It's alive dr. Frankenstein!

08 Dec, 2011
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A walking skeleton as meant in scrum is not always feasible. That’s the first sentence of one of my previous blogs. This one starts the same but approaches the subject from a different angle. The angle here is that we teach people to make story maps based on personas; the user, administrator and so on, but we don’t actually take into account that the product has to be bought by someone and how that decision actually works. This blog post tries to tie complex buying decisions into story mapping, to find the shortest route to a sellable Frankenstein, rather than a mere bag ‘o bones.

Imagine buying a new TV. Who has a say in that process? Ask yourself who goes out to buy it? Who is going to tell you it should be suitable for 3d-gaming? Who is going to decide the size, shape and look-and-feel that will determine the fit with the rest of the interior? Who is telling you it’s going to be bought at store x or maybe online?
All these questions could and probably will play a role in the consumer
buying process of complex products and therefore ultimately decide whether product “a” is bought or competitor “b”. It’s not said all of these questions get asked and answered by the same person(a). Most buying decisions of complex nature are made by a so called decision making unit or DMU.
Decision Making Unit theory indicates a number of roles with regards to
buying decisions such as the:
– initiator : identifies problem/ need to solve;
– gatekeeper: regulates info for decision;
– influencer: influences decision;
– buyer: buys solution;
– decider: decides what product to buy;
– user: actual user of product;
We build storymaps based on pragmatic personas, which are primarily users. Selling our product however, as decision making theory shows us, may mean tactically taking into account the entire decision making unit, not only the users. I encounter a lot of releasable walking product skeletons, neither shippable nor marketable.
Too thin a walking skeleton, means releasable, but no one will buy it. Too fat a walking skeleton, means putting in too much and missing crucial market windows.
A sellable increment, which if possible is of course also a first release, means fleshing out your skeleton just a bit more making it more of a sellable Frankenstein than just a bag of bones.
A sellable increment or marketable feature set, in my opinion is your
kano threshold attributes + a well thought-out and implemented set of performance attributes, resulting in the product being a viable option in the customers consideration set of alternatives. Next to that, we need a good usp, or a unique set of these, positioning your product from all others. All of these product properties, or a specific set depending on your product marketing strategy, will need to be translated to DMU needs, to be able to hone the product for sales.
My advice would be to start thinking about the DMU and how this works for your product. Get marketing involved and see what they already know about the composition of the DMU. Create some peronas and try to involve them somehow in demos and future plans to get the feedback you need.


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