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A lot of Software Engineering projects fail for a lack of shared vision due to poor communication among people involved in the project.
A sound maintenance of the product backlog can only be achieved if all the people have a good understanding of what they have to do (common vision).
Roman Pichler, in a post originally written in Jul 16 2012, has proposed a really interesting approach: use various canvas to create and share product vision and product backlog creation and reﬁnement.
This presentation is a drive through these various boards and canvas that should be designed in prior to any product development: the Product Vision, the Lean Canvas, The Product Definition and the Story Map.
A lot of Software Engineering projects fail for a lack of shared vision due to poor
communication among people involved in the project.
A sound maintenance of the product backlog can only be achieved if all the people have a
good understanding of what they have to do (common vision).
Roman Pichler, in a post originally written in Jul 16 2012, has proposed a really interesting
approach: use various canvas to create and share product vision and product backlog
creation and reﬁnement.
The customer knows what he wants
The developers know how to build it
Nothing will change along the way
Requirement discovery process
The customer discover what he wants
The developer discover how to build it
Many things change along the way !
A clear and ambitious vision provides the following for
the team working on developing the product:
A clear articulation of the Problem-Solution fit that
can be evolved into a sustainable product.
A clear articulation of the market opportunity &
high level features (and/or organizational
capability) that will realize the opportunity,
Creates meaning beyond the solution itself which
Inspirational - pulls the team forward.
A decision making standard - allows the
freedom to create a solution that delivers on the
vision however necessary, whilst providing
measurable success metrics.
It will serve as hypothesis for the product at the
highest level. Some alternatives that may be used
instead, or in conjunction include:
Questions to answer and/or follow up with deeper
Why is a product vision useful ?
USE A PRODUCT VISION IF YOU:
• Need to consolidate the fuzzy ramblings of your
• Have an idea for a product or service, and would like to
• Need to compare possible initiatives to invest in.
THE PRODUCT VISION WILL ALLOW YOU TO:
• Get buy-in with executives and sponsors.
• Influence and get agreement regarding budget or other
resources to bring the vision to life.
• Compare, evaluate and make decisions across multiple
products / the portfolio.
• Throw tomatoes at it.
Capture the overall goal and intent of the product in a
Define the audience (user).
Define the relevant needs of the audience (needs).
Define key features / capabilities that will support the
Define the relevant business goals (business goals).
Bringing it all together
The User, Needs, Features, and Business Goals need
to align. They don’t have to line up individually, but
there must be a clear relationship between all
The above mentioned elements must deliver on the
vision statement, nothing more, nothing less.
You need to be clear about how you will measure the
success of the product if all goes according to plan.
You don’t need to predict a specific number at this
stage, but you do need to define the thing that you
would measure. Qualitative measurements are ok,
provided you can sample them reliably, and
Key goals of a product vision
A PRODUCT VISION:
• Is visionary by definition
• Supports generative (abductive) thinking
• Articulates what could be, not what is
• Tells a narrative (right brain)
TO GET GOOD METRICS
Use S.M.A.R.T. Goals to help you think about the
business and user value.
Caveats to the following process:
It assumes there is enough latent knowledge in the stakeholders who will be
involved in the visioning session, that they may be able to define the most
important elements in all categories, as well as the important relationships
It does not describe the previous stages (that are not mandatory), but are
recommended. Those stages include:
Understand and define market needs.
Understand and define general user needs of the domain.
Understand and define broader organisational needs.
Synthesise and make connections between the above internal and external elements.
It’s perfectly reasonable to start at this point (visioning the product) if practicing a
lean product development process wherein you are afforded the ability to very
quickly build and test the product vision (which in effect serves as a product
hypothesis, subject to the scientific process).
Preconditions and assumptions in this process
The facilitator of this process (you) will likely have a
vision. Note it down by creating your own canvas
using the template, but do not share it.
Make a list of the key stakeholders who you will need
for this product. They may include:
Subject Matter Experts
The intended or actual Product Owner/Manager
Experience Designer and/or Business Analyst
(whoever has done the primary research)
Map the stakeholders on a grid to help you frame
how you plan to engage and or manage them
Use the grid shown on the right.
Identify which of the stakeholders need to create the
Invite key stakeholders, prepare workshop room with
large template of canvas, and paper on the walls.
Critical preparation before the workshop
3 to 6 hours max
need to be present :
Architects and tech leads
The Product Vision Board
The Vision statement
Ensure all voices are heard and stop the
louder from dominating the others
Focus on every cell of the vision board, one
after the other
Give participant 5 to 10 minutes personal
Have them present their idea one after
the other and defend them
Every other participant can challenge the
findings of the presenter
WHERE DO THE INPUTS COME FROM?
• Stakeholder bring with them many facts, insights, and
opinions. They are all useful and relevant.
• If there is any primary research, the outputs and ideally
the person leading that research should be in
attendance. They may share the outputs, and or
present a summary.
• It is often useful to run a sensemaking session prior to
the visioning session as to surface all inputs, then distil
them down to only what’s important.
• The session itself provides a sensemaking function by
way of it being in a diverse group, and through
collaboration. It is also ok to accept that our collective
vision is still a hypothesis that needs validation as a
next step and or as part of the development process
Workshop 1 : Product Vision Definition
Workshop1 - we will be feedingthiscanvas:
Example – product vision canvas – RIA Organizer
From Product Vision to Vision Statement
For (target customer)
Who (has needs)
The (Product Name)
Is a product
That (Product Description)
For (Goals and Value)
Things to ensure about the resulting vision
The vision should be evaluable using SMART goals
Target and needs should be specific enough to provide meaningful guidance later
Features and Capabilities should be of a high level and not drilled down too far
Bringing it to life
All elements of the vision are hypotheses in a system that we have imagined. Our job
now is to proceed to define the biggest risks associated with bringing the vision to life.
Risks usually map from Existential at the top (most important), to operational/ technical
at the bottom.
Now we systematically test each risk. If a risk cannot be solved or mitigated, we do not
proceed with the product.
We use a bias for action as our guiding principle now and for the duration of the
Workshop 2 : Lean Canvas - organization
The Lean Canvas
Is a different way to capture a business model
Created by Ash Maurya, inspired from the Business Model Canvas and adapted to the Lean Startup
Synthesize the Business Model on one slide (as opposed to a dozen of pages document)
Align stakeholders in beginning of a project / product development
Identify risky hypothesis to be validated
Easy to understand, create, adapt and communicate
The Lean Canvas is really about identifying hypothesis to be validated
Through customer discovery (Lean Startup Methodology)
Business Model vs Business Plan
Business Model : a single diagram of your business (max 1 day)
Business plan : a document investors make you write and that they don’t read (several months)
Why do startup fail ?
Lack of focus / Not understanding the market / wrong assumptions / not understanding the value
The Lean Canvas will not guarantee success, but it will help minimize the areas of risks
The question is not “Can this product be built ?” but “Should this product be built ?” = “Can we make a
sustainable business around this product / services ?”
The Lean Startup Method combines fast, iterative and incremental development
methodologies (Agile Development) with Customer Development.
( Source: NewEntrepreneurship: https://newentrepreneurship.nl/lean-startup-method/)
Validated Learning: Regularly gather evidence about your ideas to test your assumptions
and make decisions based on facts. In situations of extreme uncertainty Validated Learning
is the best approach for making decisions.
Build-Measure-Learn: The fundamental activity of a startup is to turn ideas into products,
measure how customers respond, and then learn whether to pivot or persevere.
Innovation Accounting: Accounting designed for startups. A method to monitor how to
measure your progress, how to set up milestones, and how to prioritize your work.
Lean Startup principles
( Source: NewEntrepreneurship: https://newentrepreneurship.nl/lean-startup-method/)
“Love the Problem, not your Solution (Ash Maurya)
“A problem well stated is a problem half-solved” (Charles Kettering)
write sentences that are specific and concise. Don’t just write “time” as a problem, but, for
example, “the process of finding the right supplier is complex and requires too much time” .
Keep sentences simple, straight to the point, short (maximum 10 words each) and meaningful.
after you have prepared a draft, go through each step, telling this story to yourself:
we will help these people (customer segments)
to solve (problem)
by providing them (solution).
They will know about us through (channels) and
they will be convinced to join us because (value proposition)
and because we already (unfair advantage).
We will charge them by (revenue) and
we believe this will cover our (costs).
We will measure our performance by tracking (key metrics).
It should all flow and make sense, like it is a story where everything is linked. If it doesn’t, the
Lean Canvas needs more work.
prepare a Lean Canvas for each customer segment of your business idea. This is because
each customer segment may have different problems, solutions, channels, revenue, costs, etc.
4 to 8 hours max
need to be present :
The Lean Canvas Board
Ensure all voices are heard and stop the louder from dominating the others
Focus on every cell of the Lean Canvas board, one after the other
Give participant 5 to 10 minutes personal thinking time
Have them present their idea one after the other and defend them
Every other participant can challenge the findings of the presenter
Workshop 2 : Lean Canvas – Noteworthy elements
customers and users,
customers pay you,
Early adopters will help
you test and refine your
For new products, the
initial battle is about how
to get noticed ? How will
you get the customer’s
One of the riskiest
item on your
Start testing from
day 1 !
- Social networks
Pirates Metrics (by Dave
Awareness (when users know you)
Acquisition (when users find you)
Activation (users have a first
Retention (users come back)
Revenue (when you make money)
Referral (when users tell others)
- Insider Information
- Personal authority
- A dream team
- Existing customers
- “Right” celebrity
- Large network effect
- SEO ranking
- Core values
The Story Map
The Story Map is a handy tool that lists the outstanding work necessary to
develop a product.
But it can be insufficient to create a brand-new product or an update aimed at a
Its linear structure makes it difficult to capture all product aspects including the
user interface design and the user interaction; there is no place to state
assumptions about the target group, the users and customers of the product and
their needs, etc.
The Product Canvas
When initiating a new product, trying to create a Story Map out of the blue from
a Business Model or Lean Canvas can be tedious.
Something in between to capture the most essential aspects and the big picture
of the product to be developed is required.
Enter the Product Canvas !
Purpose of a product definition canvas
The Product Canvas aims at capturing ideas and
Presents the big picture
Describes the product details
Covers the user interaction, the functionalities, the
design and the operational qualities such as required
The Product Canvas is a tool for capturing the Big
Picture in an Agile environment
Works well within Scrum or Kanban Teams, fits well
a Lean Startup environment
It is the Big Picture of the Story Map (which is the
Big Picture of the product Backlog)
The Product Canvas captures the User
eXperience and supports a user-centered design
What is the product definition canvas ?
ABOUT THE PRODUCT CANVAS
Purpose: Define the perimeter and the depth of the
The product Canvas
• Is derived from the vision
• defines the features in respect to the vision
• shapes the feature-set perimeter
• summarizes the product backlog
• The Canvas assumes that one (roughly) knows
• The target group with the needs the product should
• How the product is likely to benefit the organization
investing in it
• The Product Canvas is compatible with he Lean
Canvas (Business Model)
• The Product Canvas refines the product’s target group
and makes the need explicit
4 to 8 hours max
need to be present :
Architects and tech leads
Whole Development Team
The Initial Product Canvas
Picture and name
Describe the big picture
Start with epics
Refine uncertain epics into scenarios and
Create design sketches to capture
important design ideas
Identify important operational properties
that relate to more than one epic or
Describe the product details
Identify a sprint goal
Determine what’s required to reach the goal
UPDATING THE PRODUCT CANVAS
• Feedback can be obtained from users,
customers, internal stakeholders, etc.
depending on the sprint goal
• Effective research including presentations,
test users, releasing the software, etc.
• A product canvas update workshop
• Same team
• 2-4 hours workshop
• New insights should lead to a new version
of the canvas
• 2 options:
• Before more development work is carried
out, i.e. ASAP
• After some milestone has been reached and
relevant feedback can be gathered
The canvas is designed so that the information flows from left to right starting
with the target users and customers and the needs to be addressed. This puts
the user at the center of the development effort, and it ensures that you develop
a product that is beneficial and desirable.
The journeys, epics, sketches and constraints sketch the future product, and the
ready stories ensure that there are implementable items.
Workshop 3 : Product Definition
Workshop 3 : shape of result
( Source: RomanPichler2012- https://jaxenter.com/introducing-the-product-canvas-105480.html)
The biggest challenge when developing a new product or a major update is to deal with
uncertainty and lack of knowledge.
The Product Canvas is therefore designed as a learning tool: to sketch our initial ideas and
assumptions, to get stories ready for implementation, and to adapt and refine the content
based on the insights gained
Consequently, you should expect your canvas to change as you learn more about the users
and customers, and how to best address their needs. Even bigger changes that involve
clearing out and refilling one or more canvas sections (including the personas one) are
These indicate that the initial product strategy was inappropriate and has to be adapted
(also called pivot).
( RomanPichler2012- https://jaxenter.com/introducing-the-product-canvas-105480.html)
Purpose of a Story Map
The problems with usual one dimensional backlogs
Do you understand the workflow ?
Are you able to see the relationship of larger stories to child stories ?
How do you validate that your backlog is complete ?
What context do you use for prioritization ?
Help see things from a user perspective
Design is collaborative and fosters co-owner ship
User tasks make ideal user stories
Reading the activities across the top of the system helps understand end-to-end use of
One can test for gaps by walking the map
Workshop 4 : Story Map - organization
Step 1 : Start from the Product Canvas
Recover the epics and ready stories from the product canvas
Challenge and enrich the epics, identify subsequent tasks
Choose a persona from your product canvas
Someone play part of this persona and in the contexts of the product canvas journeys and
features, she describes what she would like to do with the product
The rest of the group writes these tasks down on post-its.
Step 2 : Merge these post-its into a single model
Arrange them left to right in an order that makes sense to the group
Group items belonging to same epics underneath the epic
Step 3 : Determine the MVP and subsequent releases
Walk the map to determine necessary steps
Draw a line below these tasks : this is your MVP
Discuss with stakeholders to determine subsequent logical releases
Workshop 4 : Story Map
Workshop4 - we will be feedingthiscanvas:
Example – Story Map - RIA Organizer
THE STORY MAP