Experience wall – not just a story wall!

Since the time I worked on an interesting time boxed, rapid prototyping engagement with a client based out of London, I’ve been an advocate of making everything visual in the team room. For me, story walls were done and dusted, although there are quite a few benefits of using story walls, they’ve become a stereotype. Just with a little creativity there’s so much more you can get out of them.

Here’s how to get started with an “experience wall”:

Demand wall

Start with the product backlog. I’ve always had hard time visually representing the product backlog. How do we make sure that the product management, development and iteration/project management team quickly gets “just enough” information about what they’re working towards? If your team is working on multiple user goals in a release, how do we keep track of the progress on each of them? Here are the variations I’ve tried

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Supply wall

This could be the simplified version of your sprint/iteration wall. The specific one in example was for a rapid prototyping, 6 week product idea validation engagement. This essentially serves as a radiator for the development team so depending on the extend of visibility desired, you can tweak the columns.

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What we’ll get

Now this is something really interesting. None of the workspaces I had seen earlier ever thought about “visually highlighting” what the product/development/UI/UX team is working towards. Often times, the team only knows about it during sprint/iteration showcase. With this section on your experience wall, you can now visualize the progress, customer feedback, focus areas on wireframes.

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Experience wall

Once you bring all these together on a big wall, side-by-side, you’ve set up “experience wall”, not just a story wall! Now forget about waiting for iteration showcases to demo your progress, just walk your customer/team through the wall everyday during standup/scrum meeting and you’ve covered pretty much everything that team’s working on!

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PS – Thanks @Ian carroll (http://iancarroll.com/) and @barry (http://barryoreilly.com/) for the inspiration and ideas while getting this in action!

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3 in a row!

I’ve been part of 3 discovery/inception workshops in last 3 months. It’s been an amazing experience to work with some of the smartest ThoughtWorkers. Needless to say, different people bring in different perspectives, skill sets and I’ve learnt a lot from them especially around inception preparation, workshop facilitation, product management/lifecycle and in general keeping myself motivated while going through extended work hours, excruciating travels and depressing weather!

I am going to share few of the key techniques and learnings mastered over this journey.

1. Coming up with an agenda

First and the foremost, don’t spend too much energy in planning the agenda for these workshops. It’s important to make sure you have key stakeholders involved, if there are too many of them, block their calendars upfront. Try and come up with objectives for the entire inception duration based on your understanding of the client problem. Now work backward from these objectives to the workshop sessions. Think about which workshops/sessions will help you achieve these objectives. Key is having a rough plan and revisiting the plan every evening after daily retrospective with your team. Here’s what worked the best, a simple To-do, Doing, Done chart.

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2. Inception preparation

Get your drawing toolset together and sketch out important posters like ground rules, parking lot etc. Effectiveness of your sessions depend on your ability to use these posters! An example is the way you can use ground rules, parking lot in case of arguments, off-track discussions. One of the team I worked with had too many creative heads on it and we decided to make the posters too beautiful, only to realise it made people conscious to put anything on them! No need to over-engineer, make them look neat and tidy that’s it! Along with the posters, make sure you run through a checklist of stationary required if the workshops are offsite. Here’s another example of the most common posters you’ll need on the first day!

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3. Inception kickoff

Be confident, start with an ice-breaker session (Refer the gamestorming website for few examples or just use your creativity!) to make people feel comfortable with the new faces around. Keeping high energy level not just being the facilitator but also with the whole group makes a lot of difference. The sessions tend to be intense and it’s difficult to keep brains turned on throughout the day, plan for regular breaks.

Stay tuned for the next post where I’ll share few specific workshop activities from the last 3 inceptions.

Learnings from recent discovery workshop

“Don’t plan for every session upfront, have a rough session plan for first/next couple of days and keep re-visiting the plan every evening.” 

I’ve seen some inception/discovery workshops in the past where teams kick-off with a tight, optimistic schedule for every single session for whole of 2-3 week duration. I’ve also seen people forcing themselves to stick to this plan, even when you have a feeling somewhere back of your mind that you need more time.

However, this approach will only be effective when you have a strong facilitator, extremely involved participation from stakeholders and facilitators ability to shuffle things around quickly and convincingly.

User experience – Uber cool websites!

Some real neat websites that I came across and started following since the last post:

One stop shop for readings around user experience, usability and interaction design.
Forum/discussions focused more on user experience. I personally feel that the content quality is really good but overkill for a beginner in terms of complexity of matter and wide spread coverage.
Quite catchy tag – 

“EVER HAVE A CLIENT THINK THAT USERS ONLY SAY THE NICEST THINGS? HERE’S THE PLACE TO PROVE THEM WRONG.”



For those of you (like me!), who believe that everything around us can be depicted in terms of a story! Wide coverage of topics and good quality content!

Blog by the head of product at FourSquare, Alex Rainert. Often gives you a “Product” perspective to the User interface and interaction design!

User experience – Where do we start?

Well, User experience has always been an aspiration but recently thought about pursuing it a bit seriously. The first question I had, “Where do I start?”, Fairly easy question as I knew the correct people to talk to in our office! The best way to start aligning our thought process is to talk to these people and understand how do they approach any particular problem. Here’s how I am planning to hit the grounds running:

1. Understand what really UX is all about by reading various blogs, reading about design life cycle, commonly used techniques/tools etc. I was recommended following resources,

2. Now, once you decide to get down to brass tacks, try to identify what interests/helps you the most under the huge UX umbrella or design life cycle?

3. How am I planning to take advantage of basic UX skills in my usual BA activities? Any specific tools that I want to learn or just keep it to a point where I can think, provide suggestions to my clients like any user experience analyst?

Looks like a small but an exhaustive list to get you started with User experience! I will try to put more pointers, resources and learnings as I dig down deeper in these grounds!

Business analyst : Domain expert or Generalist?

I know most of the people in our community would have given a thought to this question. Business analyst should be domain expert or a generalist? I was caught up in a similar dilemma some time back and brainstormed with a lot of people having diverse experiences in the industry. Here’s my take on the question. It’s dependent on various factors :

Industry in which you are working

I think being a domain expert might work out as the best solution in primary economic sectors like mining, farming etc. The same would work out in the secondary economic sectors like construction, manufacturing etc and may be in tertiary economic sectors like distribution of manufactured goods. The area of concern is the newly formed industry a.k.a quaternary economic sector which deals with technological research, design and development such as computer programming, and biochemistry. I think a good combination of generalist BA’s and domain experts would work out the best in this case. Also, diving more into the IT industry, it’s dependent on the type of IT company one belongs to. For e.g. Product development companies would rather have domain experts as the product they are developing would serve a specific industry sector, IT Services companies would have more of generalists as they have varying demands from their clients and they cannot just hire domain experts and wait until they get a suitable assignment. Again the solution I proposed (having right mix of domain experts/generalists looks promising in this case).

Personal interests

At the end, the decision to become a domain expert or a generalist is left to an individual.

Though I do not have much to say about the pros and cons of each.. just wanted to bring up this thing once again with the broader community and get more opinions!!