I love a good vision meeting…
A vision meeting sets the stage for the sprint that follows, and when you get it right, it directly leads to a successful project.
Whether you’re looking to build your own app or are working with a company like Chepri®, having a good vision meeting agenda offers a great head start. Here, we’ll discuss what goes into a productive vision meeting, and provide a basic overview of what a vision meeting agenda should look like.
First though, if you’re not familiar with the Scrum or Agile process, I should give you a brief summary.
Sprints are how we measure development time within the Scrum Agile software development framework. A sprint can be between one week to four weeks long. A project can potentially consist of a single sprint or hundreds, depending on the job.
In a nutshell, every sprint has 4 kinds of structural meetings:
- A vision meeting sets goals and the overall direction of the sprint.
- Daily Scrum meetings provide all members of the production team time to briefly discuss their progress and identify any blockers, at the start of each day.
- A review meeting allows the production team to present the work produced during the sprint, and stakeholders to evaluate it and determine next steps.
- A retrospective meeting allows the production team to critique this sprint’s process and identify any improvements for the next sprint.
There may also be other project meetings, if needed, but these are the core of Scrum communications.
OK, back to the vision meeting…
Vision meetings are great, because they help us focus on achieving project goals, instead of simply completing tasks.
To see what I mean, let’s take a look at a common vision meeting agenda:
Introductions (AKA: Roles & Goals)
We start by briefly introducing all of the stakeholders. This includes anyone who’s working on the project, including our production team and usually a couple members of the client’s organization – basically, anyone who is key to the success of the project. It’s a good opportunity to get to know what skills and knowledge everyone brings to the project.
Setting the Stage Discussion
The client provides a review of the business opportunity and market, including competitive advantages and foreseen challenges.
This gives us insight into the client’s goals and gives us an opportunity to ask questions about fundamental elements of the project, even including the business model.
This exercise helps define the image and brand the client hopes to portray to their users.
Some clients will bring an existing brand bible, but many won’t have one or, if they do, it’s outdated. For those without existing brand guidelines, we like to use the brand deck from branding.cards.
The brand deck is great, because it helps limit the number of characteristics (or adjectives) available. It turns a potentially lengthy and expensive undertaking into a lively exercise most clients can complete in 10-15 minutes. It can take longer, depending on the project, but we’ve found that for most MVP (minimum viable product) projects, a brief branding exercise gets us the most bang for our buck. If there are any characteristics that are particularly important to the client, but weren’t included in the brand deck, we’ll add those at the end of the exercise.
Persona Creation Exercise
The client provides a brief overview of the target demographic. Together, the client and production team create personas to cover the primary use cases.
This exercise has some of the greatest variability from project to project and client to client. Some clients will bring existing personas to review, while others have never even heard of them. Hubspot’s Buyer Personas are a great place to start, but your project may require more in-depth or simpler personas.
Determine True North / The Elevator Test
Using information already gathered, define the basic foundational purpose of the product.
Here are some of the questions we ask for the True North:
- Who is going to use the product? Who is the target customer?
- Which customer needs will the product address?
- Which product attributes are critical to satisfy the needs of the customer?
- How does the product compare against existing products? What are the product’s unique selling points?
- What is the profit model?
Here’s the format we use for the Elevator Test:
FOR [target users] WHO [need, opportunity or problem]. [Product Name] IS A [category of product/service] THAT [key user benefit]. UNLIKE [competitor], [Product Name] is [unique differentiator].
The production team and the client work together to create and prioritize user stories for the personas we created earlier. What are user stories exactly?
User Stories are part of the Scrum framework. Instead of simply listing desired features, user stories make us accountable to project goals, instead of simply checking off a task. That said, user stories may lead to tasks, but implementation details like that are best left up to the production team. This is the longest part of most vision meetings.
User Stories are formatted like this:
As a [type of user], I want [some goal], so [some reason].
Here’s an example:
As a user, I want to add my cellphone number to my profile, so I can receive SMS alerts.
Complex projects may require in-depth work from the project team and client stakeholders outside of the vision meeting, to complete the user stories. Additional user stories may be discovered throughout the sprint. If they are, they go into the backlog to be completed in the next sprint, or if there’s still time in this sprint, at the end of it.
Next Steps Discussion
The production team and client determine deliverables and primary goals for the sprint.
At this point of the meeting, it’s time to wrap up. We look into the future, set deadlines and review the schedule for the remainder of the sprint.
This is also where we congratulate everyone on a job well done. A thorough vision meeting can be hard work, but if you follow a good agenda (and have some fun with it), it’s invaluable to the success of the project.