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What type of projects benefit from an Inception Workshop?

An Inception Workshop should really be the starting point for any complex software development project. It’s a scene setter, a place to put the very first foundations of the project in place.

Inception Workshops are commonly used at the start of complex software development projects with multiple stakeholders. These types of projects benefit hugely from an Inception Workshop at the beginning because it ensures that there is a shared understanding across all members of the project team.

Who should attend?

Everyone who has a big influence on the project. It is important that those who will govern technical architecture, business process and how budget is spent attend the Inception Workshop

Objectives of an Inception Workshop

The primary objective is to achieve consensus of what the project is hoping to achieve; what the risks are and what it will take to get it done. The workshop is designed to remove assumptions and makes sure all viewpoints are understood.

The way we approach an Inception Workshop

Why are we here?

When running an Inception Workshop we often find that different members of the team have differing goals. It is important to understand the fundamental reason why you are starting the project. You and your team need to know and understand the number-one driver behind your project in order to gain a full insight into how best to make those balanced trade-offs which come up in all projects.

Create an elevator pitch

This is the time when we distil the big, abstract concept of your project into a clear, concise elevator pitch. Here we will help you to define what the product is, who it’s for and why it’s special.

Design a product box

Take a look at your product from your customer’s point of view. For example:

  • Why will people want it?
  • Is there a slogan attached to it?

The aim of the game here is essentially to boil down the complicated concept of “the product” into simple statements that you can refer back to later in the process.

Create a not list

The Not List – having a list of what is NOT going to be included in the project can go a long way to avoiding scope creep and unrealistic expectations.

The Not List helps to eliminate a lot of up-front waste because it ensures that the team focus on items which are clearly in scope.

Meet your neighbours

This is a really important exercise. When you’re thinking about the project team it’s easy to only include the core team. However, the whole “project community” goes much wider than that. Most projects need input from more than just those who are working on the project day to day.

It’s helpful to think ahead of time about who you are going to want to meet and establish relationships with before going live. This is really important as it creates goodwill early on and means that other teams can be prepared and ready when you need them.

Show the solution

At this stage we decide on the architecture which will be used for the project. It’s important to have this decided up front so that you can ensure everyone is on board with the choices and to identify any skills gaps which will need to be filled.

Inception workshop team

What keeps us up at night?

The purpose of this exercise is to get things in perspective, work out what we need to worry about and how we can plan for those worries and what we can let go. For each concern we agree an action, this means that if and when the issue arises the project team will have a plan for how to deal with it.

Size it up

This isn’t about committing to a set number of days or creating deadlines. This exercise is about estimating whether the project is going to be around 3 months, 9 months or longer. In order to do this we will work on high-level story plans to give us some rough estimations. This will give senior stakeholders an idea of how big the project is going to be and whether it is feasible given the available resources.

Be clear on what’s going to give

On any project there will be elements which require flexibility. It’s good to highlight where the team is happy to flex and where the red lines are. If this is done at the very start of the process everyone is clear on what compromises are acceptable.

Show what it’s going to take

The two big questions on any project; how long is it going to take and how much is it going to cost?

This is where we will give a cost and time estimation based on everything we’ve learned over the inception workshop.