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Karol Oponowicz
Pope of Design
Product Design
08.06.2022 | 7 min

Why are product workshops the most significant part of custom software development?

Although it may seem that software projects are mainly about coding, you can't underestimate the role of business, product, and technological workshops. Let's take a closer look at them.

Why are product workshops the most significant part of custom software development? - 2022 50
Table of Contents
  • Briefing Workshops. The risk analysis
  • Design workshops. Your app is pre-born!
  • Development Workshops. Let's get to the specifics
  • Build a pitch deck for the investors

If I had to choose the most critical factor determining a technological project's success, I wouldn't hesitate to say that it's the discovery stage and product workshops.

After ten years of creating software for startups and enterprises, and learning different workshop methodologies like Business Model Canvas or User Journey Mapping, we know that the more you plan and predict at the beginning, the fewer problems you will have to solve along the way, and sudden pivots won’t slow you down.

Today, I want to describe three types of workshops we conduct with our clients and their impact on everyone involved in the project: stakeholders, management, and the technology team.

Briefing Workshops. The risk analysis

Briefing Workshop is the first meeting at which we discuss the project’s business foundations. Together with the client, we learn about the business model of the product, the characteristics of the target group, the specificity of the industry, the client's position on the market, and the map of the competition.

We also get to know the client's organizational structure better: who will make key decisions regarding the project, and who will cooperate with us on an ongoing basis. Or maybe it's the same person?

We also ask questions about the customer's vision of their product, such as what he wants to achieve, and where he wants to be in one, two, or five years.

The meeting is attended by people from the client's company who know most about the product and are decision-makers; the most common are C-levels and stakeholders.

On our side, it's the person who will lead the project and/or the facilitator who leads workshop sessions.

Example questions

  • Do similar solutions already exist on the market?
  • What distinguishes you from the competitors?
  • Is the industry outdated, and will it accept every new product, or is there much competition and you need to stand out with something unique?
  • Who in the company has the last word on critical issues?
  • What is the condition of the product at the moment? What features is it missing?
  • What does the current development team look like? What competencies does it lack?
  • What will the estimated costs and time of the project be?
  • Does your business vision have a chance to come true?
  • Can your vision be realized with the budget you have?

Find out what awaits you

We'll ask you questions that you need to answer if you are willing to start the project. Then, we will deepen them enough to assess the real chances and risks of the entire project. We do it so that you find out where your digital product is located business-wise and what are the real chances for the project's success.

The Briefing will allow you to confront your vision and theoretical assumptions with market realities. You will learn what the key challenges are. You will know the initial technological solutions to reach your goal and their valuation, which at this point can be precise enough to give you a ballpark estimation.

Briefing Workshops give both sides a sketch of the business and technological landscape. From this point on, we can start talking about specifics.

Design workshops. Your app is pre-born!

In the second workshop, we go a level deeper and focus on the product itself; we talk about what and for whom we want to build it. We focus on the app users and how they will use it, both end-users and users managing it, such as admins or the support team.

User journey mapping is an essential tool during design workshops. It's a framework thanks to which we learn about the real needs of the users. We recreate product usage scenarios by the end customer.

For example, suppose we create a tool for ordering food. In that case, we recreate the entire process, from placing the order via the app, through the restaurant accepting and delivering it, to the end-user receiving the order.

The result of Design Workshops is a product sketch or a simple prototype that visually shows what we want to build. Importantly, creating such a prototype often occurs in real-time during live design sessions, where the designer talks to the client and makes a live interface sketch.

Example questions

  • What is the main benefit of the app for the end-user?
  • How often do people use your app?
  • Under what circumstances?
  • Do users use the app once, or do they come back regularly?
  • What is the key feature for the user?
  • How many and what steps do users take in our app?
  • What application design do you want?
  • What should the app's interface look like?
  • How do you want to stand out from your competitors?

Match theory with practice

Thanks to Design Workshops, you will see your application with your eyes for the first time. Finally, after weeks, months, or even years of planning and theorizing, you will face your solution's (very basic and general) prototype.

Because we'll talk about specific features, their complexity, and the visual side of the product (which has a large impact on the final cost), you will learn with greater precision what the final price of the application will be. At the design workshops stage, we define the budget with an accuracy of approx 85%.

In addition, when creating sketches and mockups, we immediately create visual documentation on which developers will base their sprints. It will be the backlog of the project.

Development Workshops. Let's get to the specifics

In the final stage, we pass the conclusions from the Briefing and Design Workshops to the Analyst, who, in consultation with the client, selects the most optimal technological solutions and determines the entire product development process.

For example, suppose the project concerns acquiring an application from another company. In that case, the Analyst first carefully checks its current architecture, such as used technologies, side services, and specific features.

Then - still in consultation with the client - he proposes and makes key technological decisions. For example, what technologies will we use, what will be the process of creating the app, or who will take over its support?

Tech workshops are a tool for bringing all previous arrangements down to the ground and planning all programming work precisely.

Examples questions

  • What is good and what isn't in the current solution?
  • What do you continue, what to throw away, and what to do from scratch?
  • Which application features do you do from scratch, and which using ready-made solutions?
  • What providers have you used so far? Are you replacing them or not?
  • What are the current development processes in your team? How can we adjust to them?
  • Who will be responsible for the app support? You, us, or maybe someone else?
  • What are your preferences regarding tests: will they be manual, automatic, or maybe you rely on our standards?
  • Should the application development process have a standard defined, for example, by the company that finances the project?

Accurate budgeting and planning

After this workshop, we create development documentation and an outline of the backlog. Thanks to this, you will know the final price of your digital product with a precision of approx—95%. You will learn precisely what programming resources you will need and how long it will take to create the app.

Planning will be much easier, thanks to the documentation from this workshop. Tech workshops make planning a pure pleasure because you don't have to fill in the unknowns on an ongoing basis. Instead, you get to know exactly what will be created, at what time, using what technologies, and by what programming team.

Build a pitch deck for the investors

There is one more benefit of the workshops that could have gotten to you between the lines, but I believe it's so important that I will tackle it separately.

You already know that workshops, especially the Briefing and the Product Design session, allow you to answer critical business questions. For example, what do you want to achieve with the app? What does the market look like? What are your chances of success, assuming the app's and the industry's current state? Will users find your solution useful, and if so, why?

In addition to just answering these questions, you get all the answers written down in a clear and coherent way. After each workshop session, you receive complete documentation, that defines your product's Unique Value Proposition and Selling Points. You can use it as your sales pitch to attract investors and all sorts of business partners.

Workshops are your first approach to visualizing and describing the project from multiple perspectives and on numerous levels and for this reason, they’re often a milestone in obtaining financing for the project.

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