Connecting the Dots

By: Victor, Co-Founder at Axure

Have you ever worked on a project that seemed to shrink at every turn? The kind of project that makes you feel like you have to fight for its survival? There are any number of reasons stakeholders and managers cut the scope of projects. Sometimes these things are out of our hands, but other times, connecting the dots between the proposed solution and the business objectives can save the project… and your sanity.

If you’re hearing that the scope of your project needs to get cut because your development partner has tripled their rates or the business is being acquired, there’s probably not much you can do. But frequently, pressure to reduce budget or resources can be tied back to doubts about how much value the project will actually deliver to the business. What return can we reasonably expect from our investment?

As the product designer of a new chat feature, it may be obvious to you how embedding chat will dramatically reduce support costs. But as you’re presenting the perfectly placed call to action and the nicely designed email notification, stakeholders can start to wonder whether it’s all necessary, or even effective, to achieve their goals. If you start to see signs of this, it’s time to connect the dots between features and business value.

More specifically, draw the metaphorical lines between the business to the user and then to the features. What change to user behavior will lead to the desired business outcome? For example, “If users ask questions earlier, issues will be faster and cheaper to resolve.” Making that connection gives stakeholders a clear way to evaluate the value of the proposed features. Once you’re there, present a prototype that demonstrates how each aspect of the proposed chat feature encourages users to ask questions sooner.

At the end of the day, reducing the scope of a project may be better for the business, the product, and the team. But it’s hard to be sure if stakeholders aren’t seeing the actual value of the project. If all the dots have been connected and the project still gets a haircut, hopefully the reason makes sense and you can look forward to the next project.