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Aligning Product Vision Using Rapid Prototyping and UX

By: Tim Gagnon

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Nearly every organization is faced with a common problem: getting key stakeholders to agree to and deliver a solution that achieves shared business goals. Why is there a constant disconnect between stakeholders? Often, it comes down to communication. Different stakeholders come from different backgrounds, have different measurements of success, and communicate differently. Therefore, stakeholders regularly approach a project from various angles, making it very difficult to define the project vision, tactical objectives and subsequent requirements. This process can be frustrating and can lead to either IT or the business taking control to move the project forward. Whether intentional or not, the group in charge ends up cutting the other groups, and often the user community, out of the process. Eventually, when the product is launched, not everyone is happy; leading to costly rework or even failed projects.

At SEI, we’ve seen this issue often and are constantly applying new processes and tools to help mitigate this problem. Fortunately, the collective value of 250 consultants across 8 offices has allowed us to quickly learn and deliver one such process that has seen an increased demand across all our markets: User Experience (UX) and Rapid Prototyping.

Through my experience applying UX and Rapid Prototyping across many different industries and technologies, I have found a set of common challenges that all IT projects encounter: finding the right balance between

  • Achieving business goals of all stakeholders
  • Meeting Minimum Viable Product (and beyond) requirements across several disparate user groups
  • Optimizing the implementation and use technology to achieve these goals

Often, one set of goals supersedes the others and sets the tone for the project. This imbalance leads to one group of stakeholders being happy while the other groups become discouraged, disengaged, and disappointed with the end product.

How do we, at SEI, mitigate and solve this problem? We use a common method of communication that empowers all stakeholders. Text-based requirements alone will not suffice. This is where we leverage UX and Rapid Prototyping to ensure crystal clear communication early in the project lifecycle. We bring stakeholders together and rapidly prototype solutions as a group, empowering everyone to have real-time, rich, engaging discussions about the vision of the product. The outcome is a design that is co-authored by all stakeholders, ensuring that business goals are achieved, user needs are met, and technology is optimized. Continued stakeholder engagement ensures buy-in and a smooth product launch.

In one of my most recent engagements, the client has really appreciated the clarity that rapid prototyping has brought to projects so early in the development lifecycle. From the CEO to developers, the whole team is on the same page when it comes to the vision for a project. The result has been a significant drop in defects and enhancement requests coming out of our product demos, leading to reduced rework and thus accelerating our time to market. Not to mention, we have seen an increase in team morale as we are focusing on moving forward rather than looking backward!

Rapid prototyping is just one of the many UX techniques that can be leveraged on an IT project, but is among the most effective. This is because rapid prototyping helps stakeholders align their vision to make informed, critical decisions with more clarity early in the project lifecycle. Coupled with other UX techniques (e.g., Usability Testing) to further optimize your design, you will set the roadmap to a successful project outcome.

Have you integrated UX and Rapid Prototyping into your software delivery model? If so, please let us know how UX and Rapid Prototyping has influenced your project experiences.

If not, reach out to your local SEI office and see how we can help implement UX and Rapid Prototyping on one of your current or future engagements.

Tim Gagnon

Managing Director

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