Bringing efficiency to the global strategy and product development cycle
My employer was struggling to attract and retain younger customers on a global scale. In many countries teams were trying to tackle this challenge on their own but all of them were struggling to progress quickly enough. The various teams were proposing solutions that all felt very similar, reflecting the inefficiency in the global strategy and product development cycle. This created an opportunity to review how the existing capabilities were being used across teams and find ways to progress faster in the development cycle.
The team I led created a framework to help other teams identify similar consumer opportunities across multiple countries, along with a library to document the existing re-usable solutions from various in-flight projects. The framework ensured a universal language and consistency in "ways of working", while the library ensured the content was accessible to teams so they could fast track their work. The key to success was encouraging the various teams to adopt the framework and library.
What we delivered
We delivered a framework for proposition design, that various countries can use to capture, document and cluster user consumer needs into opportunity areas.
We also created a shared library of global consumer opportunities and re-usable capabilities that teams can leverage to fast track their work.
Lastly, we offered coaching and facilitation to ensure that the framework and library are adopted and used across markets.
We were not certain this project would fly. Millennials are the defining demographic for banking services for the next 20 years, and this shift has sparked numerous initiatives in this space. Stakeholders were not excited about "yet another millennial project".
We were certain there was value to be added, but we needed to convince the sponsors. To do so, we had to position ourselves at a more strategic level by highlighting the urgency and demonstrating significant benefits.
We conducted preliminary desk research which revealed that millennials are the biggest age cohort on the planet, representing 30% of the global adult population. More than 90% of them hold a debit account, and their life is anything but predictable. They are 30% more likely to change jobs or homes compared to other generations.
We also found that the company was investing in more than 15 initiatives that were addressing similar customer needs, but the development teams were not communicating. Even worse, their process and methodology were out-dated and non-customer centric.
Our initial assumption was correct: the inefficiency in the company's strategy was there, and after showing the facts, we got buy-in and sponsorship for the initiative. In the end, it was not as difficult as we imagined.
To keep momentum, we quickly defined a vision for the project. Because the sponsors were located in a different country, we worked remotely using the Sailboat method to frame the activity and Slido to collect the responses. We were dealing with multiple locations and timezones, so we had to come up with an approach that enabled us to collaborate remotely and in real-time.
We took the collected information and turned into the following vision statement: "Create a central source of capabilities that meet the needs of younger consumers and can be used by all teams". Simple, but effective. This became our north star.
Next, we had to identify the team members who would be our partners for the journey. We conducted stakeholder mapping and selected colleagues from other teams who had the relevant skills for our project. The final team consisted of three ex-co leadership members, ten core group members, twelve support team members, and 40+ informed parties.
Terms of reference
Role: Lead facilitator
The terms of reference was the internal contract with our sponsors to clarify the business challenge being addressed, as well as the scope, deliverables and "ways of working".
Role: Lead facilitator
This activity was crucial in aligning all sponsors and team members behind a common vision. It helped us stay on track throughout the project and avoid scope creep.
Role: Lead facilitator
Defining the roles early in the project helped us navigate a large group of stakeholders and identify any gaps in the key roles for the success of the engagement.
To understand the business challenge in detail, we interviewed relevant colleagues from the stakeholder map and focused the discussion around the current business context, the strategy moving forward, and the criteria for success.
We learned that the timing was ideal, as many markets were reporting an aging customer base. This helped us fund the initiative, but we learned that at the end of the day we would still need to build a business case that tied back into a product budget within a maximum timeframe of two years. That meant we needed to enable teams to get solutions in hands of consumers quickly, and make sure that we addressed genuine customer needs.
Another observation was that our sponsors had a slightly different interpretation of the business challenge, which might have led to false expectations down the line. To address this, we conducted a "Problem framing" activity with the project leadership team to ensure we were fully aligned before moving forward. This remote session helped participants develop answers to the following three questions:
- Who will use the solution that we build? (Response: design, delivery and marketing teams).
- What are the problems that we can solve with the solution? (Response: a lack of global overview, inefficiency in funding, inconsistency in solution design and in "ways of working").
- What should the impact of the solution be? (Response: increased velocity and time to market, global traction when addressing the needs of younger consumers, and therefore increased market share).
Using this information, we articulated the following business challenge:
“How might we be more efficient and bring focus to the multiple young consumers opportunities, and connect all of it together in a single business opportunity which is supported by all teams?”
With a clear challenge to address on the business side, it was time to learn about the challenges on the user side. Given that the users in this case were also colleagues from various product teams, we conducted more stakeholder interviews. We found that they had the following challenges:
- There was not enough in-house capacity to meet demand
- There was a lack of strategic direction and communication
- There was no transparency in funding
To do our due diligence, we supplemented the stakeholder interviews with desk research and documented in detail the 15+ in-flight projects, 10+ exploratory studies, and 8+ quantitative studies commissioned in 6+ countries. This gave us a very good overview of the initiatives in which the company was currently investing and a full picture of the available capabilities.
Once we were ready to progress from discovery to definition, we organised Show & Tell sessions across the company to ensure we had identified all opportunities but also mitigated all potential risks. It turned out that there were no significant blindspots, and to our surprise, the initiative was greeted with overwhelming engagement and response. This confirmed that we had identified some significant pain points.
The interviews were crucial for us to understand the business context and what was needed to make this initiative a success. They also helped with building trust with our stakeholders by engaging them in the co-creation process.
Role: Lead facilitator
This activity helped us articulate the business challenge and, more importantly, ensure that the sponsors were aligned.
Desk research was our primary source of information, as we needed to understand the vast amount of work that was being done in the company at that time. It gave us a very good overview of the initiatives the company was investing in.
Show & Tell
The Show & Tell sessions helped us tell the story and ensure we had identified all of the impacted teams. It was also a good occasion to assess how much the initiative resonated with them.
We had amazing traction and engagement from many teams, but after better understanding the business challenge and the user needs, we soon realized that our initial scope was too large. We needed to break it down, and our key to success was to find a way deliver something that could be used in a reasonable amount of time.
To solve this, we conducted an activity to articulate and identify the assumptions we were making. The plan was to first validate the Riskiest Assumptions (i.e., the assumptions with a low degree of confidence and validation but a high impact to the project outcome), which turned out to be that:
- Teams can re-use capabilities from one market to another and make the global process more efficient by reducing time, cost etc.
- Teams will adopt a solution and adjust existing "ways of working"
This helped us clarify "what" we needed to do as we prepared to ideate on some solutions. But we still needed to figure out "where" to do it.
We turned back to Desk Research, but this time with the intention to converge more. With help from subject-matter experts, we assessed the size of the customer base to identify the countries where it makes the most sense to test a minimum viable product.
We then compared that with the list of in-flight projects and found three countries that were (1) working on addressing the needs of young consumers and (2) had a customer base large enough to help us validate the assumptions. What made things even more interesting was that the three teams were in different stages of the development cycle, which could help generate richer insights.
It was time to come up with a solution and test it with the teams.
Role: Lead facilitator
This method helped us articulate the assumptions that we had made so far. It was a great way to identify the proven facts, and get clarity on what still needed to be validated in the subsequent phases.
Role: Lead facilitator
Knowing which assumptions have a low degree of validation but a high impact on the project outcome allowed us to understand what the solution would need to validate.
We turned back to desk research to identify the teams that we could work with to build a minimum viable product and help us validate the riskiest assumptions.
After narrowing the scope, identifying the countries to focus on, and the assumptions that we needed to validate, we were ready to start thinking about a solution.
We knew that this phase would be a bit more challenging because we needed to create a proper environment for creativity and collaboration across three countries and two timezones.
Ideally, we would have organised a co-location workshop, but that simply was not feasible. So instead, we decided to facilitate the activities remotely. The primary method that we used to ideate was the Concept Card. We organised online and offline sessions, split into pairs based on location, and then came back together as a group. Wherever possible, we also invited colleagues from other teams to help with non-biased views.
The first wave of Concept Card ideation was for diverging and generating as many ideas as possible. We generated 10 concepts and asked each team to share back to the group for inspiration. After the first round of reviews, we gave the teams more time to nurture the ideas and evolve the concepts.
After the second round of review, we voted on three concepts to move into validation with. The winners were: "The Insights and Capabilities Library", “The outcome-driven roadmap” and “In and Out”.
The plan was to move to the next phase with all three concepts to get more insights, but the team concluded that it made more sense to merge the concepts, as there was very little overlap. We ended up with one concept that was a mix of ideas from the three finalists:
“A one-stop-shop for insights and capabilities for young consumers, that is continually updated and maintained and informs prioritisation of initiatives. It will include a custom framework and taxonomy, and it will work as a living gallery, helping everyone identify existing solutions to help to build faster and cheaper. It will contain: customer insights, market insights, internal capabilities and case studies”
We envisioned it as a platform that collects, breaks down and categorises consumer needs, together with the solutions that the company has to address those needs. It would be built using an atomic approach with four layers, where each layer is a needs-based breakdown of the layer above:
- Consumer opportunities - A statement that captures the consumer problem statement, their financial status, focus in life and an opportunity to address that problem.
- Consumer aspirations - A statement that describes how consumers want to feel or avoid feeling as a result of their action, or how consumers want to be perceived by others as a result of their actions.
- Jobs to be done - A statement that describes with precision what the consumer is trying to achieve or accomplish in a given situation.
- Concepts and ideas - Solutions possessed by the company that can get the jobs done.
This taxonomy would help users document and break down customer needs, but also easily navigate the vast amount of content that the company was generating at a global level. Ultimately, it could also be used as a tool to shift mindsets: to think less about features and more about the jobs that they need to do.
As for the name, we decided to stay with “The Insights and Capabilities Library”, which we felt was a good reflection of what the team envisioned.
Some challenges surfaced, the most significant being focused on the platform, accessibility, governance and ownership. All of these would need to be considered, but fortunately, none of them were blockers.
Role: Lead facilitator
We used the concept cards to flesh-out early-stage ideas in a way that still allowed us to manage multiple locations and different time zones.
Show & Tell
The sessions helped us identify blind spots and get an early assessment from subject-matter experts on user desirability, commercial viability, and technical feasibility.
To start validating the concept and the assumptions, we organised a group activity to help determine the concept's objectives and the key results that help us measure success.
The objective came out to be slightly different for the various teams, which was not a surprise:
- For the delivery team the library was meant to fast-track the delivery work by providing access to existing re-usable capabilities.
- For the sales and marketing teams, the library was geared toward informing the strategy to ensure that the most efficient roadmap was created based on existing capabilities.
When it comes to measurement, the key results that we used to measure success were:
- Value Key Results (e.g., users have successfully identified and used re-usable content, such as user insights or solutions)
- Satisfaction Key Results (e.g., users would use the framework again to inform future work)
We needed a minimum viable product to validate, and our first instinct was to build a digital prototype for the library using the content we gathered in the discovery phase. We then realized that we could save a significant amount of time by designing structured workshops and measuring the key results by observation and surveys.
We designed and facilitated remote workshops in the three markets that we had previously identified in the definition phase. The results indicated that:
- The library content can be used to inform new work and augment existing work. There was also potential to map, validate and prioritise in-flight work.
- All teams could see clear benefits in re-using the framework to shape future work.
We had successfully validated the first risky assumption: “Teams can re-use capabilities from one market to another and make the global process more efficient by reducing time, cost, etc.”
As for the second risky assumption (“Teams would adopt a solution and adjust existing ways of working”), we assessed it through a survey at the end of the workshops. However, the results were inconclusive, so we decide to build a digital prototype and test it in the next phase.
Objectives and key results
Role: Lead facilitator
By articulating the objectives and key results, we were able to design a minimum viable product with a minimum amount of effort.
The concept testing was a structured remote session where attendees were asked to participate in activities and facilitators observed to what extent the objectives and key results were met.
The purpose of the survey was to learn more about the relevance of the concept and validate the second assumption.
Build and implementation
With encouraging results from the validation phase, we started looking at our options to update the MVP and test the remaining assumptions.
We had enough data to build a prototype from what we gathered in the discovery phase. We only needed to decide on the platform that could host the content, so that users can access and navigate it easily. The options that we identified were:
- Use one of the company’s existing content platforms
- Use Confluence (collaboration software program)
- Build a customised platform
We couldn't find any internal content platform to host this type of content, so we eventually decided to go for the second option at this stage of the MVP. The third option was quickly dismissed by the core team, as we were aware that some assumptions were not yet validated. Ultimately, we concluded that we should keep investment to a minimum at this stage.
After building the prototype library in Confluence, we circulated the concept to a number of teams and started collecting Value Key Results, Satisfaction Key Results, and also Usage Key Results.
The results were not encouraging.
The second risky assumption was not validated - teams were not adopting the framework or using the content from the current solution. Through stakeholder interviews, we learned that the reason for this was the lack of educational content. To put it simply, they did not understand how to use the library.
Based on that finding, we updated the second assumption to: “Teams would adopt a solution and adjust existing ways of working if they had access to training content.”
To validate this updated assumption, we organised a co-location discovery workshop with one of the teams. During the workshop, we coached 100+ members on how to use the framework to document and categorise user needs for the chosen cohort, and also leverage the content available in the library.
The results of the first discovery workshop were great, which motivated us to replicate it in two other countries where we received the same positive feedback. As a result, the three markets adopted the new ways of working and the updated assumption was validated.
With confidence that the concept could achieve its objectives, the core team recommended that it get built and deployed across all markets.
Today, the library belongs to its rightful long-term owners, where it is currently being developed and deployed across multiple countries, bringing efficiency to the global strategy and product development cycle.
Minimum viable product
The MVP was used to validate the riskiest assumptions and was a temporary solution that is used until a scalable platform is identified.
Thank you for the brilliant work done on Project Knot. Loving the partnership!
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