Do you like interviewing users and customers?
“No” is the typical answer.
Many teams unfortunately shy away from interviewing their customers and users. Very often we think that we know what people need and pile into developing what is effectively a series of….. hypotheses. A sprint backlog should never ever be a list of unvalidated hypotheses. One perfect way of validating such hypotheses is by conducting customer development interviews.
Customer development interviews should discover real issues and not pitch or look for solutions or features suggested by interviewees. To do this we must prepare (and generate) questions that discover true problems and needs.
Teams may conduct the interviews in person or over video conferencing. Audio-only conferencing is always a bad idea because it is vitally important to observe the customer as we interact. Surveys are a no-no at this stage as well. By talking to people directly in this way, product owners, UXers and business analysts can maintain product and sprint backlogs based on hard evidence!
Steve Blank, father of the ‘Lean Startup Movement’, is probably the most well known educator urging teams to “get outside the building” and to conduct interviews in order to gather evidence. Here is his extremely brief and useful Customer Discovery (video) Checklist. Enjoy.