Application Vision

The goal of any application is providing value for its users. One of the most important steps to success is defining this value. We call this definition the Application Vision and it represents the overall goal of your application. It also ensures that everyone on your project has a clear understanding of success and the underlying context for each feature.

Realizing your Application Vision is a vital first step, as it forms the basis for all other project activities.

Define your Vision

The application vision is created as a collaborative workshop between the product owner, subject matter experts, architects, key stakeholders and project sponsors. Developers should also be included in these conversations to help provide context around the actual building of the application. We also like to assign a neutral facilitator to guide the discussion between all participants.

If your organization is accustomed to a more traditional methodology, like waterfall, defining the application vision is a great first exercise for bringing Business and IT together.

Application Vision Board
Image sourced from Product Vision Board

By filling out the Application Vision Board, you’ll be able to identify:

  • Who uses your application 
  • Why they need your application 
  • What your application delivers
  • How your application differentiates itself
  • How your application aligns with business goals

Download the Application Vision Board to use as a template when completing this exercise. Display the Board to your audience when conducting the workshop, so everyone can be involved in completing each discussion outcome.

Vision Statement

Creating an application requires time and effort. Commitment from the entire team is crucial and is best secured only when there is a clear, common vision on what your application accomplishes. Ask each team member to give their vision of what change your application should bring about. Comparing these different visions allows you to find common ground and better enables the group to define a shared vision.

The focus here should be on the motivation behind the project. That is, recognizing the application is merely a tool to achieve the vision, not the vision itself. Rather than saying, “The application will include a registration page, student summaries and performance graphs,” zoom out to give the bigger picture: “Create a seamless online student experience, from onboarding to graduation.”

Target Group

The people who benefit from your product represent your target group. Many of them will also be a part of the refinement workshop as stakeholders. It’s helpful to identify these stakeholders and include them in the Application Vision Workshop. This will aid you in creating a product that is both useful, and relevant to its users. It’s also a safeguard for missing any critical requirements, as more affected stakeholders will be able to provide feedback.

For example, consider an application that allows part-time employees to log their hours. A vision refinement workshop is conducted but leaves out the legal team as invited stakeholders. As a result, the application is not designed in a way that meets legal requirements for reporting. The Product Owner will now need to de-prioritize other important functionality just to modify the application to meet these legal requirements. This is just one way not including target stakeholders can lead to wasted time, resources, and value propositions.

Identify Needs

Identifying Needs means finding the pain points and bottlenecks experienced by your target users. These issues might be functional, technical or both. When crafting a Needs statement you should ask the question(s): What problems are we trying to solve? What benefits should our solution provide?

Ideally, you’re looking for a few short sentence answers such as, “Give new employees a smooth and pleasant first exposure to internal operations.” These answers will help form the basis of your application features.

Knowing the needs of your users keeps your project focused, as well as helping you separate and prioritize which features to build. By keeping this workshop collaborative with your stakeholders, you’ll get valuable input on what they require from your application.

Application Statement

The purpose of your application is to provide value. When defining your Application statement, outline the high level features or characteristics you expect your application to have. Be sure to ask yourself how feasible those features are to build, and how they will stand out from current processes or applications. This step is best done after discussing the needs of your project, as you’ll be able to refine those needs into application requirements.

For example, if your need was to deliver a faster, more efficient online checkout process, your Application statement should read something like: “The application needs to be fully accessible via mobile devices. Bulk orders placed in the app should be processed automatically using Artificial Intelligence.”

Defining these features helps the development team visualize your application and set expectations for the project. A benefit of having a varied team at the Application Vision workshop is that you can gain a range of perspectives and ideas during this exercise. Appian developers will know how best to implement features your stakeholders may want, and will be able to spot easy low-code wins, such as Appian’s native mobile support.

Business Goals

Business goals are the ultimate benchmark to measure the need and priority of a business requirement. These goals are also key in defining and prioritizing your application’s report requirements. Typically, business goals relate to your business’ Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Examples of these are:

  • Streamline new-hire onboarding lead time from 5 days to 1.
  • Reduce time spent onboarding all users by 60%.

While your product owner and stakeholders are best positioned to define these business goals, the Development Team and team lead can provide valuable input on which KPIs best apply to your application and Appian’s reporting functionality.

Establishing these business goals allows you and your stakeholders to calculate the project’s return on investment, and is a good way to clarify what the expected outcomes of the project are.