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BETTER NARRATIVE

BETTER PRODUCT
Alex Cowan

2015 COWAN+

ABOUT ME

Entrepreneur (5x)
Intrapreneur (1x)

2015 COWAN+

ABOUT ME

www.alexandercowan.com
2015 COWAN+

AGILE: BLOCKBUSTER EVENT OF 2001

ALEX COWAN
alexandercowan.com
@cowanSF
Paul Holloway via Wikimedia Commons

2015 COWAN+

THE AFTERPARTY

ALEX COWAN
alexandercowan.com
@cowanSF
2015 COWAN+

THE MANIFESTO WAS SIMPLE


INDIVIDUALS
INTERACTIONS
WORKING
SOFTWARE

PROCESSES
TOOLS
COMPREHENSIVE
DOCUMENTATION

CUSTOMER
COLLABORATION

CONTRACT
NEGOTIATION

RESPONDING TO
CHANGE

FOLLOWING
A PLAN

ALEX COWAN
alexandercowan.com
@cowanSF
2015 COWAN+

WHATS HARD

THE COMMERCE TEAM

THE DEVELOPMENT TEAM

1. Connecting with customer needs


2. Managing uncertainty
3. Describing for implementation

1. Implementation strategy
2. Managing changes in need
3. Distributing actionable inputs

THE FIELD TEAM


1. Delivering on customer issues
consistent with overall company direction

ALEX COWAN
alexandercowan.com
@cowanSF
2015 COWAN+

AGILE: THE GOOD STUFF

1: THE USER STORY

2: NARRATIVE
COLLABORATION

3: SMALL BATCHES

ALEX COWAN
alexandercowan.com
@cowanSF
2015 COWAN+

Write Fully Narrated Stories


2015 COWAN+

STORIES: INPUT FOR BUILDING STUFF

PRODUCT &
PROMOTION

E?

USER STORIES
& PROTOTYPES

SC

AL

Is the problem
relevant? Is the
proposition better
vs alternatives?

2015 COWAN+

THE IMPORTANCE OF FORM & NOTATION

2015 COWAN+

(THE WHOLE) AGILE USER STORY


Epic Stories

Who is this user?


What makes them tick?
Whos an example of such a person?

Stories
Test Cases

As a [persona],
I want to [do something]
so that I can [derive a benefit]
Why do they want to do this?
What's the benefit/reward?
How will we know of its
working?

STORIES
bit.ly/youagile

ALEX COWAN
alexandercowan.com
@cowanSF
2015 COWAN+

EXAMPLE: AGILE USER STORIES


EPIC STORY
As the HR manager, I want to create a screening quiz so that I can understand whether I want to send
possible recruits to the functional manager.
CHILD STORIES
A) As an HR manager, I want to match an open positions required skills with quiz topics so I can create a
quiz relevant for candidate screening.
B) As an HR manager, I want to send a draft quiz to the the functional manager so I make sure Ive covered
the right topics on the screening quiz.
C) As a functional manager, I want to send feedback on the screening quiz to the HR manager so I make sure
Im getting the best possible screening on candidates.
D) As an HR manager, I need to purchase an upgraded service tier so I can add additional topics to my quiz.
E) As an HR manager, I want to add custom questions to the quiz so we cover additional topics that are
important to the functional manager.
2015 COWAN+

WALKING THROUGH AN EPIC


EPIC
As the HR manager, I
want to create a
screening quiz so that I
can understand whether
I want to send possible
recruits to the functional
manager.

bit.ly/dostory
2015 COWAN+

SKETCHING YOUR NARRATIVE


TRIGGER
How does the
problem scenario
initiate?

ACTION
How is the action
executed? How
easy is it?

REWARD
How is the persona
gratified?

bit.ly/dostory
source: adapted from Nir Eyals Hook Framework

2015 COWAN+

Clarify Motivation vs. Usability


2015 COWAN+

STORIES: INPUT FOR BUILDING STUFF

PRODUCT &
PROMOTION

E?

USER STORIES
& PROTOTYPES

SC

AL

Is the problem
relevant? Is the
proposition better
vs alternatives?

2015 COWAN+

ACTIONABLE OBSERVATION
CUSTOMER
DISCOVERY &
EXPERIMENTS

ME

How did the customer


/user react?

S H OW

PRODUCT &
PROMOTION

E?

USER STORIES
& PROTOTYPES

SC

AL

Is the problem
relevant? Is the
proposition better
vs alternatives?

2015 COWAN+

WHAT ARE WE TESTING?

Motivation
Action : )
Action Line
Inaction : (

Ability (Usability)
source: adapted from BJ Foggs Behavioral Model

2015 COWAN+

WHAT ARE WE TESTING?


DONT RUIN YOUR
RESULTS BY TRYING
TO TEST BOTH AT THE
SAME TIME

Motivation

Proposition Testing
(ala Lean Startup,
MVPs)

Action : )
Action Line
Inaction : (

Ability (Usability)
Usability Testing
source: adapted from BJ Foggs Behavioral Model

2015 COWAN+

Test Usability Appropriately & Often


2015 COWAN+

USABILITY TEST SUITES: A PROGRESSION


Exploratory

Assessment

It looks like this


approach will
fundamentally work.

Validation

The implementation
is sound and ready
for tuning.

Ready for
prime time.
2015 COWAN+

A USABILITY TEST DESIGN FOR ANYONE


Objectives & Methods
Product Version
Subjects
Research Composition
Pre-Session Checklist
Session Design

bit.ly/cdhandbook bit.ly/vdt-usability
2015 COWAN+

A USABILITY TEST DESIGN FOR ANYONE


Objectives & Methods
Explain to your collaborators which test type and why.

Product Version
Subjects
Research Composition
Pre-Session Checklist
Session Design

bit.ly/cdhandbook bit.ly/vdt-usability
2015 COWAN+

A USABILITY TEST DESIGN FOR ANYONE


Objectives & Methods
Product Version
Subjects
Have a screener. (But any subject is better than none.)

Research Composition
Pre-Session Checklist
Session Design

bit.ly/cdhandbook bit.ly/vdt-usability
2015 COWAN+

A USABILITY TEST DESIGN FOR ANYONE


Objectives & Methods
Product Version
Subjects
Research Composition
Pre-Session Checklist
Important! Breakage is expensive here.

Session Design

bit.ly/cdhandbook bit.ly/vdt-usability
2015 COWAN+

A USABILITY TEST DESIGN FOR ANYONE


Objectives & Methods
Product Version
Subjects
Research Composition
Pre-Session Checklist
Session Design
Objectives. Notes. Output.

bit.ly/cdhandbook bit.ly/vdt-usability
2015 COWAN+

EXAMPLE TEST PLAN ITEM: ELOAD


Research Objective

Time: Est.
v. Actual

Notes

MODERATOR GUIDE
I know that you often use load boards to find jobs.

How are we doing on this user story:


As an independent trucker, I want to find
loads at my destination so that I dont have
to drive home empty.

n/a

On this application, you can find load postings at your destination?


Can you show me where youd go to find them?
OUTPUT
An assessment of the users relationship to the available affordances
and their appropriateness to the current user narratives and tasks.

2015 COWAN+

EXAMPLE PROTOTYPE: ELOAD

2015 COWAN+

IF USABILITY TESTING, MOTIVATION SUPPLIED


Your software paints
virtual walls. Tell the
subject youd like to see
the wall yellow and
observe what they do.
(If you want to test motivation,
start with interviews, then
MVPs, experiments.)

2015 COWAN+

LITTLE TESTS, LITTLE CHANGES, BIG RESULTS


70% of users didnt
get the drag and drop
in this version

This change in the


annotation was
enough so they got it

2015 COWAN+

Always Link to Value (Motivation)


Its OK to be Uncertain, to Experiment
2015 COWAN+

(THE WHOLE) AGILE USER STORY


Epic Stories
Stories
Test Cases

As a [persona],
I want to [do something]
so that I can [derive a benefit]
Why do they want to do this?
What's the benefit/reward?
How will we know of it's
working?

STORIES
bit.ly/youagile

ALEX COWAN
alexandercowan.com
@cowanSF
2015 COWAN+

ACTIONABLE OBSERVATION
CUSTOMER
DISCOVERY &
EXPERIMENTS

ME

How did the customer


/user react?

S H OW

PRODUCT &
PROMOTION

E?

USER STORIES
& PROTOTYPES

SC

AL

Is the problem
relevant? Is the
proposition better
vs alternatives?

2015 COWAN+

SOURCES OF VALUE

PRODUCT &
PROMOTION

VALUE
PROPOSITIONS &
ASSUMPTIONS
E?

ME
S H OW

Was the implemented


story relevant to the
proposition?

T IF
HA

USER STORIES
& PROTOTYPES

CUSTOMER
DISCOVERY &
EXPERIMENTS

How did the customer


/user react?

SC

AL

Is the problem
relevant? Is the
proposition better
vs alternatives?

2015 COWAN+

EVIDENCE-BASED INNOVATION VIA LEAN STARTUP


Do I have real evidence from my buyer that
this is compelling?

01 IDEA!

What are the key assumptions required to


make this business work?

02 HYPOTHESIS

How do I definitely prove or disprove the


assumptions with a minimum of time and
effort?

6.a YES
results
disprove
hypothesis

03 EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN

Am I reacting or am I focused on
validating my pivotal assumptions?

04 EXPERIMENTATION

Pivot or persevere?

05 REVISE?

bit.ly/leanin6

6.b NO
we appear to
have a valid
hypothesis

ALEX COWAN
alexandercowan.com
@cowanSF
2015 COWAN+

DEFINING ACTIONABLE ASSUMPTIONS


If we [do something] for [persona], they will
[respond in a certain way]
Example (Enable Quiz):
If we [allow HR managers to append notes to test results], they
will [use the feature as their primary vehicle to send interview
notes to the functional manager & the functional manager will
find the notes useful].
ALEX COWAN
alexandercowan.com
@cowanSF
2015 COWAN+

EXAMPLE: ENABLE QUIZ ON FEATURE VALUE


Component

Notes

What assumption will this test? How?

If we [allow HR managers to append notes to test results], they will [use the feature as their
primary vehicle to send interview notes to the functional manager & the functional manager will
find the notes useful].

What is/are the pivotal metric(s)?


What is the threshold for true (validated) vs. false (invalidated)?

1) [candidates with notes] / [candidates submitted] @ 25%


2) portion of functional managers mentioning the notes unprompted in discovery interviews via
question How do you get information about candidates? What do you look at? @ 50%

What will we do next if the result is true? False?

True: Roll out the feature across the user base.


False: Continue discovery on how HR and functional managers communicate on candidate
hiring

How much time, money will it take to set up?

see bit.ly/exp-test

Roughly, what will it take for each individual test?


Subsequent tests?

see bit.ly/exp-test

Roughly, how long will it take for each test to run and produce definitive,
actionable results?

see bit.ly/exp-test

bit.ly/leanin6

bit.ly/exp-test

ALEX COWAN
alexandercowan.com
@cowanSF
2015 COWAN+

TESTING & CADENCE


DOES IT STICK?
Post deploy, are users
engaged at expected levels?
If not, why not?

IS IT VALUABLE?
What motivates the user?
How can you test that
without product?

DID IT MATTER?
Is it delivering on the target
propositions? If not, why not?

DOES IT WORK?
What are the results of
phase-appropriate
usability testing.

-1 Day

0 Day

30 Day

90 Day
2015 COWAN+

Anchor Value to Problems


(vs. Solutions)
2015 COWAN+

SOURCES OF VALUE

PRODUCT &
PROMOTION

VALUE
PROPOSITIONS &
ASSUMPTIONS
E?

ME
S H OW

Was the implemented


story relevant to the
proposition?

T IF
HA

USER STORIES
& PROTOTYPES

CUSTOMER
DISCOVERY &
EXPERIMENTS

How did the customer


/user react?

SC

AL

Is the problem
relevant? Is the
proposition better
vs alternatives?

2015 COWAN+

ANCHORING TO PROBLEMS (NEEDS)


CUSTOMER
DISCOVERY &
EXPERIMENTS

Was the implemented


story relevant to the
proposition?

PRODUCT &
PROMOTION

S H OW

ME

T IF
HA

How did the customer


/user react?

VALUE
PROPOSITIONS &
ASSUMPTIONS
E?

USER STORIES
& PROTOTYPES

SC

PROBLEM
SCENARIOS &
ALTERNATIVES

T?
WHA

AL

Is the problem
relevant? Is the
proposition better
vs alternatives?

2015 COWAN+

DIAGNOSING USER PROBLEMS & PRODUCT VALUE


The twin anti-poles of design failure

Doing precisely
what the user asks

P
NA

Assuming you know whats


best and ignoring the user
2015 COWAN+

ANCHORING VALUE TO PROBLEMS (NEEDS)


PROBLEM SCENARIO

ALEX COWAN
alexandercowan.com
@cowanSF
2015 COWAN+

ANCHORING VALUE TO PROBLEMS (NEEDS)


PROBLEM SCENARIO
What job(s) are you doing for
the customer?

What existing need or behavior are


you fulfilling?

ALEX COWAN
alexandercowan.com
@cowanSF
2015 COWAN+

ANCHORING VALUE TO PROBLEMS (NEEDS)


PROBLEM SCENARIO

ALTERNATIVE(S)

?
ALEX COWAN
alexandercowan.com
@cowanSF
2015 COWAN+

ANCHORING VALUE TO PROBLEMS (NEEDS)


PROBLEM SCENARIO

ALTERNATIVE(S)

If they currently use a spreadsheet,


watch them use it and get a copy of it.
If they currently put notes on the family
fridge, ask about it, photograph it.

ALEX COWAN
alexandercowan.com
@cowanSF
2015 COWAN+

ANCHORING VALUE TO PROBLEMS (NEEDS)


PROBLEM SCENARIO

ALTERNATIVE(S)

YOUR VALUE PROPOSITIONS

ALEX COWAN
alexandercowan.com
@cowanSF
2015 COWAN+

ANCHORING VALUE TO PROBLEMS (NEEDS)


PROBLEM SCENARIO

ALTERNATIVE(S)

YOUR VALUE PROPOSITIONS


Are they better enough than the alternative(s)?

ALEX COWAN
alexandercowan.com
@cowanSF
2015 COWAN+

ANCHORING VALUE TO PROBLEMS (NEEDS)

PROBLEM SCENARIO

ALTERNATIVE(S)

YOUR VALUE
PROPOSITIONS

Problem: Helen the HR Manager & Frank


the Functional manager find it difficult to
connect on the candidates she screens.
Theyd like more time to exchange notes
and figure out whats effective, but theyre
busy.
Alternative: They have occasional
discussions. When she can, Helen writes up
descriptive emails when she has time.
Value Proposition: Franks already looking
at the candidates quiz scores in the Enable
Quiz system. If Helens notes appeared
there in a best practice format, this would
improve their joint effectiveness on hiring.
bit.ly/2persona
2015 COWAN+

Anchor to Vivid Personas


2015 COWAN+

(THE WHOLE) AGILE USER STORY


Epic Stories

Who is this user?


What makes them tick?
Whos an example of such a person?

Stories
Test Cases

As a [persona],
I want to [do something]
so that I can [derive a benefit]

STORIES
bit.ly/youagile

ALEX COWAN
alexandercowan.com
@cowanSF
2015 COWAN+

ANCHORING TO PROBLEMS (NEEDS)


CUSTOMER
DISCOVERY &
EXPERIMENTS

Was the implemented


story relevant to the
proposition?

PRODUCT &
PROMOTION

S H OW

ME

T IF
HA

How did the customer


/user react?

VALUE
PROPOSITIONS &
ASSUMPTIONS
E?

USER STORIES
& PROTOTYPES

SC

PROBLEM
SCENARIOS &
ALTERNATIVES

T?
WHA

AL

Is the problem
relevant? Is the
proposition better
vs alternatives?

2015 COWAN+

KNOWING WHAT MAKES THE USER TICK


CUSTOMER
DISCOVERY &
EXPERIMENTS

Was the implemented


story relevant to the
proposition?

PRODUCT &
PROMOTION

S H OW

ME

T IF
HA

How did the customer


/user react?

VALUE
PROPOSITIONS &
ASSUMPTIONS
E?

USER STORIES
& PROTOTYPES

SC

Do we understand
this person? What
makes them tick?
PERSONAS

WH O ?

PROBLEM
SCENARIOS &
ALTERNATIVES

T?
WHA

AL

Is the problem
relevant? Is the
proposition better
vs alternatives?

2015 COWAN+

DESIGN THINKING: EMPATHY & PERSONAS

bit.ly/2persona

ALEX COWAN
alexandercowan.com
@cowanSF
2015 COWAN+

DESIGN THINKING: EMPATHY & PERSONAS

bit.ly/2persona

ALEX COWAN
alexandercowan.com
@cowanSF
2015 COWAN+

PERSONA: BAD
Women
Age 28-45
Has kids
Socialize with other moms
Online with Facebook
86% said theyd like to be more
organized
70% said theyd use an application
that organizes them
2015 COWAN+

PERSONA: BAD
This is a huge population- not exact

Women
Age 28-45
Has kids

Bullet points are almost never vivid or


detailed

Socialize with other moms


Online with Facebook
86% said theyd like to be more
organized
These responses are fake actionable- survey responses
like this are unreliable

70% said theyd use an application


that organizes them

Stock photo- not real


2015 COWAN+

PERSONA: BETTER

Mary the Mom


Mary is a mom by choice. She had a successful career in
accounting, but welcomed the opportunity to be a stay at home
mom. She loves it. But its not like having kids purged her
creative, social instincts. She wants to connect, she wants to
learn, she wants to interact. Being a mom is a job and she wants
to do it well. That means corresponding with other moms on
child education and keeping track of what works. She posts to
Facebook at least twice a week and responds to other moms
items more often than that.
She has a few blogs and publications she reads regularly

2015 COWAN+

PERSONA: BETTER
the use of a first name helps w/ vividness (a little)

these full sentences look like a good start towards


something vivid and detailed

this is a real photo of a relevant person taken with an


iPhone in the real world

Mary the Mom


Mary is a mom by choice. She had a successful career in
accounting, but welcomed the opportunity to be a stay at home
mom. She loves it. But its not like having kids purged her
creative, social instincts. She wants to connect, she wants to
learn, she wants to interact. Being a mom is a job and she wants
to do it well. That means corresponding with other moms on
child education and keeping track of what works. She posts to
Facebook at least twice a week and responds to other moms
items more often than that.
She has a few blogs and publications she reads regularly

2015 COWAN+

A LITTLE GAME FOR BETTER PERSONA DISCOVERY

Day in the Life

We look at a few photos for a given persona (not a full picture, just snippets)
You make some guesses about them
There are no right answers BUT
There is a right process: observe and infer

OBJECTIVE:
Get a feel for whats real; start to create something vivid

2015 COWAN+

OUR CAST

Sally the
Single Mom

2015 COWAN+

WAKE UP!

2015 COWAN+

WAKE UP!

2015 COWAN+

GEARING UP FOR THE DAY

2015 COWAN+

AT WORK

2015 COWAN+

AFTER WORK

2015 COWAN+

PRE-BED

2015 COWAN+

BED

2015 COWAN+

GEAR

2015 COWAN+

IF I HAD 3 EXTRA HOURS

2015 COWAN+

ABOUT SALLY THE SINGLE MOM


Whats her favorite kind of music?
Where did she buy her last pair of shoes?
What movie did she last see?
What did she drink with dinner last night?
If she had a dog, what kind?
Whats her favorite magazine?

bit.ly/daynthelife

ALEX COWAN
alexandercowan.com
@cowanSF
2015 COWAN+

WHY DOESNT ALL THIS NATURALLY HAPPEN?

Powerful emotional drivers work against it


The more of a go-getter we are,
the more these probably affect us

2015 COWAN+

WHY DOESNT ALL THIS NATURALLY HAPPEN?

EMPATHY

EMPATHY IS HARD
For most of us, its not that natural.

MY TIME,
MY WORK

WE MEASURE LOCALLY
We like to cross things off our list, even
when it may be short sighted.

ROLL THE
DICE!

WAITING IS HARD

DISCARD
IS HARD

WE BUILD MONUMENTS

Even if some observation and testing makes


sense, emotionally wed prefer to just roll the
dice and see what happens.

Once we start to work on something, we


naturally attach to it. Yet, innovation
requires a lot of discard.

2015 COWAN+

YOULL KNOW ITS WORKING IF


Item
Your stories have all three clauses
Usability and motivation are both linked to stories, but tested separately
Usability is testing feels easy, frequent, and effective
Every story is linked to a value proposition (small or large)
Every proposition is linked to a problem
Every story, proposition, and problem is linked to a vivid persona

2015 COWAN+

THE VENTURE DESIGN PROCESS


Was the implemented
story relevant to the
proposition?

CUSTOMER
DISCOVERY &
EXPERIMENTS

Did the
implementation
deliver on
the story?

VALUE
PROPOSITIONS &
ASSUMPTIONS
E?

USER STORIES
& PROTOTYPES

PRODUCT &
PROMOTION

S H OW

ME

T IF
HA

How did the customer


/user react?

SC

AL

PIVOT?

Do we understand
this person? What
makes them tick?
PERSONAS

WH O ?

PROBLEM
SCENARIOS &
ALTERNATIVES

T?
WHA

Is the problem
relevant? Is the
proposition better
vs alternatives?

2015 COWAN+

FINI

Hypothesize

Learn

Experiment

View this deck

bit.ly/ac2true

Check out
Venture Design

bit.ly/vdesign

Use Customer Discovery


Handbook

bit.ly/cdhandbook

Twitter

@cowanSF

Get in touch!

acowan@alexandercowan.com

2015 COWAN+