A couple of years ago when the Ad Council was exploring launching our own formal innovation program, I met with Jenny Friedler and Kevin Williams from Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s (PPFA) digital innovation team to learn about how they were approaching innovation.
PPFA had just created a small team that included a project manager, product manager, subject matter expert and marketing manager. They had also decided to use a sprint-based approach to develop new digital products, an iterative way of building a digital product, testing and incorporating feedback as you go.
Fast forward to this year’s SXSW where they discussed what they learned from developing Spot On, the period tracker app connected to birth control information that came out of their innovation effort. Here are my big takeaways from what they shared.
Listening to your target audience is key… and it can be done inexpensively
Planned Parenthood’s network of clinics allowed the team direct access to patients where they could go and conduct interviews. But they also just went to Starbucks and offered to buy women a cup of coffee in exchange for chatting about their product idea. In addition, they used AdWords to test their messaging, and once their app was live, they made sure to read and respond to all the comments it received in the app store. By constantly talking with and listening to their audience, they were able to design and iterate on a product that met their users’ needs.
Constantly test your assumptions
When the team was developing Spot On, they knew they needed some sort of calendar function. They had lots of cool ideas about how to reinvent what a calendar looked and felt like for their users. When they shared these concepts, their target audience flatly rejected them and insisted on a basic calendar that’s familiar to everyone. By testing their ideas before building them, they created a better user experience.
Innovation doesn’t have to be shiny
While the team was very proud of Spot On (which was recognized by Fast Company), they also realized the PPFA digital product that reaches the most people is their website. So, they applied the sprint process to redesigning PlannedParenthood.org and building an online scheduling tool. While a scheduling tool may not seem sexy, it has been a game changer, with over three million appointments scheduled since it launched in 2014.
By allowing patients to schedule and cancel appointments digitally, they had far fewer “no shows” allowing them to serve more patients. Sometimes innovation simply means looking at your core services and doing a better job delivering them.
It was truly inspiring to see how far PPFA’s team had come with the launch of Spot On, and I hope that hearing about their evolving process will inspire your organization’s innovation journey.