At aFrogleap, we use a four stages process for turning your brilliant idea into an awesome product. It’s called Think It, Build It, Ship It, Tweak It. This is the third in a series of articles on how we conduct this process. After finishing the previous “Think It”-stage, we now have answered the question “Is this product worth building?” with a positive: Yes! Currently we have a shared understanding of the product vision and feedback from real potential customers on the prototype(s) we made and tested. Now what?
Build It-stage checklist:
- Create a roadmap
- Create a backlog
- Build it!
- Is this ready for real users?
1. Create a roadmap
Based on the product vision and feedback we have of the prototype, we’ll start creating a roadmap on how to build your product. This roadmap will contain a number of goals; each representing a new release of the product. Each goal has a high-level description of it’s functionalities, and the metrics which will be used to determine when that goal will be met.
The first step in creating the roadmap is to determine the goal of the “Build It”-stage. This way we can build a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) that is good enough to be released to external users, and good enough to prove something about the product. This way we don’t have to build a complete product before shipping it, but we can learn from real users as quickly as possible instead. So we need to figure out the smallest possible increment of the product we can build, which fulfils the product vision and will delight the users.
All other goals will be build on the foundation that we create with the MVP, so we’ll make sure that it is extendable and is able to evolve over time.
2. Create a backlog
Derived from the roadmap we will create a “product backlog”. This product backlog is a list with “user stories”. User stories are a way to describe the desired functionalities from an end user point of view, using a simple template like; “So that [benefit] as a [role] I want [goal/desire]”. The stories we expect to work on in the coming few weeks, those of the MVP, will be more detailed and fine mazed. Stories for the other goals will be bigger in size and less concrete, and that’s okay for now. If needed, we will work that out in our weekly backlog refinement sessions in the coming weeks.
We now have an initial product backlog. A prioritised list of the functionalities that we’re going to build. It’s time for a game! Planning poker! We use planning poker as a method to estimate the whole backlog, based on the information we currently have. With this we can give indications in what timeframe the goals will be done. When we’re actually building the product it’s possible we’ll generate new insights which can affect the estimates. By updating the backlog we’ll make sure this is always visible right away.
3. Build it!
Now we can start with building the first release of the product! We will do this in weekly iterations, called sprints. During the week we’ll have daily updates to keep you posted and to discuss what to do with unforeseen issues.
At the end of every week there will be a new update ready which we‘ll demonstrate. It could also be that we did a spike during the sprint, from which we’ll discuss the outcomes in the same session. Spikes are activities such as research, investigation, exploration and prototyping. We do spikes to gain knowledge to reduce the risk of a technical approach, get a better understanding of a requirement, or increase the reliability of a user story estimate.
Now is a good moment to inspect and adapt as a team.
- Are the results as expected?
- Are we still on track?
- Is the product vision up to date?
- How are the roadmap and the backlog?
These always need to reflect the latest insights in order for the team to have a clear understanding of where they’re heading and what is most important to focus on.
4. Is this ready for real users?
The moment of truth! We have done a number of sprints and built all functionalities as defined as the MVP. Because the metrics we defined for the goal are now being met, we feel confident to release the product to real users. This will be done in the “Ship It”-stage, in which we’ll gradually roll out the product to 100% of the users. More on this in a next blog post!