning.
For a startup to succeed, it has to go through many stages of development. Analysis and feedback are important during this phase of the business’s development. Successful businesses should have a clear analytical approach, as well as clear goals and objectives in every BML loop. This is what gives clarity to analysis and lets work be done more efficiently and effectively.
Since startups need to think differently and embrace continuous experiments to see if they are on the right track, using the BML cycle will allow a startup to build a minimum of valuable products. They just need to get feedback and use that information to improve the product before launching it. It is a go-to tool for quickly achieving product market fit and maximizing value for time investment.
The BML cycle is one of the fundamental principles of lean methodology with benefits that are not limited to startups. The lean methodology addresses problems such as the huge financial risk of building a new product, budget management issues, survival moves in a competitive environment, etc. But, how easy would it be if there is a way to know in advance that there is a demand for the product? The lean approach covers exactly this point. BML as a part of the lean approach is implementable for all sizes of companies.
The build-measure-learn cycle occurs as the answer to “how a new product development could reach the product market fit in the shortest amount of time?” MVP (minimum viable product) approach is about creating feedback loops to implement all these principles.
The idea behind digital product development with a lean startup approach is that it should be iterative, adaptive and fast. Keeping the development cycle short and the feedback loop quick will allow the product team to see which features work the best and which ones need some tuning.
Eric Reis, the author of The Lean Startup suggests development should be as an aggregation of iterations in his book. He suggests that a product that will reach product-market fit fast should develop in cycles named build-measure-learn (BML) loops. The main idea behind the method is building an MVP first, then making enough users use the MVP, getting feedback from them and measuring, then analyzing learnings, then building again by considering your learnings. Keep doing this until you see the product market fit.
Product development has a cyclical aspect, which the BML cycle seeks to capture. Nothing is seen as completed in a BML cycle, there are just optimum outputs decided by considering a variety of different factors. As it would be in the real product life cycle, the building has never ended.
What makes build measure learn feedback loop approach important is actually requires to understand how products was built before.
As you can see above, waterfall methodology suggests taking big steps and start developing the new step after you finished earlier steps. It means that when something goes wrong, you need to start over. Although we cannot reject the fact that there are exceptional projects require to be built this way, the majority of the new products wouldn’t reach the product market fit due to the contemporary requirements and features of today’s market. Instead, new products should be built in an iterative way by using the minimum of resources, especially time, to be able to compete with alternative solutions in the market.
According to Steve Blank, in the early 2000’s agile development turns things a little better for digital product development. However, the first applications of the agile methodology was improved on waterfall methodology. Although it brings iterative building and involving with the customer, it wasn’t enough. It lacked a structure for putting all commercialization hypotheses to the test outside of the structure. With Agile, you could end up providing every feature a customer requested and still still fail.
When build-measure-learn feedback loop came in the picture, things has been really changed.
The key distinguishing features are that you iterate on validated learning, instead of building something people might not need. In order to optimize and iterate your product, you need to get feedback and make adjustments. To be successful, you need to find and address problems early on.
By developing a system of experimentation and testing, you can help identify these issues and avoid problems later on. Build-measure-learn feedback loop is one of the ways of accomplishing it along with other lean startup tools and methods.
Ultimately, it’s all as Eric Ries said once: “[…] We don’t need the best possible hypothesis. We don’t need the best possible plan. We need to get through the build-measure-learn feedback loop with maximum speed.”