19 Techniques for Continuous Exploration

Exploration means research, try to do things, fail, ask for feedback. Exploration means getting your hands dirty. Exploration is not the analysis that seats on a piece of paper. Below there is a selection of techniques you can use for Continuous Exploration:

  1. Customer interviews
  2. Customer surveys
  3. Focus groups
  4. Customer visits
  5. Mining customer data for insights
  6. Reviewing competitive analysis and market studies
  7. Gemba walks — going where the work happens and observe: the good, the bad, and propose solutions to improve
  8. Design thinking Processes — you can learn more about it on 31 Design Thinking processes for product owners
  9. Citizen’s Panel: this methodology brings together a group of people from a particular department/geographic area, and they provide their view on particular issues.
  10. Cognitive Task Analysis (Mental model elicitation): is a method where the users are requested to describe step by step the tasks that they need to perform for the product team to identify areas of improvement.
  11. Extreme User Interviews = Interviews with representative users and with the ones which aren’t the ideal users to identify the extreme scenarios
  12. Future Workshop (Foresight) = it involves a series of long workshops in which combine presentations, talks, debates, and decisions on a particular topic.
  13. Heuristics = are a mix of rules or principles meant to evaluate the usability of a user interface by experts.
  14. Modeling and Simulation = this method involves using algorithms and software programs to represent a specific functionality or algorithm.
  15. Morphological analysis = maps the product to a given problem to find out what should be the next features to be built.
  16. Multi-Criteria Analysis = a process used as a decision-making technique in prioritization. I recommend it for complex problems where there are multiple scenarios and information to be considered.
  17. Needs Assessment = it makes a comparison between the existing situation to identify actual needs.
  18. Think Aloud = Participants narrate their thoughts and feelings as they engage with the spatial interface.
  19. World Café (Participatory workshop) = this workshop involves splitting the group of participants in 4–5 tables of people (4 people per table) to discuss a common question. At each table, there is one ambassador that will stay and represent the ideas of that table, and the rest of the participants will do the tour of the conversations. There are in total three rounds, and the goal is to cross-pollinate between groups and build on each others’ discussions. At the end of the workshop, each table shares the ideas they identified.

In Agile, there are dedicated times and meetings for continuous exploration :

Refinement is the moment when we add the details, estimate and order the items from the product backlog. If you are implementing Scaled agile, the level of details you should add to your backlog items is:

  • At the beginning of the program, increment explore sure stories — user story refinement
  • In the middle of Program Increment explore big chunk of functionalities
  • at the end of the Program Increment examine the details of the top priority features

Spikes are timebox user stories that have as a goal to provide enough information to the scrum team to be able to estimate the user stories. I recommend you use spikes in every sprint, and you spike all the big user stories. It builds a constant pace of delivery for the team: you break the unknown and the known. Read more about spikes on How spikes help to improve your Agile Product delivery.

Enablers are technical user stories or features that do not provide business value, but they are used to make possible the implementation of future user stories or features.

I recommend you use as much as possible the techniques of Continuous Exploration in the Agile ceremonies dedicated to bringing information on the product backlog.