Inception process: knowing where you should start to build your product
The following post is from Francine Veloni Gervazio M’16, co-founder of Cargo42, a spring 2016 hatchery business.
Most of the tech startups always face in their first days the typical question: “What should be the first step to develop my system? What should be prioritized?”. In order to answer this question, our team has decided to dive into an Inception process.
The inception process is a full day dynamic backed by the Agile methodology which sets the scene for a product development and produces its initial backlog. Some of the main advantages of this process are that it promotes a full alignment of the business, sets development priorities between the all the team members (founders, developers, designers), and establishes the user stories and system roles. Furthermore, it can also help in “slicing and release” planning activities.
So here are some questions you might encounter during the process:
Where do I start?
- Set a full day in the team members agenda for the event
- An interactive environment with boards and empty walls
- Colorful stickers and papers
- An experienced facilitator
What are the steps?
During the inception, we go through different steps to define goals, personas, user stories and risk points that we need to combine in the end in a visually structured way.
For each step we usually apply different sticker colors which are combined in the following stages.
Presentations – The team members present their backgrounds to each other – this is most important in the cases where a team of founders is starting to work with a new developing team.
Burnup – The facilitator introduces the day’s schedule and the goals for each step.
Elevator Pitch – The different team members present their understanding about the product and the team comes to an agreed definition.
Goals – The team members identify the most important goals to be achieved which are directly related to the product (e.g. safe, easy to use, flexible etc).
Personas – After defining the goals, it is time to describe the user types and their profiles, generating different personas.
User stories – In this step, we combine the goals and personas translating into features which are raised by the different connections. The user stories are the core of the agile process and help to deep dive and focus on important features of the application strongly aligned with the goals.
Flowchart- After having the user stories, we place them into a flow according to the process events.
Prioritization – Once the user stories are placed in the flowchart, we translate the information into a spreadsheet and prioritize the development. Once everyone feels confident that cards are estimated reasonably, we can discuss the project timeline given the prioritized activities.
After our team finished the process, we debriefed and reviewed the backlog with the whole team.
Our main learnings were:
- Prioritization avoids spending time on less relevant topics.
- While working with so many stickers, keep yourself organized and rearrange them before it grows too big and become difficult to manage.
- Our team built a shared understanding of the product which has facilitated the next steps.
- Lastly, celebrate, you’re done!