Seeds grow flowers!

Taking a very binary view of why people expend the effort to create value chain, value streams, and/or process maps, there are two reasons for mapping. The first is to generate a cost advantage by increasing efficiency. The second is to generate product differentiation. Each reason requires information about customers, how raw materials are transformed, and how the product is delivered.  The analysis and decision based on the maps are very different. Seed questions are a useful gathering data in a repeatable manner. Here are some sample mapping seed questions:

  • Walk me through how an idea (or a requirement) enters your organization until it is in the customer’s hands.
  • Who enables you to create (or deliver) your product?
  • What is important to your customers?
  • Who generates requirements?
  • How are your products delivered?
  • How long does ___ take from start to finish?
  • What is your definition of done?
  • What are the largest sources of delay?
  • What triggers a delay?
  • Where do you get requirements from?
  • Where does the information you need to make a decision come from?
  • How are inputs into a process controlled and qualified?
  • How are inputs transformed into the product?
  • What information and support would you like about the product? How often?
  • How is the product delivered?
  • Do different customer segments use the product differently?
  • How is the product supported?
  • What tools and process are used to deploy/deliver the product?
  • What tools and process are used to deliver product support?
  • How are marketing and sales involved in developing the product?
  • How are marketing and sales involved in delivering the product?
  • How do you measure cycle time?
  • How are marketing and sales involved in gathering requirements for the product?
  • Who supports the infrastructure, including the management of physical property and resources the business owns?
  • How does the people management and acquisition group(s) interface with the product development flow?
  • How do technology groups support the development and of the product?
  • How does procurement interface and support the development of the product?
  • How is success defined and how is it measured?

This set of seed questions is not exhaustive. Some questions are more useful when you are exploring for flow ideas that can be used to find differentiators, while others are very slanted towards process efficiency. Most scenarios, as Julia Wester noted in SPaMCAST 532, are not either/or scenarios, but rather lay on a spectrum. Each question will generate information about how a product transforms and how customers consume that product, therefore, feel comfortable with mixing specific and full life cycle questions (you have to gauge the mix).  I have had procurement specialists provide incredible insights on how customers wanted to consume software. Remember they are often talking to organizations that are providing people, services and resources to your competitors. In the end, every seed question needs to be evaluated and tweaked based on the level of granularity of the map needed. For example, if you were generating a process map, the question “how is the product delivered” might be modified to “what are the steps needed to deliver the product?”