Jonathan Bennett

You are the Mechanical Turk

Sometimes building out any type of software to test your idea might not be very effective. In these cases, it might be better to just fake it. A good example of this would be where a complicated report needs to be generated.

One approach to this is called a Mechanical Turk. With a Mechanical Turk, you take the order automatically but fulfil the order manually behind the scenes. This means that even a complicated process can largely be set up in a way that appears automatic for the end user.

How to Start

Setting up a Mechanical Turk system is deliberately very simple. You set up a front end which can receive an order easily. This could be something as simple as a WordPress website or a Typeform form. The results from this form will be submitted to your email. At that point, you’ll fulfil it manually and send the user an email with the results.

For the end-user, this appears highly automated, but because you are not building any custom software, you get to focus primarily on the marketing side of things and automating the fulfillment.

The one key to having a Mechanical Turk system is that you have to be able to promise asynchronous results. If they’re expecting live results this will not be possible.

What’s Next?

Once you have a mechanical system up and running, you can start standardizing the procedure for fulfillment. The standard operating procedure will be the foundational documentation if you do decide to completely automate the process.

With fulfilment properly documented, your ability to complete fulfilment will be greatly enhanced, but it also allows you to hire more staff to increase your capacity.

Alternatively, with a great intake process and a thoroughly documented fulfilment process, this is a perfect time to consider building out a full SaaS to completely automate the process.

By taking a Mechanical Turk approach to validating your software it means that you can have paying customers early on in the process. By using standard, off-the-shelf tools for intake, while still providing the service manually, you can deliver results without any custom software.

As with all other validation techniques, this allows you to get paying customers sooner and get feedback sooner so that you can build a better product if it’s even needed.