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4 steps for enabling continuous discovery with customer interviews

Tony Jones
Atlassian Team
Atlassian Team members are employees working across the company in a wide variety of roles.
May 13, 2024

Hi, I’m Tony Jones, and I’m a designer on Atlassian’s Growth team! In the first part of this series my teammate, Jet, talked about the 5 continuous discovery best practices my team implemented. In this article, I’ll dive into how we schedule, structure and report out on customer interviews to enable continuous discovery.

 

 

What is continuous discovery?

Glad you asked. Continuous discovery is about including customers throughout your decision-making process. The idea is that regularly hearing their stories will help you identify new opportunities, and close the gap between how you think your products are used and how your customers actually use them.

It’s nothing new. Marty Cagan at SVPG first started writing about continuous discovery more than 10 years ago, and we’ve been talking about it at Atlassian for a while too.

My team has found regularly chatting with customers to be one of the best parts of our week, and this article will walk you through how we set it up, because with a bit of a steer it can be easy and super valuable.

 

Why speak to customers every week?

In the past, we aimed to do customer research as part of discovery, and again when measuring impact to understand why we saw the results we did. But in reality, this was hard to fit in, and it meant we rarely had input from customers while we were choosing a hypothesis and designing the solution.

It can be hard to imagine fitting in weekly customer conversations, I procrastinated on it for months, but a combination of three things made us try it:

✅ We could minimize the number of decisions we made without customer input

🔮 We could go beyond ideation sessions and identify new opportunities and pain points

🎛️ We could better understand how people actually use our products

That’s when I made the following customer call page, and we got started.

continuous discovery page.png

How we do it

Here’s what a typical week looks like for us.

1. Monday - Choose a theme (10 minutes)

On Monday, we look at our product roadmap and chat about experiments we’re designing or kicking off so we can choose a theme to speak to customers about. For example, we had a couple of ideas coming up on helping customers discover how to make product roadmaps with Jira Product Discovery, so product roadmaps was our theme for the week.

roadmap.png

2. Monday - Create a discussion guide (15 minutes)

After choosing a theme we create a guide broken into topics we want to discuss. Under each topic, we add 2-3 questions to prompt customers to share their experiences. We’ve found it helpful to have fewer questions, because it makes you feel less rushed and leaves room for follow-up questions.

With every discussion guide, we start with 3 background questions to understand what their company does, what their role is, and their satisfaction with the Atlassian products they use. This is a great invitation for customers to share top-of-mind pain points and opportunities.

template.png

3. Monday - Recruit customers (15 minutes)

We use User Interviews to find customers, and we recruit in 3-week blocks. This seems to work well as some customers are ready to speak that week, while others need more notice.

Every third week we duplicate our last User Interview project and add 4 sessions per week to cater to people who work in different timezones. We launch the project and set a maximum of 1 session per day to keep it manageable.

Come Tuesday morning we have a stack of candidates for interviews. When reviewing participants, we pay close attention to their responses to our screener questions about their role and day-to-day responsibilities - people with clear and detailed responses here are more likely to share clear and detailed responses in the interview.

user interviews.png

4. Wednesday & Thursday - Customer conversations (60 minutes)

We try to have 2 conversations per week. While this won’t give you a perfect saturation, it will help you make better decisions and identify new opportunities. We like to have chats on Wednesdays and Thursdays, because this gives us time to prepare on Tuesday if need be.

At the beginning of the customer conversation, we take 5 minutes to chat and connect. Building a small amount of rapport will help people relax and feel inclined to share more with you. Following the intro, you want the customer to be speaking 90% of the time. Be okay with silence; let people think – often the most useful responses come after someone has spent 10 seconds pulling faces and racking their brain!

5. Wednesday & Thursday - Write-up (60 minutes)

We try to have 2 people in each session, one facilitating and focused on the conversation, and the other observing.

After the interview we quickly debrief, and import it to Dovetail using automation ⚡️ to get a summary. From the transcript, we grab quotes, tag interesting parts, and copy video highlights to add to our post-conversation write-up.

Easier said than done, but we aim to block out 60 minutes after the conversation to debrief and do the write-up and share out. Coming back to it the following day is tough, and you forget a lot of stuff. Better to do it while all the information is fresh.

one pager.png

6. Wednesday & Thursday - Share a summary

We share our post-interview write-ups with our stakeholders in Slack. To make it something people can learn from at a glance, we include the summary and a short video highlight.

Lastly, we add insights to relevant ideas in our discovery project so we have qual and quant data together when we're ready to start this. We include a customer quote to bring it to life, a link to the summary in Confluence so we can find it, and a rating of its impact so we know how much it should inform our work.

insights.png

 

Get started!

Ready to go? Here are 4 things to keep in mind:

  1. Start small and order more later 🍣 One conversation per week immediately gives you more customer input to guide your decisions, and it will give you a chance to reflect and improve before you do more. Struggling to see how it will fit into your calendar? Maybe it could be the catalyst to pause that meeting you’ve been giving the side-eye for months!
  2. Don’t work alone 🍕 Like pepperoni and cheese some things are better together! Pair with someone else in your team who’s equally excited to talk to customers. Alternate roles. Invite the rest of your team to observe. Really, the more open you are with how you build your product roadmap, the better - it’s nice kicking off an idea and having your feature lead remember that customer who waxed lyrical about it.
  3. Set aside time ⏰ You’ll need no more than 3 hours to make one conversation a week happen - roughly 10 minutes to choose a theme and 15 minutes to set a discussion guide, 15 minutes to manage recruitment, 60 minutes to chat with a customer, and another 60 minutes to write up and share a summary of the opportunities you identified. Alternating who facilitates and who observes is a good way to share the load.
  4. Keep your write-up lean ✍️ You could easily lose another hour perfecting your write-up and editing videos to the nanosecond. Don’t! Burning time on write-ups isn’t worth it; the value is in the opportunities you identified and the decisions these conversations lead to.

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Stijn Veer_ van der June 17, 2024

Do you share the write-ups of every interview with the stakeholders? How do your stakeholders respond/use this information?

Do you also store insights that are currently not on your roadmap somewhere for later usage?

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