Software development – the great time of turning sketches into reality. At the end of this path, we expect to see high-quality products that deliver real tangible business value. But how about the development process itself? Most of our clients turn to us with the following questions:
– How to deliver solutions faster?
– How to reduce the costs of software development?
– How to minimize the project risk?
Two days for money savings, project safety and shorter delivery time.
Depending on project specifications, there are plenty of ways to achieve or improve each of these aspects. The universal answer is properly done pre-development phase. And the years of experience have taught us that the most effective preparation form is an intensive workshop. Regardless if you have your own dev team or outsource the software development, the good workshop will significantly increase your chances of getting the extra mile. And you can get it all with an investment of just two days. Below you will find our game plan to proceed one.
Value delivered – explained
The list of things you can gain by proceeding the ultimate workshops prior to the development phase.
- Budget safety – you will end up with the end of the workshop with a coherent product roadmap in your hand. At that point, you can ask any Dev team to estimate the workload needed to make your idea come true. What is more, the precise timeline gives you more control over the budget.
- Reduced project risk – Keep in mind that development is an iterative process! If you start at the wrong point, it will take more time. What is more, after the workshop you and the dev team know what to build in order to achieve project goals. It reduces the risk of developing difficult to deploy products.
- Shorter delivery time – The team understands what is the core functionality of your product and starts development with these priorities. Effect? You can deliver the real business value after the first sprint, you don’t have to wait for the final product release.
- Well-thought-out UX – customer-centric approach of the workshop puts the final user in the center of all the layout decisions. It helps you to avoid time-consuming and expensive changes in more advanced stages of development.
The rocket-workshop formula recipe
1. Get the diverse team together
Remember that basically, your software product consists of at least three pillars: business, technology, and design. Make sure you will gather the representatives of all of these fields in one room. It is a very fundamental step without which you will be playing a losing game.
Our experience: Discovery workshops are usually run by a team of:
- client’s representative – founder, project manager, head of the department – the person who represents the project’s business objectives
- product owner – the bridge between business and technology, focuses strongly on success criteria and helps to translate business objectives into product specification.
- tech lead – assists the product owner with technical expertise regarding the architecture and app features.
- UX designer – helps to maintain the customer-centric approach since the very early stage of product design. Providing an opinion about effortless user experience and intuitive design.
2. Introduce your project and the agenda
Wrap up all the vital project information. It takes only a few minutes and assures that everyone in the room has the same product understanding.
Apply it now:
The checklist of information you can provide at that point:
– What is the application goal?
– What are the primary assumptions of the project (features/performance/upgrades/security)
– Does the app already exist? If so, how old it is?
– Describe any work that has already been done towards the project.
– Is the app already live? Is there any user base using the app or related?
– What outcome will make this project successful?
Note: At the end of the workshop day, you might be surprised to find that some of that has completely changed!
3. Define business goals
Invaluable point of every workshop, helps all sides understand the real value proposition of the project and design the product to meet the expectations. This phase helps us decrease the risk of building products that don’t address the user’s needs. Remember that creating even perfect products with the wrong assumptions is a risky idea.
Our experience: it is quite common that after defining real product objectives, the partner decides to build different products or functionality than originally envisioned. This major shift is often dictated by a new, fresh perspective on the product. Result? Software addressing the core problem, more efficient or cheaper solution. At the end of the day – our goal is to achieve specific results, not to build a bunch of code. You can find more cases of pivots made after workshops in our portfolio.
4. Set up success criteria.
Natural continuation of the previous stage. It is no brainer that we need something to follow the actual effectiveness of the designed solution. The next step is to set some goals in order to benchmark expected results, with genuine value delivered. Usually, after we defined the business goals, the sketchy indicators come pretty effortlessly. However, try to be as specific as possible – take into consideration all the potential indicators. For example – if you create a newsfeed app for your employee, the very basic target would be:
– 80% of employees download the app.
However, the real app-value corresponds to such objectives as:
– The app is run on average six times a week by not less than 20% of all users.
– The average user reads at least two whole articles per week.
– The time needed to process a document is reduced from 6 minutes to 20 seconds.
5. Create User Personas
The entry point of the workshop. Visualization of the particular person increases our empathy, which lets us understand user’s problems. In effect – design a solution corresponding to those needs. It is important to apply this user-centric approach to all the stages of the development process. At this moment, we should define the user’s profiles in terms of needs, motivations, goals, and frustrations. The output of this phase provides a groundwork for the next steps.
6. Define User Journey
In Inwedo we perceive all the operations in terms of processes. The illustration of the process schema helps us better understand the connections between particular points. Moreover, the comprehensive picture gives us a broader perspective on the overall project. The perfect example of this approach is working out the theoretical process of user-product usage. Remember to describe the whole process step by step with the details. Try to identify all of the user journey stages and point the most critical ones in terms of the customer journey. Keep in mind assumptions from your persona while defining the user journey.
7. Write Down User Stories
Follow the user journey path to point out all the essential functionalities. Then take the list and, for each point, create few short descriptions of usage from the user’s perspective. The set of properly done user stories has a great impact on development process efficiency and in the end – lower costs.
Apply it now:
The basic user story formula is as follow:
As [Persona Name] + I want to [user’s action] so I can [user’ benefit]
“As Maria, I want to compare all the travel insurance offers, so I can easily choose the best one.”
“As David, I want to see the exact car look in the configurator, so I can compare the versions before I visit the salon.”
That’s it. The workshop part is done.
But your team still has a few more steps to go. The information determined during the workshop is a material for the tech team to form proper pre-development documentation. And this documentation guarantees the value promised before. Note this output before you give a green light for development!
- Product roadmap – here you should gather all the functionalities, priorities, and timeframe for particular functions. In this document, you should attach all the elements that should be done toward product completion. What is more, take on board all the related assumptions and risks. The roadmap should be designed based on the workshop’s output. It is extremely important for you to indicate which functionalities have the highest priorities.
- Wireframes or mockups – first drafts of the layout of your app. Another element accelerating the software development process. Depending on your team competencies in terms of UX designers – you can end up with complex clickable mockups or basic sketches.
- From our experience – Having even the most basic wireframes in hand is super useful during the development process. Learn it by heart – one of the pre-development goals is to reduce the time team spend on conceptual thinking, and maximize time spent for coding. Which simply effects maximizing business value and lower development costs. This is why in Discovery Workshops, regardless of the presence of UX Designer in the workshop team, we always present a UX output. In case the client doesn’t ask for design specialists, the basic concepts are made by the product owner.
- Technology recommendations – made based on the workshop’s output assumptions, such as number of users, data storage, number of integration, etc. The tech team proposes architecture structure, technologies to apply, pros and cons of all the possible solutions.
- Project estimations – in terms of workload/sprint/man-hours. With this in hand, you exactly know how deep you need to dig into your pocket.
The whole workshop formula concentrates around users and business values. This is why the mentioned team diversity is essential in order to create valuable output. The real advantage of this approach is: clearly defined project goals translated into the language of technology, with the precise development plan. In general, the rule is simple: the better job you do at the pre-development, the fewer iterations and looking for solutions left for developers. And trust me, one or two working days in exchange for project safety, and smooth start is a real bargain. We have been there many times if you want to find more about the workshops, just drop us an email.