Making discoveries using design techniques in B2B products involves challenges: even within the team itself.
How to align product strategy with design execution in an agile environment without giving up customer-defined processes?
That the area of digital product development is one of the fastest growing today, leveraged by the pandemic, everyone already knows. And along with that, keeping good practices within a short (and at the same time stimulating) deadline can bring a series of challenges that need to be overcome as they appear. And one of these challenges is knowing the best techniques to implement in the routine of an asynchronous, decentralized and remote team.
According to the principles of the agile manifesto, we need to bring value to the delivery of products as soon as possible and understand that “individuals and interactions are more important than processes and tools”.
This in theory works very well. You can even make a board with these types of phrases and put it on the wall of the office (or your little room during the “home office”) so you don’t forget. But in practice: how to ensure that the work will be done and that everyone is aligned on the same goal?
Trust is the key
Ensuring that each team member is doing their part is one of, if not the main, keys to success in an agile design team. It’s no use using the best processes (those most up-to-date courses you take on a weekend and pay a fortune, you know?), having the best equipment (I miss my MacBook) and having all the interaction resources available… If people don’t understand each other.
When we talk about user experience, it’s not just about design, it’s about people. The best way to apply the design is with your own team.
Returning to the agile principle, then, what does individuals and interactions mean? Well, it’s the practice that among all the demands received, all the documents analyzed and all the pending issues listed, it is known exactly who is going to do what, how and when!
The advantage of a multidisciplinary team is precisely in having multiple visions of how to solve problems and conflicts that may arise. In other words, dealing with impediments. And they exist. And they are many.
But then how to make the blessed Discovery?
If each person on the team knows their role, everything becomes easier. The next step is to ensure that deadlines are met. Like anyone involved in the development of a digital product, knowing the deadlines is critical.
Something that cannot happen under any circumstances is to allow the “let me do it”. That never can happen.
Someone needs to be in control of deadlines and tasks and that’s the responsibility of the whole team, even if someone takes on the role of being the “daily checker of development progress”.
This is not about micromanagement but production control. This concept comes from the Japanese when they applied the lean principle, from which agile management drinks knowledge. If you are a designer, doing this visually is almost a must. Kanban is there to make your life easier!
From an organizational point of view
The Agile Manifesto directs us to a different development style than was done in the past, bringing more flexibility to change management and bringing more value to what is produced. This we know. What many people forget is that the manifesto doesn’t say “something has no value” but that maybe other things are more important at a given time or context.
Documentation and processes are essential for your product or service to grow in a healthy way, for processes to become part of the company and for all people who work to feel owned and empowered in relation to the result of what they do.
When there is a need for new products (features or services), management needs to have knowledge of the whole product. And nothing better than having everything documented and organized. It is very important that top management knows what is happening in their teams, how the development process is going, so that they can plan to make a good discovery, to have a good development and a great product. Trust, transparency and communication are the basis for a good link between the desire for business and the possibility of technology.
A good example of how management and the product are connected is through OKRs (Objective and Key Results). In short: top management defines a challenge, an objective to be achieved by everyone in the company, and the teams say what each one can do to achieve this common objective. After all, there’s nothing better than people who deal with the product on a daily basis saying what improvements need to be made — without top down.
Thus, the business desire will be clear and transparent to everyone, guiding the teams to what needs to be done, directing discovery with aligned expectations.
From a tooling point of view
Discovering the customer’s product is a seemingly easy task, until you come across an online system of high operational complexity. This means that if the person who is going to use the product you are working on makes a mistake worth millions of dollars, the designer’s responsibility increases.
In this case, performing an analysis that ensures that the main points of the interface are being seen makes what seems difficult to become more… less work.
From the research point of view
Aligned goals, access to tools, clear demand… But do I need to talk to the users? The answer is YES and if you’ve never done this, go to who works with customer service now to talk about it.
Knowing what the user is thinking of your product, whether he is using it or not, is essential for his healthy growth. Nobody wants something that nobody uses. There are some metrics and systems that can be used to measure consumer happiness, but we here at Sensorama love to hear what the customer has to say. Having ideas from speeches and reports, a good interview, asking what needs to be asked, is great for creating new opportunities to be discovered.
In addition to all that we’ve talked about so far, we still need to judge the design.
The good old heuristic analysis
That heuristic analysis is an excellent design tool is already more than proven. It is no wonder that it has been used by several professionals for over 30 years. But knowing the list with Uncle Nielsen’s 10 heuristics is not enough without relating it to the product’s strategy and the search results and users’ needs.
In addition to the entire process already known (if you still have doubts, read here, in English), prioritizing the most serious problems together with recommendations for improvements can generate a good opportunity for quick gains for the customer. That is, solve the problem in the best possible way with the least possible effort and thus bring the long-awaited value that your customer wants.
Presenting this in a static and explanatory way is perhaps already to be expected. One way to bring innovation to delivery is to add new tools that make the client’s work easier. For this, all the tabular results of the analysis can be entered in Google Data Studio and the ease of interaction helps to impact the delivery, thus generating value for the customer.
In this way, those who access the dashboard can filter the most serious problems, select the heuristics, know which principle was violated and the number of problems that were raised.
What we learned
Regardless of the method or design technique used, the important thing is to know when to use it and especially why you are doing it. Everything needs a purpose and getting the team involved in the process is a key factor in ensuring the job gets done.
One of the biggest challenges in a new remote work format with all its difficulties, without a doubt, is communication. First with your own team, second with your client. Once these points are aligned, it’s time to bring the user (who is your client’s client) into the game.
Aligning expectations and constraints becomes essential for secure communication. A team that works honestly and communicatively, doesn’t want war with anyone, least of all with its client.
Doing disjointed research or carrying out an analysis that does not add value makes no sense. And if design is design, then design processes must be directed to people, in every way.