Intelligent Design: Analyzing User Stories Like Stocks


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These are my slides from my Aug 25th, 2012 talk at the San Francisco Bay Area ACM meeting.

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  • But the power of the idea is only truly realized when it changes things. Ideas become more powerful when they spread and change the behavior of people.
  • Some ideas are good, some not so good.
  • Not all ideas are created equal…some ideas have more impact than others…the truly great ones transform the world
  • Others while impressive, are really just refinements of past ideas. In terms of quality, that’s not to say they aren’t valuable, but they are different.
  • What’s key when you are creating a new product is knowing what you’re solving for…are you inventing a new market, a brand new technology, or something else
  • Scott Cook founder of Intuit has a great way of putting this…good guidance but it leaves some questions. How do you define big? You don’t have to sell many G650s a tens of millions a pop to have a business, so market size isn't the only factor. And what does “well” mean? In agile we talk about minimum viable products, so this is key. What’s “well”, or “good enough”?
  • Scrum stories that go into the product backlog are a great way of describing high level requirements. The Scrum process is like a software execution algorithm. It’s a set of principles that are simple enough to be repeatable, but flexible enough to be adaptable to a wide variety of projects. But most importantly, it allows teams to quickly learn and adapt.
  • The stories look like this…or should
  • Often misunderstood, the stories themselves aren’t tasks. The team in Scrum should define tasks for each sprint that help achieve the goals defined by the stories.
  • Let’s look at Agile best practices for defining good Stories and Tasks.
  • And the Sprint Task Board aligns the stories or plays to the tasks. What’s missing? How could we make this better? Metrics…
  • Stories in Scrum are the way the organization prioritizes what it is investing in. Both time and money. Just as an organism invests in behaviors that promote it’s survival, high performing Scrum teams invest in what produces value ensuring their survival. When reading the well known INVEST criteria for stories, I realized the similarity to a stock portfolio. Would you put a lot of money into a highly risky stock without at least some investigation, why do the same with a story? And you’d always track your investment performance right?For big investments (many story points) it’s important to evaluate your investments carefully. In my view, truly Lean startups think about this more. Most teams recognizes the risk, but view it as OPM (other peoples money), after all they’re getting paid anyway right?...well maybe. Larger companies often fail to act in a Lean/Risk aware fashion because very few projects put the company at risk. But maybe they should…Image is from
  • So my point is your backlog is like a stock portfolio (or maybe a watch list if you want to be technical). Yet very few teams treat it as such.
  • We could learn a lotfrom finance. It’s a more mature field than software engineering, and they have studied risk analysis extensively.
  • While it’s tempting to try and play the diversified portfolio card, the reality is it rarely works, it’s hard to bet market odds with broad market bets. Winners often focus on a few good (related) things…take Apple for example. If you look at the product line up there, you’ll realize it’s actually pretty small, but highly profitable. In contrast, look at other companies with lower profit margins but similar market caps.
  • One key mistake that happens over and over again in the result of the first mover advantage myth. The reality is that 47% of market pioneers fail. Only 8% or followers who get in early do so…
  • That’s not to say that a good idea has an infinite shelf life. We all know that an idea unexecuted is just a dream. It’s also true that those who succeed in tech at least have to execute well. They have to continuously innovate. Just doing the same old thing isn’t going to keep you on top. Most of the leaders in the tech space have a very short lifespan. Remember DEC, Compaq, Netscape, AltaVista? Enough said.
  • So back to our stories, the way Agile suggests we capture ideas for our backlogs. If you have some basic quantitative skills, you could view them something like this…
  • Steve Blank has a great book that focuses mainly on market risk factors. He calls his approach “customer development”. His recommendation, don’t focus on building a building a company until you’ve validated you have customers. Seems obvious, but for those of us living in the valley, this has clearly been the downfall of many smart people.
  • Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know that the Lean Startup guys are making a lot of progress here, and their ideas consider UX concepts. I’m excited that Eric Riesand the Lean UX folks have incorporated at least some UX concepts. I’m even more excited that they’ve refocused the agile community on hypothesis testing, which is core to both UX and Agile.
  • But when I read Eric’s book, I thought to myself is this the best we can do? I mean as a product design consultant, couldn’t we do better? We all know there is lots of stuff that UX teams do that is wasteful. For example, a usability report nobody reads. That’s an example of muda. Did that same report note UI inconsistencies due to a lack of communication on the team. That’s mura. Did you stay up all night to write that report. That’s muri.
  • I’ve been working on Agile teams of one sort or another for many years now. I’ve also been studying things like the Toyota Way for even longer. I paid my tuition working in auto factories. We knew back then that the Japanese were kicking our butts when it came to quality of cars. When I hear UX people like Janice Fraser, Jeff Gothelf, & Josh Seiden talk about Lean UX, my ears perked up. I particularly like Janice’s line “Reduce cycle time, not build time”. I get irritated when people talk minimum viable product, when in reality most cases a minimum viable prototype would help you learn faster and make more progress.
  • My passion is studying the history of innovation, looking for patterns of what worked. One interesting case is that of the plane. The Wright brothers were very agile, and very lean. They created lots of prototypes, and tested them over and over again. They build gliders like the one in this picture. LOOK, NO ENGINE, NO LANDING GEAR. They focused, like all successful startup entrepreneurs do on what really matters most. For them, it was about controlling the plane in flight. Due to this focus, they beat the others, including those with more funding and more resources. One more thing. They had a very simple set of metrics. Time in the air, & # of safe landings. They were particularly committed to the latter, as it was truly a life and death issue.
  • People ask me what kinds of metrics I track on projects. I typically do something like the above. It looks a lot more complicated than it is…I call it the UXI Matrix.This is a simplified version showing sample data. It can be extended to cover different metrics or simplified to show less, but the key concept here is to start keeping score, or tracking, how well you are solving an individual story, as well as a set of stories both in a sprint and across sprints.And yes, you could estimate per story for each persona…but that was omitted here to simplify the example. If you want more info see my blog post on Boxes and Arrows
  • To summarize. Change only starts when people embrace new values. Tracking objective progress towards the desired outcome by making it visible is key. I’ll assume you care about UX and design, or you wouldn’t be here. The secret sauce in UX is user involvement. The more user involvement throughout the process the more effective your iterations will be.
  • Intelligent Design: Analyzing User Stories Like Stocks

    1. 1. Intelligent DesignAnalyzing user stories like stocks Jon Innes August 15th, 2012
    2. 2. A quiz What do the following have in common? • To-do list • Calendar • Product backlog • Stock portfolios All are tools for making investment decisionsUX INNOVATION LLC 2
    3. 3. Everyone has ideas… INNOVATION LLC 3
    4. 4. Not all ideas are bright INNOVATION LLC 4
    5. 5. Making the previously impossible possible http:// INNOVATION LLC 5
    6. 6. Improving the currently possible http:// INNOVATION LLC 6
    7. 7. Know the difference Invent new market Improved product Likely MVP Unlikely MVP But this is contextualUX INNOVATION LLC 7
    8. 8. Find a big unmet need we can solve well… Scott Cook Founder IntuitUX INNOVATION LLC 8
    9. 9. From Idea to Product Using Scrum Daily Scrum Meeting 24 Potentially Product Sprint hrs Shippable Backlog Backlog Product 2-4 Increment week SprintBased on image from: INNOVATION LLC 9
    10. 10. Product Backlog: Stories Backlog item Estimate Allow a diner to make a reservation 3 As a diner, I want to cancel a reservation. 5 As a diner, I want to change the dates of a 3 reservation. As a restaurant employee, I can run reports to 8 determine our revenues Improve handling of now shows and cancelations 8 ... 30 ... 50UX INNOVATION LLC 10
    11. 11. Sprint Backlog: Tasks Tasks Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Code the user interface 8 4 8 Code the middle tier 16 12 10 4 Test the middle tier 8 16 16 11 8 Write online help 12 Write the foo class 8 8 8 8 8 Add error logging 8 4UX INNOVATION LLC 11
    12. 12. Bad story, good task Fix flicker timestamps?UX INNOVATION LLC 12
    13. 13. What makes a good user story? As a <user> I want to <action> so that <goal>  Clear to the rest of product team  Defines user outcomes NOT team tasks or outputs  Just enough information to remember context later  Short, passes the “Twitter Test”UX INNOVATION LLC 13
    14. 14. Invest smartly in user stories INVEST SMART I-Independent S-Specific N-Negotiable M-Measurable V-Valuable A-Achievable E-Estimable R-Relevant S-Small T-Time-boxed T-Testable INNOVATION LLC 14
    15. 15. The Scrum sprint task boardImage from: INNOVATION LLC 15
    16. 16. Scrum stories are like stocks… • We invest in them, and we can test them • But how good are we at • Picking them? • Measuring the ROI?UX INNOVATION LLC 16
    17. 17. A product backlog is like a stock portfolio Yet most companies spend very little time analyzing it What stories do we invest in? How well are our investments doing? Image from http:// INNOVATION LLC 17
    18. 18. What can we learn from finance that applies? In finance you’d analyze stocks in a portfolio based on: α Alpha: Risk adjusted rate of return β Beta: Risk associated with the market θ Theta: Value decay due to passage of time And some other stuff that’s all Greek to me…UX INNOVATION LLC 18
    19. 19. What your α? Focus vs. diversification Most of us are “seeking alpha” α = high risk & high return When evaluating your product backlog always ask… What’s the focus? What’s the risk? Image from http:// INNOVATION LLC 19
    20. 20. Betting on β: Existing or growing markets The first mover advantage is a myth See the facts /UX INNOVATION LLC 20
    21. 21. Been θ done that… Things change… It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. Red Queen Through the Looking GlassUX INNOVATION LLC 21
    22. 22. A basic formula Story Value = (market size) x (utility) x (UX risk) x (tech risk)  Large & growing market  Solves unmet need well  Users get concept and you’ve made it easy to use  Not technically impossible to buildUX INNOVATION LLC 22
    23. 23. Determine β: Customer Development Do you have a market/user? Get out of the building! INNOVATION LLC 23
    24. 24. Solving for α β The Lean Startup way Do you have a product? Build & measure it! INNOVATION LLC 24
    25. 25. What is Lean? Taiichi Ohno’s set of values and practices for removing three types of inefficiencies: • 無駄 = muda wasted outputs • 斑 = mura unnecessary inconsistencies • 無理 = muri wasted efforts It worked for Toyota…and it applies to other fields…UX INNOVATION LLC 25
    26. 26. The Lean UX way Do you need to build a product? Prototype & measure it! /UX INNOVATION LLC 26
    27. 27. Focus on the “Wright” thing The key concept in the Wright brothers patent? How to control the plane Others were more focused on engine power Image from http:// INNOVATION LLC 27
    28. 28. 1 Who? Story Metric 6 What? 2 Groom 3 Estimate 4 5 Assign Bonus: Add hyperlinks Market Metric 7 to deliverablesUX INNOVATION LLC 28
    29. 29. Change starts when people embrace new values • Questions to ask on your team • Have we validated these stories and personas? • Did the iteration incorporate measurable user feedback?  Do they like it?  Can they use it?  Would they recommend it to a friend?  Did we make it measurably better? • UX principles remain the same in agile • Iterations without user tests are a lost learning opportunity • Waiting until the end to test with users is the waterfall way • The definition of “done” can only be determined by usersUX INNOVATION LLC 29
    30. 30. Final thoughts It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one most adaptable to change. Charles DarwinUX INNOVATION LLC 30