In my previous blog post “making business transformation a smash hit” we looked at the ways in which business transformation results in immersive customer experiences, accelerated time-to-market and real business value delivered. The model is based around a structure of cross-functional teams owning and delivering specific customer journeys.
Continuing with the music analogy, we’re now going to explore what makes these teams capable of delivering “smash hits” – going “backstage” to reveal the right methodology, environment and tools that will deliver maximum business value and impact at pace.
It’s critical that these teams start with the right foundations to build upon. Outlined below is an effective method that’s kicked off with four foundational sprints:
Building on a proven design thinking approach
The British Design Council’s “Double Diamond” is a popular end-to-end method from concept to delivery. At Wipro Digital, we have built upon its four stages – Discover, Define, Develop and Deliver – with an additional stage called the Experience Roadmap.
This prioritised iterative roadmap accommodates more complex problems, as illustrated below and in this video:
The graphic above outlines some of the activities, roles and artefacts used by the cross-functional team at each stage. Many different skillsets and roles are required, such as strategic design, business strategy, architecture, devops, metrics, and agile methodology.
It is beyond the scope of a blog post to go through this method in detail – in fact, we have a 200-page, end-to-end playbook we share with our clients! So in this post I will focus on how cross-functional teams implement in sprints, at speed, that iteratively deliver value to the customer.
Adaptive agility (how tight is the band?)
In the previous post, we looked at how true transformation can only happen when all skillsets are present in a room together, like band members practising all their parts in unison. That same idea of tightness applies to the cross-functional teams, who have the capability to move items from design to delivery and elicit customer feedback quickly.
Design thinking can be implemented through an agile lean UX approach. By prioritising the key customer value points for validation, features can be tested rapidly without worrying about all the details.
Cross-functional teams should work simultaneously within or across the five stages, iteratively moving new customer value opportunities to delivery and customer feedback.
The focus should be on delivering the items of highest value quickly to get the most benefit from metrics and feedback and improve the next sprint. For example, customer feedback could kick off a requirement for new insights, or it could mean radically rethinking a particular feature on the roadmap. This iterative feedback approach enables the cross-functional team to continuously improve the items that create real value for the customer and business.
As the team implements more and more iterations, the level of organisational digital fitness increases – delivery accelerates while the lead time between stages narrows to the point where new features can be imagined, designed and delivered within days (or even hours).
Implementing the above method in fast iterations can be considered the target state for the cross-functional team, but it will take time to get there. Starting this process requires mobilising stakeholders and setting the operational pace we want to continue with.
Setting up and accelerating the method
Four foundational sprints will set the pace for teams that are completely new to this approach. Time pressure is a hygiene factor to motivate team collaboration and innovation. This approach is not about getting everything right first time, but rather setting a strategic foundation that can be built upon, using new methods of cross-functional collaboration, fast iterations and customer feedback of key value points.
The four sprints can take different shapes, but typically will involve:
- Starting with stakeholder and team alignment on a clearly-defined problem;
- Building a foundation with deep inside-out and outside-in insights;
- Setting the vision;
- Building the experience map and service blueprint, along with prototyping and validating artefacts.
These four sprints build a strategic foundation that creates business value and that can be validated with customers, setting up the team for success.
Sprint 1: Getting started with alignment
One of the biggest barriers to getting things moving quickly is a lack of buy-in or commitment from stakeholders. One thing that compounds this problem is that many organisations can have siloed internal functions that don’t effectively collaborate with one another.
To get everyone to up their game, it can be useful to go offsite to a neutral location and use an external facilitator to start people off thinking and doing things differently. One great alignment exercise is to collaboratively identify top-priority problems to address.
Problem definition enables stakeholders to align and agree on the key challenges the business faces before jumping into priority solutions. A typical approach is for stakeholders to take several minutes to quickly identify all the key business problems that exist, then group them together by customer problem areas. They will then prioritise the issues based on the collective viewpoint of the group, identifying the customer impact and business impact of each problem.
After this exercise, it’s important to do a deep dive on the identified issues to develop a full 360° view, which be done by asking questions about how the problem affects the customer, competitiveness, the business, technology and operations. Elements that are unknown or that are missing metrics can be taken into an insights phase for further validation. The goal of problem definition and the 360° view is to understand and identify key challenges for the customer and business to enable stakeholders to prioritise where resources should be focused.
Sprint 2: Building a foundation for insights
Based on the knowledge developed through the problem definition exercise, assumptions mapping is an excellent technique for imagining the potential opportunity spaces that are available to solve a selected problem. Assumptions mapping involves asking questions about what makes (or could make) the product or service desirable, feasible and viable. It typically leads to thought-provoking conversations across functions. Once the team agrees upon the opportunities and challenges, these are mapped to a grid shown below:
The initial foundation is set by the items that are considered “important and known.” The things itemised as “important and unknown” set the backlog for validation through insights and research (such as customer validation, technology feasibility or financial modelling).
The great thing about this technique is that it quickly leads to consensus between stakeholders on what items are most important. It ensures stakeholders are honest when they can’t produce metrics or data to support why they say something is important (i.e. it’s a valid assumption). This means the team can collaboratively discuss how to validate assumptions and establish a cross-functional ethos from initiation. Prioritising the assumptions helps focus the time spent on insights and research to validating the focus areas.
Your insights need to build a 360° view of problems and opportunities. This is a research stage to work through the assumptions backlog, and tasks will include:
- Analysing business and customer data;
- Interviewing stakeholders and their colleagues to understand the internal viewpoint;
- Reviewing the market, competition and customers to build an outside-in view;
- Mapping the as-is customer journey (if it exists), overlaying the problems, insights and opportunities that have been identified.
Sprint 3: Collaborating on a vision
The next step is to reimagine the customer experience and define the future vision to test and validate based on the collected insights. The fastest way to align stakeholders is through a design sprint, such as the google design sprint or IN24, during which the team:
- Analyses the problem statement, as-is customer journey, gathered insights and opportunity areas;
- Looks at the marketplace and takes an outside-in view;
- Reimagines the customer journey to solve the identified problems and leverages the validated opportunities;
- Translates the reimagined customer journey into achievable delivery interventions;
- Prioritises the interventions based on customer and business impact, not implementation complexity. Typically, high-impact, low-complexity interventions have the highest priority.
At the end of IN24, the reimagined customer journey and prioritised interventions are used to populate a high-level future customer experience roadmap. A large printed version can be posted to an office wall for everyone to continue to reference. Produced as a collective effort, this artefact inspires ownership and shared pride throughout the team. The experience map will continue to be updated and validated through iterations, metrics and customer feedback.
Sprint 4: Prototype and validate
Key customer value features are brought forward for rapid prototyping and validation with customers. The team can use ideation sessions and rapid sketching to come up with ideas and prototypes. The best ideas are rapidly mocked up into interactive customer prototypes. The goal is to test and validate key customer value features with real customers and use their feedback to drive new iterations.
Engineers help set the foundation. The first four sprints should include an engineer looking at architecting technology opportunities. These insights feed into the technical feasibility and implementation complexity of planned interventions. It’s crucial to have at least one engineering representative in the cross-functional team from the start, as it means they have full input and visibility into the method and the outlined future experience. Engineering involvement will likely grow as sprints evolve.
Next up: the “accelerate phases”
These initial and foundational sprints have a transformative effect – mobilising and aligning stakeholders, validating key concepts with real customers, establishing a strategic direction for the team and accelerating delivery.
In my next blog post, we’ll discover how the “accelerate phases” realise real efficiencies and growth – leading to the business transformation smash hit!