How to Run a Product Development Workshop - DO OK

How to Run a Product Development Workshop

During the previous articles in this series, we’ve discussed the discovery phase of project management, the advantages of running discovery workshops for startups and the product development process, and some of the reasons why you may (or may not) want to run a product workshop.

Today, we’re doing a deeper dive into how to run a product development workshop, and what to expect at different stages of the process.

Understanding the Online Workshop - Part 4

This article is part 4 in a five-part series about online discovery, product, and design workshops driven by value. Click the links below to go back or skip ahead to the next article.

 

 

What is a product discovery workshop?

 

During the previous articles in this series, we’ve discussed the discovery phase of project management, the advantages of running discovery workshops for startups and the product development process, and some of the reasons why you may (or may not) want to run a product workshop. Today, we’re doing a deeper dive into how to run a product development workshop, and what to expect at different stages of the process.

 

Why you should run a product workshop

 

A joint study of Oxford & McKinsey & Company conducted numerous surveys of IT executives, and found that about half of all cost overruns result from failing to clearly define project objectives, business focus, requirements or technical complexity. An additional 40 percent of overspending results from poor performance on design team alignment, skill availability, unrealistic scheduling or reactive planning.

 

McKinsey study of cost overruns in IT project management

Source: McKinsey.com

 

All of these pitfalls can be avoided with a rigorous, thorough product development process including discovery and product workshops, in order to understand and define a project from every angle, including ones you haven’t thought of yet.   

  

How to run a product development workshop

All product workshops are not created equal. At DO OK, we use a set of custom activities, methodologies, and toolsets developed over thousands of hours with hundreds of clients. While there are as many approaches to running a product development workshop as there are experts in the field, let’s outline the process we use to help clients achieve their vision for a product.

Preparing for the workshop

1. Decide on an overall goal

First, you should have an overarching goal or mission statement for the workshop. There will be several hours-long sessions over multiple days, so it’s important to have a theme to fall back on in moments of uncertainty. Here are a few examples:

  • Define the technical requirements of the product and create a development plan.

  • Understand business needs, user journeys, pain points, and other shared values.

  • Align stakeholder & customer values with product features & design processes.

2. Define workshop deliverables

Once the goal is set, your workshop organizer should provide you with an agreed-upon list of artifacts, or deliverables, that the sessions will generate. Here are the most common items that we deliver from workshops with our clients:

  • Value-driven Pyramid, outlining stakeholder & customer values

  • A set of Lean Canvas business models for each customer segment

  • High-level minimum viable product (MVP) scope

  • Main user personas & user journeys Value-driven Backlog (list of features mapped to values from the Value-driven Pyramid)

  • Lists of key hypotheses, assumptions and risks

  • Recommended software architecture

  • Project plan, team competencies and composition

  • Estimates (effort, calendar time, cost) for developing the MVP

3. Choose and invite participants

Since these sessions are driven by full participation from all members, we recommend 4-8 participants, which can include parties from your own office and those of your consultant. The roster should look something like this::

  • Workshop lead (business analyst)

  • Project manager / Product development lead

  • User experience designer or developer

  • Business development officer

  • Experienced developer / tech leader

  • Product owner (either a person or a team)

  • Other relevant roles (optional)

4. Set a clear agenda, time frame, and objectives

Spending more time in product development workshops defining your product vision, goals, requirements, and key performance indicators (KPI’s), can save a lot of time on the backend, when a more thorough understanding of how the product delivers value to customers is necessary to expand your service or add new features.

A rough schedule might be arranged like the following:

  • Brainstorming: 3-4 working days before the workshop begins, organizer and participants communicate to solidify goals and agenda, prepare documents like a competition canvas, or conduct market research.
  • Schedule option #1:
    • 4 consecutive workshop days

    • 4-5 working hours per day, 1-hour break to maximize efficiency
  • Schedule option #2:
    • 3-4 workshop days, 5-6 hours including breaks each day

    • 1-2 day breaks between workshops

 Competition canvas for a product development workshop

Source: OpenClassrooms.com

  • Value-driven Pyramid, outlining stakeholder & customer values

  • A set of Lean Canvas business models for each customer segment

  • High-levelminimum viable product (MVP), scope

  • Main user personas & user journeys Value-driven Backlog (list of features mapped to values from the Value-driven Pyramid)

  • Lists of key hypotheses, assumptions and risks

  • Recommended software architecture

  • Project plan, team competencies and composition

  • Estimates (effort, calendar time, cost) for developing the MVP

5. Choose and invite participants

Book a conference room or other room with enough space for all the attendees and activities you have planned, as well as large whiteboards or other surfaces suitable for writing notes, and sticking or pinning post-it notes.
You may also need some of the following, or other materials for specific exercises:

  • Pens, pencils, sticky notes, loose sheets of paper, notepads

  • Computer for the “scribe” or note-taker

  • Projector/Display for displaying pictures, video, or other media

Online workshops during the COVID-19 pandemic

As companies and employees shift to remote work due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, online meetings and workshops are fast becoming the new normal. At DO OK, we offer our clients the option of complete online digital consulting services, for the safety and comfort of your team. For organizing online workshops, be prepared with the following: 

  • Sessions booked on Zoom, Google Meet/Hangout, Skype, etc.

  • Pre-shared files on Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.

  • Online productivity tools such as Canva, Trello, Pomodoro, etc.

  • Online collaboration tools like Miro or Google Jamboard (now possible to launch from Google Meet directly!)

Contact our value-focused business analyst now!

Running the workshop

With your goals defined, activities planned, and agenda set, it’s time to run the product development workshop! Remember, the more time you spend planning and preparing for the workshop, the easier and more productive this part will be. Here are some helpful ideas, questions to ask, and best practices to keep the workshop running smoothly.

 

 

Questions to ask during the product workshop

 

What is the goal of the product?

Structure questions around the reason for your product, and even your company, to exist. What benefits does the product provide for the company? What do you want to improve? Define metrics and KPI’s, and ask how to measure success over different time periods.

 

Who uses the product?

Think about who uses your product, when, where, and how they interact with it. Ask yourself why they use it, what their motivations, expectations, and challenges are. What are the reasons to use your product over a competitor?

 

What do users do with the product?

Start mapping user personas to user stories such as login flow, making purchases, running a search, etc., in order to define the experiences that a user has with your product. Build the customer journey map by connecting user interactions with product features.

 

How can user experience be improved?

Which actionable improvements can be attached to user experiences? What are some of the negative experiences a user currently experiences with the application, and what are the opportunities to improve?

 

 

Best practices, strategies, tips & tricks for running a great workshop

 

  1. Include every attendee. A condensed and highly visual pyramid diagram that identifies stakeholder and customer values.

  2. Use positive statements to optimise participant output. Phrases like “Let me see if I’ve got that correct…” or “That’s very interesting, but…” to make sure everyone understands important information, and keep attention focused on critical tasks

  3. Stay on task. Every workshop has lots of opportunities to dive down various topical rabbit holes. Make sure activities are achieving their stated objectives, and those discussions don’t stray too far off topic.

  4. Don’t do everything yourself. Product development workshops take a lot of time and effort to organize and run. Someone in the room, such as the “scribe” (note taker) should be designated to assist you with small tasks and help keep things running smoothly.

  5. Take breaks. Workshops typically take place over several days for 2-4 hour sessions, so it’s important that everyone is rested and free of distractions. Provide adequate breaks, and make sure attendees have time to attend to everyday tasks outside the sessions.

  6. Collate results. Make sure you didn’t miss anything. Check artifacts after each session and ensure that every attendee contributed to the workshop output, wherever their input was relevant.

 

Notes from a product development workshop

After product design workshops

At this stage, the workshop is complete, the room is quiet, and everyone has gone for the day. Your task now as the workshop lead (in conjunction with the scribe or whoever helped organize) is to mold all the data generated by the workshop into usable forms. There are a few tasks which should be completed as soon as possible in order to maximize efficiency and the results gleaned from the workshop.

  • Collect & digitize materials, finalize the design plan, and distribute draft documents.
  • Meet again as a group to discuss findings, identify knowledge gaps, gauge reactions.
  • Set up tools for collaboration & design, issue invites to team members.
  • Define roles and next steps for workshop participants & the development team.
  • Conduct customer research (if no customers involved up to this point) 

Add value by knowing how to run a product development workshop

 

By learning how to run a product development workshop, and using the process to its fullest potential, you can avoid many of the known (and unknown) pitfalls in project management. Having a better understanding of your product, your company and yourself have a wide variety of benefits both objective and subjective, and some which may not be visible without rigorous workshopping. That's why we've introduced our innovative value-focused product discovery workshop to the range of services related to software development.

 

Contact our business consultant now! 

 

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