How we built a project classification framework in 6 weeks

(While still running all our client projects)

By Alexandra McIntosh (Product Person)

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“Are we building this thing right now, or are we just trying to figure out if it’s a good idea?” — said every team member ever

Questions like this create uncertainty and noise. If you can answer them up front, projects run much smoother.

Week 1 — Studio retrospective on process and first iteration of the project framework

A studio wide retro on our process sparked a conversation around the lack of clarity around how to approach specific projects. Some of the questions slowing us down were:

  • Are we running usability testing or are we only testing the concept?
  • What documentation do we need for this type of project?
  • How do we make money from this thing?
  • How do we onboard team members half-way to a project?
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Studio retro on process
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Process Framework — Iteration number 1
  • Definition of solution (from Tangible to Vision)

Week 2 — Fleshing out the framework and sense checking it with the team

This week we moved on to build out each of the project types in an off-site. For each project we looked at:

  • Mindset — the team should adopt when approaching the project
  • Toolkit — exercises, templates, methods, products appropriate at this stage
  • Approach — the steps we would likely take to reach the outcome
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Mindset and approach for Top Right (Step Change + Tangible)
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Tool Kit and Outcome for Top Right (Step Change + Tangible)
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Sense checking the framework at our Friday Book Club with the studio. “Where would you place this project? Ready, set go! After silently voting, coloured stickers per project were placed in the quadrants to show were everyone thought they belonged. .

Week 3 — Aligning on the need to ‘go live’ and adding some science to our classification system

The framework made sense. The next step — getting it live. First, an exercises to check everyone was on the same page as to why it needed to be live (as opposed to in google drive or our internal wiki). The top reasons for being external facing were:

  • So we can have open and honest conversations with clients about where they are
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  • Have a case for something, but need to bring it to life? = Step Change + Tangible
  • Have something to work from, but see opportunities to grow? Iteration + Vision
  • Worked out what has to happen, just need someone to do it? Iteration + Tangible
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Project checklist session — Our favourite in the bottom left “we did outgrow the status quo” (thanks Jo)

Week 4 — Refining project checklist and sketching product solutions

The week started creating criteria to vet the project checklist criteria (meta). Our thoughts were around five per quadrant (five feels like a nice, solid number)

  • Applies to only that quadrant — this was hard, especially between ‘Step Change + Vision’ and ‘Iteration + vision’
  • Literal — not metaphorical/figurative. We wanted to remove room for creative interpretation.
  • Each quadrant covers user, business and tech — at least one item per quadrant
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Culling our project classification checklist
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Studio sketching day — get amongst it.

A few in the backlog:

  • Team structure and roles (coming to the project framework soon)
  • Timeline and cost (coming to the project framework soon)
  • Chatbot to assess which project type to run (thanks Liam)
  • Custom project plan with timeline, tasks, outputs and team
  • Build your own project toolkit

Week 5 — Building the content model, some co-design and the epic visuals

Theme of the week = super quick.

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Week 5 — final sprint
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Creating the content structure

Week 6 — Get it live

The final week started with a co-design to smash out the icons for the project toolkits. We put on a timer for 1 minute per tool and picked the best to run with. In under an hour we’d decided on all our icons. No time to muck around.

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Icon sketching — fidelity not welcome

Check it out ->

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