How to innovate and grow following Lean Inception and Agile methodologies

How to innovate and grow following Lean Inception and Agile methodologies

April 28, 2020

Photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash

By Ana Maria Garcia, Product Owner at :hiperstream

The world is undergoing a fast transformation – now more than never –, and those who work with digital products and services need to innovate at the same pace as well. Working with Agile methodologies and valuing the human side of every project, our Product Owner Ana Maria Garcia writes about how we are approaching Lean Inception the :hiper way.

To offer solutions that create value for our clients. This is :hiperstream’s goal, as well as of many other businesses. As a Product Owner, however, I see the challenge here is perhaps more particular: to keep innovating even with a finished product.

According to what each client needs, we work to discover what should be added, removed or maintained to improve – and customize – the tools. And for us Lean Inception is the methodology that allows making these discoveries while valuing strategic alignment and communication between the business and our team.

There are many qualified people who talk about Lean Inception from an academic perspective, like the Brazilian author and consultant Paulo Caroli – has a section and blog posts dedicated to the subject (available in English). But when the methodology is put into practice it can develop in a very particular manner, reflecting the scenario of each company. And this is exactly what I am proposing today: to reflect about the mindset that is only achieved by those who experience Lean Inception in practice like we are doing at :hiperstream.

Paradigm shift: don’t go straight to the solution

I believe the first difference about Lean Inception is easy to notice. Traditionally, when presented with a problem, our natural reaction is to start searching for an answer, looking for an immediate solution. By doing so, it is common to face unforeseen challenges – from an error when the project goes into execution to finding out that an equipment will be necessary, impacting deadline and budget – that make the project far from being Lean.

The challenge today is doing more with less, and it won’t be addressed unless you have a deep understanding of the client's need and work together with a multidisciplinary team to define the MVP (minimum viable product) proposed by Lean Inception – a solution that creates value to the business without wasting resources, whether they are time, money or effort.

At :hiperstream, the squad participating in each project includes developers, software engineers, production and professional service teams, and Product Owners, in addition to the departments of Marketing and Information Security. On the Marketing and Product fronts, there is also work being done to map personas and user journeys to collaborate with the Lean Inception workframe, while the customer experience (CX) team shares intelligence on what happens in real life, bringing new scenarios, personas and journeys that arise from the projects.

The role of Project Owner is essential to facilitate communication and knowledge transfer between everyone involved in a project. Since we started with Lean Inception workshops, we have been able to notice better results and improvement in team efficiency. The challenge for many companies is to break silos to enable teamwork and collaboration to happen.

Lean Inception in practice at :hiperstream

Change happens faster in times of crisis, and we have a recent example of how Lean mindset supports such transformations. The emergence of COVID-19 presented a new challenge to our clients who send invoices and financial communications: guaranteeing the delivery securely while reducing risks such as contact with paper documents and unavailability of delivery services.

To prioritize WhatsApp as the main channel was the answer to get around these barriers, facing the challenge of increasing the volume of digital invoices by 500 times without knowing the customer journey of users who until then preferred printed communications.

Based on the Lean Inception framework, we defined the MVP – which included all necessary features and infrastructure – in two weeks, having the opportunity to test it when the product was already op and running, and learning from data what the users’ behavior looked like and how to improve the solution.

Another example? Our product CCM (Customer Communication Management) enables our team to see how financial communication documents are consulted in our library. As a result, one of the clients identified that the invoice accessed by customer service agents had different layout and information than the one accessed by consumers, negatively impacting user experience.

The Lean Inception approach helped us to look at the customer journey and develop a project to mirror the invoice to achieve better results for the relationship between company and end customer. This is an ongoing project that we will soon be able to measure and compare the outcomes.

Something in common between these two cases is that the client was also part of the project squad, which undoubtedly contributes to the results. But always consider that when involving customers and suppliers in the process, it is possible to respect their way of working (which may not follow the same methodology as you), and still accessing the necessary information to improve projects.

The human side of change

Talking about collaboration in the workplace is not new, but it is always good to remember that every person involved is important to reach the best solution. Without them, you deliver a project, but not the MVP.

When I look back I see that building momentum was not easy. Lean Inception by itself is not simple; technical and human transformations (which I particularly like to observe) are a challenge. It is a transformation in which the whole team has to learn how to listen, share and find accordance. We continue to evolve in each and every project.

"Developers and software architects and engineers are primarily responsible for innovation. They are able to think outside the box and suggest solutions that others haven’t considered yet. But to do so they need a complete perspective of the customer journey and of the pain points in order to make the best possible interpretation of the real scenario. This will only be reached with the full team involved," Ana Maria Garcia.

When following a methodology, I care less about the correct words and more about adapting it according to our business and our culture. Here at :hiperstream, we are human-first, and this is how we approach Lean Inception: more empathy, collaboration, and proactivity lead us to the best results. Have you ever considered experiencing this with your team and business partners?

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