Archive for September, 2013

Envisioning the Product

September 26, 2013 Leave a comment


Recently I was reading a chapter in a book. The title was “Envisioning the Product”.  It’s important that Scrum Team members know and understand what they are working for. I will mention a few snippets from the chapter.

1. The Product Vision: Understand the product vision. The vision describes why the project is being undertaken, and what the desired end state is. Asking question like, “Who is going to buy the product?”, “Who is the target customer?”, “Who are the target user?”, and so on will help pen down a vision.

2. Minimal Marketable Product: To create a vision, the Scrum team has to peek into the future and state what it believes the future product will roughly look like and do. As our ability to predict the future is limited, our best chance of success is to envision the minimal marketable product, a product with minimum functionality that meets the selected customer needs. The key is identifying a narrow set of customer needs, and full-filling them. Read the book “Software by Numbers” by Mark Denne and Jane Cleland-Huang’s for more insights.

Once the vision is available, it is turned into a shippable product by leveraging customer and user feedback; the feedback is collected by demoing product increments in the sprint review meetings and by releasing software early and frequently. Working this way allows the Scrum team to find out quickly if the right product is being developed.

Keep the following in mind.

a. Simplicity – Simplicity facilitates creating a product with the minimum functionality that is easy to use. Don’t mistake simplicity for creating simplistic products. As Leonardo da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

b. Ockham’s Razor – Using simplicity as a guiding principle. Ockham said “given a choice between functionally equivalent designs, the simplest design should be selected”. Simplicity is not only about the aesthetics of a product. It means focusing on the product’s essence, building only what is really needed, and being able to adjust and extend the product easily.

c. Less is More – “The simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction. When in doubt, just remove”, says MIT profession John Maeda, who is an expert in Simplicity. A company called 37Signals says “Do less than your competitors to beat them … Take whatever you think your product should be and cut it in half … Start off with a lean, smart app and let it gain traction. Then you can start to add to the solid foundation you’ve built.”

d. Simple User Interfaces – Google says “Our hope is to evolve products in new directions instead of just adding more features.” Google doesn’t set out to create feature-rich products; our best designs include only the features that people need to accomplish their goals”.

3. Customer Needs and Product Attributes – These are at the heart of the vision and deserve close attention. Selecting the relevant customer needs tells us which market or market segment we are going to address. By focusing on the needs, we view the product as a means to an end—serving the customer or user. Product attributes, on the other hand, are the critical properties the product must have in order to meet these needs. Once we have identified the product attributes, it’s often useful to prioritize them; attributes serving several needs are important and should be high priority. Prioritization is particularly helpful when attributes conflict.

Techniques for Creating the Vision:

a. Prototypes and Mock-ups

b. Personas and Scenarios

c. Use cases and User Stories

d. Sequences and Storyboards

e. Vision boxes and Trade Journal reviews

f. Kano Model

Product Road-map – The new product versions still need goals. A product road map allows the Scrum team to capture the goals of upcoming product versions; visioning now forms a part of creating and updating the product road map. A product road map is a planning artifact that shows how the product is likely to evolve across product versions, facilitating a dialogue between the Scrum team and the stakeholders. A road map allows organizations to coordinate the development and launch of related products, for instance, a product line or a product portfolio.

Minimal Products and Product Variants – As a product matures, it might address a growing number of customer needs, for instance, by serving customers in different segments and different regions. Dealing with many diverse needs makes it more difficult to create product updates with minimum functionality; more and more features are required to support an ever-growing number of customers and users. To solve the problem, we take advantage of product variants. Each variant addresses a specific customer group and market segment.

Common mistakes to avoid:

a. No Vision

b. Prophecy Vision

c. Analysis Paralysis

d. “We know best what is good for our customers”

e. “Big is beautiful”.

Reflection: Ensure Scrum teams have a shared vision. Think big, but start small.  Put the vision to the test by inviting customers and users to sprint review meetings and by quickly releasing a product increment. Then evolve your product based on their feedback.

Hope this article has provided some perspectives on Product Development.

Have a great day.

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