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Strategic Workshop - How Well-Focused Product Discovery Helps Launch Game-Changer Projects

A reliable blueprint is essential for implementing ideas of any complexity. That’s why every project we set out to implement gets its own brainstorming session. A product discovery phase helps to map out the workflow and set the stage for pitfall-free, smooth project sprints. Which is why it is the first step in our Strategic Workshop. A workshop that prepares your upcoming project workflow for the most efficient launch and further functioning. But let’s start from the top.

What is Strategic Workshop all about?

There is no identical project out there, and it’s the task of every developer and service provider to help the client emphasize and leverage the project’s uniqueness for a sturdy competitive edge. Every minute devoted to the collaborative discovery session will ultimately result in invaluable savings of time and resources for the client.

The only thing more important than thorough, timely planning itself is early prioritization of the project’s preparation for launch. Our Strategic Workshop exists to help prioritize the kick-off stage of the project, and to ultimately back up the fact - the smoother the kick-off, the all-around steadier the following workflow. 

For that, we dedicate separate Workshop stages to specific aspects of project planning and launch. Each stage is an expanded outlook on every underlying brick of the project, where we analyze and study it from many angles in order to 
1. Meet, or better yet, outdo the requirements and satisfy the client;
2. Protect the future workflow from common pains and pitfalls;
3. Demonstrate a competitive edge and provider’s resilience.

The goal is to lay the workflow foundation that is fully adjusted to the client’s objectives and promotes the stable implementation of the product that gets just the right scope of design and functionality. 

The Strategic Workshop is logically divided into several essential stages and sub-stages:

  • Workshop Prep
  • Strategic Workshop:
  • Problem Solution Fit lean canvas
  • MSCW Prioritization
  • Navigation Architecture
  • Workshop Wrap-up
  • Roadmap
  • Estimation
  • Workshop Follow-up

As you can see, before diving into project specifics, we set up the Workshop processes during the Workshop Prep stage. The following Strategic Workshop is the core phase, where we focus on three specific approaches to chiseling out that perfect product implementation workflow. Then, we wrap it all up and go through the main takeaways.

Let’s take a detailed look at each stage.

Workshop Prep

First things first - in order to fully tailor the Workshop to the client’s needs, we study their product (or product concept), the market niche it is meant for, and the themed specifics surrounding it. At this point, we need to collect as much information as needed to structure a basic lean canvas that will underlie the choice of the best-fitting business model.

Namely, we need the input to clarify the following points:

Business specifics
  • What is the client looking for, and which major goals are already set?
  • What is the future product all about, and which pains must it tackle?
  • How can we monetize the product and source profits?
Competitive situation
  • What are the product’s main competitors?
  • Which competitive strengths and weaknesses can we draw from?
Target audience and end-user focus
  • Who makes up the product’s target audience?
  • Which specific pain points should the product eliminate for the TA?
  • How is the TA tackling these pains at the moment?

The lean canvas approach allows us to turn the answers to the above questions into the selection of several main problems, feature-based solutions for them, and metrics. We can also define an approximate scope of costs

With this analysis in hand, we can set the basic milestones and draw up a Workshop agenda with schedules and directions for resource distribution. There is but one more preparation step we need to handle before moving on.

Who should participate?

Another crucial prep point is about making out who exactly will be involved in the Workshop’s workflow. Here, we need to focus on the so-called subject matter experts who will be pushing the project and who may include:

  • A product development team (e.g., a designer, developer, project and/or product manager, business analyst, etc.) and main stakeholder who will also be participating in the product’s development.
  • In case the Workshop is organized purely for strategizing on business and company-wide matters - executive-level managers pulling all the business levers.
  • A CFO, CEO, and other operational managers can be involved if the Workshop covers company-wide management pains and issues.
  • End users can provide invaluable feedback and help reinforce the user focus. You can involve users familiar with similar competitive solutions if there is no implemented version of the product yet. 

After the preparation of tasks and distribution of roles, it is time to move on to the business.

Strategic Workshop

The main body of the Workshop consists of filling up a lean canvas with major problems and solutions, prioritizing product workflows and features based on that canvas, and outlining a user-focused navigation architecture. First, we dive into the Problem Solution Fit sprint.

Problem Solution Fit & Lean Canvas

To achieve an elaborate lean canvas, we define the two separate “brainstorming environments” - a problem space and a solution space.

Problem space

First, we need to define and state the problem as is. The problem space has two boards - the problem’s name and its description (key aspects that we know of). These boards are usually segmented according to different types of users and product roles. Here’s a simple example:

End user

User interface convenience → Users have trouble finding their way around the personal cabinet navigation.

Admin

Insufficient analytics → The admin dashboard doesn’t cover the necessary metrics

Solution space

With all pain statements, descriptions, and segmented roles in place, we move on to the space where we hypothesize and outline possible ways to tackle all the defined problems. Going from big to small, the task is to lay down the logical problem-solving hierarchy.

The most generalized board can look like this:

Application Format

Desktop application → Mobile application

Every other product aspect gets its set of boards - for instance, the UI board can subdivide into intuitiveness, speed, and convenience boards. Juxtaposing the two spaces, we come up with fitting solutions to complete the lean canvas by setting tasks and features. Like this:

UI Navigation

One-click login for fast personal cabinet access → Navigation guide with pop-up instructions

Each aspect gets its own brainstorming session where we decide which final feature or task we should set to tackle the pains and meet the client's requirements in the best manner possible. In the finalized lean canvas, only definite decisions are left - no underdeveloped ideas or vague thoughts.

MSCW Prioritization

The complete problem solution fit canvas provides a handy structure for the project planning agenda. But we need to further prioritize all the suggested features and tasks. The goal here is to set the smoothest implementation sequence to achieve the sturdiest project workflow and get projected results.

For this, we employ the MSCW approach, which stands for:

  • Must-haves
  • Should-haves
  • Could-haves
  • Won’t-haves
  • and Undefined aspects

This is a very intuitive prioritization hierarchy that helps us focus on the main things and gradually cut all the excess. If it isn’t a total excess - a could-have feature, we either postpone its further analysis until the fitting times or keep it as a secondary idea in the background.

The won’t-have aspects that are stamped out from the implementation agenda are followed by undefined ideas - the lowest-priority (or no-priority) concepts that exist as vague suggestions for the future and whatnot.

The summary of the above stages is the perfect outline of the necessary functionality scope for the MVP. All the must-haves should be sufficient for building a basic structure and achieving a minimum viable architecture.

Navigation Architecture

The last but not least important stage of the main Workshop, we draw up a detailed navigation architecture that synchronizes all the necessary features with end-user goals. This helps keep the focus on the user needs and really hit the spot for the TA. In particular, field practice shows that a well-planned navigation architecture eliminates pitfalls and dead ends in the user experience.

Everything is pretty concise here - we mostly use FigJam to draw up an architecture that should seamlessly lead the users through the product’s navigation with the right features. Yet this stage gets an equal amount of brainstorming as we are dealing with the UX planning, which must be flawless if we are looking to build a truly user-inviting solution.

Workshop Wrap-Up

With all the above stages out of the way, feel free to queue your first sighs of relief - the Strategic Workshop is complete, and now you have some core milestones, agendas, and takeaways on which to build further. In particular, we have:

  • A lean canvas with a thorough problem solution fit visualization;
  • A set of analyzed and prioritized features and tasks on which to focus;
  • A comprehensive navigation architecture that connects all the dots.

These are the essential inputs we need in order to structure a roadmap for full-on technical product development and initiate a seamless workflow. At this point, all decisions are summarized, and the next steps are discussed.

After this, you may let most of the initially involved stakeholders and decision-makers go, thanking everyone for their time and leaving only those able to help you deliver a final project SOW and cost estimate:

  • Roadmapping - a reliable SOW or, simpler put, a roadmap is drawn up based on the Workshop’s takeaways;
  • Estimating - all the takeaways and the roadmap allow for a pretty close estimation of the work scope and underlying costs.

Now, this is where all the Strategic Workshop’s goals are deemed achieved, and it is fully completed. A product owner gets their project workflow foundation, moves on with its implementation, and everybody’s happy.

Workshop Follow-Up

To really seal the deal and squeeze the most efficacy out of your Workshop effort, don’t forget about follow-up discussions. In order to achieve the highest rate of client satisfaction, your Strategic Workshop should offer these key deliverables:

  • analyzed, prioritized, and structured pains and fitting solutions;
  • mapped-out user experience flows and early product map;
  • a list of prioritized MVP features and tasks;
  • a further action plan for the development team and other stakeholders;
  • hot tips, directions, and recommendations

Be prepared to discuss and adjust all of that with key decision-makers during as many follow-up meetups as will be needed. All in all, it is now the responsibility of software designers, engineers, and other tech specialists to set the completed roadmap in motion.

Bottom Line

A Strategic Workshop dedicated to the discovery phase and initial planning of the project is the definitive way to eliminate risks, avoid costly excess, and sharpen up the competitive edge. But there is more where that comes from - we organize Strategic Workshops dedicated to other phases and aspects of reliable product development as well.

During the Workshop, we put the traditional development workflow stages under the microscope for better, deeper results. Leading one of the busiest digital design agencies out there, we realize the importance of such close focus from firsthand experience. 

Ready to outrun competitors by doubling down on the things they cover only superficially? Join the Strategic Workshop - let’s get under the hood of your future project.

Dmytro Maleev

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