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Visual Thinking for Specifying Tech Applications

Posted on July 7, 2017

visual thinking

Article By: Royden Gothelf

Building Apps is getting faster; however getting requirements right is a challenge and is costly if not
done properly.  Agile methods are widely used to get a quick delivery, building incremental releases
with a focus on the value of each release.

The associated work practices give way to more fluid approaches to design and build, which run the risk of stakeholders not understanding why things are being done in certain orders of priority.
Visual Thinking processes and ThinkingWalls help in this space. They help people in their communication and understanding as they work together sharing requirements and the development approach.
Working in a physical team space people are less inclined to just focus on their bit without having any understanding of where their bit fits into the greater scheme of things.

Of course, organisations do not all work in the same way, they may use the same labels, like Agile, Lean, Waterfall etc. but in practice they are not following a standard set of steps. What they do all have in common is the use of notation to explain meaning, they are all using a visual language of some sort.
So they all benefit from Visual Thinking tools for noting the ideas, the requirements, the design and collaborative process to both enable input from all participants and to arrive at a common
understanding of the output – what is being done and by whom.

Examples of where best to apply these to Agile methods are:

1.Innovation

  • Use of MagNotes – rectangular drywipe magnetic tiles to write business and non-functional statements; use of different size/colour rectangles for BIZ Features; EPICs; Stories that can be discussed and moved around the ThinkingWall to group into system builds
  • Use of pins to post architecture/platform diagrams
  • Use of colour and shape to differentiate the actors, the roles, the action being done and the inter-relationships through the data and process flows

2. Scrum leader

  • Use of the magnetic ThinkingWall by the scrum leader with the team in stand-up meetings, to change the order and combinations of stories/requirements and using colour to show priority

3. Stakeholder relationship management and planning

  • Use of a separate whiteboard canvas to create the linkage from business requirements to the product releases & development plans
  • This planning board is the adaptive board. The project plan can be electronic and projected onto the board, or it can be kept tactile by using magnetics on a custom printed magnetic overlay, or purpose printed whiteboard.

Digital Capture

Each canvas moves to a digital document once the creative thinking is complete. So enabling everyone to have a record of how the plan was created. This provides an audit trail for both the plan and the thinking behind the plan.

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