Software development projects require a maker mindset and comprehensive planning to be successful. Just like building a house, if a product’s vision, blueprint, or the foundation is wrong, the output has serious problems. Successful projects start with everyone understanding the goals, processes, general requirements, and technologies. If projects start with even the slightest misunderstanding, there will eventually be problems. Once a full team is engaged, these problems can be costly – to the product team and to your business. Many executives have experience and opinions about avoiding failing software projects.
This is where Modus Kickstart can help.
It is critical that software teams start a project on the right footing. It can make the difference between success and failure, reduce the risk of lost time from team storming, and ensure that everyone is working to the same goals. Modus Kickstart is our solution to help our clients begin their digital initiatives for success.
After working with companies of all sizes, Modus has developed a process that brings product management, design, and engineering together. During a Modus Kickstart, teams get alignment, write user stories, discuss priorities, explore users and designs, plan architecture, determine the best team: everything that needs to be ready for kicking off development.
The Modus Kickstart is a structured, facilitated set of workshops to help accelerate a successful product release. It outlines a framework for facilitated product discussions and feature prioritization based on key assumptions, constraints, and KPIs leading to a more clearly defined plan. Depending on the complexity and breadth of the product, Modus Kickstart workshops can be offered as a one week, two-week, or four-week engagement.
Product Team Alignment and Preparedness
For a project to succeed, everyone involved needs to define and agree on what success actually is. In many software projects, there are subtle differences in understanding the ultimate vision for the project. This is Modus Kickstart objective #1: alignment. All stakeholders should be clear on what the vision is, what the ideal outcomes are, and what the pieces are that will get the team to their eventual outcomes.
From there, the team shifts to the next step: preparedness. This entails getting into the weeds of who users are, what the flow is, writing the user stories, and diving into all of the other things that will be critical to have ready when the full team starts on Day 1.
Collaboration Between UX, Product, and Engineering
Modus Kickstart helps to align and prepare for development by first bringing the three key players of software development together: product, UX, and engineering. It is collaboration, agreement, and communication between these three groups that will make the software successful. A Kickstart gets these three groups in a room together: both on the Modus side and on our clients’. By first level-setting on the vision and defining what to build, these collaborative sessions will lay out what key elements need to be prepared for the start of the project.
Modus Kickstart Workshop, Business, and Product Goals
Product Vision and Goals
The overall vision of your product is at the heart of what you are building and why. It is shocking how few software projects start out with this, but it is critical that everyone be on the same page with the mission. So this is where we start: workshops to define key business drivers and articulate a clear message of what is being built and why. Writing the vision down and discussing it in a session ensures that everyone on the team knows it.
With a defined vision, teams can set clear goals that will dictate the outcomes everyone is driving toward. No matter how you structure your goals: as generalized goals, Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) or a combination – they need to be defined upfront before you get started – this can help enlighten all of the decisions made along the way and keep everyone working towards outcomes instead of working towards just building something.
Opportunity and Problem
In some projects, it will be necessary to define the underlying market and problem before conceiving the app. This requires analyzing the opportunity and diving deep into the problems that potential users are having.
Opportunity discovery is looking into what, exactly the ideal entry point for this particular application or feature is in the market. This can involve competitive research or other exercises to help understand the marketplace and where the optimal entry point is or where the best play is depending on your business strategy, strengths as well as competition.
The opportunity can then be tested by going into the problem space. Every good product is rooted in a solid understanding of what the real problem is that your users are having with (or without) existing tools. This is done through good user research. That research also validates the opportunity.
Customer Alignment and User Experience
In all Modus Kickstarts, there will be a strong focus on UX. Modus design consultants will learn more about the users and sketch out personas enlightened by user interviews, or proto-personas going off of assumptions and we currently know about users. Ideation exercises and design studio workshops help define what the solution will be and how it might look. Later, user flows, sitemaps, wireframes, and/or prototypes will be developed; ultimately aiming to get these in front of users to see how they perform.
Sample User Persona
Now, with an understanding of the design, the Modus Kickstart team shifts focus to technology. Not just what technologies will be used to build and deploy the app, but deeper dives on architectural elements, risk assessment, proofs of concept (in longer Kickstarts), and data modeling. This phase ensures that all elements of the tech solution are prepared for the engineering team.
In final sessions, consultants prepare for the project to begin at the end of the Modus Kickstart. Product and project management experts determine what the optimal team should look like, collaborating on epics and candidate user stories, prioritizing work, drafting a roadmap, crafting a release plan, and finally, queuing up the first sprint. Now the team is set up for a successful software build.
More About Modus Kickstart
What sessions are done will depend on the specifics of the project at hand. How every Modus Kickstart is organized varies. Modus Kickstart is a prix fixe menu of artifacts, workshops, and exercises that are customized to the needs of the project at hand. Modus Kickstart can be prepended to an engineering engagement, or done as a standalone.