Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Why Your Product Should be Using a Maker Approach

Written by Mark MacDonald and Scott Rojas

Many times projects fail before they ever get started. It can happen for a myriad of reasons such as a lack of alignment (both internally within the team and externally with your stakeholders), a lack of long-term vision, or a lack of understanding the needs of those the project is ultimately supposed to serve. Rightpoint is different than other digital agencies because we leverage a product driven or “Maker” approach in our engagements. We like to call them engagements instead of projects because a project is an individual or collaborative enterprise that is carefully planned and designed to achieve a particular aim. It’s that linear vision of a particular aim that can limit thoughtful consideration of the big picture. That limitation often leads to issues down the road. Having a product driven approach sets the expectation that what’s being built in an engagement will continue to be nurtured and cultivated beyond the initial release. It’s this product mindset that helped to cultivate the “Maker Approach” here at Rightpoint. Our approach is made up of three phases: Prototype, Build and Evolve. These phases act as the DNA for our process.

Before reading further, we created an infographic to accompany this post. We suggest you open it in a new tab to refer to as you continue reading this post.

Prototype – We build our strategy and vision for an engagement right up front. Leveraging a prototype is a cost efficient and effective way to garner feedback, iterate, and gain alignment across the product stakeholders. It allows for changes without incurring the overhead or rework that comes from having first built the product and then looking for feedback. Here the team continues to iterate, test and validate their hypotheses, ultimately shaping the model to a vision that culminates in an MVP (minimal viable product). It is this MVP that will act as the blueprint for the product to be built.

Build – Once we’re aligned on a design with our MVP we are ready to put hammer to nail (in our case 1’s to 0’s). Here we take an agile approach providing visibility and transparency in the process (show often, garner feedback, and iterate). We’re focused on consistently validating the direction and key decisions to make sure they still align with the stakeholder needs. We all know things change, so planning for change with this approach allows us to smartly react.  We make sure that what we’re delivering will provide the business value and user adoption to make it truly successful. This process continues until we achieve a product market fit, ready for release to the user community.

Evolve – This phase is where most traditional projects fall short and where Rightpoint really differentiates itself. Most projects get that initial feedback when the launched (e.g. bugs or small enhancements that were missed in requirements and UAT), but once a project is closed out who is thinking about 6, 12, or 24 months after launch? What other business problems can we address with the product? Once a product is released it’s often easy to let it fall by the wayside as more products/solutions are added to your portfolio. During a Rightpoint engagement we test and measure end-user interactions to continually improve our understanding of how people are using the product and expose new opportunities to grow it. We develop a product roadmap that outlines your vision and strategy. It’s a living document, always evolving as our understanding of your users and their needs change and evolve.

Whether we are building an intranet, custom portal, website or software product the approach should be the same. From the initial visioning through post go-live enhancements we are always learning and growing our understanding of users. Leveraging a Maker approach allow us to maintain flexibility throughout the lifecycle while continuing to keep an eye on the future.