We find that your project runs more smoothly and error free when you take advantage of the CabForward℠ Discovery process. Most application development efforts result in cost overruns and unexpected costs. This is the result of assuming that the intricacies of an application are understood by the owner, and that the underlying details can be correctly conveyed through too-broadly-defined User Stories, as the owner understands them.
Time and material costs for projects are often estimated by non-developers who don’t possess deep knowledge of what is actually involved in creating polymorphic tables and interactions between the various components of an application. This results in cost overruns, wasted time in development, and stress on the relationship of the developer and the partner.
We have found that one of the best initial investments our clients can make is to engage in a whiteboard planning session with a small team of software engineers and designers to get their idea fleshed out, discover how to streamline the application and speed development. The Discovery Process often saves thousands of dollars during the development phase. A few thousand dollars invested in sitting down with developers and designers to gain clarity can save you several thousand in the development stage.
Whiteboard Planning Session
This full-day session is facilitated by a member of CabForward’s℠ leadership team who is an experienced senior level developer, one or more User Interface (UX/UI) Designer(s) who is able to interpret the needs of the end user and estimate the time involved in creating the User Experience Design, one or more Senior Developer(s) experienced in a variety of development tools, languages, and integration techniques, who is able to estimate the time involved in creating the back-end structure and scalability of the application.
The facilitator acts as a Strategic Technology Partner, who is able to view your application from a customer advocate perspective, ask questions to help you clarify why certain functions are desired, and whether they are appropriate for a Minimum Viable Product.
The Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is typically deployed to a small group of customers, such as early adopters, who are typically more forgiving, more likely to give feedback, and able to grasp a product’s potential from an initial release. The MVP is a strategy to avoid building features that customers don’t value, and seeks to maximize the information learned about the customer per dollar spent.
Discover User Stories
Application development is based on the developer’s understanding of your needs. By providing well vetted User Stories, the intricacies of your application are more easily understood. Often the User Stories developed by the owner are too general, lacking the technical detail needed to define the project, and often have hidden time and materials costs imbedded in them. As a result of a whiteboard session with CabForward℠, we will be able to provide you a comprehensive list of User Stories that will provide clarity and direction for your selected Strategic Technology Partner.
From Whiteboard to Code
We use the Discovery Process to help our clients clarify all of their questions, and then break down the desired features into User Stories. Once we’ve identified these stories, we enter them into our product management tool, where you can track our progress as development begins.
User stories are written in a short, 3-part format: As a [role] I can [function] so that [reason]. There are no technical or interface details at this level. The next step is for our client to prioritize the stories, and we estimate the difficulty of each story on a scale of 1, 2, 4, or 8 points. Stories that are bigger than eight points are too complex and need to be broken into smaller pieces. What does this look like in practice? Here are some examples:
1. As a customer, I can change my PIN.
2. As a student, I can find my grades online.
3. As a diner, I can read reviews of a restaurant.
User Story List
In the example above, each point represents four hours of work to develop the feature at $200 hr. When you arrive at this point of your planning, you can get an approximate idea of what the project might cost. Feature changes during development, however, will impact the investment required. So will making changes to functionality and appearance. Feature changes are usually the result of the client learning more about what the user wants the app to do and pivoting to address those features and benefits they value.
User Stories are very important in helping the client gain clarity about the features and functions needed in the product, and help the development team make a plan for efficient engineering of each feature. These user stories will then go into a project tracking tool where they can be scheduled and edited as needed.
CabForward℠ is a time and materials Strategy and Design shop. We charge hourly rates for each of our team resources assigned to any planning or development task. The investment required for a full-day whiteboard session and the resulting reports is $5,000, payable in advance.
Action Plan for the Whiteboard Session
CabForward℠ has a comprehensive set of tools and articles to help you take the next planning steps, and prepare for your initial meeting to whiteboard your idea. We also help you create tools to lead you into a productive engagement with a Strategic Technology Partner. Make sure your selected developer uses the lean process: Iterative Development in short sprints; testing; releases. This process maximizes your time to evaluate effectiveness of your product, and make changes when necessary, based on user feedback.
imac_hack3These steps will help you make wise investments of time and development funds, and ensures that your time in development will be maximized, your costs minimized, and your product right on target.
Use our free tools to help you prepare, and CabForward℠ will move you to the next step, with the confidence and comfort of knowing that you have clear goals, a solid definition of development objectives, and the tool kit to obtain accurate quotes from your preferred development partner. Use our Discovery process to help you gain clarity about your application. Define for yourself the following questions. Be as detailed as possible.
1. What do you want your application to do?
2. What are you hoping to accomplish, or, what are your objectives with this application?
3. What’s the actual challenge you’re trying to overcome? (What is the problem you’re trying to solve?)
4. What decisions remain to be made before starting the project?
5. What do you want the Minimum Viable Product to do?
6. Who will test and validate your Minimum Viable Product? (User feedback to validate your market)
7. Who will be your target end-users?
8. What are the top 3 problems the end-user has that this application will try to solve?
9. What alternatives do end-users currently have, or use, to solve this problem?
10. What are the top 3 features your application will have that will solve the end-users problem?
11. Why will this application be different enough to be worth buying?
12. What unfair advantage will you have over the competition? (Something that can not be easily copied or bought)
Minimum Viable Product
Usually, the initial take away resulting from the Discovery Process, is that the client’s application can be developed in phases, with the initial release being what is called a Minimum Viable Product. The MVP solves the problem you have identified, but doesn’t have a lot of features that you’re just guessing the market wants. Build the app that does only what is needed, the basics, get it to market, and ask your users to evaluate it. Their feedback will tell you what features need to be added in the next release. MVP software saves you money, because you build only what the customer is willing to pay for, rather than building every possible feature.
Drawing Board is often very helpful in the planning process to actually create visuals that describe the flow of the application. This is a collaborative process which begins in the Discovery whiteboard session, and is very helpful in getting a clear understanding of how the app will work. The process, while costing a few hours of an engineer’s time in “pointing” the project, can save you big bucks in coding errors down the road. Some of our clients actually create the visuals themselves before the white board session, to reduce the amount of time spent in Discovery. Even so, the software engineers have knowledge of what goes on in the background, and can point out inefficiencies and “black holes” that will need to be addressed.
Planning Your Product
Craft a statement or two that distinguishes your product from your competition. This is called a Unique Value Proposition. The key is understanding the core of the problem you are trying to solve, and then designing your product to provide the features and benefits your customer wants. Keep in mind that your minimum viable product is not ready for the mainstream yet. You will be reaching out to early adopters, which requires bold, clear, and specific messaging about the problem you can solve.
Once you have clearly defined your Minimum Viable product, have your user stories developed and pointed, it time to describe the flow of data within your product. This helps the team members understand the objective of each user story, and keeps everyone on track. Shown below is an example of one of the data models we created for a project.
Data Modeling Graphic
A planning tool we found helpful in designing our own business, and helping others plan theirs, is the Lean Canvas. Business plans take too long to write, are seldom updated, and almost never read by others but documenting your hypotheses is key. Lean Canvas solves this problem using a 1-page business model. Sign up now to create a business model that will be read by more people, be more easily updated, and let you focus on building your business – faster. And, it can help you take advantage of the wedge pattern approach, which has been so successful for major players like Twitter and Foursquare, Etsy, Kickstarter, Quora, Instagram, Amazon and Netflix.
Design Winning Products Faster
CabForward℠ is a tightly-knit team of software engineers, architecture designers and support staff who help us create online products designed to win their place in the market. Our Discovery-to-Design approach has saved companies thousands of dollars by avoiding costly missteps. We help discover the unnecessary features and the expensive bottlenecks that cause projects to go over budget.
Proper Design Will Get You to Market Faster
We do this by helping people analyze their product, and apply proper design planning before starting production. Our teamwork approach reduces cost overruns and expensive revisions along the way. Organizations that apply this simple process have a huge advantage over their competition.
No Extra Charge for UI/UX Design
Designing products for a great end user experience is our primary objective. We help you clarify what you want to accomplish with your product, then plan every single process involved in making it happen. That’s when the user experience is planned, right from the very beginning. We make sure the product works beautifully, by design, and then start building and testing it to make sure it is rugged.
The Big Picture and Details are What Win
Our Discovery process means being able to clearly define the high level view for a product, challenging all assumptions, then zooming in to the smallest details to make sure they all fit together in a way that makes sense. This is where most products struggle. They get too focused on decisions about the quality and purpose of a million little details, and forget about the big picture: Do end users need this? Do they want it? Will they use it? This is where we can help. Our team’s experience helps you paint the big picture first, then iron out the details.
Contact us now to learn how we can help you bring your idea to life!