I’ve been inspired to talk about it after the last kickoff meeting organized with the client. Please keep in mind that all the experiences can be quite specific in a software house when there is hundreds clients from various domains and specific requirements.
How many times did you have an opportunity to meet with whole Scrum Team, Product Owner and key stakeholders during the project in one room? Never? That’s the common situation. It shows how important can be the kickoff meeting. I will try to show you how to squeeze as much as possible from the kickoff.
Prepare yourself before the meeting
Know anything about the client’s company. The more the better. Explore his website, look at his products, find some screenshots from the software they produce. It can help you in at least two cases: you can start a conversation weaving in specific, domain language. Or you can just better understand what is he talking about during the meeting.
But it can be one more thing – especially if it is extremely hard to “sell UX” in this case. The most spectacular can be choosing any part of any of his product – website, single screen of an application. Whatever. Then just redesign it. Of course, it will be without any practical knowledge, a context of using and an customer-environment-oriented or investigating users needs and goals. But still – it will be something that client can refer to – he knows his business the most. How to find the optimal way to present it? It will be on further part of the post.
Get your dedicated time slot
In general, the major aim of such a meeting is to outline a high-level vision of the product, present a roadmap, choose the technology and sometimes plan the first sprint(s). There are some contact points for business and developers. But where is the place for pure UX stuff? It’s your job to create an area during the meeting.
Usually, the whole agenda is fulfilled until the last minute. In an ideal world, it should be at least a whole day dedicated to User Experience area. Great opportunity to organize some workshops, focus group interviews and to gather the necessary information to start working in the most optimal way. Because we are not living in an ideal world it would be good to have at least 1 hours time slot to set up major things. If you feel there is no chance even for that option there is a time to apply secret weapon.
Send your redesigns to the customer. Such things arouse so much emotion that it will certainly not be without a response from his side. Even if you did some wrong assumptions (and there is a 95% chance that you did) during the design process, a client will want to explain it and discuss your work. The very fact of seeing your product in a different form is so exciting that it never goes unnoticed.
How to optimally use the hour to discuss UX things?
Let’s assume you have got an hour. Keep in mind that after your secret weapon did the job, the client will want to burn whole your time to talk about your new designs. And yet it was just a reason to create a time slot. There are more important topics to discuss. The good way to get back on the right track is to explain that your work is based only on your assumption, without any knowledge about the context of using it, information about the goals and problems (regarding of current version) of users, work environment constraints etc. And you would like to get to know about all of these things before you’re discussing the actual work.
Here is the clue: list of crucial things that you have to discuss within an hour:
- Do you have direct access to your end users?
- Do you consider some user research phase before the actual design?
- Do you consider some usability testing and evaluating design output by the users during the development?
- Do you have some existing style guide, branding book or any Corporate Identity document that the UX team should stick to?
- What devices, screen resolutions, and browsers should be compatible with the new solution?
- (if there is a current version of the product) What are the major problems and concerns of the users about the product?
- (if there is a current version of the product) Do you have any reports of usage or statistics / Google Analytics?
- Are there any work environment constraints which may occur while using the app? (working outside the building, noise level, etc)
- What will be the basis of UX work – User Stories (what is the level of its details), functional documentation, calls with Product Owner or something else?
- Who will be responsible from the client side to review UX work – please ensure it will be a single point of contact (!) (and what is the decision level on your side – should you ask for acceptance according to minor changes also?)
- A primary communication channel between UX and PO
- Availability of PO (in purposes of cooperation with UX guy(s))
- Is there a way to start at least 2 weeks ahead of the actual development? (with your explanation of the huge advantages of this approach)
Because we had assumed that you have only 1 hour – don’t let to discuss longer than 5 minutes on 1 topic. It’s crucial to complete the whole list. The details of every position can be discussed after the meeting.
Ensure that everyone is on the same page by sending short summary after the kickoff.
At the end I would like to share you another immortal article. You may know it. It’s “A Stakeholder Interview Checklist” by Kim Goodwin. If you are thinking about organising at least whole day meeting at the beginning of the project – it should be absolutely the basics. You can find it here.