DevReady PodcastDevReady Podcast E48 – Storytelling, Modelling & Creating Value in a Start-up with James Bilson

On this episode of the DevReady Podcast, Andrew and Anthony talk to the founder and CEO of Primary, a tech consulting firm based in the Greater Melbourne Area. They talk about the challenges of modeling, working with clients, and the art of storytelling.

James talks about his history in the tech world and expresses some of the frustrations he experienced as an early developer. Among these are the problems he saw with the companies that used the agile model. He speaks to why agile doesn’t really provide any solutions for the customer, and what tech companies need to do is create models that address real problems to create real value. Andrew and Anthony share in this frustration because of all the projects they have been on where apps were developed that ultimately did not create any value for the customer.

The key takeaways from this episode iare James’s ideas that modeling is probably the most important step in the early stages of development, and that you can add value to the user’s experience by involving them in the story that the product is telling. In other words, storytelling has the power to create a meaningful experience (and valuable interactions in the real world). By building and model and developing a “scaffolding” of storytelling in your application, you can provide your customers with solutions they actually want instead of meaningless products that offer no value and ultimately hurt your company in the long run.

Topics Covered:

  • Getting customers to clearly express their needs in the startup phase.
  • The agile approach as a “solution” to real problems.
  • The world of use-case models.
  • PHP and user-management systems.
  • The problems with novel tech and integration of systems.
  • Storytelling as a way to connect the user to the app experience.
  • Defining what the software actually should be doing.
  • How just jumping in will often build the skills you need.
  • Start by building a model.

Key Quotes

  • “We were a hacker shop—we were just making it up as we went along.” (6:00)
  • “I ended up building a lot of stuff that was beautifully crafted but did stuff that was stupid and that nobody wanted.” (8:55)
  • “I agree that the agile solution that’s been bandied around–I don’t think it is.” (13:00)
  • “You want to create a series of stories…that merge the tool and the communication piece.” (15:40)
  • “A user must end up doing something of value to them in the real world.” (19:32)
  • “Interfaces as an organizational structure are not great.” (22:35)
  • “If you have too many conditions in the story, then the story arc is lost.” (25:40)
  • “You can involve the other dev people [in the modeling process] and they can have real value.” (30:35)
  • “Sometimes the answer is no dev, not pursuing an outcome at all.” (34:00)
  • “We link processes that people are already carrying out.” (36:12)
  • “It’s a massive win if you can take even just one or two iterations out.” (37:55)
  • “There is this reticence to get started—just jump in.” (39:00)
  • “The product will evolve over time as your relationship develops with the customers.” (44:10)
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