At sophilabs, we ensure all stakeholders are aligned from the start, and that everyone involved with the product is aware of its scope and feasibility. This is essential to the project’s success as it correctly sets expectations and allows the Product Owner to have a much better sense of how to manage the Product Backlog properly.
We recently conducted an on-site product inception workshop at Amgen's headquarters in Thousand Oaks, California. In this workshop, not only did we create a unified vision of the product, but we also discovered that a bulk of the planned work not necessary for a successful product. Instances like these are why we champion product inception as a way to save time and resources.
We gathered over 30 different stakeholders from varying backgrounds and used some of our favorite techniques to discover key concepts that were crucial to define before development began. These included:
- Product Vision Board
- Elevator Pitch
- Trade-off Sliders
- Stakeholders Analysis
- Personas Analysis - User Personas
- Epic Story Mapping
- Product Backlog Creation
Amgen Inc. is an American multinational biopharmaceutical company headquartered in Thousand Oaks, California.
Focused on molecular biology and biochemistry, its goal is to transform healthcare by providing cutting edge technology based on recombinant DNA.
Amgen wanted to build a platform for data scientists that would enable collaboration while also enforcing security and auditing practices.
Previous iterations did not assemble the right group of stakeholders prior to beginning development. This impacted the current prototype because there was never a comprehensive set of goals to build towards.
Product Vision Board
We started the session with the Product Vision Board, dividing the audience into groups, and providing each one with a separate area to gather their ideas.
We then consolidated the outcomes into a one master Product Vision Board that included input from every group:
We again segmented the participants to work on elevator pitches, letting each group come up with individual versions before consolidating the ideas into one all-encompassing statement:
A consolidated experience for Data Scientists that enables collaboration and provisioning of resources to expedite the Data Science journey from idea to production deployment, and for resource administrators to be able to receive and approve all requests in a secure and efficient manner.
After the Product Vision was completed, we proceeded to work on Stakeholder Analysisin order to understand the needs of all those involved in the project.
Some of the most important techniques we used include Trade-off Sliders and Interest vs. Influence. You can see the outcome of these activities below:
Participants for this activity were asked to rank the relative importance of several features of the product against each other. The purpose was to establish the baseline of priorities, so that any future disagreements would have a reference point for mediation.
Our next step was to ensure we had a complete vision of the project stakeholders, and determine the right level of their involvement. This is a critical step for any successful agile project, and can often be overlooked. In cases like this, we find explicit is always better than implicit.
When it came time to work on User Personas, we again collected everyone’s input and combined it with the outcome of previous techniques in Stakeholder Analysis and Product Vision in order to compile the following list of User Personas:
- Workflow Approver
- System Administrator
- Functional Area Administrator
- Project Administrator
- Project Member
- Analysis Consumer
- Platform Steward Checker
- Deployment Manager
- Dataset Publisher
The User Personas activity defines a realistic representation of the user base and allows us to begin creating user stories around the typical interactions different users have with the system.
Epic Story Mapping
With the User Personas and the Product Vision completed, we explored the functionality of the product at a high-level, creating a Story Map that would eventually help us to create the Product Backlog. Our guiding thought was: how will each User Persona accomplish their goals in a way that achieves our Product Vision?
Mockups, Product Backlog & Estimation
With the participation of all stakeholders during the Product Inception activities, we were able to create a well-defined roadmap for the product. Rapid prototyping and mockups also enabled us to estimate the effort required to deliver the platform.
Interestingly, we discovered that the work could be divided into two completely separate projects, giving Amgen flexibility on delivery. One of the phases could even be substituted with a third party platform. Discovering this before development began offered Amgen the potential to save precious time and resources, another crucial reason why the Product Inception is so important.
At the end of the workshop, we produced a comprehensive list of features for the new system categorized by "must-have" and “nice-to-have”, as well as a roadmap to product completion.
The Product Owner now had a wealth of information to create and prioritize the backlog, and all stakeholders were aligned on the project’s scope and duration. With a comprehensive Product Inception process behind them, Amgen was now ready to move forward with development knowing that they would creating a relevant and useful product that meet their stakeholders' needs.
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The Product Vision Board: The First Step to Discovering a Successful Software Product
In the first installment of our Product Inception Series, we explore the Product Vision Board. Read on to find out more about defining your product vision and starting off the product inception phase on the right foot.
Stakeholder Analysis: Another Key Piece of Product Inception
In this second installment of the Product Inception Series, we explore the various techniques we use to conduct a thorough Stakeholder Analysis, including Stakeholder Mapping and Trade-Off Sliders.
Persona Analysis: Understanding Users to Build the Best Possible Product
We continue our exploration of Product Inception with an in-depth look at user personas, which allow us to build a product that will truly help users meet their goals.
Making A Story Map: How to Shape the Big Picture During Product Inception
In the final installment of our Product Inception Series, we walk through how to create a Story Map, a great tool for prioritizing features, determining scope, and planning the first release.
Product Inception: Defining the Who, What, Why, and How of a Digital Product
In this introduction to our Product Inception series, we explain what Product Inception is and why it's an essential part of creating a successful software product. We then break down the different phases of Product Inception that we explore throughout our series of posts.