Product Development with Aiava

David Brabrand

Here is how Aiava can seriously boost your product development projects.

Fellow product developer,

You know that product development requires hard work and stamina. To create great products, a genius idea and a lot of funding are nice to have, but at the end of the day it all comes down to you and your team: your ability to focus on what matters, see impending threats, and align with each other, so you’re all pulling in the same direction.

Aiava is a solution for product developers and their team. It’s a modeling tool for you and a collaboration tool for your team.

Knowledge dictatorship

It happens like this. The project starts out with diagrams, maps, and walls of Post-its. The ideas bounce like ping-pong balls around the meeting room. But after a while the ideas and knowledge seem to move from the open space, where everyone can comment and own them, to the inside of just a few heads on the team. It’s not due to ill will, but as the product evolves and turns more complex, it takes effort to keep the diagrams and maps relevant and up to date. They tend to end up in a forgotten folder.

Walk in to any product development office and ask questions like:

  • How is your onboarding process coupled?
  • How will the next product release affect existing customers?
  • What’s your overall chain of value like now?
  • What happens when a user terminates their subscription?

You will probably get answers like, “Ted knows about that. Go ask him.” “Petra is the boss. She probably knows.” “Actually, you hit a weak spot there. Lisa quit two months ago and we haven’t been able to fill her spot yet.”

Fragmented knowledge is the norm in a lot of product development teams. Wouldn’t it be great if a variety of professionals in your team had access to important knowledge, and be able to weigh in when you reach important crossroads?

Have you heard this conversation before?

“Why can’t we do it like this?”

“We just can’t, believe me.”

“But, why?”

“It’s a long story. It has to do with how we built the authentication system two years ago.”

End of discussion. Fragmentation of knowledge leads to knowledge dictatorship. You can’t question those who know how things are connected.

The Aiava way

Aiava is a tool to model how your product works. A tool to visualize complex concepts, explore edge-cases that customers encounter, and pull back from the nitty-gritty details to see the big picture. How are your customers treated? How do you interact with third-party systems? How are your internal routines working?

Enabling everyone to participate creates better solutions. How does Aiava do this? To start with, to be able to participate and communicate, you need a common language.

Aiava is a conceptual and visual language that bridges silos and enables every profession to talk fluently with one another. We utilize techniques like storytelling and describing the world in terms of tasks to create order from a rather chaotic reality.

Here are the basics:

  1. Think of your product as a universe. Your universe has a set of actors: the customer/user, the app itself, servers, Support Dept., etc.
  2. The actors communicate with each other through channels: interaction on a screen, API-calls, emails, phone calls, and so on
  3. When the actors use the channels, we add content: a screenshot, the email content, the phone script, and so on
  4. We use the actors and channels to build a journey. The journey visualizes every step the actors take. Every step in the journey is a task, making it clear that there is an actor trying to achieve a goal.

With Aiava you can model how it works today, and how it should work in the future. And you’ll have a model everyone on the team can follow, so you can collectively push in the right direction.

Let’s go

Here’s an example of a task:

Basic task

When we add channel content (a screenshot, in this case), we can view the task like this:

Basic task

When we connect the different tasks, we can add information in the links – what kind of conditions must be present for the next task to happen. It looks like this:

Conditions

Sometimes users do go backwards. For example, maybe the payment information is invalid, and the user has to try again. We visualize this with what we call a cross-link – a dim version of the task with a button. Click the button and you will jump to the task.

Cross-link

You can connect the journeys; when you see that there is more happening beneath the surface, you can attach another journey to the task. A journey within the journey. It looks like this:

Attached journey

Intuitive and efficient

We strive to keep the numbers of visual components to a bare minimum and as intuitive as possible. We don’t use diamonds, ovals, rectangles and whatnot – just tasks. Actors communicating, deciding, and performing actions. The flow is always from left → right. This makes it easier to follow.

As you tell the story, you mention the actors and channels. Aiava will draw as you type and automatically create the layout – you don’t have to tweak endlessly to make it look good. With just typing and a few shortcuts, you can build comprehensive journeys almost without leaving the keyboard.

Adding screenshots, mockups, and wireframes is simply drag ’n drop into the map.

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Collaboration

Aiava has a powerful way to make comments and discussions on every aspect of the journey. There are four types of comments:

Painpoint Icon

Painpoints to pinpoint problems in the journey – marked with the level of severity.

Suggestion Icon

Suggestions for improvements and alternative solutions. They can be up- or down-voted by your colleagues.

Info Icon

Information to add crucial details that the rest of the organization should know about.

Question Icon

Questions to put your queries out in the open for the rest of the organization to answer.

When you’re in comment mode, it’s easy to see where the comments are:

Comments in flow

Every comment is the starting point for a discussion:

When changes are made to a journey, everyone else watching the journey will see the changes immediately. This enables editors to work on the same journey simultaneously. In a workshop setting, all the participants – the editors and the viewers – will see the same picture as the journey unfolds.

An important part of working systematically with the customer journey is to place responsibility where it belongs. Someone on your team should be responsible for the onboarding process. Someone should be in charge of making the process of ordering a great experience. Add stakeholders to all the big and small journeys in Aiava.

Evolving with your product

A product typically evolves from an idea via an MVP to a mature product. Whichever project methodology you prefer, the process of creating a product involves transition on different levels. For example:

  • participation of different professions in different phases
  • a movement from manual work to automation
  • feature revisions as you get customer feedback

Aiava is built to cope with these transitions – growing along with your product.

To see a picture of how this transition works, join me for an Aiava sprint.

In this example, the project manager starts by sketching out the skeleton. This is a useful way to kick-start the conversation and get everyone on the same side of the table.

First step i the process: bare tasks

The copywriters add text:

Second step i the process: adding text

The interaction designers do their magic:

Third step i the process: interaction design

The designers and illustrators add sketches and designs:

Fourt step i the process: design

The engineers can use the journey as documentation when they do some heavy lifting. In addition, they can enrich the map with details like:

  • what kind of services/APIs the product communicates with
  • business logic
  • what happens behind the scenes

We end up with a journey like this:

Fifth step i the process: tech

Along the way the team can play around with different versions of this journey. When the solution is implemented, it’s time to gather feedback and discuss improvements – for the next sprint.

Product development requires fitting loads of nuts and bolts exactly into place. It takes time and effort to create a lovable product. Aiava will enable you and your team to get there faster by making better decisions.

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