Jan 19, 2018 5 min read
How Awesome Transitions Yield Awesome Products
Principal, Design Research & Strategy
How amazing are the Olympic track and field relay races?
Each sprinter on the track is an elite, world-class athlete, prepared to run their leg of the race with cheetah-like speed. Each has fine-tuned their running ability, got their body in peak performance, and is the absolute best in their class.
Well, in order to win, what part of the race has to be near flawless? Where do you think the races are won and lost?
Yep, you guessed it — the transitions!
The transitions are where a handoff of the baton is made from one sprinter to the next. Sprinters have trained to coordinate this transfer with precision because no matter how great each sprinter is, any team that botches the transitions will undoubtedly lose.
Passing the Baton from Idea to Implementation
Modern product management has come a long way. Methodologies such as customer journey mapping, user experience design, agile, lean, and design sprints give us frameworks to build digital solutions that users love.
As a project progresses, each methodology is utilized within their respective phase. And just as in an Olympic relay race, each phase’s mission is to work at peak performance and generate massive value. But if the transitions are off, value will be lost!
In typical agile product development fashion, each feature is is iteratively built progressing through three key transitions:
Transition 1 — Understanding the digital touchpoints in a Customer Journey Map created by the CX team so that the Product Owner can turn them into User Stories and Acceptance Criteria
Transition 2 — Taking a Product Owner’s User Stories and passing them to the System Architect for the creation of System Designs
Transition 3 — Passing System Designs off to a System Engineer for the creation of Code
You’ll see that properly performed transitions are a critical part of progressing the work along its iterations. Tossing work over the wall doesn’t cut it. Teamwork and high levels of collaboration continue as the work progresses.
Now let’s have some fun, put on our Product Management hats, and explore how these three key transitions play out in an example product development path.
Transition One: Customer Journey Maps to User Stories
Customer journey mapping is the fabulous way your CX team captures and defines the process customers go through in order to accomplish their goal. The CX team uses a discovery session with the client to identify the touchpoints where the customer and the organization interact. Touchpoints that occur on desktop or mobile devices are where Product Managers have the opportunity to build digital experiences.
If we look at an example of a ride sharing app, some of the touchpoints on the customer journey may include generating awareness of the app, downloading it, adding payment information, and booking rides. These touchpoints all occur in the context of a complex customer journey. Every touchpoint from a customer journey map can be used by a Product Owner for the creation of User Stories.
Key Transition #1 is taking the touchpoints the CX team identified in the Customer Journey Map and transitioning them to the Product Owner for creation of User Stories. Just like in a relay race, if you can handle the first product management transition harmoniously, you’re well on your way to achieving your goal.
Transition Two: User Stories to System Design
User Stories capture an experience that a user has with your product. For example, a simple task like booking a ride through a ride sharing app can contain a multitude of User Stories, including logging in, viewing available drivers, entering a destination, receiving confirmation, and confirming pick up.
From the User Story, interactions with the system are defined and identified. These interactions will result in a specific technical interface or system usage document, such as a Sequence Diagram.
Key Transition #2 is taking the Product Owner’s defined User Stories and transitioning them to the System Architect who will use them to create a Sequence Diagram.
For Olympic sprinters, the ability to make it through this middle stretch is a critical moment that can put their team in the lead or send them to the back of the pack. The same is true for development teams.
Transition Three: Systems Design to Code Creation
Sequence Diagrams document the architecture of a system and the services needed to create a feature. These services deliver a technical solution for a very specific purpose.
To continue with our ride sharing app example, the app may need services that can input GPS information, write a map to the screen, or vibrate the phone as a notification.
Key Transition #3 is taking the System Architect’s defined services and sharing them with your Developer, who can now create the code needed for your product. Now you’re in the final stretch, and a successful software solution is in sight!
Crossing the Product Development Finish Line
Through thoughtful transitions, Product Managers can ensure value is never lost, and actually becomes traceable from the Customer Journey Maps all the way down to the lines of code and back up again as you continue to iterate.
And with that, you’ve finished your relay race — what a beautiful ending! All members of the development team are performing at the peak of their abilities, focused on making each phase magical, giving the next leg of the race a major boost, and ensuring the race is won harmoniously.
Bang! Go get ‘em!