Digital Solution Development Journey from an Idea to a scaling product: Niajiri Platform Case Study

Digital Solution Development Journey from an Idea to a scaling product: Niajiri Platform Case Study

By Grayson Julius  |  Dec 15, 2021

I guess you are an innovator, entrepreneur, industry leader, or software developer and your big question is how do I turn my wonderful idea into a digital product? 


Together with that, you’re probably also asking yourself the following questions:

  • What to do before launching a software product?
  • How long does it take to develop a software product? 
  • How do you scale your digital solution?
  • How to validate your innovative idea?


Don’t worry, in this blog post, I explain the development journey of a software application by using the Niajiri Platform as a case study. For context, Niajiri started just as an idea and is now a scaling digital solution impacting tens of thousands of users across East Africa.


Launching a digital solution or software application from an idea is complex and can be overwhelming, so I have done my best to explain key lessons, challenges, and opportunities on how we helped the Niajiri Team build their product from the ground up.

Background

Sometime in Aug 2017,  I received a text from our client and partner Lillian Secellela Madeje, founding partner of Ekihya Limited a boutique company that is focused on training, recruitment, and consulting across organizational development.


Lillian and her team had at this point been in business for more than 3 years and were already serving about 30 clients by doing recruiting, training, and hiring on their behalf.


If you take a moment you can probably imagine the number of CVs, and contact lists they had in their google docs and excel sheets, everything was all over the place and it was difficult to track everything for the existing team, let alone if they needed to bring someone else in to join the team


Like most Innovators and business owners, Lillian needed to build a digital solution to solve and automate the manual process;

Screenshot of WhatsApp Chat between Me & Lillian  2017 Screenshot of WhatsApp Chat between Me & Lillian 2017

To date, the Niajiri Platform has more than 25,000 active users, is used in over 3 countries in Africa, has served more than 5 corporate clients, and partnered with two credible learning platforms. What was once just an idea is now a fully-realized digital solution and the Niajiri team is focused on scaling the platform and bringing more value to its users.


Read on to learn about the processes, challenges, and opportunities the team at Ekihya Limited and now formally Niajiri Platform and iPF Softwares went through in building the solution that has revolutionized talent management in Tanzania and beyond.


Step one: Problem Discovery Phase 

This is the first step of software development. During this phase, the primary purpose is to gain a thorough knowledge of the real problem that the business is trying to address, explain project vision, goals, and scope, and carry out risk assessments. 


During the discovery phase, the project team does research, collects and analyzes project data, and develops a product development cycle plan. 


We examine if the product concept is practical and feasible. The team also takes this time to challenge the initial ideas and assumptions about the problem and its solutions.


Niajiri & iPF Softwares Team Joint Application Design SessionNiajiri & iPF Softwares Team Joint Application Design Session

My colleague Nelson and I found ourselves seated in a nice mid-sized office with walls covered with sticky notes; We'd been invited to hear about this wonderful concept and evaluate what it would take to bring it to reality. The concept we’d been invited to discuss is now the Niajiri Platform.


We had already developed a habit of asking ridiculous questions to founders and innovators who came to us with ideas or solutions by the time we took this meeting; it was and still is our way of validating that they're properly invested in the idea and aren't just doodling around for the sake of curiosity.


To our relief, Lillian and Juliana were well prepared for this and they got all of us so excited that the 2 hours we’d planned for the meeting turned into 4 hours and the tea and snacks turned into pizza and drinks, by the end of that meeting we had gone through:-


  • Project overview
  • High-level user research  
  • Competitive analysis



Step two: Product ideation & Design Phase 

What is Ideation?

Ideation is creative thinking that aims to solve a problem or provide a more efficient way to perform or achieve something. 


It includes coming up with new ideas, developing current ones, and determining how to put new ideas into effect; 

The team involved in this stage are

  • Business Analyst 
  • UI / UX Designer 
  • Product Owner 
  • Other stakeholders

At the next meeting, the Niajiri team had printed their Vision and had it pinned on the board, just to remind everyone what problem they were trying to solve.

Our vision is to transform our talent acquisition process and build our application tracking system which will give us more data and oversight

After long hours of product ideation and design sessions, we were able to identify the unique selling proposition and helped the Niajiri team pinpoint the problem they needed to solve. 


The next session was to identify the core features and prioritize the most important ones to ensure a high return on investment ( ROI ) for our partners; 


Phase 3: Building the Minimum Viable Product


What is the Minimum Viable Product?

A minimum viable product is a version of a product that is the sweet spot between the most minimum version of your product and your dream product, which is sufficient enough for early users to interact with. 

Minimum Viable Product ( MVP )Minimum Viable Product ( MVP )

The Niajiri team was very ambitious and like any other young innovator and founder,  they were looking forward to having their dream come true all in one piece within a couple of months. 


“We’re going to execute the project using agile software development methodology which will enable us to deliver shippable and valuable features so that you can test your proof of concept with real users very early.


From your brief and the beautiful vision we just painted, it will take us about 3 to 5 months to complete the MVP. 


For a project of this size and in order to allow you to start testing early, we’re going to be using the agile scrum frame” -  Nelson advised.


“ Agile scum what ? “ - Juliana interrupted, with a soft smile and sarcastic eyebrows raised. 


“Haha, it’s scrum, not scum boss '', we all laughed. 


“Scrum is lightweight, simple to understand, and difficult to master, nevertheless our certified scrum masters are going to train you and it will be your cup of tea in no time”  I calmed her down.


 “ In a nutshell, Scrum is an agile methodology for addressing complex adaptive challenges while producing and delivering high-value solutions in each iteration. 


Scrum ensures a high return on investment by allowing early feedback, which adds value to the product and allows for more flexibility in incorporating changes as they arise. “.


Scrum Framework | Image Courtesy of Scrum.orgScrum Framework | Image Courtesy of Scrum.org

Phase 4: Product Pilot with early adopters

This is a key step in putting what we've been working on to the test. A pilot, first and foremost, lets you know if your product works and helps you iron out any unanticipated consequences.


 Only by putting your new idea to the test can you identify both its strengths and weaknesses.

Niajiri Platform First Pilot With CocacolaNiajiri Platform First Pilot With Cocacola

Those early days presented us with everything any ambitious team aiming to create an impactful digital solution would face; exciting first days, creating a cohesive team of (UI / UX designer, backend and front end engineers, a scrum master, and a quality assurance team), the chaos brought about by lack of proper processes and most importantly instilling a sense of product ownership to our team members. 


But in the end, strong mentality and perseverance won over doubts of an uncertain future. Giants were faced and slain, challenges were overcome, an MVP was tested and launched and the world started to finally get a sense of the picture we’d been laboriously painting on a canvas of endless alignment meetings, strong coffee, and like any engineering team worth its salt, the occasional sleepless night.


Ours was the classic definition of an MVP, not too pretty, but also not completely shabby, the core features working, but not without some pesky glitches.

Phase 5: Product Scaling Beyond the MVP 


Product Scaling is the activity in the digital product development process that ensures the product's long-term viability and stability. 


A succession of tiny but important tested iterations that respond to and anticipate market demands. 


Scaling entails not just reacting to customer input and ideas, but also predicting consumer demands in order to gain market share.

Over a period of 3 years, the Niajiri Platform started to gain traction,  good, bad, and great reviews started flowing in, we landed our first two clients and we even learned the age-old lesson of not biting off more than you can chew when we took on a client that was too big for what we could handle at the time 


The minimal viable product started to feel not so minimum anymore, more features were being added on, increased server resources were required to accommodate demands, we grew the technical and business teams to ensure the platform was going in the right direction, but most importantly we kept an ever-watchful eye on the poster of the mission on the wall to constantly remind ourselves what we were building towards and not lose focus of what was supposed to be done.

The minimal viable product has been a success. We’ve been able to work with a prominent bank and handle their entire acquisition program. Our platform has taken on more than 1,000 applications a day, and the fact that our system can handle those applications tells us that it’s scalable

Niajiri Platform Beyond Talent Acquisition

From the evolution of talent acquisition to now offering, talent development through an integrated Learning Management system, and data analytics, Niajiri Platform now offers a 360-degree solution to its users. 


With machine learning and data science being the core of the system, Niajiri is about to transform the space of talent acquisition not only in Tanzania but also in the rest of the world through the integrated subscription and pay-per-use system.


We’re grateful that the team at Ekihya Limited trusted and chose iPF Softwares as their technology partners to take the lead on an idea that is now a scaling product and an independent registered limited company ( Niajiri Platform Limited ).


4 years later, we’ve learned some lessons and achieved great things together. What an incredible partnership.


Final Remarks

So, if you were wondering how to develop your innovative digital solution from an Idea to a scaling product, here are the steps in summary. 

  1. Problem Discovery, make sure you have defined your problem statement and the vision of your product
  2. Ideation, Design, and Ideate on value addition until you find the real value that will benefit your users 
  3. Build the Minimum Viable Product, Your MVP should only include the Key features
  4. Pilot with early adapters, And be ready to embrace negative feedback 
  5. Scale your product, focus on user feedback and value addition



Do you have an innovative idea?

​​We can help you bring your product to life and make the impact intended - whether it's a Minimum Viable Product, Product Ideation & Design, or help to scale your digital solution.


Our focus is on designing, developing, and innovating digital solutions for impact-oriented businesses and initiatives that link people with social and economic opportunities in Africa.


Contact us today, so we start with the first step “ Problem Discovery Phase “ and see where that leads us.





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