The business case for collocated requirements workshops

From Requirements by Collaboration: Workshops for Defining Need

By Ellen Gottesdiener

A quantified business case for having a collocated requirements meeting at the start of all projects (quoted from Chapter 12):

Well-designed and well-executed workshops are the most effective and stable way to define user requirements (Jones, 2000). Data supports the assertion that the use of requirements workshops increases quality and reduces costs. Requirements workshops can :
  • Reduce the risk of scope creep from 80 percent to 10 percent, and to 5 percent when combined with prototyping (Jones, 1996a)
  • Cut requirements creep in half (Jones, 2000)
  • Cut the elapsed time of requirements specification by 20 percent to 60 percent, and total project effort by 20 percent to 60 percent (August, 1991)
  • Provide a 5 percent to 15 percent overall savings in time and effort for the project as a whole (Jones, 1996a)
  • Reduce defects delivered in software by 20 percent (Jones, 1996a)
  • Reduce project failure and cancellation rates by about 50 percent (Jones, 1996a)
  • As a customer-oriented requirements gathering practice, increase productivity by 10 to 50 percent (Vosburgh et al, 1984)
  • Provide a 10-to-1 return on investment ($10 for every $1 invested; Jones, 1996a)
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What do you need agreement on to have a plan?

I have to admit, i am a bit hopeless at planning… I like this simple (slightly dry) checklist from a lean pack, so thought i would capture it. Its less about having a plan, more about understanding that you need a support and measurement structure around the plan to make it effective.

What do you need agreement on to have a plan?

  • Implementation Goals : Necessary changes that you have identified to the current state
  • Action Step : tasks needed to make change happen
  • Responsible Person(s) : Participants in the workshop who will serve as a leader to ensure completion of a goal and or action steps
  • Target(s) : Measurements indicating that a goal or action step has been achieved
  • Timeline : Beginning and ending dates for the overall project and individual action steps
  • Support : People who will help or provide resourses
  • Review / Control Points : scheduled points during and after the implementation to review whether it went as planned and achieved the intended results
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Experience Design Responsibilities

In the end i think its a process focused on defining a shared, clear and concrete product vision that finds a balance between the needs and perspectives of the business, customer and technology stakeholders.

I wrote this a while ago in response to “can you describe what you do in 3 points”…..

  • Champion the Needs, Motivations and Desires of the End Users through the project
    To include the end users in the design process and get a clear understanding of how the project will deliver real value to them in the real world
  • Define a Clear User Experience Vision for the product : A clear, concrete and visual articulation of the product solution, usually in the form of an interactive prototype that embodies the how the solution balances the needs of the end users / customers, with the commercial needs of the Business in order to come to a common understanding of what is desired, and what is Feasible within the target technology and time & cost project constrains. Something all stakeholders can stand around, point at and say “yes, this is what we want to build.
  • Support the Development team in delivering on the Experience Vision : To include the end users in the development process, and continually refine our understanding of how the project will deliver real value to them in the real world. Support the development team with Wire frame and Graphic Design assets that supporting each Story during the build. Ensure a feedback cycle that includes the end users, ensure what is delivered is a balance between Build Quality and Experience Quality
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So whats the business model ? – The Business Model Canvas

So whats the business model? – Its a big question and probably the first one that should be asked in any project inception. Without clear answers its difficult to create great services and software that supports this model. Using the Business Model Canvas is a way rapidly of exposing all the moving parts of the business, and bring focus to exposing both the “As is” business and “To be” future states. 

I gave the business model canvas a run during a few times within inception workshops.I think it works brilliantly, and made the subsequent development of the elevator pitch and other business driver activities in inception much easier.

I have struggled a bit in the past when trying to run an inception workshop  “business vision” session. The canvas gives this activity clear structure and ensures a broad understanding of all the moving parts of the entire business, and how these in the end map to the revenue and cost structures. 

Because it demands a high level view of things, it was very easy to keep away from product features, and focus on defining value proposition, customer segments, customer relationships, delivery channels, etc

How did it start?

  • It was the first activities in a day dedicated to “understanding the business drivers” of the project. Basically i think if a business is going to invest a bucket of money in changing the way the business works, then its a good idea to understand what this change is going to be. The business model canvas helps drive out understanding of this expected change.
  • This is perhaps a massive oversimplification – but i think a website should simply and clearly embody the business model that its supporting – clearly communicate its value, be a channel for delivering this value, clearly and simply describe the pricing model for purchasing, etc.

How did I work? 

  1. I started by drawing up a blank canvas structure and talking about the individual components and how they related
  2. We then began by modeled the existing business model using yellow post-it notes
  3. We started with customer segments, and got participants to brainstorm on post-it notes and then placed them in the zone (focusing on structuring them into a coherent set is the hard bit)
  4. Then moved on to Value Proposition – then tried to understand how this value is delivered via channels, and how this changes or informs the kind of relationships they have with their customers
  5. from there it was easy to move onto resources, activities and partners supporting delivery of value
  6. lastly tried to model the revenue and cost structures – the project was looking to change these aspects so it was hard, but very valuable as a conversation starter.
  7. we then identified areas that will change as a result of this project (using a different coloured post-it note. Changes to the pricing and product models was one of the primary changes the project was introducing
  8. We lastly prioritized these new initiatives, identifying those that would have the greatest impact on achieving the future state goals
  9. the output was used to then provide a framework for developing other more detailed business driver activities – Elevator pitch, Objective Statements, etc
Things to watch out for
i tried the canvas again for another small project, and it didn’t work as well. The mistakes i made were…
  • Not being strict with the post-it not colours. The first time i used one colour for existing, one colour for change, one colour for priority. The second time i was lazy and the thing was a mess.
  • Not taking time to synthesize the flow of post-its into each section – i was in a rush and started just putting them on the board. again it got messy fairly quickly and the channels section started to be a catch all for features (not the point)
  • Not moving on when unknowns where identified – i tried to draw out what the revenue streams for this new product and no one could tell me. At that point i started getting a bit of ‘your just here to build a website, not look at business strategy…’ . I think i should have just highlighted that at present how this product generates revenue streams is unknown and left it at that. Then again, what sort of business case is that ?


I suggest anyone who facilitates workshop focused on kicking off software projects should give this a go! Or, if you have a better, more structured way to facilitate a workshop on business vision then let me know.

More information at

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Customer Journey Sketchboards

I use Customer Journey Sketchboards (Maps or Blueprints) within inception workshops and i think they are THE most effective method for creating a shared understanding of the end users experience, and for identifying new opportunities for improvement or change.

These can be built with the end users, or can be build in isolation then validated later. They are a great asset for driving conversations. I find once they are created we refer back to them constantly, and i use them to drive out “Design Stories” for prototyping and as a context for prioritizing the stories. It’s where the rubber hits the road with personas.

See for a bunch of resources if your interested.

above is a good template from

On the surface, its an easy and fairly mechanical process to create one in a workshop…. i have found the real challenge is to ensure everyone in the room is engaged, and i constantly find myself asking “so what have we learnt here” out aloud (which is no doubt very annoying )

a list of “things” you might want to try and draw out on a Customer Journey Sketchboard can be found at

Adaptive path also have a page and video about it –

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Agility and the Customer Experience

Diana and I presented this talk as part of the ThoughtWorks Quarterly Technology Briefings.

“Balancing the extreme positions of “Big Upfront Design” and “Blind Incremental Development” is no easy task, particularly when an IT organisation is trying to apply Lean and Agile principles. Agile traditionally focuses on quality by following a philosophy and practices that ensure the development team “builds it right”.

Agile Customer Experience applies these methods to a broader scope within the business domain. It’s about moving beyond ensuring you simply “build it right”… and applying methods for ensuring that what you’re building is “the right thing to build” for the “right customers”. This opens new perspectives for superior product/service development strategies.”

a few selected slides and video are below…

Agility and the Customer Experience from jason furnell on Vimeo.

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Design Thinking

I’m becoming more and more interested in the momentum that “Design Thinking” is getting in the Business and Innovation space.

To be honest, there is nothing fancy to it (at least in my mind)…. its just the usual complex problem solving we do via graphic abstraction and facilitated workshops – the bread and butter of how we at TW work.

Agile practices are one embodiment of Design Thinking Processes, IDEO’s structured innovation workshops are another.

A good diagram describing this kind of stuff is here –

other people talking about it are :

Books about this kind of thing are rising in the “Must read business books” lists – if you believe the hype of authors like –


So why am i raising this ?

I think “Design Thinking” is a good (and recognized) name for how we do what we do in Envisioning. I have been talking up Agile+UX a lot, but i think this may be masking our ability to apply our methods and skills to a wider range of problems in the business domain.

I also think “Design Thinking” helps us break out of the “User” problem. We help businesses solve problems, and yes – a customer centered approach is the best way to do this….

My concern with the “User” problem, is that as soon as you say you do UX – or anything with the work “User” in it, then you are lumped with “Usability, Graphic Design, Interface Design” …. these are all good things – but in my experience the real value of our methods often fall beyond these boundaries.

Stuctured Workshop processes help the business get a grip on the problem space, and drive the rapid development of possible responses to this problem. Some people call this innovation – to me its just the usual “Create a new desirable product in an uncertain and fast changing competitive landscape”

So do we really do UX, or are we Design Thinkers ?

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Agile UX : Extending the boundaries of Agile to include User Experience Design

Balancing the extreme positions of “Big Upfront Design” and “Blind Incremental Development” is no easy task, particularly when an IT organization is transforming itself around Agile principles. Agile focuses on one type of quality by prescribing a philosophy and rituals that ensure the dev team “builds it right”. Agile UX applies the methods and rituals of Agile to a broader a problem space within the business domain. It’s about moving beyond ensuring you simply “build it right”… and prescribes methods for taking active role and ownership in ensuring that what your building is “the right thing to build”. (Intro)

Agile UX also presents chalenges for the UX Community, and it is important to recognize the 3 pillars that incorporating UX into Agile requires a shift in mindset for both. In the same way that changing from a Waterfall to an Agile approach is a transformation, so to is a change from Agile to Agile+UX.  The change involved for traditional UX involves moving from (1) heavy documentation to lean documents (2) a linear to a collaborative approach and (3) from a separate practice to an integrated practice.  (Thanks to Anders and Diana for this paragraph)

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architecture as space: boundaries, connections and the poetry of movement in digital experience

With a background and training in bricks and mortar architecture, I can’t help but be a bit obsessed with the striking similarities between physical and digital architecture. Some of these similarities include working closely with clients in order to modelling a clear vision for execution, defining the boundaries and connections between functional spaces and how people navigate these spaces, embodying the values and hopes of clients and the eventual users of the space in the fabric of its very making… All these things and many more are shared concerns for the physical and digital architects.


It’s one of the first things they teach you in architecture school. It’s a lessons that tells you it’s tempting to focus on what you build (walls, floors, windows, doors) but really counts, what really drives the experience of architecture… is space.

It’s a lesson taught simply by graphic abstraction – in the form of the figure ground diagram. One plan shows what is built, and by simply reversing the image and only showing the internal (or external) spaces the others focus attention on what’s not built… the spatial boundaries and connections that the built fabric defines. (show examples)

Spatial experience is dynamic, and relies not on what’s constructed (bricks and mortar) but on what is not constructed…

Architecture as space is about ensuring you focus on the right medium. As an architect you’re not sculpting building materials, you primary medium is space itself.

It’s a hard lesson to learn, particularly when its seems that 99% of your job is designing, documenting and managing the orchestration of building materials… space seems to come free and arrives whether you like it or not.

Viewing architecture as space reminds us that the Experience of the built environment is primarily the experience of spatial boundaries and connections.

Space Flows, and is primarily experienced “in time”, and this narrative and sequencing of connections and boundaries has been described as the poetry of movement. Rhythm, focus, contraction & expansion, darkness, light, scale, material and colour. The raw building blocks in the orchestration of spatial boundaries and connections.


The first lesson would have to be that we should not be distracted by “what we build”

That while it’s tempting to focus on what you build (templates, modules, menus, calls to action) what drives the experience of digital architecture is also “space”

It’s a lesson I wish I could teach you simply via graphic abstraction – but alas, our field is too immature to have developed a clear and commonly understood language for expressing this notion. I have never had the time or focus to develop this abstracted language… I have been to busy focusing on “building stuff”

But I think we would all agree that digital experience is dynamic, and relies not on what we have constructed (the individual display elements that drive the delivery of content onto a page) but on something else…The multiple paths and journeys that direct digital users on towards achieving their intended, or discovered goals.  We as digital architects need to carve out the space within which users can achieve their goals, pushing aside the debris of interface clutter, pointless navigation and dead end processes.

We should all be reminded that viewing Architecture as space is about ensuring you focus on the right medium. As an IA/UX  you’re not sculpting building interfaces, pages, modules, elements, graphics…. you primary medium is space.

We usually don’t call it space, we call it experience and one thing is for certain, that like space – digital experience comes for free and arrives whether you like it or not.

You can build without an architect, and you can develop without UX… but it’s the quality of experience that you will be giving up on, at it’s the quality of experience that drives peoples real world decisions about where they want to inhabit, live, love and grow.

Like real architects this is a hard lesson, particularly when it seems that 99% of your job is designing, documenting and managing the orchestration of application GUI’s.

I think we would all agree that Experience Flows, and is primarily experienced “in time”, and this narrative and sequencing of connections and boundaries is in fact our primary role and goal… UX is about designing the poetry of digital experience.


How can ensure we stop crafting code, and start crafting experience. Well…I can’t say I have all the answers, but here are a few ways I try have tried to approach it over the last 15 years.

> Rapidly Model Functional Fidelity
The Simplest method is by focusing on functional fidelity via prototyping – It’s the space that your design affords, and the feel of moving thru this space that you need to get a grip on early. Prototyping experience is about understanding, and getting intimate with this space. See

> Accept that it’s the build that’s the design, not your design specification.
I finally think I am starting to mature as a UX practitioner, and one of the defining moments in my career was accepting Agile as my religion… A brief introduction to agile beliefs, rituals, the value of working software, about what team really means, and the transition from design dictator to design facilitator. About AgileUX

> Make your site work without navigation.
Let me show you two photos of building. One photo of a hallway with many doors… a corridor and another photo within a navigation zone of a dynamic, connected and multifunctional space.
Digital Navigation is a chore, and is almost void of experience. It’s time wasted and I know this is harsh but I think once a user scrolls back up to the top of the page and starts using navigation you know you’ve probably done something wrong, and no doubt they are frustrated, lost and probably about to leave and try and find a space that’s more useful.

Your focus should always be “in page”, on driving action through content, or clearly articulated calls to action that offer a clear “view” towards a rewarding journey of exploration. Don’t ask “where would they go now” – trust me they don’t want to “go” anywhere. Ask “what can they do here”.

> Focus on crafting experience spaces where you and your customer can have conversations
This is bold… but I think all consumer sites are the same…. There are often only four real spaces you need to guide them through.

  • :: The foyer… a reassuring and welcoming space, focused on immediately reflecting the values and qualities of the place. Foyers have one simple function… that is to reassure you you’re in the right place and then simply and courteously ask “how may we help you today”. It’s often called the home page. (show examples)
  • :: The grand reception… a magical space of opportunity (if you do it right) where we present the answers we have to your request in a grand boulevard of adventure….where the primary concern of the user is to be able to compare and contrast their various options for investigation… should I go here, or should I go there…. It’s a massive space, perhaps the most important space, your chance to build confidence and encourage them to invest more time and effort sorting and filtering, viewing details, and acquiring items from your service. A turning point… will they enter or just turn around and walk back out the door….Its often called the list, or search results page. (show examples)
  • :: the honeymoon suite… a fairly confined and enclosed space, away from the distractions of the street where multiple voices scream for attention. Where you can guide the focus of your customer towards closing the deal. A private space where you need to convince your customer they have made the right decision, that you can be trusted, that hay… everyone’s doing it!…. Where you can give them the opportunity to say “this doesn’t feel quite right” and clearly respond with “we have other rooms that may also be to your liking, would you like to take a look”. Where, once comfortable, you invite them to take action and get them ready to lay their money down on the table. It’s often called the product details page. (show examples)
  • :: the checkout desk… a utilitarian space, where customers expect their decision to invest time or money be respected with the level of politeness, care and service that it deserves. Often called the check out or purchase flow. The sequence of experiences and actions that facilitates acquiring a service (book, buy, hire, save to “my list”, download, etc) and then the flow for returning to referring list to select another item, or presenting alternative calls to action for triggering the display and acquisition of related items. (show examples)

> We really are in the service industry, and we should be aiming at every moment to be giving our customers a full 5 star experience.

> Focus on your experience of experience design…
Think global, act local…. It may be your experience that you need to focus on, and the best way to start delivering real digital experience may be to take a hard look at the way you, and your colleagues are working together. If you were asked to redesign the experience of creating websites, so that those creating them were more motivated to take action, engaged and ultimately satisfied what would you do… Design this, then implement it, and reap the benefits of being the customer of your own genius… sounds easy – it’s hard to do, but i am convinced it’s the first step towards team leadership and applying design thinking in the broadest sense.

> About Subscribing to an aesthetic…

About how architects quite early on try to move away from aesthetic decisions around small details (how to finish the connection between floors and walls, what type of doors & windows, etc) by subscribing to an aesthetic. An easy way to select a consistent and coherent set of “finishes” that allows them to focus the more important concerns of function and space… and how we could benefit more from this approach. (show examples of aesthetics in physical architecture – classical, modern, post modern and then some examples in digital architecture including my favourite – the default WordPress administration tools design)

> About the personal qualities that can help gaining and maintaining trust…
Taking and holding ground in the decision making space within your organization is vital if you really want to make a difference to users, and the greatest weapon you have in this war is trust. Gaining the trust of your colleagues is the first step to delivering better experiences and here are a few of the qualities I think you need in order to be effective when working with your business and technology partners … see

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Process Diagrams

I love a good process diagram…. its not just a pretty picture – the content and the form need to complement and build on each other. They are tricky things to design.

I did this one recently, and to be honest it needs more thought. The steps shown are all at different scales so its not perfect but it does manage to get 3 independent iterative cycles positioned within a larger iterative cycle.

This one is a much better view of the “Deliver” Cycle, with better entry and exit points. I also like the floating assets and people bits that complement the process itself.

This one focuses on the describing the different scales of time in cyclical activities. Who said you cant mix a flat process diagram with a 3D desk and people !

And lastly, well the sketchy nature and purple makes it look straight up crazy (there is a bit of “Magic Happens” to it) – so i like it 🙂

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