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New product innovation

Deliverable

A new application that measurably delivers outcomes for your beneficiaries.

What to expect

A typical project goes from discovery through launch & beyond. 

I can be engaged from kickoff through discovery, ideate/prototype, or build phases depending on the project needs.

 

 

 

Case study: EdFuel Talent Hub

 

Outcomes

  • A dev-ready, user-validated wireframe prototype with high confidence to solve user problems

  • A roadmap & project plan ready for operationalization

  • An actionable, prioritized test plan for the riskiest elements (LOFAs) 

  • Clear metrics of user and project success to measure progress against

  • A dev & design partner ready to start execution and deliver a lean MVP to Beta testing ASAP

The challenge

EdFuel is a respected nonprofit organization that works directly with school systems to design sustainable, equitable talent systems and build capacity for talent leaders to recruit and retain a diverse, highly effective team. 

 

EdFuel wanted to expand its reach to support organizations that could not engage in direct support. They envisioned an online resource where educational talent leads could find customizable, trusted, DEI-aligned resources that would empower them to efficiently create equitable talent systems for their own organizations. 

 

Major questions to answer included:

  • What does success look like? How will we know if talent leads are truly able to build capacity and transform their systems?

  • How do we make this resource more than “just a bucket of parts” - not just another resource library, but a tool that can genuinely transform a school system’s ability to recruit, retain and reward staff?  

  • How do we optimize the user experience to work within a talent lead’s limited time and bandwidth?

  • How will we build this resource to scale for the future? 

 

I embedded as a fractional product lead with the organization to lead this product work, and take the solution from a line item on a page (‘build a Talent Hub”) to a launched app that demonstrably delivered desired outcomes for talent leads.

 

Kickoff: Alignment & goals setting - 1 week

Creating a strong foundation up front with all key stakeholders makes the difference between a project that goes smoothly and where the inevitable snags and bumps are worked through collaboratively and well, and one that flails as soon as it hits challenges. (We’ve all been there.)

 

During this time, I met with all stakeholders within EdFuel, as well as the lead stakeholder from the funder, to hold learning sessions and work together on drafting our vision of success. 

 

Together, we established: 

  • Key objectives

  • Our beneficiaries / end users

  • Success criteria for both end users and the organization 

  • A DACI and a stakeholder engagement plan 

  • Operating assumptions 

  • Project timeline & critical milestones

 

These were documented in a short Mission Brief which was signed off by EdFuel and funder leads.

Initial discovery: 2 months

Discovery never ends (see Teresa Torres). However, at the beginning of each project is a period of “pure” discovery that is all about going deep into the user’s problem space and narrowing in on where to optimize and solve. This leads us into ideation & prototyping - and, of course, ongoing discovery. 

 

The most effective way to do discovery is direct observation with real end users (beneficiaries). Even in a remote environment, there are effective ways to do this. 

 

Journey mapping is a great way to visualize the user’s real world, understand barriers, and identify opportunities for improvement.

 

We kicked off with an internal journey mapping session initially, as described above by ideo. 

 

I then dove deep into the problem space, observing over a dozen talent leads and their process, learning about how EdFuel coaches clients to success, and getting a deep understanding of current tools and resources.

 

We concluded with a large working session with over 40 talent leads to dive deeper into the problem space, and an internal team prioritization workshop.

Deliverables:

  • A user-validated journey map

  • Prioritized problem statements - with user input

  • Opportunity analysis

  • A team prioritization of the pain points to solve around and where to focus initial product work.

 

Ideation & prototyping: 3 months

With a shared understanding of the problems we wanted to solve for based in direct observation of the user’s world, it was time to start ideation. 

 

I kicked off with a team design sprint - a short but intense structured week of team ideation and brainstorming that led to our first low-fidelity prototype that could be tested with real users.


I then started a cycle of iterative user testing - sitting with real users to observe them using the prototype, understanding why they made the decisions they did, capturing durable insights to guide ongoing product development, iterating the prototype, and starting again. 

 

Also during this time, two additional critical path activities took place:

Identifying a design and development partner:  I wanted to engage a design & development partner that had strong lean product experience AND shared EdFuel’s (and my!) values of equitable, sustainable system design. I wrote a detailed RFP that clearly defined the technical, design, and equity skillsets needed, and culled through submissions to find the most promising. EdFuel and I interviewed the finalists in depth to settle on a final candidate that met all needs compellingly. 

 

Identifying leap of faith assumptions & workstreams: Most projects fail because of hidden Leap of Faith Assumptions (LOFAs) that never get identified or challenged. LOFAs are the most important AND least proven elements of a plan. Identifying these (often unconscious) assumptions and doing the work to validate or reject them is essential to avoiding risk and overinvestment. At this stage of the project, we had enough maturity to identify the LOFAs, prioritize them, and start the work of “proving or pivoting”. 

 

We exited this time with: 

  • A strongly user-validated wireframe prototype, ready for design and development engagement. 

  • A team of designers and developers with the right experience, tech, and values to take the product to launch and beyond

  • An actionable plan for progressively testing into the most critical LOFAS in the Talent Hub

Build, measure, learn

We are actively in flight here - stay tuned for more stories soon!

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