Implement HDD (Hypothesis driven development – Part of Lean Startup) with #NoEstimate

I remember when I study Information Technology in college (1995), we published local newspapers for our school. I’m not that good writing articles so I mostly worked with the layout and ideas to make the paper look great. My talent was used for the cover and also to make the paper more user friendly. To do this I tested lots of ideas with the team and with survey,  interviews and we monitored what worked best for our readers. We also had another competitor who also launched a newspaper at our school.

I remember one time when I wanted to add a little tag on the upper left corner. A tag with black background and white uppercase words explaining what section you where on. Like SPORT, MEDIA, GOSSIPS, GAMES and so on. I wanted this because I thought it will make it easier for the readers to remember what section they where on and also an indicator so the reader can jump to the most interested section without reading the table of contents. We added this section topic tags on each page as a test.

One week later we asked the readers what they think about the new version. Most of them pointed out that it was really nice with the section topic tags but they wanted to us to add the page number up in that corner as well. Some other stuff was bad so we removed that in the next number and added the page number in the upper left corner as the user wanted. We used reusable template so it was an easy fix.

Two months later, our competitors also took this idea to their newspaper. At this point we got a better colored RGB-printer so we removed the section topic tag names and colored the background instead. Why read the topic when you can see the topic? Blue for sport, red for gossip, yellow for fashion and so on. It worked even better, the user thought some colors felt wrong for some sections, so we changed the color based on the user inputs and they where happy. Guess what our competitor did later on?

Some ideas were great so we kept them even if the competitors copy us. We still sold more newspapers then them. Because we tested new ideas and listened to our readers all the time to get rapid feedback. We engaged our readers. And it was important for us to fail fast if our ideas were bad. It’s our readers who pays us so it would be bad idea not listen to them. How often do you ask your users what pain them the most with your software and what change they expect? What functions can you delete to clean up the code from smells and other unnecessary things that are not used anymore? Do you monitor how the user use your software?

In this post I will give you some introduction and guidance of some practices regarding how you can make this possible with HDD and #NoEstimate.

HDD (Hypothesis driven development)
As development industry continues to mature, we now have an opportunity to leverage improved capabilities with Continuous Design and Delivery to maximize our potential to learn quickly what works and what does not for the users. To do this we need to engage the user or monitor the user’s actions. We need to learn from them not just teach them.

Are you familiar with User Stories and maybe even BDD (Behavior riven development?)

User story focused on capturing requirements for what we want to build and for whom and why. The main goal is to enable the user to receive a specific benefit from the system.

User story format:

As a…  <user>
I Want… <something>
So That… <I receive benefit>

User story are mostly common in the process when some market people or it-leaders have decide what shall be built. It’s not uncommon that the selection of user stories is based on the estimated time rather then the real user value. – Is X that big? Then let’s skip it, we need to give the user features fast and can’t spend time on the most expensive once.

(BDD) Behaviour Driven Development takes us to the next step. It aims to improve the user stories by supporting communication and collaboration between developers, tester and non-technical participants in a software project.

In Order To… <receive benefit>
As A… <role>
I Want… <goal/desire>

User Stories and BDD stories are both often created within the development process as a result of already prioritised features that will be built based on our definition of done and so on. But how value-driven is that? Do you really know if that feature will be used by the users? They might say “we need it!” if you ask them, but will they use it? Is it worth spending time to estimate something you are not sure if a user really need? Is it worth develop a user story with high quality and release it month later if the user wont even use it anyway? What about the feature Y you decided to skip because it was estimated to high? We need to view our work as an experiment to really find out. We need to ad a better process for innovation and monitoring what pains the user most to understand what benefit them the most. We need to learn from the users, not the value of an estimate or assumptions.

When viewing work as an experiment, the traditional story process is insufficient. As in college when we defined the steps we needed to achieve the desired outcome. We need to observe if our idea (hypothesis) is valid.

If we observe signals that indicate if our idea or hypothesis is correct, we can be more confident that we are on the right path and can alter the user story process to reflect this.

Keep in mind that a hypothesis that was once valid may later be disproven when markets change. Markets move, so you need to continually ask whether the business model is still valid or not. HDD is value-driven and the market is too.

A hypothesis story can be implemented with different technologies and tools, the main goal with a hypothesis is the explanation what action you need to implement to get the indication if it worth implementing.

We believe… <this capability>
Will result in… <this outcome>
We will know we have succeeded when… <we see a measurable signal>

Examples of Hypothesis-Driven Development user stories are;
We Believe That real-time stock values on the product page
Will Result In improved customer engagement and conversion
We Will Know We Have Succeeded When we see a 5% increased speed from the time the stock change in real-time till they press the add to cart button.

Why I mentioned #NoEstimate in this post topic is because you do not estimate when wotking with hypothesis, you just use the easiest and fastest tools to reach your goal, so you can take action if it’s worth implement it as a full qualified feature in your system or not.

Lean startup and UX for Lean Startup will explain more how. I will not cover this in this blogpost, it’s almost to big as is.
A hint: Instead of write user story, spend time estimating and then build all the technical stuff regarding real-time stock value changes, just add a simple timer in javascript that decrease the stock value on different products to see if the user reacts on it. If not, then you have saved lots of time not implement a fully working feature. I can promise you that it’s worth spending less then one hour to implement some test data rather then add a push or pull system (with eg. SignalR?) that monitor the stock values in the e-commerce platform you use.

To use value-driven-design and HDD you need to change the way your organization work and also the traditional mindset of yours.

Some methods you need to add to your organization are:
– Increase observations
– Formulate a hypothesis
– Design an experiment to test the hypothesis
– Evaluate if the experiment has succeeded
– Conduct the experiment
– Evaluate the results of the experiment
– Accept or reject the hypothesis
– If necessary, make and test a new hypothesis

To make this possible you also need the developers to be more mature in the way they craft. HDD requires that you write code that is easy to test, profile, benchmark, and change. They need to learn about A/B Testing and how to implement it to the code.
A more mature model for CI (Continuous integration) and CD (Continuous Delivery) are also a must for even bigger benefits. Other useful techniques can be feature toggling (can be used for A/B Testing) and also rapid development for releasing and remove measured and monitored prototypes, dark launches and even live ops.

“By combining Continuous Delivery and Hypothesis-Driven Development we can now define working software and validated learning as the primary measures of progress.”
– Thoughtworks

Traditional process vs HDD process

Traditional process
1. PO add epics, features or user stories in a backlog.
2. Team estimate the items
3. PO decide what items need to be implemented (often based on time and cost)
4. The team implement the feature
5. The team release the feature
6. The process starts over from 1-6 again.
(7). Team spend time on supporting and maintain released software.

Result: Something will be implemented and released, but it’s uncertain if its what the users really want.

HDD process
1. The organization make observations
a. Ask the support people what makes the users scream the most
b. Ask the team and acceptance testers what features are hardest to test
c. Interview real users and also create personas if hard to get interview, or use both
d. Record users using the software to get indication of the impression and feelings etc…
e. Look at trends, competitors
d. Monitor and measure the app (buttons clicks, sequence orders, timers etc..)
(Did you know that people mostly use only about 10%-20% of all features in one
application?)
2. Formulate the hypothesis.
3. Design what’s needed to experiment the hypothesis.
(see: Lean startup, Lean startup ux for more inspirations.)
4. Evaluate the result of the experiment
(If you need to implement a monitored A /B Testing and  prototype, remember you need   some time to collect that data. It’s better to wait for a result then spend lots of            unnecessary time to implement something that takes time and never gets used and spend that time on the most valuable features instead)
5. Accept or reject the hypothesis.
(If rejected, start over from 1 or continue from 3)
6. Make a User story of the accepted hypothesis.
(#NoEstimate: There is no need to estimate the user stories, at this point the users have already told you they will use the feature and need it. Save unnecessary waste instead and spend time to continuous improve your CI & CD process instead.)
7. Implement the user story and release with CI  & CD in mind.

Result :
You will mostly spent time on feature users really want that gives you the best value and ROI. You don’t waste time on features that never get used. And the whole HDD process is like an innovation process as well. So you get that as a bonus too.

If you liked this, please read: Hypothesis Driven Development with example

 

Who is Johan Normén?
Johan Normén is 37 years old, work as a speaker, mentor, team leader, agile coach, and senior .net developer at Softhouse in Gothenburg Sweden. He has over 18 years business experienced and worked in many different projects and roles. Was one of the creators of Swenug (Sweden .Net User Group) with over 3000 members all over the country. He started the computer era as game designer at the age of 12 with his Amiga and team. He has been nominated as the top 10 developers in Sweden in the Swedish version of Computer Sweden 2015

Twitter: @johannormen

 

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