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Diode Ventures

Product Strategy, Prototyping, and Testing

4 months

case study desktop

Casting a Vision for Complex Project Development Processes

Diode Ventures is a turnkey asset development company, wholly-owned by EPC (Engineering, Procurement & Construction) leader, Black & Veatch. They’re focused on the technology, commercial, and industrial sectors, creating custom-built solutions for their clients’ specific needs. Diode works with clients to determine their requirements across their asset portfolios. This includes understanding the desired project location, size, and contract structure, all with the goal of developing a bespoke approach to fulfilling their client’s needs. Through this process, Diode’s clients can enjoy a scalable and repeatable solution as their asset and operational demands grow.

What sets Diode apart?

  • Take time to understand customers, their needs, and requirements to find the best solution
  • Operate as a single point of contact for the entire project lifecycle
  • Focused on client-centered development, competitive financing, and global reach
  • Unique access to capital through construction and permanent financing
  • Operate in more than 100 countries across the world
  • Unmatched relationship with Black & Veatch, which enables Diode to access a global knowledge network and decades of EPC experience

Business challenges hindering growth

Diode has a unique position to take asset development by storm. As with any scaling venture, they’ve faced some operational and efficiency challenges throughout the course of their growth. Crema and Black & Veatch had worked together in other capacities in the past, and we were introduced to the Diode group to prototype, test, and refine their platform, ultimately improving the way business was getting done.

Digital transformation, as much of a buzzword as it is, has the potential to push any company to new heights. The Diode team was ready to unpack their product vision with the Crema team to ultimately deliver more value to their clients by creating efficiencies in Diode’s development processes. We set out to leverage design and technology in the following ways:

  • Streamline and automate elements of the workflow to enable the Diode team to be more efficient and effective
  • Memorialize lessons learned and best practices to scale the Diode team
  • Create incredible client interaction throughout the project lifecycle
  • Dramatically reduce the sales cycle from 12 months to 6 months
  • Develop an industry-leading client experience, including onboarding, reporting, and ongoing management

“[Crema] seemed to put themselves in our shoes, and by the end of the engagement, they really understood our business almost as well as we did. They really got into the whole idea of what we’re doing and took the time to understand us."

Rachel Attebery, Director of Operations, Diode Ventures

Objectives and goals of the work

When our teams set out to work together in January 2019, we had determined there were immense opportunities to learn from each other and design a beautiful and useful UI to validate the platform. We began with a full-day Strategy & Alignment session to unpack Diode’s business model, desires, and initial vision for the product. Once those assets were organized, our teams worked together to:

  • Design and prototype a clickable product experience that demonstrates an improved workflow for the Diode team
  • Outline a product roadmap for the initial release of the product
  • Create a high-level technical plan to develop the platform

Our teams focused on the early stage project workflow & client experience of the platform during this time. In a later phase, we collaborated on an updated marketing site that would help to improve their positioning and client onboarding to the platform and marketing to their target audiences.

Strategic process

Throughout the years, our process has evolved to support our clients and business. It also varies to fit the unique phases of each engagement. There were several key processes that we used to create meaningful outcomes together with the Diode team.


Strategy & Alignment

We kick off nearly every engagement with a Strategy and Alignment session that sets the tone for the engagement. During this time, our teams go through a series of activities to identify stakeholders and their “day in the life” user journey, core problems being solved through technology, as well as diving into the current system being utilized by core team members. We also look for design & utility inspiration together.

Together, our teams create a story spine, which is used as the basis to start capturing our initial needs for design prototyping. These are logged and organized into a shared product backlog, which our team reviews and prunes throughout the entire engagement.


Rapid Prototyping

Once the Strategy & Alignment session is completed, our product team quickly gets to work converting abstract ideas, inspiration, and objectives into high-fidelity designs – all within a matter of days. It’s during these initial weeks of the engagement where our clients can begin to see, interact with, and react to an actual digital product.

The speed and precision of our product designers is unmatched. We’re able to get feedback from stakeholders quickly by conducting reviews and user testing to inform product changes or requirements. Because our designers use tools such as Sketch & InVision to make the designs look and feel like real applications, we can validate the product’s direction before a single line of code is written.


Agile Contracting

No one can predict the future. When it came to the engagement with Diode, we were able to pivot throughout the course of our project because of the way we set up our contracts. We understood the grand vision of the product & the objectives of our work together, but this was not scoped down to the features we’d design and test.

Instead, we orient a team of product leaders around each engagement. Based on skillsets, we identified a Product Manager, Product Strategist, Product Designer, and Application Developer to be partially committed to the Diode team during the engagement. This team dedication model allows the priorities to shift along the way – a level of flexibility that is often required but ignored by traditional vendor relationships.

We view each of our engagements as true partnerships. Before and during each sprint, our teams identify the most important things to work on next. This constant pruning of the backlog and priorities ultimately allowed for our teams to create meaningful outcomes during the engagement, instead of being locked into a set of features or user stories.

Insights Behind the Solution

It became clear in the initial weeks of this engagement that the platform was far more complex than originally expected. To simplify a robust workflow is no easy task, and it took the minds of all team members to identify the most important elements to focus on and refine. There were opportunities to go deep on some features, and shallow on others in order to validate the product experience as a whole.

Our teams were also able to pioneer a new concept for planning financials in asset development that could be tested with stakeholders. This is still being considered and socialized around the organization, but it was a result of tight-knit collaboration between product strategy, design, and industry knowledge.

Results

At the end of the engagement, Crema presented the prototype to the entire team to cast a vision for the future. It was valuable for stakeholders to see what the product could actually look like, and compare this to their current day-to-day operations. This created buy-in from the whole team and team alignment to move forward.

Currently, Diode is assessing options for developing this platform and using learnings from our engagement together to inform their scaling business.

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