Story Models

Analysis and Design

Envision, Design, Build - Communicate

Pitching, marketing, communicating vision, describing the customer problem, we all use stories to convey our ideas. But insightful stories can also be used for analytic and creative purposes, to examine problems, postulate benefits, devise solutions and design products.

Story Models is a methodology using stories to explore product concept and customer need/benefit. Each story describes a situation in which an actor has a problem or need, and a vision for engagement and supplying of a product or service which leads to a beneficial outcome. The stories together yield generalizable insights about the domain as a whole, and identify principal elements (entities, relationships and processes) that are readily assembled into a model for the product/service. Although semi-formal in structure, the stories are written in natural language making them accessible and inviting participation from all stakeholders.

Story Based Analysis

A story tells of a situation, a party (individual or organization) with a problem, and a vision of a beneficial resolution brought about by a product or service.  Through writing formal stories, stakeholders collaborate to  construct a vision for the world and the outcome they seek.

Model Construction

Models specify what to build to realize a vision portrayed through stories.  They describe a product or service at an essential level via its principal entities, relationships and processes.  

Realizing Shared Vision

Stories and models together form a core for an endeavor.  Unifies teams in their collaboration to towards a common goal.  A stable reference answering what are we building and why.  Designers, developers, marketers, management all perform their functions around this shared vision.

Narrative Form

Natural Language

Power derives from the innate expressiveness of the narrative form.  Inspiring to construct  natural language visions.  Universally relatable to readers.  Intuitive to grasp and evaluate.  Intrinsically conveys deep and specific meaning.   Complements diagrams, canvases, post-it notes, etc. by supplying concrete interpretation suggested by abstract elements.  A clear narrative facilitates assessment and validation by stakeholders across all roles and disciplines.

Excerpt from Sheltair

Josh is a Psychologist living in Barcelona.   Several times a week he needs a quiet, private space to meet and work with clients.   He currently rents an office, but doesn’t really need it full time, and would prefer to get away from inflexible long term contracts.   One alternative he considered, open coworking spaces, tend to be too noisy and public.

Josh learned about Sheltair, which offers work/relax space on demand, by the hour or day.  He liked the flexibility to rent a space short term only when he needs it.  A bit more hassle to coordinate with clients where to meet each time, and to always remember to reserve a space.  Nice though to have the option of holding meetings in different parts of the city to make it convenient for his clients.  When his current office rental contract ended, he didn’t renew, and now relies on Sheltair.  He does worry sometimes that Sheltair will become popular and he might on occasion not have a space to meet.

The application of story models challenges people to thoroughly understand their vision for the interplay of customers, problem & solutions. Workshop participants come to see their work in new ways – richer, deeper and more comprehensively, as well as become aware of aspects and issues they had not previously identified. The intuitive application of stories delivers insights that shape vision and bring clarity to strategy and communication.

Process

Author

In the early stages of a project, team members author stories describing situations and visions for outcomes.  Rough out quickly many diverse stories. Assess and coalesce these into a few essential core stories and possibly several secondary ancillary ones.

Incorporate

Initial material comes from creative visioning as well as real experiences, and may incorporate concrete sources such as market studies, customer interviews and learnings from lean experiments.

Review

Draft stories are then shared for feedback and review among stakeholders, possibly leading to rewrites or creation of additional stories.

Participate

Beneficial during these discovery and review phases to invite participation of diverse stakeholders. Not only designers, analysts, managers, but also developers, marketing, sales, community managers, customers, investors, legal, PR, etc. Each source contributes a distinct perspective shaped from their experience and responsibilities.

Align

Early involvement of broad stakeholders creates excitement and anticipation, encourages proactive involvement, and develops shared understanding. Engenders alignment and buy-in.

Model

Once completed, architects or analysts use the accumulated story content to construct models. The stories and models together form a core element for the lifetime of the endeavor, guiding the work of all parties involved.

Refine

As the project evolves, can add new stories to explore additional situations that come to light. Refine and improve existing stories and update or extend models from experience, learnings and insights.

Iterate

In dynamic environments, the entire process can cycle iteratively. For example, an early stage startup may repeat several times as it accumulates learnings from MVPs and experiments, and pivots its value proposition.

Application

Early Startup

In the early stages, startups create stories and models to explore various ideas and directions. The stories guide customer development, value proposition, problem-solution fit, MVP testing, market potential, etc. Story updates applied from each cycle to capture learnings and solidify vision.

Growing Venture

Successful startups must transition at some point from product development to scaling growth. Story models can explore potential approaches to developing robust growth model, as well as look ahead to various stages, such as transitioning from early adopters to majority, and navigating the trough of sorrow.

New Markets

Company is considering developing new products to expand into new markets. Stories explore ideas about the market potential, what problems can be solved or benefits offered, how new products might be received and why they could succeed.

Novel Features

Should new features be added to a product? To add value or remain up to date with trends? Stories explore added benefits and costs, relevance to customers segments with different needs, justification why or why not to build. Existing product models are extended to support new functionality, to assess feasibility and guide development.

Customer Segments

Product and services can provide unique value to different customer segments. Stories can illustrate how each segment brings distinct needs their situations, and engages in their own way to utilize offerings to realize beneficial outcomes relevant to them.

Marketing Strategy

The objective of marketing is to engage and retain customers. Stories can assist development of diverse marketing strategies, portraying scenarios of customer engagement, conversion and retention, including both how customers interact with campaigns, and why customers make desired decisions.

Pivot

When the market fails to validate an initiative and deliver growth, it may be time to pivot. Stories efficiently contemplate alternative directions and models inexpensively assess complexity and cost of transition.

Enterprise Initiative

Mature enterprises must continue to innovate to stay relevant and up to date long term. Yet enterprise level change can be complex and costly. Investment in development in stories for vision of desired outcomes and models for what must be developed are inexpensive ways to foster organizational alignment and mitigate risk.

Social Program

Social programs strive to advance the social conditions and improve the lives of a community. As with for-profit endevaors, stories readily can explore individual and community problems, express situations, outline engagement and describe delivery of benefits. Models identify the elements that must be assembled and function together effectively for the organization and program.

Benefits

Vision

Stories capture our understanding of the world and express our vision for shaping it. Models describe what will be built to realize our vision.

Clarity

Writing stories and building models turns vague notions into clear and complete intentions. Gaps in reasoning are made apparent and naturally filled to complete the picture.

Alignment

Constructs employing the innate language of the problem domain invite participation of all stakeholders, creating shared understanding and setting clear expectations. Easily onboarded team members and stakeholders.

Effective

Writing stories and creating models has clear, immediate positive impact on projects. It works, producing insights, facilitating collaboration, guiding decisions and assisting planning and execution.

Motivate

Stories expand and motivate the central problem statement. Illustrate the value proposition in action. Express details around the what, why and how. Provide context beyond simplistic personas.

Complete

Completing stories and constructing models encourages comprehensive examination at a deep level. Multiple stories combine to cover the problem from different aspects. Explore specific needs and experiences to fill in the picture.

Validate

Stories allow us to empathetically experience a situation and its resolution, and judge its veracity. Models allow us to collectively assess what will be built, and guide the development of minimum viable products for testing.

Learn

Experiments can be devised to test the validity of stories, and this overall vision. Models can serve as blueprint to build product experiments. Both stories and models are easily adapted to accommodate learnings, and continue the lean build-measure learn cycle.

Presented in Cooperation