We are all one big team, right?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

How often are you told "we are all one big team"?

What does it mean to you?

I suggest that you stop reading for a couple of minutes and digest this statement.

Sentiment or Structure

I think it is a very positive sentiment but quite dangerous when taken as a statement of fact regarding actual teams.

Please read to the bottom before exploding 🙂

The sentiment is very positive and suggests that we are all working towards a common goal. And who would argue with that?

We will all:

  • stop working in silos
  • stop pulling in different directions
  • stop hoarding information as a source of power or protection
  • stop doing things that don't further our common goals

These are all great, but does it not make you wonder why we are doing all these things in the first place?

Continue reading “We are all one big team, right?”

Towards agile UX

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So I recently studied for, and sat, the exam for, the CPUX-F qualification*.

It stands for Certified Professional for Usability and User Experience (that's the UX bit), if you really want to know.

It was interesting, though not novel; most of it was just formalising knowlege I and my colleagues have already acquired, willy-nilly, over the years.

Here's what the process look like.

The human-centred design process
The human-centred design process

Continue reading “Towards agile UX”

Team on tour at Explore Export 2015

Our customers' priorities.
Reading Time: 5 minutes

On Friday 6 November the Digital First Service Design team packed up post-its, whiteboards, sharpie pens and blue tac from our Paisley offices and set up shop at the UKTI Explore Export event in Edinburgh.

Why?

We’ve been busy over the last few months, developing and launching the new Export Health Check.

In September we launched our first version of the tool on the SE website. Based on results of customer testing on Version 1, we made changes to the design and how the content is displayed on both desktop and mobile versions.

So, it was time to give Version 2 a thorough road test and get real-time feedback from exactly the customers that we built the tool for. The Explore Export event gave us the opportunity to get in front of more than 200 of those customers in one hit.

Getting to know and understand our customers is fundamental to my role as Export Product Owner. It’s my job to represent their voice in all the digital export services we develop.

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Trust the Force, Luke

Reading Time: 3 minutes

A young Luke Skywalker was told to

Trust the Force.

It was difficult for him until he eventually started to see results. This blog is about a similar leap of faith.

Think about these two statements…

  • If you are truly committed to building customer value, then you will be building what the customer wants (needs) and the customer will be delighted. Because of this they will buy the product or even buy more of the product, while increasing the likelihood of remaining loyal to you.
  • If you are truly committed to empowering your employees, then you will provide a work environment where they feel ownership of their work and can make their own decisions, and they will be more motivated to activate their brainpower, improving morale and increasing the likelihood that they will go the extra mile to create a quality product. *

These are mutually inclusive (and recursive) sentiments, and the answer to how they are done can be summarised as:

  1. Teams need to step up
  2. Managers needs to step back

Easily summarised, but not always easily done.

Continue reading “Trust the Force, Luke”

It’s good to talk

Reading Time: 4 minutes

No this is not a phone commercial. Yesterday was great. On the train in to work I had a chat with a friend who does similar work to myself. A couple of things he said struck a chord and I am going to implement them at work.

In work we had a director come out and chat with us about future plans, limitations and opportunities and generally make us feel involved. We then had a large group of managers out to Paisley and had a really good chat. We talked about how we were doing things, and what lessons could be applied across the business.

At lunch I called my sister and we caught up about family stuff.

All of these positive experiences would have been destroyed by doing them as word documents. A nice word document is good for audit but it would have been time consuming, scope limiting and ultimately never read by anyone. In others words “Waste”. It would have slowed down sharing of info and ideas and also supported behaviours such as people disengaging if they were not the ones writing the document.

Future Diagnostic Workshop

In the afternoon I tried in vain to finish a document on Future Online Diagnostics Options. I have been finding excuses to not finish this document for days. That is pretty unusual for us at Paisley but it does happen. It usually means that subconsciously we are rejecting something as being waste or at least sub-optimal. I had done all the research and I am passionate about the subject but I still couldn’t get the document finished. In the end David and I grabbed a few whiteboards and drew out the various options on them…….and then we had a chat about them. In truth the chat we had fleshed out at least as many ideas as I had gathered in my research. It also highlighted new areas that up till now had been “nagging doubts” which we had not fully explored.

Continue reading “It’s good to talk”

Designing for mobile first

Reading Time: 3 minutes

We recently released a Beta version of our export health check diagnostic.

It’s a simple thing that asks you 7 questions with yes or no answers. You can run through it in 2 minutes.

We know this, because we tested it through a rapid series of iterations. We made a prototype, put it out for testing and changed it the next day based on what we had learned the night before.

In the space of a week we had something we knew worked well, that people could use comfortably and delivered something of real value.

Export health check
Export health check (desktop version)

Continue reading “Designing for mobile first”

Embrace uncertainty

Rhinoceros
Reading Time: 4 minutes

OK, here's a quiz

I was going to write some whizzy code for this, but then I thought: be agile. What's the quickest, cheapest thing you could do to test this idea?

So I'm going to trust you.

All I'm asking is that you read the question and answer it without thinking too hard about it … your gut instinct is what I'm after.

Take no more than 10 seconds to reach a conclusion.

Otherwise, I may have to write some whizzy code to stop you from cheating …

Question

You have £100 to invest. You decide to invest it in a bank account that pays 1% interest per day.

After 1 year, how much money will you have? Scribble it down. Right now. Doesn't have to be on a post-it.

(And it would be great if you could tell us your estimate in the comments at the end of the article.)
Continue reading “Embrace uncertainty”

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 …

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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”