The Aberdeen Software Factory Connection

The Software Entrepreneurship degree has grown out of the work being done through the Aberdeen Software Factory, which started a number of years ago. The goal of the ASF has been to provide students and recent graduates with paid software development experience on live client projects. The ASF hires students on a project-by-project basis with the aim of providing them with experience so that they have improved employablity skills. This has usually been the case. Indeed, one student found a regular part-time job with a firm after a project while still a student. He could stop working in a cafe and work part-time as developer with an oil-related services firm for the last year of his studies, and then stayed on full-time. The ASF helped the firm realise they needed another person, and he was the right person for the new job.

We also use the ASF as a place to find live clients for working with our MSC Information Technology students each summer. This was where we trialled the idea of students working with startups and other clients, and developed the teaching methods used on the Software Entrepreneurship programme to good success. Students from this programme leave knowing how to develop software as a team, and how to manage their needs and those of the team. A number of them have regularly walked into small startup firms or other SMEs as developers.

Empathy Mapping exercise

Many of the clients for the ASF have been startup firms with ideas for products to develop, and we helped them realise their goals. They come to us with the idea and we develop their vision. They keep the IP as it is their idea; we are only implementing it for them. This startup connection has now grown over time and provided a fruitful network of people, who we have been able to tap into, and help in turn as occassions arise. We also realised that no one else was offering anything like this degree.

The students who took part in the ASF have developed their understanding of software development quickly as they better understood the needs of their live client. This comes through in their improved soft-skills and ways to elicit the needs of clients. They have also come to appreciate that the need for early feedback from clients outweights the wait for a ‘better’ version because clients’ need and appreciation of what’s possible changes.

We realised that what we were doing here with the ASF could become a regular programme for students to develop their own businesses. Why wait for a client, when you can be both the student and the business?

The materials used in the MSc programme are ones that have been used by students in projects with live clients. They are tried and tested. They are there waiting for you to come and learn how to use them to your advantage too.

Heading to Startup Weekend Glasgow

Bruce is  off to coach at the  Glasgow Startup Weekend 25-27 October. It’ll be an adrenalin rush no doubt like other weekend events we’ve run before in Aberdeen. Then it is all about looking after the attendees so that they achieve the outcomes they aspire to from the event.

His main concern this time as an attendee at this event is what to bring? It’s different when you’re normally the ‘host’.

Camera, yes and both media cards too so that he can maybe do some video interviews or something about the whole weekend. Laptop, and Kindle too as none of us ever go anywhere  without them.

Playing the Lean Startup Game at Lean Agile Scotland 2013

Needless to say, as a StrategicPlay facilitator trained in the Lego Serious Play approach, he’ll bring 5-10 Lego fiddle packs too as you never know when you might need to visualise the problem and the interactions around the problem. Tempting to bring more for who knows what, so maybe we should ask the organisers.

Then there is the issue of other templates and ideas, which could be useful too. There is the ever popular Business Model Canvas, and the less well-known, but equally useful Lean Canvas variation too. The lean canvas is good as it helps you focus on the problems you’re trying to solve, as well as your potential unfair advantage.

The  elevator pitch is good to focus thoughts too. It boils down to a ‘complete these sentences’ exercise: X is for <target customer> who has <customer need>. X is a <market category> that <one key benefit>. Unlike <competition>, the X is < unique differentiator>. The goal of this exercise is to have a better idea of who is using your app and why, when developing the paper wireframes in the next step.

Empathy maps help you visualise your market segments more clearly when using the business model and lean canvases. You can also combine this with the Lego fiddle packs to visualise your potential client too.

We can also use customer journey maps to see how people arrive at your service (and everything is a service these days) and how they interact with your physical components. This can be more detailed too using the service blueprint (and a downloadable version you can use) to clarify how people become aware of your service, join your service, use your service, develop their use of your service, and leave your service. This helps clarify which channel of operations is contributing to which part of the journey.

Oh, there must be cards too. Cracking big rocks and A3 Thinker’s Action Deck to help break down issues and problems. These help offer suggestions for different approaches to issues so that you see them from fresh angles. If the constraints cards turn up in time, then we’ll bring those too. While they are specifically webby in outlook, they can also be used for a variety of ways to focus down on problems.

That probably covers the main things, but probably should possibly also pack copies of Innovation Games and and Gamestorming too just to be sure.

Also, this looks like it should be a good event to meet more people. We wonder who’ll be there that we already know?