Just like your favorite superhero, every product has an origin story. And every founder has a unique set of insights from which the idea emerges. You also need a doc that outlines the product vision — how it fits in the market and how it beats what's there now.
In business analysis, it's called the Discovery Phase and the founder should actively participate so they don’t invent solutions before identifying user needs and quantifying product market fit.
The outcome of the discovery phase is not a super-clear recipe of the future product, however. It's a rough understanding — it means the startup team is preparing for one big turbulence zone in the form of change requests and new features from sprint zero to MVP release.
But here's the problem: during those sprints, the product evolved away from the original picture the founder had in their head. So launch day comes, and they can walk away from the demo scratching their heads wondering how this software and documentation misses the mark.
Here's where a product board and 3 key visualizations come into play. Let's break down each and keep your team on the right track.
Why use a product board
As a founder you should always look for ways to improve communications with your startup team and focus them on really important things.
But the truth is many founders are passionate only about their idea and don’t care about nuances of the internal development process and detailed requirements.
Using a Product Board lets founders and teams align easily on the development process & start thinking on the level of product vision and delivering valuable releases.
Combining a custom approach with well-known artefacts of business analysis, a founder can use several tiers of a product board and manage 2 important things:
- Build a clear development communication process:
• Make a service design model to REALIZE quality of development.
• PROVIDE flexibility for changes based on users’ end-to-end scenarios and underlying values.
• KEEP a clear focus on business issues.
• Be involved in business logic.
- Visualize and run 3 key elements of any project:
• PRODUCT ROADMAP: Artefact for a fast feedback about timeline, goals from sprint to sprint and from release to release, project health tracking.
• USER STORY MAP: For a simple understanding of the user journey, finding gaps, understanding what problems the user will be solving and how they go through your app.
• PRODUCT SANDBOX: A laboratory for making valuable features together with the team and having the right decisions, where you put different artefacts starting from simple sketches and ending with JTBD or diagrams.
If you want to look at a product board more closely or start to use one, follow the link to my template in Miro. Let's go through each element now 👇
The product roadmap allows Founder to capture the main milestones and development flows without unnecessary detail, but with a sufficient level of understanding of the current state of the project.
To do this, several tiers & flows are embedded in the product roadmap, each with its own role:
- Development sprint flow and Goals: Central parts of the ideal development process, but certainly not the only ones. Here a development team and founder create a mix of important tasks that are aimed at achieving the main goals, as well as additional work for further sprints.
- Product owner flow: Greatly helps you to focus on the founder’s tasks that must be solved in order to assist a development team. In this flow, it is important to go one step ahead of development sprint flow to eliminate blockers for the development team.
- Extra issues: Something unplanned, but very urgent. The flow where you can freely sound out in which sprints the team was overloaded and how it affected the development flow and what it eventually led to.
- Backlog: Everything that appears along the way of creating a product. An important point is that the founder or team shouldn’t store detailed requirements. The backlog flow in this case will be effective for managing current product ideas, new features, as well as for product tasks, business research, etc.
For quick orientation on the map, you can additionally use:
- Timeline of sprints;
- Colors and tags to define priorities and understand whether the task was closed or not;
- Marks for indication whether sprint goal was achieved.
Also use comments inside stickers to focus on specific problems or tasks. Communication in this form brings the team and founder closer thanks to the transparency of the process and leads to the desire to get involved and be proactive.
And of course, such a full picture helps you to track the state of the project and instantly change priorities while keeping track of which tasks were postponed.
User story map
This visualization of the user journey helps the founder to see the whole picture easily. But in this case, the picture is at the level of user stories for understanding a series of events within one large user’s narrative.
After all, no matter how well you understand the idea, the user story map will always help find gaps, understand what tasks the user will solve and which way they will go.
To prepare better for creating a User story map, sometimes it’s good to have additional End-to-End scenarios at a very high level to understand things like:
- Impact, motivation, triggers, reason.
- Description, goals, tasks;
- General business logic (basic steps);
- General acceptance criteria, value;
- Connection with further steps/scenarios, impact on parts of the product, connection with other systems;
- Errors and exceptional cases, business rules (conditions, restrictions);
- Evolution, assumptions, backlog.
In the product sandbox a founder can activate even more communication with the team by visualizing various diagrams, sketches, user personas and other things without waiting for detailed documentation to be written.
Using these visualizations, a founder can fuel the interest of the product team to fully understand how and why it should work.
Inspire your team
Inspiration instead of complicated management — that is exactly what should happen between a founder and their development team.
In addition to the product board, follow these 6 essential principles for product development to build a rocket and fly on it after the MVP stage:
- Just release something instead of thoughts about eternity.
- Think like the Persona, not the user.
- Visualize, communicate and design your own process.
- A user's problem is not always a reflection of value they want from your product.
- Allow the real world to test your idea.
- Lay down invisible threads for further architectural extensions.