Product Development - Scoping

Scoping Session

Ideas come and go every day. We reach out to our friends, colleagues, expert networks and even family to help with moulding. Most often the ideas appear clear in our minds and when we try to communicate them to others, we aren’t too sure if they get through. We always make assumptions about their understanding of our ideas all the while wondering whether they are thinking the way we are? Are they seeing the world through our eyes? Scoping helps get everyone seeing the same, leaving no chances of misalignment.

Scoping is a set of 3D glasses that help elaborate and make our idea clear for everyone to understand. It’s meant to bring understanding to people, helping others see what the client sees and connect with the project.

Zegetech’s Agile Product Development process entails the following main five stages:

  1. Scoping: The client introduces the idea to the system architect for elaboration and problem definition with the intention of getting on the same page about the challenge or opportunity. Expected output is a concept note, project estimates and a product discovery sprint plan.
  2. Discovery: On the basis of the approved concept note, the project team then go on a 5-day product discovery sprint which yields the Software Requirement Specification (SRS) document definining the technical requirements of the product.
  3. Design: The SRS is used to build out an Architecture Design that will guide the development team. The project plan is also designed; story boards, activities and tasks. Once the System design and the project plan is done, the development can begin
  4. Development: The actual coding starts. This stage is broken down into 5 development sprints that are run iteratively following the agile development methodology. At Zegetech, depending on the project, we use Kanban or Scrum. Test driven development is the key to good quality code and the product is frequently deployed to a live staging environment, right from the start.
  5. Pilot: The project team can now perform a live test of the developed product, fix bugs and make continuous version releases to the market while at the same time doing a product-market fit analysis for future improvements. The pilot helps move the product from Alpha to Beta and finaly to a Version 1 release.

Getting scoping done

After signing an NDA, the client uses Zegetech’s proprietary tool called The Rise Guide that helps the client think through the whys, hows and whats of their idea. It helps broaden the thinking, to get deeper into the core of the idea and its market suitability. This sets the stage for the scoping session.

The scoping session is generally a 2-hour brainstorming session done over video chat whereby the client expounds the idea to the system architect. They answer very intricate question that the architect will have in order to fully uncover all the angles.

Literally, scoping is all about note taking and scribbling, contextual online researches, extensive elaboration and interview with the goal of getting everyone on the same page about the project idea. Through this, a concept note is developed by the architect.

The Concept Note

This is a document detailing the scoping session findings. It is the client’s idea, the problem that needs to be solved, description of the ideal described solution, outstanding features of the product and project risks and mitigation. It’s a document that lays out the description of the concept in lay man, understandable by non technical people. If a new partner or team member got on board, they would immediately understand the challenge being tackled.

If you can’t explain it in simple terms you don’t understand it well enough. ~ Albert Einstein.

Our concept note will, at the least, have the following sections:

  1. Introduction: Decribes in brief the background of the concept, who the product partners are and the expected process and outcome, setting context for the coming sections.
  2. Background: Here, some history on the idea as well as related industry trends in the relevant market. We describe the events that lead up to the idea, and the greater vision and justification for the intervention
  3. Problem Statement: We elaborate on the challenges, opportunities and the pains that the status quo presents. We ascertain the need, proving it through reserach and fact finding
  4. Solution: The clients proposed solution to address the above stated pains and challenges. Here we focus on the end game as opposed to how we get there. There are no technical solutions presented here, only value-based solutions such as “connect borrowers and lenders through ……”
  5. Risks: Every project has its risks and reasons why it might fail. We uncover these so as to be clear on the difficulty levels of the project both to the client and project team. These could be factors such as regulation, funding gaps, team cohesion etc. Whatever they are, we need to get into the project knowingly and prepared for any eventuality.
  6. Mitigation: These are the proposed inteventions on how to control the risks identifies

Here’s our Concept Note Template.

…rinse and repeat

Rescoping Now after drawing up a concept note, it may come to light that there may be a few clarifications and changes needed to get us on the same page. A back and forth with the client is neccesary to reach a concensus. Eventually, the concept note is approved and based on that, an estimate and initial project plan is prepared. Once the client has the approved concept note and the project estimate, the ball is in their court. They now decide which direction to take. It isn’t unlikely that the concept actually bring to light factors that will deter the client from moving on with the project. Should the client be focused and ready to proceed, then the next phase is engaged, which is the product discovery.

In a nutshell, the scoping session helps the client and the project team to answer these questions:

  1. Who are the target users?
  2. What problems are the target users experiencing? Past, current and ‘future’ problems if you can predict.
  3. Is there any available solution. Is it helping out with the problems?
  4. What are some of the risks that could affect the project/product?
  5. What are the mitigation processes?
  6. Is the client ready to embark on a journey of product development

Building out the concept note clearly and accurately, sets a great and strong foundation for us to win.

Thus we may know that there are five essentials for victory:

  1. He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.
  2. He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces.
  3. He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks.
  4. He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.
  5. He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.

~ Sun Tzu, Art of War

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