It’s your first date. Behave …

Reading Time: 5 minutes

We’ve been experimenting with mood maps to record customers’ emotions while they use the prototypes we test with them. The results are revealing …

Mood maps are pretty simple graphs of emotion over time. You just observe someone interacting with the app or content you are developing and plot how positive or negative their emotions are for the duration of the test.

But they allow you to tell a story.

Here’s what a mood map looks like.

Mood map
So, how was it for you?

Continue reading “It’s your first date. Behave …”

Open up

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Those of you with a 4 (or even a 3) ominously close to the start of your age will recognise the title of of a song by Leftfield with John Lydon on vocals.

For us, it's about being open, honest and transparent about what we're doing.

We don't want to hide the successes – and failures – of the things we try. It's just as important that we learn from our mistakes as our triumphs.

So if we try something and it doesn't work … well, here's the data.

Up to now, we've been open(ish) about our results. They're on a wall, visible to everyone who comes to see us, and updated every day.

But they're invisible to people who don't come to visit. And updates are manual. So we thought it would be a good idea to automate them, and to publish them publicly. And update them more frequently.

Every hour? Every minute? every second?

Very short update frequency seemed overkill for our needs. The truth is, though, that we didn't, and still don't, know.

So we thought we'd try to find out what the best thing is to do. And you, dear reader, are part of our experiment.
Continue reading “Open up”

Making it up

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I remember childhood games where my friends and I would say:

Make it that you’re a baddie and I’m the goodie.

Then 5 minutes later someone would declare:

Make it that we’re hiding and you cannae see us.

Or:

Make it that we can fly so when you find us we just fly away.

I’ve been on holiday for a few days, and I’ve been thinking about that phrase. “Make it that …”

Children playing
Make it that …

It’s like my 6-year-old self and my playmates really believed we could bend reality to our imaginations. If we decided we should make things this way, they would just be that way.

Of course they would.

Then I grew up and discovered that, unfortunately, the world doesn’t work like that.

But what if – in our work, at least – it did?

Continue reading “Making it up”

Love’s the needle, not the North*

Reading Time: 2 minutes

In a previous post, I said that big design up-front was a recipe for disaster.

And it is. So what’s the alternative?

The answer is not to plan less, but to plan more.

IMG_0392

Just don’t do it all at once. Plan the next week or two, do what you planned, and learn something.

We plan a lot. But we do it in small chunks. Lego-sized. Frequently. And regularly.

Because we recognise that the future is uncertain. We can’t predict it.

It’s pretty simple really. Don’t pretend that you know what will be happening in six months’ time. Accept that you won’t.

And move your planning cycle into a place where you can have some degree of certainty,

It’s like the weather forecast. We know what will happen in the next few hours with pretty-much 100% certainty.

After that, things get fuzzy. The weather next week looks cold, but that could change tomorrow.

And after that … well, the weather forecast two weeks from now is pretty much wishful thinking, even with the best brains and massive computation that the met office can throw at it.

This is what we’re about; what can we get done in the next week or two?

What can we get out there in front of actual people?

What will they do with it? And, in two weeks’ time, what will we do with that?

* If anyone got this far, the headline is a line from an Andrew Greig poem. My interpretation of it is that the thing pointing the direction we’re travelling in is not so important; where we’re heading for is.

Stop starting. Start finishing

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Can you run this report and get it to me by Thursday morning?

How do we stop starting and start finishing?
How do we stop starting and start finishing?

Eh … OK. But it’s now 4pm on Tuesday. And I’ve got to do …

… I need it by 10am on Thursday for a management meeting. Can you do that?

Yes … but …

… Is that OK?

Sure, yes. 10 o’clock on Thursday …

I’m sure I’m not the only person who has ever had a conversation like this. In fact, I’m pretty certain most of us have.

After all, the only way to escape these conversations is to be the big boss – the high heidjin, as we say in Scotland – and, necessarily, very few of us are that.

So what’s the solution?

 

Honestly, I don’t have an answer to that. But I do know this: if managers keep trying to stuff ever-fatter elephants down the pipe, it won’t end well.

Continue reading “Stop starting. Start finishing”

Go on then. Motivate me

Reading Time: 2 minutes

So, here I am.

I turn up for work, regularly on time, frequently early. Occasionally late.

Trains…

I sometimes leave the office early, but, if I do, I will always check emails later, when I get home.

Well, mostly. (We’re being honest here. And we are talking about email. As motivations go, it’s not up there.)

I do a good job, I think. No-one’s ever told me otherwise, Though, frankly, I don’t think anyone could write my job description any more.

I include myself in that, though a hashtag might cover it: #whateverItTakes

So, how could you motivate me to do a better job?

You could give me more money. Money’s always good. Isn’t it?

Continue reading “Go on then. Motivate me”

Rethinking content creation

Reading Time: 2 minutes

One of our challenges, in the Digital Content & Channels team, is how we can plan and resource the creation of content on our websites and digital channels more effectively. And we’ve tried a number of different methods, but we haven’t solved the main issue for the content team, which is that of workload and satisfying demand.

So, on Friday we spent some time with David and Martin looking at the flow concept that the Digital First team have been working on. One powerful illustration was that of repairing a motorway – you can either employ one roadwork company who will repair a stretch of motorway at a time, and then move onto the next stretch and so on. During that time there will be an effect on traffic, and everyone will get very irritated because it’s taking so long. OR you can employ several roadworks companies who can each repair a section at the same time. There will still be an effect on traffic but it will be for a much shorter time, and will cost the same amount of money.

Because you’ve achieved your road repair in a shorter time, you’ve then got time to do more repairs, presuming that you’ve got the resource to do it.

If we use the same approach: prioritise our content creation, and put the optimum number of writers onto each task until it’s completed, then we should be able to create more (and better) content in a shorter time frame. We’ll be able to put resources (people!) where they’ll make the most difference, and by doing so achieve better impact – as well as possibly covering more areas.

So we’re going to have a go at it, from the beginning of January. I don’t know if it will work, but in the spirit of Digital First we’ll have a jolly good try.

Faking it

Reading Time: 3 minutes

This week, I did something I thought I’d never do: I deceived our users. Our visitors.

Our customers.

That’s pretty much a sacking offence, so maybe I should explain.

As part of the digital first team, we’re looking for ways to get user feedback. After all, how will we know if customers think our products and services are valuable unless we ask them?

We can’t always do that face to face. Is there another way?

Continue reading “Faking it”

Why Big Design fails

Reading Time: 3 minutes

When businesses take on big IT projects (or any kind of big projects, I suppose), they puff their cheeks out and say, metaphorical hands on not-at-all-literal hips:

Gonna cost you guv.

They’re thinking: we’re going to have to plan this. We’ll need a risk register. We’ll have to fix the scope, gather all the deliverables, consult all the stakeholders.

Then we’ll create a PID, and a project plan. And if we get approval, and funding, we’ll start on an 18 month delivery plan that we’ve already been talking about for 6 months.

Then they’ll spend 2 months going round everyone who may have even the smallest stake in the project. They’ll seek their opinions, solicit their preferences.

Everything will be documented, in documents that will never be read by anyone.

Once all the stakeholders have been consulted, they’ll start planning. The risk register will be completed. A project plan will be drawn up. It is submitted for approval, and approval is granted.

Hey, we’ve been working on this thing for 6 months already and have delivered nothing but documentation. But we’ve already spent so much money on it that we can’t stop.

Sound familiar?

The Product Owner explains his priorities

Continue reading “Why Big Design fails”

Complexity. It’s not complicated …

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I’m part of the digital first project, the team that’s looking into new ways of working that will help Scottish Enterprise improve its projects’ performance.

One of the things the team is doing is a 12-week training course on Value, Flow, Quality. That probably doesn’t mean much to most people, but basically it’s a methodology we can use to organise ourselves and our work to deliver value to our customers, quickly and flexibly.

One of the things we looked at in our first session was why IT and software projects regularly fail (by some measures, only one project in three is successful).

This alarming statistic tells us something is very wrong with the way businesses approach these projects. But what? Continue reading “Complexity. It’s not complicated …”

Our first live event: the facts and figures

Reading Time: 8 minutes

On 22 and 23 July, we set up a live stream from the Commonwealth Games Business Conference.

As well as the YouTube video stream, we used every channel at our disposal – twitter, LikedIn, Google+, our websites – to stimulate the debate.

Scottish Enterprise CEO Lena Wilson talking at the Commonwealth Games Business Conference
Scottish Enterprise CEO Lena Wilson talking at the Commonwealth Games Business Conference

It was a huge effort for a small team. Three of us – including Erica Goodey, who led on this project -were at the event. I was backup and tech support, though thankfully I was not needed for that. Everything went smoothly. Others back at the office pitched in too, publishing updates live on our sites.

So, roughly half our entire available resource tied up for two days.

And there have been months of planning, preparation and practice leading up to these two days.

In all, we estimate our total effort involved in these two days is 124 hours: equivalent to one person working on nothing else for nearly a month. And we’re not even half-way done yet. Much of our planning is around what we do with the material we’ve gathered now the event itself is past.

You can see how the two days were received on our storify.

This was a first for my team, and for Scottish Enterprise/SDI too. We have been a publisher for years, but this was the first time we have been a live broadcaster.

So, how did it go?

Continue reading “Our first live event: the facts and figures”

Personas: fact or fiction? Answer: neither, and both

Reading Time: 3 minutes

In the 1930s, the German physicist Erwin Schrodinger proposed a thought experiment.

I’ll spare you the detail, as it was an experiment about quantum mechanics, and quantum mechanics is a bit weird. And it involved a cat, in a box, which may, or, may not, have been alive, or dead, or possibly both, or possibly neither.

But the upshot was this: If you have an equal chance of an event happening or not happening, a cat my or may not be alive or dead. And you won’t know which is actually happening until you look, at which point you destroy the possibility of the outcome you did not observe and therefore make the outcome you did observe real.

Schrodinger concluded that, until you actually observe the outcome, the cat is neither dead nor alive, but both.

I told you quantum mechanics was weird.

Continue reading “Personas: fact or fiction? Answer: neither, and both”

The Knowledge Library

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Something struck me on the flight to Belgium this week about the Knowledge Hub we have created on our sites. It’s not a hub (a rubbish word), it’s a library. The Knowledge Hub should be a place where customers constantly surface useful, relevant content.

Scott Monty’s article illustrates what we have in common with the New York Times. SE has access to many years worth of customer insight and business experience. We should be tapping in to this. This can be our core content.

It doesn’t always have to be new, it can be something an investor learned five years ago that is still just as relevant today.

We need to find a better way to surface industry content. Particularly on SDI. The current entry panel to the R&I section is fine, but when an article is closed the relevant industry filter needs to be automatically applied. We can still make it obvious to the customer that this setting can be changed.

Content relationships have to get better. Reading an article should surface information on the company and the supply chain. Location maps, video content, the project visualiser – all of this content has to link in a much more intuitive way. DMS will help.

When a customer searches for an event like MWS they should get a very rich experience.

The NYT report highlights the importance of understanding and exploiting the many different ways an audience finds and accesses content. We’ve done a lot of work towards understanding this, we just need to improve how we do it. I recommend reading the article and the original report.

Design content first … who would have thought of that?

Reading Time: 5 minutes

In November 2007, when I was part of what was then the SE web team, we were asked if we could take on a project.

The objective was to completely re-design and rewrite the SE website. Some of you may remember what it looked like back then. Including an incredible floating woman. Stock photography. It’s why we banned it.

The Scottish Enterprise website in 2008
Way back when …

Oh. And it had to be ready by 1 April 2008. SE would have a new remit by then. Would that be OK?

Continue reading “Design content first … who would have thought of that?”

Why accessibility matters

Reading Time: 3 minutes

My mother-in-law has cancer.

It’s been painful, these last few months, watching a woman who was skiing in the Alps at Easter hobbling around on a crutch this summer. Though not a fraction as painful as it has been for her.

The disease has entered her bones, causing them to become so fragile that she has fractured her pelvis. Which is where the crutch comes in.

Fortunately, her prognosis is good. Radiotherapy, not chemo, was prescribed. Bones can recover, and injections speed the healing process. Her health improves daily. Continue reading “Why accessibility matters”