The Columns I Live By

Sun Feb 12 21:45:20 2017

Amongst the tools I use on a variety of projects is Trello. To be honest I use others that are similar to Trello as well dependent on the client requirements but a default tool is Trello because of my familiarity with it.

One of the things I like about Trello is the column view and I like it as I can set the same column layout for almost every project. I want to tell you what they are and why they have the headings they do.[0]

The headings?

The five standard headings I use in any project are:[1][2]

  1. Information

    • In this column we stick the cards that describe technologies used; team make-up; user stories; and anything that isn’t a direct feature or task. I like this column to be a sort of document hub that carries on with the project.
  2. Must Have

    • This is the first of our feature lists and it is everything the project needs. If it is a new project the elements on here will most likely make up the Technical MVP (Minimum Viable Product)
  3. Want to Have

    • This is a list of features that the product owner, or supervisor, feels it cannot be brought to market, or first stage completion, without but which has been identified as not really MVP.
  4. Like to Have

    • The features that don’t fit into the other two columns of features.
  5. Done

    • When the task/card is done it is in here. Essentially an archive, we keep them around as they may get re-opened.

What the headings mean

I feel that I should explain the MUST-WANT-LIKE relationship a little more as people often do not see a difference between what is a ‘must have’ and what is a ‘want to’. Regular readers of this blog are familiar with my use of car metaphors, so let’s use one to describe the three column headings. Imagine we are building a car and we are using the above process to prevent the construction of a ‘Homer Mobile’ what fits into our three headings?[3]

The Homer Simpson Car What you get if you don't prioritise wants, needs and likes

Must Have

This would be the essential components that make the car functional.

  • Engine and transmission
  • Simple battery and electrical system
  • Chasis
  • Wheels
  • Steering Mechanism
  • Brakes
  • 1 Basic Seat

Notice that I have been broad in my terms so that ‘steering mechanism’ would include steering wheel, steering column, rack-and pinion setup (or similar) but doesn’t include power assisted steering, or traction assisted turning etc..

The car needs little more than this to be a functioning device and it will help our engineers to build this as the MVP as it focusses on core elements. There is no gearbox at this time, so parking will be a challenge and no lights or indicators so night time driving will be fun. There is also no frame, panels, windows, doors, seat-belts etc. The car doesn’t need them for basic functioning and we can test our vehicle without them. It is a pure first stage.

Want to Have

So what fits into our want to have? What rounds this car out into something that you can not just use but sell a lot easier. This would represent a different part of an MVP, it is a sellable product.

  • Frame
  • Windows
  • Lights and Indicators
  • Gearbox (with reverse gears!)
  • Doors
  • Comfortable Seats
  • Seatbelts
  • Mirrors
  • Heater

Now we have a car more resembling the basic model you might see on display in a showroom. The difference between our functional MVP and Saleable MVP is clear. These are the elements that are commonly associated with the product, and may in fact be an exterior imposed requirement.[4] This is our want-to-haves. They are close to being an absolute must-have without being the core essentiality.

Like to Have

So what is left, what represents the like to have? Well these are the added extras. The elements that may represent a USP or add to the overall feeling of luxury, comfort or quality without being an essential need for a sale.

  • Leather trims
  • Anti-lock brakes, airbags etc
  • Cruise control
  • Carpets
  • Air-conditioning
  • Metallic Paint

As you can see these elements are not necessary but they are amongst the first things that are listed in car sales brochures. In other words the ‘like to haves’ may not be core components to the build but that doesn’t make them unnecessary, they may have specific strong value. We separate these items off as although they may add our USP they are not necessary for core functionality. We cannot focus on the air conditioning or alloy wheels if the vehicle transmission doesn’t work. So they stay important but not initially essential.

A like to have can also be a persons individual preference. I don't personally like lime green metallic cars. I think it is an awful colour. However they do sell and so some people must like them. This option is firmly in the like to have. The same with fluffy items hanging from mirrors and furry steering wheel covers, plastic trim, silver stickers and the whole host of other bling that you find in almost every motor retailers.

You can use it?

That’s it, thanks for staying around and reading. I find this method useful and most of the people I work with grok it and use it as well.[5] If you want to use this method, or a personal variant of it, yourself then please do. I don’t claim it is original as I have adapted it from working on a number of projects and studying Project Management.

If you find it useful or would like to add a variant that you think would enhance it then please add a comment or your own blog. ttfn.

[Don't forget that you can join in this conversation by using the comments form or by tweeting at @shadowcat_mdk]





Notes

[0] Those of you familiar with different Agile techniques will see some similarities, but I should make it clear that this is not part of one of the more formal Agile processes or an attempt to partially implement an Agile ecosystem.

[1] Occasionally I use boards that do not have this layout but that detracts from this article.

[2] These are best wit new projects than established ones, though a large refactor or feature push will share many of the same elements.

[3] This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive metaphor, it is just enough for us to understand the process.

[4] Such as in the case of seatbelts and lighting.

[5] There remains the possibility that they are humouring me.





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