Let’s dive into Agile Inception – The loop approach part 3! But first, this is the third and last article explaining Agile Inception – The Loop Approach. All three articles are part of Softhouse’s issue Agile Inception in 60 min. We hope you enjoy reading about how to combine different agile inception techniques. Remember, the loop approach of the three main agile inception strategies we use within this series of articles is three out of many. You will pick and choose and put together the loop you need. Enjoy the read, and best of luck with your loops! Read part 1 here and part 2 here!
LOOP 3: GO & DO!
For an organization delivering products through a simple customer lifecycle, WHO needs a product visualization/prototype before proceeding with project chartering and release planning, “Go & Do!” IS AN agile collaboration loop THAT delivers a validated business model, UNLIKE a traditional business initiative, “GO & DO!” delivers in 5 working days.
This loop generates prototype(s) to get customer insight and hence to validate business viability. Loop 3 is suitable for teams and organizations that want to explore customer and user preferences and needs through validated learning to really understand what “do the right thing right and fast” means for their customer base.
A pre-condition to succeed with the loop is to execute the techniques with a collocated, cross-functional team with demo and/or deployment access and with key stakeholders and customers available in parallel for fast answers and validation of results.
When to use
Loop 3 is used when the answer is yes to any of these questions:
- Is your product context such that you can deploy prototypes for actual customer and user feedback (validated learning)?
- Do you need validation of what business value strategy fits your users and customers?
- Do you need to start aligning the ongoing output from your agile development with an evolving business model, then this loop might fit your needs.
5 working days
Let’s get into the loop
No time for analysis paralysis – just do it. Why should we deliver this product? Who are the stakeholders? Which are the most critical impacts/capabilities that our users and customers “really” need? This loop is inspired by Lean Startup principles such as “minimal viable product” and “validated learning.” Lean Startup is a concept created by Eric Ries, and it is based on a Build-Measure-Learn cycle of continuous innovation that is at the heart of loop 3. You can read more about Lean Startup here: http://theleanstartup.com/#principles.
Impact mapping is a technique that fits well with aspects of Lean Startup. We recommend starting loop 3 with an Impact Map – here is why!
Mind mapping is a suitable technique to boost creativity and help you to find out and also remember “why” through a connected visualization. A good practice is to build mind maps and impact maps with stickers on a whiteboard. This format lets everyone in a team participate, and it is easy to make changes.
Gojko Adzic created impact mapping as a means to shift the conversation from what is needed to why we want to achieve a certain type of business goal or effect and identify the impact needed to reach the goal. The model is about understanding the behaviors that need to change among key stakeholders to achieve a sustainable result.
As such, an Impact map is a specific mind map format, which organizes your ideas in a logical structure – deriving the minimal amount of capabilities (what) needed to be tied together with strategies on how to facilitate the changed behavior (how) among key stakeholders (who) that need to be impacted to achieve the goal (why).
- First, identify the goal; why is this important?
- Next step, who are the stakeholders/actors who we need to influence and impact (who can block it or support the goal)?
- What actual impacts do we need the actors to engage in as a desired behavior change to progress towards the goal?
- Finally, what organizational activities and/or software capabilities, in short, are the deliverables that will facilitate the impacts being achieved?
- At this point, you can focus on finding the shortest path through the map to execute the goal. Applying this strategy gives you the least “wasteful” first view of the work needed!
Impact mapping may look straightforward, but an experienced facilitator will certainly be worth the effort. We think Impact Mapping is a good way to initiate the Inception work since it is a fast, structured way to identify the gameplay and the value strategy that we need to agree on before we start to work more product and capability-centric and build the prototype.
After a quick brainstorm to find out why, for whom, how, and what, it is time for UX. You might think this is for specialists only. Well, it used to be. Nowadays, there are pretty cool tools at hand, but a Lean UX specialist is always handy.
Transform the identified product capabilities into a prototype; visualization is a superior means of communication to get early customer insight. Start by making the simplest possible prototype, a minimally viable product, as its whole purpose is to validate the business model through customer feedback. Typically, people start sketchy and improve their look and feel as an idea evolves.
To use your prototype to generate insights, you must decide on the target customer segment. The quickest possible way to identify customer segments in relation to value proposition, revenue, and cost structures, is to “play” with a business model.
Business Model Canvas (BMC)
A business model canvas explores the viability of a product idea, commonly by smoke-testing prototypes, e.g., landing pages against identified customer segments. The main purpose is to create a valid business model or else to kill early.
If yours is a product effort from scratch, we recommend that you and your team build a BMC to have a structured way to perform your continuous innovation of the minimal viable product (MVP) or prototype. And even if you are working on planning the next larger step in your Product Lifecycle of an existing product, it might be beneficial to try out this technique to really narrow down the most critical steps needed to achieve a tangible business result.
The Impact map that initiated this loop helped create crucial output that the Business Model Canvas template used as input to integrate and construct an initial BMC. Actors support the Customer Segments and Key Partners part of the BMC. Impacts and deliverables support the Value Proposition as well as Key Activities.
After populating this information, it is time to consider cost structure and revenue streams. Then design a hypothesis and formulate a quantifiable metric. Finally, create a prototype and generate insights from your customer segment. We view the BMC as the main technique to make your Impact map come alive and to support the validated learning and continuous innovation work that is at the heart of this loop.
We would like to expand on the aspect of the hypothesis to make it easier to understand how “done” the prototype or minimal viable product (MVP) can be to yield useful input from the customers. The hypothesis, in this case, is a test hypothesis that needs to be formulated with quantifiable metrics that supports the insight collection.
Some popular test strategies are summarized below:
Smoke test (complete product)
- The MVP strategy for a web application (or app) is to create a mock website (or app) for the product and purchase online advertising to direct traffic to the site.
- The mock website (or app) may include a marketing landing page with a link for more information or purchase.
- The link is not connected to a purchasing system; instead, clicks are recorded and measure customer interest.
Deploy first, code later (feature by feature)
- A link to a new feature in a web application may be provided in a prominent location on an existing website.
- The feature is not implemented, rather, an apology, mock-up, or marketing page is provided.
- Clicks of the link are recorded and provide an indication as to the demand for the feature in the customer base.
- Manually perform the service you want to investigate for a customer in your customer segments for free, for a period of time.
Wizard of Oz
- People doing manual work behind the scenes
Build an audience
- to reconcile your thoughts
- to have potential customers when the product is launched
- Sell the product to people before you have the product
- Ask for a credit card or pre-payment
Collect metrics, adjust the prototype, and generate new learnings – rinse and repeat!
Congrats, you have concluded loop 3 – or, more correctly, started loop 3!
You now have a Business model that is validated while incrementally exploring the prototype with actual customer input, minimizing waste and maximizing value delivery. The Impact map supported the kickstart of crucial input data for the BMC as well as helping to identify what the MVP needs to contain – a very useful means to an end.
We hope you have enjoyed reading about our 2 cents on how to combine different agile inception techniques. Remember, the loop approach of the three main agile inception strategies we play with in this book is three out of many. You will pick and choose and put together the loop you need, and we wish you the best of luck!
If you wish to use content or use images that are part of this book, please acknowledge the source when doing so. Copyright Softhouse NordicAB. We are inspired by Open Source communities where principles of open and free access to knowledge and results are central, and information, as well as experiences, need to be shared. The agile community is very much driven by contributing and sharing knowledge, and we have benefited much from others work. It is about time we contribute as well.
When talking & conceptualizing the “… in 60 minutes” and the related “2 cents on Agile” blog idea, we specifically used “Scrum and XP from the trenches” by Henrik Kniberg as an example of the type of hands-on publication we wanted to create although you will see how “… in 60 minutes” differ due to the nature of content and areas we address.