Before developing a new distributed ledger technology (DLT) project, a blockchain company must always first perform a workshop for the client.
DLT is the technological infrastructure and programming that allows synchronous access, recording, and validation of information across a widespread network of numerous entities and locations.
2017 was full of excitement around blockchain technology due to the popularity of initial coin offerings (ICOs) — a new way to raise funds via issuing digital tokens — and the incredible returns on various cryptocurrencies.
Despite the increased interest from the corporate sector, we are extremely cautious about the blockchain ideas our customers suggest until they’ve been fully validated.
This article helps project managers and business analysts stay productive when it comes to blockchain development, or designing and building a reliable DLT solution for the enterprise clients.
Almost all of the clients we have served in Intellectsoft Blockchain Lab for the past 2.5 years have gone through the workshop with us. We found it integral for blockchain projects, and I’ll explain why in this article.
Stage 1: Clarifying Client Needs
The first step in a blockchain development workshop is to clarify your client's needs.
This stage analyzes what the client needs and if blockchain is an appropriate solution.
The Analysis Phase
Every business must identify the problems they need to address and then offer several solutions in order to start developing a new product.
The goals of the analysis phase are to:
- Define a client’s existing and desired business processes
- Explore what each stakeholder wants and expects
- Identify technical and architectural limitations
The analysis phase is critical to prototype development, and clarifying the market problem is its primary step.
When our customers want to store data on blockchain, we ask them, “Is this information important to your business?”
They often agree that it is, so we proceed with the following explanation: Blockchain is essentially a simple database but more secure and transparent.
That being said, blockchain is not a solution to most market problems right now, at least not yet. That’s why it is important to have both traditional web solutions (centralized) as well as systems based on the DLT (decentralized). This way, you won't be biased.
So, will blockchain technology solve your market problem and justify the cost? A responsible team member needs to meet with the client to clarify.
For example, the company may seek:
- To minimize the risk of a single point of attack
- A way to transfer value across borders instantly and securely
- An immutable and efficient data collection and storage solution
- Automation of processes using smart contracts
During the conversation, the business analysts should gather the necessary information to assess the project’s scope. He or she conducts a list of high-level requirements for the project and prepares a workshop proposal.
Not Everyone Needs Blockchain
Due to blockchain’s popularity and hype, many people think any tech problem can be solved with blockchain, but that's not true.
Especially with enterprise clients, we always emphasize that blockchain is not an answer to all tech problems. It seems that we need to constantly de-hype our clients to the real level of DLT value at the moment.
For instance, a traditional server can still relatively securely store large quantities of data and help to retrieve it much faster than the current blockchain technology. There is no need for the transparency that DLT offers if the client is going to be the sole entity using the blockchain.
Usually, it is hard to estimate a complex or a breakthrough idea without a workshop because of its innovative nature. Without a workshop, clients may pay a fixed rate per hour without knowing what they will get as the outcome.
It is another reason why the workshop is essential for work with clients of a blockchain development studio.
Key takeaway for the clarifying needs stage: Care about the customer. Identify the market problem first, then seek a business solution. If blockchain will not elevate the customer’s business in any way, discourage him or her from proceeding.
Stage 2: Strategy & Concept Workshop
Once the client's needs are clarified, stage 2 comes into effect: the strategy and concept workshop.
Features analysis and prototype workshopping are the cornerstone of every software development project, especially in the blockchain industry.
Below are some of the findings and recommendations our experience has led us to.
Have a Team on Board
It is important to have team members who understand the market, business, technology (especially deep blockchain knowledge), and design.
Intellectsoft Blockchain Lab’s team consists of a senior business analyst , who acts as the conduit between stakeholders and the development team, and a project manager, who manages and coordinates the analysis workshop.
There are a few other team members who usually serve a consultative role during this stage:
- Blockchain solution architect
- Senior software development engineer
- UI/UX designer
- Technical consultant
This group considers all documents already produced, including research, technology stacks, and even architectures performed by the client. They can review and produce solution ideas using this background research.
The competitors’ analysis is equally crucial: Even the most innovative product that “has no competition” actually does have competition but perhaps not a direct one.
Later during the features analysis, this team also:
- Transforms business requirements into functional requirements
- Establishes the initial vision of the project architecture
- Creates a project plan with definitions of project risks, budgeting, and strategy
Plan a Workshop
The firm then organizes a prototype workshop where business analysts, tech leads, and product leads define the existing and desired business processes.
This engagement phase lasts from 3 to 5 weeks and serves as a more detailed analysis of the project, its competitors, and all the relevant features that will be built afterward.
The workshop answers the following questions:
- Is my idea a good fit for the current market?
- How will I position my product?
- How exactly will my product work?
- Will my product satisfy user needs?
- Which features will increase the value of my product?
- What is the right development approach?
- How will I monetize my idea?
- Which channels will attract the right users?
- How much will all this cost?
If they are able to recognize their needs based on our past experience, we can share our expertise.
Development firms need to implement a simulation or a rough prototype to help their clients envision a measurable and profitable vector of growth.
Next, a team of subject matter experts can identify risks and limitations and create a fundamental vision of the project architecture.
Key takeaway for the concept and strategy workshop stage: Gather the best experts and perform a workshop before actual implementation.
Necessary Workshop Deliverables
There are 6 particular deliverables that customers expect a firm to produce during the strategy and concept workshop.
“Every blockchain product is a startup: You need to do a tremendous amount of work before actual development and be very agile,” said Timothy Kozak, head of technology at Intellectsoft Blockchain Lab. “A common business cannot do it without experienced, startup-minded people.”
“Every blockchain product is a startup: You need to do a tremendous amount of work before actual development and be very agile. A common business cannot do it without experienced, startup-minded people.” — Timothy Kozak, Head of Technology at Intellectsoft Blockchain Lab
If you don’t put the work in, your project could fail.
1. User Story Map
This is a representation of a user’s journey through the project that highlights exactly how the product will work and whether there are any areas that haven’t been fully planned.
It’s crucial to understand how clients want their users to engage with the product.
2. Feature Set
A feature set is a prioritized list of features. Work closely with the client to create numerous entries for it.
Having an established feature set assists with turning product expectations into actionable, detailed deliverables.
The MVP (minimal viable product) stage identifies the core feature set. It is a good time to cut away any secondary functions and focus on the most important part of the future product.
A clickable prototype is offered at this stage to help evaluate the potential of the project prior to its delivery.
Its aim is to check whether a solution is something that solves the market problem in general. When a team creates it, iterations happen.
4. Technical Approach
This document assumes the platforms, code base, operating system (OS), and end-user devices are required to deliver the product.
It also offers a blueprint for high-level architecture, recommended technology stack, and hosting approach (in the cloud or on own servers).
5. Project Plan
A project plan is a proposal to:
- Determine the project management approach to use
- Design timeline, number of sprints, and key milestones
- Estimate budget
- Plan for project risks
This plan provides a clear understanding of the required work and possible challenges during the design and development stage.
6. Statement of Work (SOW)
As a result of all this preparation, both the client and the development firm have a detailed SOW document. It summarizes all the deliverables mentioned above.
Key takeaway for workshop deliverables: There are 6 standard deliverables to expect from a strategy and concept workshop: user story map, feature set, MVP, technical approach, project plan, and statement of work.
After the Workshop: Design & Development Stage
The design and development stage follows the analysis phase and workshops.
This stage implements a ready product and leads the product to its launch.
After the product is launched, it is considered finished, and a blockchain development firm signs a service level agreement (SLA) with a client. This ensures continuous support for the developed product and its further growth.
Workshops With Clients in Blockchain Development Are Important
Blockchain, as part of the distributed ledger technologies (DLT) industry, carries a potential for transformational changes within large enterprises. However, it cannot solve all problems, and a blockchain development company is responsible for helping clients identify the market problem first.
Workshopping with clients is integral to designing and building blockchain solutions for several reasons: It assists with clarifying the needs, strategy, and deliverables needed for the project. Moreover, it gives clients a transparent and efficient estimate of the costs.
About the Author
Nick Kurat has over 14 years of experience in growing technology businesses. From San Francisco-based innovative startups to international tech companies servicing Fortune 500 clients, he provides hands-on advising on business strategy, applies enabling technologies, and expands businesses globally. Currently, Nick is leading Intellectsoft Blockchain Lab, top-rated blockchain studio in 2017 and 2018, according to Clutch.