Super Power #10 – Controlling the Tides

wave
Three is the magic number

Part of your work as a PO means controlling the tides, or rather, controlling the waves.  You need three waves to get your users’ attention…

Picture your sponsors laying on their metaphorical beach and casually considering the features you completed in the last sprint.  Are they really engaged or do they just want to get back to their magazine and that umbrella drink?  One of the challenges I’ve had in my time as a Product Owner is to get true engagement from users before releasing.  True the ideal is just to release early and often, but in an large enterprise that is often not possible.  With our releases being no more frequent than monthly, and usually more like quarterly, we need sponsors and users to engage with our system and think about it as if they are actually using it.

We have tried a number of techniques to accomplish this:

  • Standard demos after each sprint
  • Supplying a link to our system (easy as we make web apps)
  • Conducting usability studies and doing paper prototyping
  • Reviewing wireframes and click-throughs as a group with our business partners

The issue with all of these, I believe, is that you get limited engagement for a limited time.  Even if you succeed in getting their attention you still suffer from their lack of familiarity with the product, so they spend all their time just groking it.  Remember that it took you many hours of mulling things over, discussing with your scrum team or other product team members, etc before the vision was clear to you.  

Back to our beach – I have now observed on two occasions, that using the techniques above works but only about the third time your users see something.  When the THIRD wave hits them, they understand what they are seeing and have had enough time to consider how it applies to them.  This is when you begin to have productive conversations and get actionable feedback.

So, while I would love to hear your opinions on this, my team’s next project will involve getting things in front of the same audience of users three times in as short a time as possible.  It may be poor substitute for releasing (which gives you new information like usage tracking data), but many times in my company, this is the best I can get.

How many waves have to wash over your users?    Many of my users are frequent travelers and/or are high level executives, so maybe it’s different for you?

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