Don't let 'Vampire Projects' drag your portfolio down!

March 20, 2024 Author: Lee Walter and Gary Ralston

How do you know you have a "Vampire Project" in your development portfolio?

  1. Has the project missed multiple milestones?
  2. Does the steering committee spend most of its time debating what to do about the project?
  3. Is the C-Suite ratcheting up the pressure to show results NOW?
  4. Is sales ratcheting up the pressure to ship NOW?
  5. Is the team is showing signs of burnout, e.g., absenteeism rising?
  6. Are the other dev projects suffering prolonged shortages of engineering or production talent and funds?

We need EVIDENCE that we are building the right ‘it’ for an adequate and growing market.

We need CONTACT with early adopters - buyers and users who will give the feedback essential to ‘Agile’ development.

We need to UNDERSTAND the forces driving sales throughout the product lifecycle - the so-called Jobs-to-be-Done that help us strategize profitable product lines, not just one-off wins.

We need to ACT to cut underperforming projects to FREE UP resources for the VIABLE projects in your portfolio.

Market Investigation Sprints lead to evidence-guided investment decisions

Market Investigation Sprints help investment committees and product teams address the four essential challenges to create winning products repeatably:

  • Desirability - WHO wants our offering (our ‘it’)? Do they CARE?
    • Risk: Solving an irrelevant job.
  • Feasibility - CAN we do ‘it’? Is it TECHNICALLY possible?
    • Risk:  Poor execution
  • Viability - SHOULD we do it? Does it make BUSINESS sense?
    • Risk: Flawed business model
  • Adaptability - How RESILIENT is our offering to external threats?
    • Risk: Our external environment is changing faster than we can adjust.

Pro Tip: Test Desirability EARLY

We regularly witness companies burning time, money, and resources testing Feasibility before Desirability and Viability. As in the movie Field of Dreams, otherwise brilliant teams are in the thrall of a disembodied voice chanting, "If you build it, they will come!"

(Diagram Credit: Yves Pigneur)

Implementing a Market Investigation Sprint

Market Investigation Sprints walk leadership and cross-functional product teams through a few straightforward steps:

  • Identify: 
    • Business Objectives
    • Success Measures 
    • Anticipated Value
  • Onboard the cross-functional team to the Market investigation Sprint
  • Identify and interview REAL prospective customers - understand the jobs, pains and gains driving their buying behavior
  • Validate:
  • Cross-check for adequate and growing market
  • Structure the investment decision
    • Metered investment at evidence-driven milestones
    • Promptly retire non-viable projects, repurposing their resources

Vampire problems? 

Stop bleeding your portfolio dry! Contact us to see if a Market Investigation Sprint is right for you.

About the Authors: Since 2017, Lee Walter and Gary Ralston have designed and executed a series of Market Investigation Sprints to help executives place the right portfolio bets for their company's future.

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