Prototyping Expert

An important part of Business Design is building prototypes to learn about key aspects of your product, service or even your entire business model. Often times Business Design teams are not able to build these prototypes on their own. That is why we need Prototyping Experts. Let's learn about what a Prototyping Expert does, what mindset and skills he needs and what the differences are to the more classical engineers we all know.
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Markus Sorg

Business Design Prototyper

1. Introduction

The Prototyping Expert is an important part of the extended Project Team. He / she helps the team to build prototypes to learn about their Business Models and ideas. He / she is able to understand the most important parts of Business Models, thinks in experiments, has the necessary skills to build things quickly and understands what prototypes can do with the humans.

2. Responsibilities

As a Prototyper you are responsible for all tasks related to support the project team to build their prototypes throughout the Business Design Process. Let me give you some examples:

Next to these building activities you are responsible for all coordination with the Project Team or external stakeholders concerning the prototype / lean offering. You take the team on the prototyping journey with you because you know where they will struggle and how to support them in this unfamiliar territory.

3. Key Activities

The following table shows key activities for a Prototyper for relevant phases of the Business Design Process:





4. Prototyper vs. Engineer

A lot of people think, that prototyping and engineering is the same. But prototyping is a totally different thing where you need different skills (more full-stack with design, frontend, backend, infrastructure etc.) and tools. A different mindset and approach. In prototyping you also need to make different tradeoffs (regarding time, technology, performance, design) and take different decisions. Let's look at these differences side by side:

A Prototyper...

An Engineer...

...thinks in experiments, hypotheses to test & business models (with it's DNA)

...thinks in scalable software/hardware in terms of architecture, performance etc. used to work with very unclear requirements very close along specifications and requirements proactive and fills the gaps (there are a lot in these early stages) reactive and waits for a jira-ticket more of a generalist (design AND frontend, AND backend AND infrastructure) more of a specialist (design OR frontend OR backend OR infrastructure)

...takes every shortcut to be fast

...spends a lot of time in choosing the right approach

...can work and communicate well with non-technical stakeholders

...can work and communicate well with technical stakeholders

...has more of a prototyping-mindset (make it work -> make it right -> make it fast)

...has more of an engineering-mindset (make it right & make it fast & make it work) interested and understands what prototypes can do with humans (socially, emotionally...) interested and understands the technical side of prototypes

It's very important to understand these differences when you are looking for prototyping support in your Project Team. It can slow you down significantly if you are not working with somebody who knows what to build, how to build it and what's important along the way.