Sprint Zero Checklist

App Lab

checklist, not steps
A previous post (here) compared best practice in Engineering, Marketing, and Design with the process of finding your way in a strange landscape by comparing the territory to a map, and then map to territory, orienting one to the other until they both make sense.

The next post (here) pointed out that, although they are navigate the same territory, the maps used by Engineers, Marketing, and Design, are qualitatively different; and that, although these different views of the world lead to misunderstandings, they were fundamentally complementary. The different views are summarised in this table:

Design Marketing Engineering
Value Opportunities Solutions
Desirability Viability Feasibility
Why How What

This post lays out an approach intended to orient Engineers, Marketers, and Designers to each other. The approach -- mashup of tools from Agile Engineering, Lean Startup, and Design Thinking -- is intended for use at the beginning of greenfield projects, i.e., projects without constraints imposed by prior work.

In Agile terms, the approach might be called "Sprint Zero". At AVG Innovation, we call it "App Lab".

Given enough iterations, a basic Agile process would no doubt cover the same ground; but the checklist is more efficient. It puts the first proper development cycle on solid ground.

solid ground

The App Lab approach was refined over the course of 9 greenfields projects to develop new products or service propositions (including Family Center and the Carefree Patient Record concept). It was developed to ensure multi-disciplinary teams start new projects with a clear and shared set of priorities. Basically, it's a checklist.

scanning the horizon

The App Lab checklist encourages a 360° view of the project, including User, Business, and Technical considerations. Working through the checklist leads team members from different disciplines to discuss what they already know about the problem, to develop a shared understanding, helping the rest of the project go faster. By the end of the checklist, the team has a set of working hypotheses on what it will take to make a product that is Desirable, Viable, and Feasible.

natural order

In principle, there is a natural order to the checklist, with items relating to Desirability first, then Viability, then Feasibility. Because Why we sell a product determines How we sell it, which determines What we sell. Customers drive Business drives Technology. So the natural order would be Design, then Marketing, then Engineering.

In practice however, it's not possible to address either Design, Marketing, or Engineering in isolation. An award-winning design that can't be built, an incredible technology patent no one needs, or a fast-selling product that loses money ...all failures. Successful Design, Marketing, and Engineering are inextricable from one another.

Innovation projects commonly start with a compelling inspiration from Design, Marketing, or Engineering; but usually 2 out of these 3 perspectives are only vaguely outlined. In these cases, you have to start with what you have, so we've found it's better to approach App Lab as a checklist rather than an ordered set of steps.

Use the App Lab checklist to surface what you already know, and to fill in any gaps. Be prepared to revisit items on the list as your understanding of the problem evolves.


How long does it take to go through the list? It's possible to go from inspiration to coherent, validated product/service proposition in 4 weeks, but we plan for six weeks because i) team members are working on other projects in parallel, and ii) the extra gestation time improves the quality of thinking. The process is time constrained, so deliverables must be tailored to fit time and resources available. This encourages a mindset of practicality over perfection.


The checklist validates that an idea has been considered from Design, Marketing, and Engineering angles, and confirms that the core proposition is coherent and acceptable to users. It validates that an idea is worthy of further investigation. The final deliverable is a pitch to budget holders for funds to proceed to the first iteration of development.


Below is an overview of the App Lab list. In the next posts, I'll walk through a case study, item-by-item, based on our experience with the Carefree Patient Record concept). The next post describes Inspiration.

Item Input Activities Output
Inspiration Champion (product owner) Draft statement of scope Project Brief
User Research Project Brief User visits,
Consumer review analysis
Experience Flow w/ pains & gains
Jobs-to-be-Done Pains & Gains Analysis (workshop) Jobs-to-be-done. (Social, Emotional, Functional
Competitive Landscape Jobs-to-be-done Desk Research Ranked feature list (Kano model)
Business Model Canvas Customer description
Competitor Landscape
    Desk Research (Workshop) Selected (provisional) Business Model Business Case
    Design SketchingBusiness Model Canvas
    Customer Description
    User Scenario sketching,
    Screen concept sketching
    Key User Stories Design
    Principles Screen Concept sketches
    System Concept Business Model Canvas
    User Stories Jobs-to-be-Done
    Design Principles
    System Design Review Minimum Viable Product , Use Cases System Concept Document
    Lo-Fi Prototype User Stories Design Principles Sketching (workshop) Lo-Fi Prototype (Wireframes)
    User Validation Prototype User Description Define Hypotheses, User Test Findings Presentation
    Pitch Business Requirements (Business Model Canvas & Business Case),
    User Requirements (Job-to-be-done & Design Principles),
    Technical Requirements (System Concept Document)
    Presentation creation Request for resources to continue development.

    Please share this post. If you comment, I'll reply. Thanks for reading!

    My other blog is full of esoteric rants.


    1. Maurice,

      Nice to see the next line of thought (and experiences). Looking forward to see your case-materials in a next post.

      A thought (and reflection) that comes to mind is that your wonderful checklist and sprint-zero approach to me still implies progressive (forward-moving) iterations. all three models do imply this and I am not questioning this. But ....

      In my recent efforts of establishing my own venture in a lean-start-up fashion, enriched by e.g. using BMC, I did experience multiple times 'going back' in my thinking. Going back and eliminating & prioritising thoughts, insights almost creating a new 'restore-point' and re-progressing from there. Curious to see how this fits in the thinking.

    2. Thanks for your comment jfr!

      I think I know what you are talking about. Sometimes they are experienced as setbacks, sometimes as Aha! moments, but they do point to new learning.

      To use the Map metaphor, it's when you realize you are holding the map upside down, or facing west instead of North. You have to throw out some of your assumptions -- either rotate the map or turn on your heels. In other words ...pivot.

      To continue forward toward your goal is progress, but changing course toward a better goal is progress also, and maybe better.

      I hope I understood rightly. I hope this helps answer the question.

      Thanks for commenting.

    3. I have pivoted my thoughts (as in Lean Start-Up) - looking forward to the continued series. Well done!


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