November 2, 2018

Case Study: How we converted the expectations of 30+ stakeholders into a unified product vision and roadmap

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 at Agmen'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 Inceptions as a method of saving 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
  • Mockups
  • Product Backlog Creation
  • Sizing

About Amgen

Amgen Inc. is an American multinational biopharmaceutical company headquartered in Thousand Oaks, California.

Focused on the cutting edge of molecular biology and biochemistry, its goal is to transform healthcare by providing cutting edge technology based on recombinant DNA.

Amgen’s offices in Thousand Oaks, CA
Amgen’s offices in Thousand Oaks, CA

Amgen’s Product

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.

The Amgen team working on the Vision Board
The Amgen team working on the Vision Board

We then consolidated the outcomes into a one master Product Vision Board that included input from every group:

Consolidated version of the Vision Board
Consolidated version of the Vision Board

Elevator Pitch

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.

Stakeholders Analysis

After the Product Vision was completed, we proceeded to work on Stakeholder Analysis

https://sophilabs.co/blog/product-inception-stakeholder-analysis in 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:

Trade-Off Sliders

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.

Trade-off sliders evaluation of different stakeholders
Trade-off sliders evaluation of different stakeholders

Stakeholder Analysis

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.

Influence vs Interest outcome
Influence vs Interest outcome

User Personas

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:

  1. Workflow Approver
  2. System Administrator
  3. Functional Area Administrator
  4. Project Administrator
  5. Project Member
  6. Analysis Consumer
  7. Platform Steward Checker
  8. Deployment Manager
  9. Dataset Publisher
  10. Analyst

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?

Partial view of Story Mapping
Partial view of Story Mapping

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.

Conclusion

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 wasnow ready to move forward with development knowing that they would creating a relevant and useful product that meet their stakeholders' needs.


"Case Study: How we converted the expectations of 30+ stakeholders into a unified product vision and roadmap" by Martin Prunell is licensed under CC BY SA. Source code examples are licensed under MIT.

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