Family Tree

Use the Family Tree experiment method to validate the need for an automated solution

family tree validation
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Family Tree

The Family Tree experiment is a method used to validate the need for an automated solution by identifying and analysing existing manual processes. This approach helps determine if there is a genuine need for automation, indicating a market for such solutions and aligning with user habits to facilitate easier adoption.

The Family Tree Method for Problem Validation

Difficulty/Ease: 5/10
Conducting a Family Tree experiment involves an intermediate level of effort. It requires identifying, documenting, and understanding manual processes that are candidates for automation, which can be complex depending on the industry and the processes involved.

Time Taken: 5/10
The time required to complete a Family Tree experiment can vary. It involves a detailed examination of current manual practices, which might take time to observe and analyse, followed by a phase of conceptualising how these can be automated.

Evidence Level: 2/10
The Family Tree method evaluates manual processes, potentially improving them through automation. However, it primarily relies on theoretical models and stakeholder feedback, lacking direct evidence of automation success in real-world settings.

Metrics for the Family Tree Validation Method

Evidence Metrics:

  • Prevalence of Manual Processes: Identifies how widespread manual methods are within the target market.
  • Efficiency Gains from Automation: Estimates the potential improvements in speed, accuracy, and cost-efficiency with automation.
  • User Acceptance: Measures the willingness of users to adopt new technologies based on their familiarity with existing practices.


  • Feasibility: Ensures that the automation is technically and logistically feasible within the current operational frameworks.
  • Desirability: Confirms that there is a real demand for the solution, based on the inconvenience or inefficiency of the manual processes.
  • Viability: Demonstrates that the automated solution can sustainably meet the needs of the market with clear advantages over existing methods.


Steps to conduct a Family Tree experiment effectively:

  1. Identify Manual Processes: Document current manual processes that are essential yet cumbersome for potential users.
  2. Engage with Stakeholders: Interview employees, customers, and other stakeholders who interact with these processes to understand their pain points and needs.
  3. Analyse Manual Workflows: Map out the workflows to pinpoint inefficiencies and areas where errors commonly occur.
  4. Conceptualise Automated Solutions: Consider the latest technological advancements and develop theoretical models of how these processes could be automated.
  5. Assess Alignment with User Habits: Ensure the proposed automation aligns with existing user behaviours and practices for smoother adoption.

What Should I Use the Family Tree For?

The Family Tree method should be used to:

  • Validate the need for automation in industries or areas with heavy reliance on manual processes.
  • Design user-friendly solutions that are intuitive and integrate seamlessly into existing workflows.
  • Enhance productivity and accuracy by replacing outdated manual methods with efficient automated systems.


Interpreting results from the Family Tree experiment involves:

  • Evaluating user feedback on the proposed automated solutions to gauge acceptance levels.
  • Quantifying potential benefits such as time saved, errors reduced, and overall efficiency improved.
  • Making informed decisions about whether to proceed with development based on the validated need and potential market acceptance.

Tools That Can Be Used

Effective tools for conducting a Family Tree experiment include:

  • Process Mapping Software: Tools like Lucidchart or Microsoft Visio to visualise existing workflows.
  • Survey and Feedback Tools: Platforms like SurveyMonkey or Google Forms to gather input from users and stakeholders.
  • Data Analysis Tools: Software such as Excel or Tableau to analyse data and model potential improvements.

Examples of Manual Implementations

  • Expense Reporting Automation: Automating the manual compilation and submission of expense reports to save time, reduce errors, and improve financial visibility.
  • Quality Control in Manufacturing: Implementing sensors and machine learning to automate quality checks, which improves product quality and reduces dependency on manual inspections.

This systematic approach not only confirms the necessity and market readiness for automated solutions but also ensures that new technologies are developed so that they are readily adopted and successfully integrated into existing operational frameworks.

Examples Used of the Family Tree Method

  1. Expensify: This startup tackled the tedious manual process of expense reporting. Recognizing the time-consuming nature of gathering receipts and filling out reports, Expensify developed an app that automates expense tracking by scanning receipts and categorizing expenses. This solution validated the need for a faster, more efficient way to manage expenses, particularly appealing to freelancers and small businesses.
  2. Rippling: Rippling automates the complex manual processes involved in employee management, from payroll to benefits and IT services. By providing a single platform that handles all these functions automatically, Rippling has validated the need for a more streamlined approach to HR and IT, which is particularly beneficial for small to mid-sized companies looking to reduce administrative overhead.
  3. Gusto: Initially focusing on automating payroll for small businesses, Gusto expanded to streamline related HR processes, such as benefits administration and compliance. Gusto’s approach to automating these manual tasks validated the market demand for a comprehensive, easy-to-use HR platform tailored to the needs of small businesses.
  4. Kabbage: Kabbage addresses the manually intensive process of applying for and managing small business loans. By automating the application and decision-making process, Kabbage provides quick access to funding for small businesses, validating the need for speed and efficiency in financial lending.
  5. Cobalt Robotics: This startup offers robotic security services that automate the manual process of surveillance and monitoring in buildings. Cobalt Robotics’ use of robots to patrol premises validates the feasibility and desirability of using automation to enhance security services, making it appealing to facilities looking for reliable, 24/7 on-site security.

These startups have effectively used automation to transform traditional manual processes into efficient, scalable solutions, validating their ideas through direct engagement with the market and demonstrating the viability of their products. This approach not only serves to streamline operations but also provides these companies with a competitive edge in their respective industries.