One of the original practices at iteo is product workshops that we organize for our clients. Explaining their value is extremely important, as it sometimes might not be clear why we should discuss the ideas in even more details, technologies and cooperation between the dev house and the client. We understand that it costs money and it takes time. So we took an exercise created by Sakichi Toyoda to explore the cause-effect relationships – and we will stretch this method a little to fit the purpose of this article.
The exercise is called “5 whys” and allows us to glide from the overall problem right to the real cause. Let’s start, shall we?
1. Why are we even talking about it?
First of all, let’s establish what product workshop actually is. For us, it is a collaborative work of product design team, product developers and the client, limited in a specific period of time, with the goal of creating the product.
You may say – okay, but what is the difference between this and the whole product development process? Well, they say it is a journey that matters, however, at the end of the day, we all want to know where we aim at. And product workshop is exactly what allows us to define that.
Probably if you decided to develop a product you already have something more or less specific in mind. But we will ask questions. Because what if some parts of the product are still not defined, unclear? We may need to go back or wait for answers or even ditch some parts.
And what if (worst case scenario) we deliver a complete product done exactly by our client’s directions and nobody will like it or be willing to use it? This is exactly why we need product workshops – to escape all possible misunderstandings, uncertainty and unpleasantness that may affect the final output.
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2. Why customers may not know what they want?
Let’s define a customer. In case of product development – is that our client or their final customer? Of course, it depends strongly on the specific case but I think you get where I’m going.
Not every client empathizes with their final users. That’s why product workshops require the engagement of people from different fields of expertise in order to examine the case from different perspectives.
From the client’s site, we encourage to bring in people from business, marketing and every other department that have an association with final customers but also companies’ decision-makers. We believe that they come to us for, mentioned above, guidance but also to rely on our experience, knowledge and creativity.
Our workshop team consists of UX designers and developers (of course we decide on team composition in the prism of specific product needs, but we will get to that a bit later). If needed, we may also pull out big guns and spice up the product design phase with not only workshops but also an arsenal of research, surveys and studies. All that to help you create and drive products with the perfect market fit.
3. Why should both sides invest in that?
If you have any experience connected with product development, you may think that such a workshop is a waste of time. You may say that it sounds like wasting time explaining your vision, answering questions that you could get via email or designing the product with us. And, to be honest, at the beginning it may look like we are redoing things you already prepared, asking questions you already answered.
I never heard of a workshop that was groundbreaking from the beginning. But that’s okay. We need to be on the same page from the get-go, understanding each, even theoretically the easiest, functionality, setting up the same goals. We have thinkers and doers from both sides so what you dream of – we verify, but also, what we design – you verify.
Those long hours of hardcore collaborative work pay off at the end. Getting from the bottom and overall idea, we land on the detailed product. It is never easy to exactly predict what will be the outcome – the prototype, full product backlog or maybe only some product draft? Maybe we would set on a completely different product or service that better fits your needs?
The results may be surprising, but you will never know until you try (meaning also – you will otherwise never be sure how your vision will hit the market).
4. Why expect the unexpected?
As was said before – yes, we are professionals, but also – nobody has specific, domain knowledge as mastered as the client. That is why collaboration is so important here. You have your vision and expectations. We have our solutions and experience. Now we need to get them working.
The aim is to leave the product workshop with a mutual goal and outlined roadmap. Well-known quote says that if Henry Ford would ask people what they want, they would have said: faster horses. So we have a person with domain knowledge, customer need and some ahead of time know-how (sounds familiar?). But who would expect the outcome? Ok, we may not be talking about some life-changing solutions so probably more adequate would be the viral tree case:
This is why communication matters. We respect your time, money and knowledge. We are not fortune-tellers either. Only by joining forces we can create something that will fit your company’s, customers’ and market’s needs (and will also make us proud). We do our best to choose workshop methods that will provide the best outcome regarding the given case. However, we believe that even best-described tools can be used in different ways and may have unexpected results.
5. Why one does not fit all?
Basically, for the same reason, one medicine will not heal every sickness. There are just different kinds of diseases. Viruses mutate, and so does the competition and customers’ needs. That is why we prepare each workshop process exclusively for the client.
There are thousands of methods that can be used during such workshops. Each one aiming to solve a little bit different kind of a problem or provide a little bit of different output. Every case is different so we will not beat around the bush – without examining yours, we cannot prescribe a perfect solution. But, what may surprise you is that not every case requires workshops!
And that is why the initial contact matters. We want to get to know you, your expectations, what has been done already. We promise to be your companion but also a guide in this journey (so, as marked at the beginning of this article – we need to mark the destination). To provide you with the best experience and be able to propose a smooth but still exciting product development process, we have to consult first. Together, we will figure that out 🙂