Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Communicating Customer and Business Value with a Value Matrix

Communicating with product stakeholders ...

"So, you’ve wrapped up your customer research, completed your personas, and have even written a few scenarios that show how users would want to interact with your brand new product. What’s next? What happens to the personas and scenarios once you’re ready to start requirements definition and design. Are you sure you’ve adequately communicated the type of system your users need to the Business Analyst and Interaction Designer on your team?

If you’re like me, you’ve always felt something was missing once you finished creating your personas and scenarios. They communicate the heart and goals of the user, but miss out on a lot of details. And while it’s the intent of both documents to do just that, neither personas nor scenarios succinctly communicates to your business what features a product or service should have and why it should have them.

I’ve tried—and seen other people try—a variety of solutions to this problem. In the worst case, a manager simply denied the problem existed, insisting that the research team’s responsibility was to understand the customer, not propose new functionality. I completely disagree with that assertion. Over the years and with the help of several colleagues, I have refined a deliverable that I think fills this gap: a Value Matrix.

I’m glad to report that each time my team or I have used the Value Matrix, the outcome was a very happy stakeholder or client.

What Is a Value Matrix?

A Value Matrix maps the value of your recommendations for features and services across business needs and defines the criteria by which you would judge each recommendation successful.

The Value Matrix communicates with product stakeholders and business owners in a language they understand. I’ve encountered many business people who have difficulty understanding how personas and scenarios apply to the product development process. While they understand there is value in creating the personas, using them is challenging for them.

In considering this problem, I’ve come to the conclusion that personas and scenarios represent only half of the equation that defines who our customers are. It’s possible to use this half of the equation in a variety of contexts throughout an entire business, but when the time comes to apply this deep understanding of your customer—far deeper than broad-stroke market research—to a particular product or service, there’s something missing.
“The Value Matrix succinctly communicates to all stakeholders the reason—not just the business objective, but also the specific customer need—for each feature or process.”

The process of creating the Value Matrix can fill that gap. The Value Matrix succinctly communicates to all stakeholders the reason—not just the business objective, but also the specific customer need—for each feature or process. In essence, the Value Matrix provides a means of summarizing and applying your customer research.

The Value Matrix is not a magic bullet. It provides a summary of a variety of documents and assumptions already in existence. And it takes quite a bit of collaboration to create one."    (Continued via UXmatters, Richard F. Cecil)    [Usability Resources]

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