This Monday and Tuesday I had the pleasure to attend an inception at Wiseri headquarters. It was facilitated by Enrique Comba.

I already knew what an inception was: I attended Enrique’s talk about Agile Inceptions at Agile Open Spain 2011 in Barcelona. I even gave a talk about this topic in a local company. But, believe me, there’s a huge difference from knowing what an inception is to being part of one.

What is an agile project inception?

If you haven’t even heard about inceptions I suggest you to get your hands on the book The Agile Samuray by Jonathan Rasmusson and read the second part about Agile Project Inception.

Long story short, an agile inception is a collection of practices that help ensuring that everyone involved in the project is at the same page when it starts. It’s helpful for everyone, from developers to customers. And it gives much better results than a 2 month analysis phase for less money and in less time.

I won’t list the practices explicitly since I will be describing them one by one when I tell you how things went at Wiseri.

The first day

After some coffee and rolls (yum!) and once we had sat around the table we got started answering the question why are we here? Everyone exposed their expectations about the two days we had ahead.

Once we knew why everyone was there it was time to introduce ourselves. We got together in pairs and interviewed each other. Our couple had to be someone we didn’t know at all or somebody we don’t usually work with. Once we were done with the interview we had to introduce our partner to the rest of the attendees.

The next thing we did was setting some ground rules for the next two days. We made an agreement about several issues: from rest time to talk turns.

With all this information about the people in the room we were ready to start working on Wiseri and it’s awesome product.

Elevator pitch

The first thing we worked on was the elevator pitch. We worked on a sort speech (short enough to be given in an elevator trip, hence the name) which had to clearly state what Wiseri is and what Wiseri does. And, of course, it had to be mind-blowing.

I realized how hard it is to come up a good elevator pitch. It took us hours of brainstorming, role playing, and short marketing lessons. But, I had to tell you, it ended up being awesome. I hope they share it with you.

Product box

Once our elevator pitch was done we worked on our product box. We had to design a box (a small one!) and put there everything we needed to be able to convince a customer to buy Wiseri if she saw our box on the shelves of her usual supermarket.

It’s a really creative duty and put on the table some great ideas and memes to sell Wiseri to customers.

None of us is a designer and none of us draws particularly well (specially Marina) but the boxes looked great.

In and out of scope

With the boxes exposed on one of the shelves of the room we were ready to start working on what Wiseri is and is not.

To do that we were going to fill two lists, what is in scope and what is out of scope. But we had to focus on the out of scope list. It is, without any doubt, the hardest list to make: it’s quite easy to tell what something is or what you want it to be, but the oposite is really, really hard.

Know your community

Even though we were exhausted we decided to do one activity more: developing personas.

For the last time that day we got together in pairs and started developing personas for each of the relevant roles that are part of Wiseri’s present and future. We are talking about users, customers, competitors, advocates, etc…

It’s an awesome tool to discover the different kind of people and the different roles that are relevant for a software system. You have to give a name to your persona and make up a biography for it. Once you are done you make a list of her characteristics and what implications they have on the system.

You can use this personas instead of the usual role names in your user stories and scenarios. Instead of saying “as a customer…“ you say “as John Doe…“. It provides much more information and it’s fun.

We made a few rounds until we felt comfortable with our persona list. We even had some kind of relative of our facilitator.

With a great job done and a hard day ahead (which I will be talking about soon) we went home to have some rest. You wouldn’t tell how exhausting inceptions are…