User-driven software development becomes more efficient through social media



Social media offers companies the possibility of involving users in the development of products and services. VTT has developed a user-driven software development method utilising social media in co-operation with Movial Oy.

Online tools can be used to identify the lead users in a certain area of application, and efficiently involve them in agile software development. When users are actively involved in the idea creation and product development processes, their needs can be met more quickly and more efficiently than before. User-driven innovation and software product development do not, however, just happen; they require a systematic method and active participation by the company.

The result of the Mobideas project was the development of a social map application based on the users’ needs, and an effective method for lead user-driven software development utilising social media and agile development. Lead users are pioneers who quickly adopt new needs, services, and technologies, and also actively develop them. Using agile software development methods (e.g. Scrum and eXtreme Programming), several companies have achieved a faster time overall in software development and a better quality of end product. 

The Mobideas project began with the identification of the lead users, which was carried out with an extensive survey concerning the use of social media. The survey was taken by 600 Finns, 200 of whom continued to create ideas for new social media application in Owela, which is VTT’s online innovation space, where future products and services are developed together with users. This resulted in around 80 ideas, which were also evaluated, commented and jointly developed by the users.

The identified lead users were invited to a five-month project to develop the ideas into actual products. This 30-person group of active users continued refining the ideas based on everyday usage situations, developing solutions both individually and in shared chat sessions. 30 new ideas were composed and evaluated jointly by the users, VTT researchers, and Movial Oy. More detailed descriptions were drawn up for the five most interesting and viable ideas and based on those the active users voted their two favourites for implementation. These ideas were related to locating services and co-workers on a map.

A student group implemented the applications using agile software development methods in two-week iterations. The group of active users was actively involved throughout the entire development phase via the Owela innovation space. For example, the users suggested new functionalities for the applications, evaluated product requirements, drafted user interfaces, and tested development versions.

The Mobideas project proved that it is possible to implement a user-driven innovation project from idea to product very rapidly. Via Internet users can easily participate in the process when it is suitable for them. Agile software development makes participation in product development interesting and rewarding for the users, as they can follow the progress of their own ideas towards a working application. The developers were also satisfied by the constant feedback from the users.

Based on this project, VTT developed a method that can be used to efficiently implement user-driven product development projects in an online environment. The benefits of the method are the identification of active lead users, greater involvement of users in the innovation process, identification of the users’ actual needs, continuous collaboration and communication in an online environment with the different stakeholders, and an end product that better meets the needs of the users.

The Mobideas project was implemented jointly by VTT and Movial Oy as a part of the international ITEI project, which develops innovation tools for software companies. The ITEI project is based on the need to make the innovation operations of software companies more efficient, and to launch more rapidly products that meet users’ needs.

More information on the project:

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