Last updated at Mon, 14 Aug 2017 16:47:34 GMT

Great ideas can come from anywhere!

At Rapid7, we design and develop wonderful products (we hope you think so too!). Everything here starts with stories. Storytelling matters: The ability to tell a compelling story is the defining quality of human nature. Storytelling is just as important in business today as it was around the campfire thousands of years ago. We start with stories because they help us envision a complete picture of our customers' needs and inform the solutions we create to meet those needs.

We know that collaboration within and across teams is vital for storytelling. Without collaboration, ideas die. Individual teams might work seamlessly, but if those teams don't collaborate with each other it can be difficult to achieve common goals. Team collaboration challenges people to think and express their ideas freely, which in turn promotes problem solving and expands points of view. Everyone brings something different and valuable to the table.

Collaboration and sharing ideas through storytelling can be a challenge when you have teams split across multiple offices and many time zones. At Rapid7, for example, we have a variety of world-class teams: Engineering, Sales, User Experience, Product Management, Marketing, Support, and more. Each of these teams boasts a broad range of talent. In many companies, that talent is not fully utilized, but at Rapid7, teams around the world are constantly collaborating both in person and virtually—from Singapore to Dublin!

Collaborative Storytelling

Freytag's Pyramid
Storytelling is a critical process that informs all our product development at Rapid7. These stories are kindled by conversations with customers about their needs and priorities. Telling a story about how a customer expressed his or her needs helps stakeholders across functional groups better understand the problem. Freytag's Pyramid is a framework that defines the key areas of a compelling story.

See below for details about Freytag's Pyramid.

Act 1: Exposition

When we begin to write stories, step one is building a customer persona, so let's begin there. Our persona today is Richard, a busy senior security analyst with lots of critical responsibilities across the spectrum of security needs. Chief among those needs for his organization is monitoring and detecting security intrusions on the network. We know that this can be a daunting task: modern infrastructure is increasingly complex and often includes on-premise, mobile, and cloud environments with critical applications across each area.

Act 2: Rising action

On Sunday evening, Richard gets an email notification from InsightIDR that seems unusual, so he logs in to see what's up. He quickly sees that this is not normal activity; he asks the on-call incident response (IR) analyst to investigate further and sets up a war room in Slack with all critical stakeholders for up to the second collaboration. Shortly thereafter, IR determines that an employee who was recently terminated connected to a corporate cloud service hosting sensitive company data. This does not look good.

Act 3: Climax

After the initial triage, we learn that the intruder's credentials were not properly disabled as defined by company policy. Now we try to determine the scope of the breach. Where else did this intruder access company data? Was any data exfiltrated outside of the corporate network onto her local machine? Was data deleted or changed? This could go from bad to worse quickly. Richard has the IR analyst log into InsightIDR and quickly poll all assets on the network with agents deployed to look for logins from this user and for any activity from her public IP address over the past seven days. There are hits, but gladly the scope is much narrower than expected.

Act 4: Falling action

We see that the intruder's activity was limited to accessing her client lists and contacts; after confirming the checksums on all the hosts she accessed, IR confirms there was no data changed or deleted. Whew! This was a break in security, but the damage was limited and the incident presents a clear opportunity for the security team to improve.

Act 5: Dénouement: Resolution, revelation, or catastrophe

Now that the action is over, what could have been done to prevent this from happening in the first place? After considering this question, the team decides to invest in software to help manage employee onboarding, access, and off-boarding—thus ensuring that when an employee leaves the company all of his or her access is immediately terminated. Richard also reaches out to his Customer Success representative to inquire about managed services such as Managed Detection & Response (MDR) to help keep an eye on things 24/7/365.

Applications of Freytag's Pyramid at Rapid7

The teams at Rapid7 use collaborative stories like this to build use cases, and from there we dive into Design Thinking sessions. Several design solutions might appear—this is common within a Design Thinking approach! These designs will be low-fidelity, so we do not have to invest massive amounts of effort in something that is essentially conceptual in nature. We can then speak with customers who have signed up for our customer advocacy program, VoiceUp, to get feedback about our proposed designs to see if we are on the right track. If we are on track, we iterate on our designs and continually speak with customers to ensure we nail down a solution that truly addresses customer pain. Then we pass those designs to product management and get the effort prioritized and sent to engineering for implementation. This is an iterative process that can include many opportunities for customer feedback to help us make the final product better and more impactful.

Sometimes stories clash with practical engineering realities. When this happens, product management has to make tough trade-off decisions to deliver the best possible product with available resources—including people, competing projects, and budget. Customers want innovation as quickly as possible, but resources are scarce, and deadlines often arrive faster than we would like! Team collaboration across the product lifecycle helps everyone maintain balance between what we want and practical realities.

The most important thing is for internal teams to stay aligned—and, of course, for Rapid7 to stay aligned with customer needs and preferences they change over time. To ensure that this happens, customers and representatives from each of Rapid7's teams collaborate throughout the product lifecycle. We all work together to ensure a successful product release.

Thank you for reading!