Frame: Align the Project
Before you tackle that design challenge, frame the problem you’re trying to solve. If you’re working with a large team to help spin up the project, this is the time to align with them. Share your thoughts on user needs, goals and the future. If you have a lot at stake, bring some rigor to this phase. The way you start your project can easily make or break your success down the road.
Start your design project by defining your user needs or opportunities. Next, envision the future experience. Finally, create your plan to solve for this need or opportunity. At the end of this phase, you will have a few useful outputs to kick start your project.
Now, let’s take a closer look at each of these activities.
Identify the Need or Opportunity
Based on the scope of your project, a few early activities can help you clarify the problem space. Look at competitors, review current insights and assess the business strategy. When you assess your competitors, note their strengths, weaknesses and any white space opportunities for differentiation. Review any learnings you already have on hand that point to drivers, unmet needs or pain points. Finally, assess your strategic directives. These may place focus on certain capabilities, opportunities or differentiation points.
Here are a few questions you’ll want to answer at this time:
- What are our competitors doing better?
- How will this project allow us to differentiate?
- How will this project address unmet needs or pain points?
- How will emerging trends affect our industry here in 5 years? 10 years?
- How will this project contribute to our long term strategic plan?
If you’re working with a group, host a team workshop to review your findings. Seek their support on a single, high-level directive.
As you wrap up this stage, create a clear need, problem or opportunity statement. State what the project is trying to solve and confirm value.
Envision the Future Experience
Once you’ve identified the need, envision what the future experience could look like for your project.
If you have a need sitting in front of you, a root cause analysis may uncover any underlying causes. Focus on asking why the need exists.
If you aren’t looking at a need, you may be looking at an opportunity or strategic directive. In this case, a hypothesis tree may get you closer to your answers. When you’re creating a hypothesis tree, ask how instead of why. As a result, you’ll find key drivers, assumptions and new ways to approach the opportunity.
When working with many people, host an envision workshop. During this workshop, review your pre-work findings as a team. Then, consider what those findings may mean for your project.
Here are a few questions for thought:
- What do our users desire?
- What is financially viable?
- What is technically and organizationally feasible?
- What outstanding questions or knowledge gaps remain?
Regardless of which path you take, you will find yourself with outstanding questions and identified knowledge gaps. Jot down these questions and gaps as they arise. These questions drive your discovery later on.
Once you’re done with this step, you’ll know your project objectives. You’ll also have some early requirement statements that set broad boundaries across the desirability, feasibility and viability dimensions.
Frame the Project
If you’re flying solo, your project plan will hold you accountable. When you’re working with a team, however, you must move forward together. Clearly identify your partners for upcoming phases. For a large team, create a RACI to prevent role confusion.
Frame out a high-level timeline for discovery, design, governance and measurement. A solid plan includes both key milestones and decision points. If you’re in a complex environment, find out who will be involved in project governance. Finally, describe any artifacts you plan to create during each of these phases.
As you frame your project, make note of the key attributes, value proposition, constraints, tradeoffs, objectives, and priorities.
Wrap Up & Prepare for Discovery
You now have a need statement, project objectives, requirements and a project plan. As you kick off discovery, be sure your research plan addresses those outstanding questions and knowledge gaps. Downstream, your discovery findings will inform your design strategy, including your design principles and journey definition.
For more on discovery, see Discover: Fill The Knowledge Gap.