The care and feeding of Unicorns

The care and feeding of Unicorns

It is probably obvious to everyone by now that consumer products are becoming increasingly digitally-oriented. This, of course, is good news for software development companies who are in the thick of this trend.  According to a Gartner study, “ For the consumer goods industry, we expect digital business will usher in a new era of growth from the convergence of people, business and intelligent things, creating new revenue opportunities, new risks and new opportunities to engage retailers, consumers and supply chain vendors.”

Improvements or Novelty is not Enough

However, software development alone is not enough. It has to be innovative software. When it comes to software development, innovation is considered the best predictor of success. Consumers are not just looking for the next shiny object—they are looking for the next level of innovation.

So developing software is not the only predictor of success, it has to be innovative software.

In fact, when a company makes highly innovative software, it is recognized by the unique name of “unicorn.”

What is a Unicorn?

In mythology, a unicorn is a mythical and magical creature. The Roman naturalist, Plinie described it as "a very ferocious beast, similar in the rest of its body to a horse, with the head of a deer, the feet of an elephant, the tail of a boar, a deep, bellowing voice, and a single black horn, two cubits in length, standing out in the middle of its forehead."

In other words, it’s a rare and special animal, almost magical in its nature.

Similarly startups like AirBnB, Dropbox, and Uber are considered unicorns. They are magical in the sense that they passed the billion dollar valuation mark fairly early in their evolution.

The way they got there is through innovation. Consequently, it is the secret desire of every software development company to create the next unicorn.

What Makes Unicorns Special?

Unicorns are magical because they are disruptive, specifically market disrupters. This is a positive term if your company is doing the disruption and a negative one if your company is rapidly losing market share because of the presence of a disruptive company.

Unicorns are Hatched By Innovation

Innovation is the secret sauce to becoming a unicorn. However, innovation is a complex idea. It is much more than riding piggyback on the latest trend. It is actually a way to look at consumer needs in an entirely new way. It is a result of uncommon thinking.

For software to be considered a unicorn, it would have to resolve a problem in finance, marketing, customer service, or some other aspect of business. In other words, unicorns are usually most applicable in B2B software.

Beyond Innovation

Yet innovation is not enough, either. Even if one were to come up with a perfect heuristic for innovation and follow it up with an algorithm to hatch innovation on demand, it might not lead to a Unicorn.

What is also equally important is reliability. The product must be solid, stable, and unreliable. What do unicorns like Flipkart, Snapchat, and Palantir have in common? They deliver what they promise every time.

Reliability comes from end-to-end testing of the software before it gets into consumer’s hands. It comes from the careful collection of data from their online service. It comes from using that data to perform tests to improve the service.

In other words, it comes from high-quality testing. According to Tricentis, which offers testing in agile software development, high quality testing should lead to three outcomes:

The first: "Optimized effectiveness of test cases, minimum number of test cases with maximum test coverage."

The second: "Automated test execution, whenever possible to minimize run-time.

The third: "Minimized maintenance effort for existing automated test cases.”

Why Unicorns Can’t Be Ignored

In an article on unicorns, Chris Boorman, gives some solid reasons why unicorns can’t simply be ignored:

1. Because we’re all going to see unicorns soon beating at our doors!

2. Competition is getting hotter across all sectors and unicorns are disrupting the world.

3. Keeping pace with technology and innovation has never been more essential.

In reviewing the competitive threats of unicorns, he asks the the tough question: A consumer oriented mentality has been the driver of unicorn success – is it the same for your business?