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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Draft stories are then shared for feedback and review among stakeholders, possibly leading to rewrites or creation of additional stories.
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.
Early involvement of broad stakeholders creates excitement and anticipation, encourages proactive involvement, and develops shared understanding. Engenders alignment and buy-in.
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.
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.
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.