Lessons Learned Applying the D/V/F Framework in Real Life
Have you experienced the following scenario? You’re working with a company that is striving to be more agile, and launch new products/services into the market faster than they’ve ever done before. They have some initial ideas that promise business growth but they don’t have a framework to best evaluate which ideas should be tested and invested in. At one point, someone suggests using the Desirability, Viability, Feasibility (D/V/F) framework (see below) to prioritize the potential value of early stage ideas. The team then becomes increasingly excited about a framework that evaluates customer needs, business value and ease of implementation.
But is the D/V/F framework truly the best prioritization tool for conceptual ideas? Or is it being too widely applied to a plethora of business scenarios, causing challenges for how companies should make decisions?
The Origin and Rising Popularity of D/V/F
To my knowledge, the D/V/F framework came from the renown design and innovation firm, IDEO, when working with a large CPG client. However, I have found very little additional information on the the history behind the D/V/F framework — Which client? What was the company’s challenge? How was it used? Regardless of its origin, the increasing popularity of design thinking has resulted in many people, from business school students to design aficionados, also learning about the D/V/F framework. Its simplicity and ease of understanding is probably why the D/V/F framework has become a favored tool among consultants.
I have seen D/V/F applied to a range of new business challenges, such as pursuing new growth experiments in retail to exploring strategic technology directions in healthcare. To me, the application of D/V/F has less to do with a particular industry or function. Instead the successful application of D/V/F is more dependent on the intent of the framework, and building a shared understanding for how decisions will be made. However, to build that shared understanding requires some additional considerations to help drive alignment and build a consistent decision making mechanism.
Considerations for Application
The first consideration when applying the D/V/F framework is to align on each of the subcategories within Desirability, Viability and Feasibility, so that those subcategories are correlated to the business challenge at hand. For example, what are we evaluating when it comes to customer desirability? Customer experience impact? Customer loyalty? Certainly there can be multiple subcategories within each lens, but it’s important for each subcategory to be specific as well as mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive, which will help teams objectively evaluate ideas.
Once teams are aligned to each of the subcategories, it’s important to foster a dialogue on weighting. Should one category be weighted more heavily than another? If so, why? For example, if the problem is a determining the strategy for a potential new technology, it might be worthwhile to weigh the Feasibility portion of the framework higher as a way to examine how equipped the organization will be to implement a new solution given its current technology roadmap. Determining where and why it makes sense to allocate different weights at either the category level (Desirability, Viability and Feasibility) or subcategory level (e.g. customer experience impact) is necessary so that the framework fosters a dialogue across disciplines on how the weights correlate to the problem the team is trying to solve. Through this dialogue, teams are more likely to be invested and confident in how decisions are made.
The Bottom Line
Like any other framework, D/V/F is simply a tool that can be applied to a range of different scenarios and business challenges. Its simplicity and comprehensiveness is part of why it has been widely adopted. However, it’s paramount for teams to have a shared understanding of why this particular framework is being used. Is it to provide a directional lens on which ideas are worth further exploration? Or is it to determine investment decisions for a corporate innovation lab? The response will greatly influence not only the rigor required in developing the appropriate subcategories and weights, but the data needed and stakeholders involved.
In addition, for consultants using D/V/F, it’s vital to set clear expectations with clients about the intent of the framework and how it corresponds to where ideas are on the maturity curve (e.g. an early concept versus a product/service prepared to scale). As the ideas mature and more resources are involved, the fidelity of the framework and inputs needed should also be refined.
Nonetheless, the D/V/F framework can be used across a range of applications, but ultimately it should help make effective decisions and foster greater alignment, so that organizations can tap into diverse perspectives and unlock innovative solutions to address the rapid pace of businesses today.