The kick-off meeting is an essential stage of any software development process involving UI and UX design. After the ideation workshops, during which the software design and development team work hand in hand to understand and act upon the business requirements of the product, the kick-off meeting is the chance to agree the strategy and tactics for a project success. So, what is the nature of this meeting, what goals should it meet and how should it be conducted to ensure a clear and efficient path for the work that has to be done?
The kick-off meeting’s primary goal is to create a clear path forward in the form of a project roadmap—a timeline of events and objectives (milestones) to meet business needs, discussed and confirmed with all of the project stakeholders.
The focus is on the project structure and workflow in which all involved roles and parties will operate. But that’s not the only reason why this meeting is essential. The kick-off meeting is also about creating a good relationship with your client in terms of cooperation and communication. The meeting is a chance to better understand the client’s way of thinking on every stage of the project. It is also a time to build mutual trust based on your experience and deep understanding of your client’s business challenge.
Getting the kick-off meeting right is essential as it sets the tone for the rest of your cooperation with the client. Insufficient and unclear communication about the needs and requirements can make the whole process much more difficult. This is especially true when working on complex systems and solutions that need proper understanding to better fulfill the product owner’s vision, and also cater to the very specific needs of users.
Note: The kick-off meeting is based on cooperation between roles. The product owner, designers and software developers all take part and raise questions. UX designers should collaborate with other team members to synchronize their contributions—not only is it a more efficient use of time, it presents a united appearance to the client.
Before the kick-off meeting, you can prepare a set of questions which will help establish the future roadmap and better understand project requirements. Base these questions on your current knowledge about the product your team will be developing. This part is especially essential if the first step of the software product development process—ideation—hasn’t taken place or has been conducted without the involvement of a UX designer. If so, you should incorporate questions about the product’s business value proposition and target users into your kick-off agenda.
The most common questions asked during a kick-off meeting are:
- What is the purpose of the project and what are we trying to accomplish?
- How did the business idea become a project?
- Who is the product end-user and will you have access to them when creating the system?
- What are the main tasks that the end-users will want to accomplish while using your application?
- What is the timeframe for the project?
- How do we define success for the project and how will it be measured?
Try to think about what knowledge you need to start the work and what could help you down the line. Additional topics that need clarification during this meeting are potential benchmarks (including in terms of visual design), and requirements on accessibility.
Make sure to be aligned with your team, be it other UX designers, programmers, project managers, or other people on your side. Try a dry-run of the questions that you have prepared with the team—they might suggest something that you have not thought of, and this will also help them in setting up their own parts of the meeting agenda.
Note: Find out who the participants of the meeting will be. In the absence of a product owner, it will be your role to create an environment of trust between participants. You can do it by utilizing scrum master playbook techniques for “breaking the ice.” A good idea is to ask everyone to introduce themselves and say a few words about their expectations for the meeting.
Here, you can find more examples of why UX and UI design services are worth investing in and why you should include them from the very beginning of the project.
Every project kick-off meeting is different. The meeting’s direction depends on how complex the project is, the expectations of the stakeholders and participants, and how well prepared you are to lead it to a satisfactory result.
You will find some tips on how to successfully run this kind of meeting with your client below.
- Make sure you use the allocated time efficiently. As a UX designer, you have a leading role in gathering essential information about the product to help your team deliver the project according to the client’s business needs.
- Make sure that your slide deck or presentation contains only essential information for the participants. Some topics might lead to larger discussions and these might need to be postponed for future meetings.
- When working on an IT project, there are usually commonly practiced methodologies already selected, be it Agile/Scrum/Kanban, Lean, Waterfall, etc. You need to be clear on the amount of work you will be able to present at each step of the process and manage expectations from the beginning. Some projects have an abundance of time available, others are a clear-cut fight against time and/or budget—make sure you align with your client’s needs.
- Allocate time for a Q&A session and specify the next steps after the meeting. Did you come across a topic that needs to be discussed further after the kick-off? If so, schedule time for that with all the necessary people. If everything else is sorted, close the meeting with a short summary of the next steps that you and your team will take.
The kick-off meeting plays an essential role in the software development process. That is why you need to remember that the form and course of the meeting are as important as its goal. A few details that can help are:
- Be as friendly as possible as this will allow for a more open discussion when it comes to setting up your collaboration. Starting the meeting with quick introductions from all the participants helps with this as well.
- It’s always good practice to take quick notes, but try not to do so when the screen view is shared as this might distract people and possibly derail the thoughts of the person speaking. Making notes with pen and paper never gets old!
- When going through your list of questions, make sure you’re not just reading off a script that people can see - hearing out loud exactly what is on the screen makes for a dull presentation and bores participants. Be open and try to add secondary questions if something that the client says adds value or is worth following up.
How else can UX perspective influence the software product development lifecycle? For example, by reducing overall development time—but this is only the example—the list you can find in the previous article.
At the end of a successful kick-off meeting, your team should be ready to start the work as soon as it ends. The roadmap of the project should be established, the requirements should be discussed and clearly described to allow the team to take immediate action. Moreover, the client should be confident that their project is in the right hands. The trust built during a successful kick-off meeting will pay off throughout the whole process.