When you have a team this awesome, you can’t keep an entire blog to yourself. That’s why we’re starting choozlechat, a series of blog posts with contributions from Choozle thought-leaders across every team.
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Kate Marshall, Marketing Coordinator at Choozle: How would you explain Design Week to someone who’s never heard of it?
Mike Kohn, Product Manager at Choozle: The purpose of Design Week is to build a solid plan of what’s going to be built throughout a six-week cycle, with a focus on constantly delivering value to our customers throughout the cycle. The process goes like this:
- Every six weeks, the Product and Engineering teams come together for a full week of sessions where the goal is to plan the upcoming six-week cycle.
- The Product team kicks off Design Week by proposing a number of product initiatives that we want to work on. These range from adding brand new product features to resolving customer pain points within our current product.
- The Engineering team uses Design Week to gain an understanding of the projects and find solutions for them. Stakeholders from across the company work collaboratively with them to provide additional context and prioritization, further ensuring that we are focusing on the best possible solutions with measurable outcomes.
KM: How is the six-week cycle structured?
MK: Based on the outcomes of Design Week, each week of the cycle already has a concrete deliverable defined. The Engineering team starts each week with a sprint planning meeting to make sure they’re able to hit that week’s goal, then spend the rest of the week working towards it. By the end of the cycle, these deliverables all add up to a full solution of the original product initiative discussed during Design Week.
Throughout the cycle we also have dedicated days to work on bugs and support requests, and occasionally smaller, one or two-day projects that were proposed during design week.
KM: How does your team (product) navigate through the process?
MK: The Product team works on the same schedule as the Engineering team, only our work focuses on several cycles at a time.
We continue to work on projects from past cycles to validate whether we succeeded in meeting our goals. Sometimes this involves getting customer feedback or measuring quantitative metrics such as revenue or performance gains.
We also work ahead of the Engineering team to prepare for the next cycle. Through a product discovery process, we start to define, prioritize, and refine initiatives that will be proposed in future Design Weeks.
KM: And how does the Product team collaborate with the Engineering team during the six-week cycle?
MK: For the current cycle, our product managers (including myself) fulfill the role of a typical product owner. In this role, we work closely with the designers and engineers to define product requirements, help facilitate communication with stakeholders and outside partners, and to ensure customer needs are being met. We’re also responsible for defining the scope of a project, which usually entails finding the essence of the proposed solutions and making sure we don’t build more or less than is needed to achieve that. If something comes up midweek that might prevent a deliverable from being met, we help find ways to carve away scope without losing the product essence, so we can still deliver a valuable product at the end of the week.
KM: I’m sure there are several ideas that come up during Design Week and throughout the sprint. How do you prioritize projects?
MK: Product ideas and initiatives are everywhere, but as a company—and especially as a product team—we need to be very purposeful about which projects we actually invest in with build time. At the highest level, Choozle’s business strategy and Northstar goals help shape our product strategy, and we always make sure our priorities align with those goals.
At a more granular level, once a set of products have been given the green light for a cycle, we use a variety of prioritization techniques to find the most valuable ones to pursue, using facilitated workshops with stakeholders to refine final priorities. Depending on the type of project, workshop exercises might include building an Impact/Effort Matrix, investing in projects using the $100 Test, doing simple Forced Ranking, or sorting projects into MoSCoW.