SuccessJon is part of a team working to revise the website for an investment company. The team is using an agile approach to rebuild the website and Jon is utilizing 7 years experience as a business analyst with the company to fill the role of Product Owner for the team.  The team has just started working on the website, and one of the first things that team needs to decide is what to work on first.  When Jon first talked to the stakeholders for the project they told him their goals were for the website to maintain its current functionality, but with a modern clean look, simpler navigation, and with responsive design.

The stakeholders had already been talking to a trendy web design firm.

Jon knew that was not really going to be very helpful for the team, so he decided to dig a little deeper.

“So, “ said Jon standing at the white board and looking at Phil, Yvonne, and Jessica, the three key stakeholders for the website,”I get that you think the design of the current website is outdated, and that you’d like it refreshed. I also know you’ve been working with RazerToad and they’ve given you a lot of great ideas.”

Phil nodded eagerly at the mention of RazerToad, the trendy web design firm and Jon thought he could detect a slight rolling of the eyes from Yvonne and Jessica. He filed that away for later, but decided not to call attention to it.

“What would be really helpful for moving forward” Jon continued, “is to understand why you decided to go after a new design right now.”

“Well….” Phil said snapping the clip on his RazerToad branded pen, “it’s just so…. old.  Out dated, you know.”

“Yes, “ said Jon glancing down at the marker tray on the whiteboard and wondering how much luck he would have finding a dry erase marker that actually worked, “the original design was done in 2008. It would be helpful for the team to have a better idea of what we’re hoping to accomplish with the redesign so we can make sure we’re heading down the right path. We’d like to know what success looks like.”

Jessica tilted her head toward the wall where the team had posted the latest set of design options that RazerToad had put together. “It looks like that.” She said with a snide smile in her face.

“That’s not exactly what I meant…“ said Jon with an equally snide smile back.  Jon knew Jessica well enough to know that she was mostly kidding, but at the same time she was echoing how some of the other people in the company viewed the effort.

“In actuality” Yvonne said looking up for her laptop where she had been hammering away at something, presumably an email about something completely different than what they were talking about, “Jessica is right.  Success looks like a website with the new design. By December.”

Jon was waiting for the date to come up, as it always did with this group.

“Yes, we all want to get a redesigned website up by December.  That’s actually the reason why I am asking these questions. There’s a lot of things we have to do in order to make that happen, and there are a lot of things we could do to take advantage of that new design, but we need to know the reason why you want to redesign the site so that we can make informed choices about what’s there in December.  We can’t do everything on this list by then.” Jon referred to another whiteboard that held the current product backlog. “We need measurable objectives to know whether what we have included is sufficient, and to make sure it’s ok to pick some of this stuff up later.”

Jessica, the snide smile fading from her face to be replace with a matter of fact expression said, “we’ve been getting specific feedback in our customer satisfaction surveys lately that stuff is hard to find on our website and people do not find it very useful.  We put a lot of work into putting tons of information on the site.  It’d be nice to know that people actually find it useful.”

Ok, thought Jon uncapping a black dry erase marker like a soldier pulling a pin out of a grenade, now we’re getting somewhere.

“Great” he said, “So based on that, what are some measures we can use to know when we’re heading down the right path? I think I heard customer satisfaction, and possibly some way of knowing how much people are using the site, and maybe how long they are staying.”

Jessica nodded her head as if she were saying ‘thanks for hitting that softball I just threw you.’

Phil furrowed his brows, tilted his head first to the right, then to the left, and then slowly started nodding. Jon referred to this (to himself only) as Phil’s Pondering Dance.

Yvonne said, “Sounds good.” And kept on typing.

“Alright” said Jon as he wrote Customer Satisfaction, unique visits, and length of stay on the white board, visibly relieved to see that the dry erase marker worked as if brand new. He knew that he’d need to come back and get specific measures, benchmarks and targets for these, but he’d deal with that in a little bit.

Jon had used this discussion about objectives to get clarity on why the project was taking place. He also was close to getting clarity on how to measure success.  With that knowledge, he and the team would be in a much better position to make decisions about which items in the backlog to defer until after December because they did not lead directly to satisfying those specific goals.

Jon found conversations such as this very interesting and stimulating because he got the chance to do actual analysis.  Every day he helped the stakeholders reach a decision, or more often elicited information that the rest of his team could use to make decisions when they needed to.

About Kent McDonald

Kent J. McDonald is a B2T Training Senior Instructor and stives in uncovering better ways of delivering value by doing it and helping others do it. His more than 15 years of experience include work in business analysis, strategic planning, project management, and product development in a variety of industries including financial services, health insurance, performance marketing, human services, nonprofit, and automotive. He is a certified Scaled Agile Framework Program Consultant (SPC) and active in the business analysis and agile software development communities helping people share stories about what does and does not work. He shares those stories at beyondrequirements.com in addition to presenting at and helping organize several local and international conferences.

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