Slice the business impact!

All projects have goals. All stakeholders want as much value as possible in a limited amount of time and all projects struggle with resources and priorities. Can we combine strategic user experience work methods and lean thinking in order to ship great working products with limited amount of time? Yes, of course!

Let me tell you a story of how we are working with the new web client for the Visma Proceedo web shop. The web shop is used by thousands of people in northern Europe to buy things they need in their work. For example day-care personnel ordering napkins and diapers, or hospitals ordering medicine and supplies.

How do we make sure we build the right thing in the right way to support all these users?

In a world where we need to ship value continuously, we also have to work continuously with the impact and value we give our customers. We need a clear goal of what to achieve, and we need to use a lean and agile way of working to make sure that we revisit the goal as we learn new things along the way.

By revisiting the business goal throughout the project, we make sure that the goal is correct and that the things we do make us reach the goal.

 Fig. User observations give us insights to make sure that the business goal is correct

1. Describe “why” as a clear business goal, based on knowledge

The Business Impact Map (ref: Inuse) gives us a good start for the project. The impact mapping helps us clarify what is really important and why we need to carry out the project. It is based on knowledge about user needs and clarifies what value should arise, for whom and how. The value of a specific investment (for example a software) arises when the developed product or service is used by individuals in the intended way. The basis of this method is that if we help users to reach their goals, we achieve the desired impact on a larger scale.

Fig. The business value is reached when the product or service is in use

The business goal act as a guiding star, it describes what value the project should deliver and tell us why we should be doing this. In the story of the Visma Proceedo web shop, the goal is to “make it easy to order correctly”, with correct being the key to success for our customers. They negotiate and sign agreements with suppliers to get good prices, and want the employees to buy from those suppliers. Subsequently, if we get more employees to use the web shop in a correct way, our customers are in better control of their purchases.

The business goal is “make it easy to order correctly”. We want to measure success by business value, not in amount of features delivered.

The areas we want to measure are the most important impact we want to keep track of. Our assumption is that this business goal can be achieved by providing a service with:

  • increased recognition (make it a familiar way of e-shopping with no manual needed)
  • Increased availability (provide the service using new technology with mobile support and improved search)
  • Increased amount of “correct” requisitions (via an improved support for categories and rankings)

This business goal and measurement areas are used by management to communicate why we need the project. Sales and market communications also use the goal both internally and to our external customers.

2. Prioritize needs and business value

We cannot deliver a fully working product in first release, that would take too long. This is why we need to prioritize and “slice” the business value. During a prioritizing session, a lot of stakeholders were asked to prioritize the needs of the different user scenarios (target groups). By having a mix of different stakeholders, we know the result of the prioritization will be useful. It was hard for Product Managers, Support, Sales, Usability representatives and Technology experts to prioritize, but really valuable for all of us. Especially for our customers and users.

The highest priority are the user needs we shall start with: basic needs and approval.

Fig. The user scenarios (target groups with similar needs) are prioritized by stakeholders

The work process in the web shop is outlined in a User Story Map (ref: Jeff Patton). They are: FIND products, BUY them and then get the purchase APPROVED by a manager. The features needed is defined for each step. These are the areas we need to make sure meet users needs, in order to design for “easy” and “correctly”.

Fig. The features are placed in order of the business priority. Top ones are most important.

3. Slice the business goal – increase value along the way

 We use the prioritization from the business impact map to slice the features into several releases. The basic needs are most important, and those have to be in the first release. Second, we can add approval and later we can add more value for advanced users.

By using the slice-business-impact approach, we know that each release will deliver a defined amount of value to customers.

We also prevent the project from “gold-plating” a step in the work process. The product search is a good example of a feature that is often allowed to take unreasonably amounts of attention and time. But there is no use of a fancy product search if there is no shopping basket to place products in…

Fig. The most important user needs are met first

Since we ship value continuously, we can gather feedback from users and measure our progress continuously. We use the lean approach “build-measure-learn”. This way we know that we are building the right thing, with the right design, and maximizing our chances to reach the business goal.

Fig. A feature is divided into stories, each providing a clear business value

During the design process, we continuously make sure that the design meets the user needs by usability testing with real users in their work environment. We learn what is important for them and how we can improve.

Fig. Usability testing help us learn how to improve and keep us on track towards the goal

4. Communicate success and way of working continuously

The impact slicing has been a really great way of working to get a working software out to customers early. An area that might be needing more attention than in a “pre-defined-waterfall” delivery is the communication to sales and pilot customers. The development project needs to be clear what values are being delivered, and what is yet to come. The more transparent the project priorities can be, the better. It increases understanding and engagement. If the user experience a half-baked solution, they will have to get help to understand that it is not finished and that they can be involved in designing the future.

My key takeaways for successful development of products that deliver real value to both users and the core business are:

  • Identify and constantly balance the user- and business priorities to make sure you are building the right things
  • Use usability methods to make sure that the the product or service is designed in the best possible way
  • Slice the business impact to deliver value continuously
  • Communicate as transparent as possible to sales and customers what value they can use in marketing and sales, and what is upcoming

About Visma Proceedo

Visma Proceedo is a cloud-based solution that supports all aspects of your organization’s procurement: Manage supplier contracts, place and deploy orders, manage invoices and payments. Save both time and money while ensuring employee loyalty to existing supplier agreements.