Anna van der Aa – Promoting UX in a multinational organisation

Anna van der Aa – Promoting UX in a multinational organisation


somebody said to me it’s about my home
but you know run this game so what you need is a lot of patience you need a lot
of optimism. We need to bring people along with us. We need to respect them, how can we help them think differently if we’ve already decided that they never will. I really believe that user research empowers the people that are exposed to it. So … promoting UX in a multinational organisation. Is it possible? Just some background and definitions. I should first say thanks to Teodora for inviting me to speak and I think it will segue nicely into what Annamaria had to say. There’ll be some things that I’ll be … which I think will be helpful tips for you. Touching on the definitions. UX User experience obviously and really a user-centred design, user centric is what I’m interested in exploring. Business to business is obviously those situations where you might not even have access to your clients because you’re
dealing with another business. Or you might have a situation where your clients don’t want to reveal who those users are because you might then go to those users directly and they want to avoid that situation. International – lots of countries, remote access, remote work, teams based all over the world, clients based all over the world. And complex – I went to a course once a number of years ago and it really helped me. Because you know, you go along to something that says it’s going to help you solve all your problems and they’re showing the design of a shopping cart and how to put a whole bunch of things on a screen like shoes or something, and filter and it’s so straightforward compared
to what’s really going on. I was like ‘Is this all there is to it?’ and in this course they talked about complex products
being those things that have millions of whatever it is – millions of photos, millions of files, millions of customer records. So who here is dealing with millions? Yep. Another criteria might be that it
is a very specific domain so it might be something like in the health domain – quite specific – or banking can be quite specific or it might be in the legal sphere – where it is a very specific domain and it is not just general public. Anyone fall into that category here? Quite a few. And then the third criteria they gave for a complex application is where it was configurable so then the clients could then go and modify that, set that up themselves so that the users
are using it in a specific way. It might even be to the extent, as it was for us, where you almost don’t recognise the software because from one client to the next
they’ve configured it to their needs. Anyone in that situation? Right so sometimes you might have one or two or even three of those, and I’d like to add a
fourth one to those and that is one that Annamaria touched on which is integration.
When you’ve got integration with that product. Often that adds another layer of complexity which is not to be ignored. Some of the questions that arise around these topics are things like how to build credibility with decision makers. All these things that Annamaria talked
about – that’s exactly what you should do, but if some people aren’t even prepared to let people work together, they want to keep designers designing the
thing and sending it over the wall to the developers, and they don’t want anybody anywhere near any clients or users, how do you get that conversation going? How do you convince stakeholders who already are convinced that they’ve met their clients, they know what their clients need.
And how do you navigate the political environment and keep your sanity? These are questions that I hear. So a few keys that are useful. We don’t have much time so I will give them as little tips. I totally agree with Annamaria – the most important thing is user research. Some of you might be familiar with something called ‘the ladder of inference’. There’s a great little video by Ed Muzio on YouTube where he describes the ladder of inference, and the thing about that is that people can get caught seeing what they are expecting, and the only way to help them see something different – you telling them is not going to change their mind. If they see something that surprises them, then they might change their mind. They might still not actually process that and realise that they need to change their mind – but without that they are never going to change their minds. So user research is the most important thing. As somebody mentioned here, it was getting the project managers in
or product managers in watch the recordings, or to be
involved in the user research that they saw a difference and
started behaving differently. So this is what I found helpful in the organisation
where I was and I really like Government Digital Services in the UK – they talk about user research being a team sport. Again that was something that was touched on earlier, bringing the whole team in, and the team might be somewhere else altogether and the clients might be somewhere
else altogether, so what I did was little remote recordings with not more than
20 minutes recorded because I knew that the team wouldn’t be allowed to spend much time watching these recordings. Jared Spool of UIE recommends two hours of observation of research every six weeks at least. For everybody on any team making anything. As we implemented that kind of thing it really did make a difference. Different people looking at research see different things. So I did some recording, clients in one country, developers sending me some prototypes to work with in another country. Just observation, getting them to talk me through the screen, saying what they are doing and how they are trying to get their jobs done, so that we can create value for users. So that’s the pragmatic part. Persistence – be persistent – highlight and remind. This is just about helping people come around to these ideas.
Now you could flood them with a whole lot of information but that’s not going to help
so you have to pick a few. Pick a few key messages that you want to get across so that every opportunity – on the internal internal networks you can say – maybe using this
Think Make Check – you can say ‘that’s why I think the Think Make Check
approach is good’. And then in some other conversation ‘Oh yeah – that’s where this Think Make Check is really helpful’. You sow that in, like planting seeds, and at other meetings people will start talking about that. You just need to keep it simple and be persistent.
And obviously be transparent sharing your work – not being afraid that it’s going to speak for itself. Either it works or it doesn’t work. It is not up to you to prove that it does. If it works people are going to pick it up and it is going to go somewhere. If it doesn’t well why are we pushing it anyway. So let’s just believe that it is going
to stand on its own two feet. I was invited to ENSCI les Ateliers to talk to some students there. It’s where I did an Innovation by Design masters a number of years ago which I recommend to anyone who is thinking of doing something like that. That’s for chatting about afterwards I thought it would be really interesting to try and describe this experience that I’ve been going through to try and influence the culture in my organisation. I had been to a conference a number of years earlier and a woman there said What you are trying to do is going to take 20 years – but it is really good experience so write down everything that is going on’. So I kept notes. So I had all my PostIt notes all around the room trying to think ‘If I describe this as a journey, what’s it going to look like?’ And in the end I came up with this. I’m not sure whether any of you are familiar with this. This is a game called snakes and ladders in English. This is my version of it. And you have to roll the dice. It is based on an ancient Indian game
from 400 years ago I think. In my version you have to roll a 1 to get started, to get yourself on the board. There might be four people playing it. Once you’ve managed to get
a 1 to get started you have to roll the dice each time to go along the board.
So you go along the board. And then you might happen to
land at the bottom of a ladder. So for example you might be able to run
a design sprint let’s say. You won’t be able to see it – it’s blurry – you might be able to read it – but the point is that there are all kinds of things that could take you up a ladder or down one. In this case you might get to do a workshop with a group of people and explain to them why user-centred design is important,
or you might get to do some user research with the people that you need to
and be able to share that. So these are like ladders. Or you might
land on the head of a snake suddenly the budget you had for your innovation project was cut, the company was sold, the management team have been changed. Corporations are constantly reorganising so those kinds of things come up. Or you might find out that you are being relocated, you’ve got one week left on the project and you have to do it remotely – might be a little snake. So this is a moment where we are going to have a little bit of interactivity. You’ve got a minute or two to write about
something in your own experience that was a snake or a ladder,
where you got to leap ahead because something really helpful happened or you did something and that made a real difference. Like the example that we had earlier –
showing some people some research that made a difference. So just write down a snake and a ladder or a snake or a ladder if you can only come up with one. We’ll take a couple of minutes to do that. Right now what I’d like you to do is to
get in little groups of three or four just with people next to you because we are
here for networking actually. with each other go around next share one
snake or letter and then if there’s more keep sharing those we’ll just spend four
or five minutes on this but it’s a nicer way of getting the conversation going so
just get yourself in a group of three or four and share those experiences that
you’ve got on your little paths you might have to make the chairs around a
little bit or maybe yourselves around a little bit background music I just want
to finish this so I started when I was invited to with these students we
started by playing this game I stand up to 2:00 in the morning making these
blooming cutting colouring-in and gluing on key sticking on this snake so I had a
nervous time and so they played this game and then afterwards
somebody said to me say about my home watching this game and he had what
happened to him was that he was right here at the start and he managed to get
to 22 no e zero hundred and every single time for at least five times in a row
back on that you were Union your meeting was cancelled with the managing that you
are having to discuss you know think back check for whatever it might be and
he was just like you know all the ways back down and he was just like this is
no fun at all and I was like well actually this is what life is like you
won’t have your meeting plan with somebody that you need to discuss this
with and then the daughter will be sick and they have to go to a hospital you I
have the next meeting planned and then their flight will be delayed and they
won’t be able to get back to have the meeting with you you’ll have the next
meeting planned and there will be some emergency with a client and not to go do
it and none of these are you know they want to have the meeting with you that
are interested in hearing your ideas and you have to remind yourself of this
because if they weren’t they wouldn’t accept the meeting in the first place
but sometimes you might start to wonder so what you need is a lot of patience
you need a lot of optimism to just keep yourself going because you get these
knock backs you need humility and respect you need to remember that you
know if somebody doesn’t see what you see that doesn’t mean they’re an idiot
you might be missing something we just need some more information in we
need some more information that injected into the conversation and if I come from
user research and they need to be exposed to that that’s why it’s always
really helpful to bring that in and to remain we need to bring people along
with us you know we need to respect them how can we help them think differently
if we’ve already decided that they never will you know we just have to reach them
where they are and a wonderful book I just finished reading recently called
creativity Inc by Ed Catmull he highlights how much chance has plays a
part in this and I I really like that he actually acknowledges that he doesn’t
say we’ve done a because we’re just wonderful he says
we’re good and we are wonderful and we got lucky sometimes and I think that’s
also really important to be aware of they’ll be you know you might have a
situation where suddenly everything works out you’re able to use some remote
remote software you’re able to get a team working together even though
they’re different you know like it’s a cross-cultural or cross functional team
and these are great opportunities and then other times that just might not
work out so you just gotta roll with the punches so the keys again be pragmatic
insist on is a research you can’t go anywhere without it you do need to be
creative sometimes and think of if you can’t get to the users who might be like
our users they’re retired ones of those that I could test this with you know is
there something that’s as similar you know similar to this type that I could
talk to you or or rather observe when you don’t want to avoid obviously asking
for preferences but you want to see how people respond be persistent I like them
I be transparent Thank You doc human errors and
presentations just before but also during the talk in chat we mentioned
often of b2b companies don’t worry but the efforts to proper user research what
would you recommend to what kind of initiatives you can do to take to push
these are research fishing companies where they think they know the customers
could have project managers or customer success managers they need constant talk
with buyers but actually there and it’s not the same thing as being closer to
the user yeah so what I did was I understand I made my way to the users
and work backwards I did some observational research which
I recorded and then I managed to show it to these people in a group context so
that was you know that was one of the letters I just had a really good
opportunity and then one of the heads of product jumped up when you saw it those
people are not using our software correctly so immediately you could see
wait a minute maybe there’s something something isn’t
working here they’re not using it the way we’re expecting it to there’s been a
shift because you know 20 years ago when people were made to use software at work
that was the only place that they used the computer so they would struggle with
it and then they go oh silly me I don’t I’m not very good with the computers but
now they go to work and they the social is not very good and they go home and
they use software that’s easy to use you know they do all their you know things
that they don’t know that it’s harder or easier to develop you know the software
that they use at home they just go into work and think why is this software so
hard you know I’m not stupid it’s so there’s been a shift of
expectation so I think for that reason people there is
more focus because people who are using it and now starting to complain instead
of thinking that they’re the problem they’re starting to say I don’t like
this software you know can we change it and businesses don’t want and happy
users especially if the users are aware that this is wasting their time and they
could be working more efficiently so this just is sort of coming from both
angles but the key really is confronting people with something like I said even
if you do confront some people with that with the user sort of struggling we had
a classic case that got fixed immediately which was wonderful but it
was the the developers had optimized for page loading so that pages loaded really
quickly and users had to choose roughly six countries that they were working
with out of the list of however many countries there are and they had to go
through all these pages pages and pages to find all the countries so I took them
about two minutes to choose six countries when they could have just had
all the countries on one screen and stared at them but the reason that the
users were focusing on page loads they weren’t actually thinking about the
tasks oh sorry the developers were focusing on page mode and not thinking
about the tasks that the user had to do and whenever they tested it they chose
in de Lucia Australia Austria so for them they never had to go past page once
so when they observed a real user having to choose you know China Singapore and
the other countries suddenly they were like what’s more I had if it was great
the user was going this is like subtitles on so that nobody complicit
and that is obviously that kind of thing that gets fixed straightaway so that
does help convince people otherwise they just get the message back that people
are struggling with it and it’s so vague nothing precise if it gets done about it
to help them times wasted when you’re working in company which
stakeholders are the hardest to convince and on the other end which are the one
easiest and that’s how you easily do it there is no time for hard or easy to
convince you might have a developer these things that you know I don’t need
anybody telling me what size people can read you know or you might have
directors saying well you know who’s asking these is anyway they’re not
paying a bill so I mean but it it really depends on the person and whether
they’re paying attention whether they’re aluminum I guess yeah that helps but
essentially just keep on yeah I mean I found it really helpful to understand
that there’s a mentality from exploration to exploitation but I know
if you’ve read they innovated his method by making and this idea that managers
actually all they’ve been learning to do is exploitation operational management
more a more efficient and innovation is one at the other end is that the
exploration inserts the opposite of everything that’s natural to them that
they know is right so if you’re taking them into this ambiguous uncertain zone
they’re going to feel like that’s not the right work direction whereas if you
can get the opportunity to explain to them that there are these two zones and
that you’re going to take them there then you find there’s some that will
walk that way with you once they understand them that’s what’s going on
otherwise they’ll just feel the discomfort and they’ll think they know
better because they do know how to manage I had a question to follow up on that
what type of maybe during workshops or conversations with stakeholders what
type of language tactics conversational tactics do you use when someone tells
you things like well the users they’ll be the bevels or how do you convince
these stakeholders is there a formula well I mean you know this way there’s no
telling the people I mean there’s a wonderful another wonderful book it’s
important to remember that it’s Chris address that that did this research
where every one of us we want to when we want to win or not those we want to
remain in unilateral control we want to avoid negative feelings we don’t want to
look embarrassed and we want to appear rational at all times so being aware
that me I also been under this conversation I just keep reminding
myself I am also wanting to win so I need to just put that aside and try and
bring some fresh information into this conversation by asking questions just
ask some open questions that might help us both see the see the see the
situation differently the danger is of course thinking you know and you need to
convince them and then you end up in that loggerhead situation so that’s the
key is just try and keep the conversation open and then it go any
direction let it bite and ask the open questions that help bring fresh
information into the into the conversation you know what else might
this person be thinking about or know about that I’m not aware of that might
help cause them to be thinking that way and you can say well is there a business
reason that I’m not aware of here is is this customer not a lot of
not paying our bills or is the company event together in a particular direction
in there before that uses a feedback that’s not relevant you know there might
be some reasons behind there that you know that you’re not actually where it’s
a great I’m gonna just wanna interview your stakeholders because they might
have some hidden agendas or additions that you if you don’t know them then
it’s hard to take that into account but they might be like working towards their
next promotion and they think they convince it with like using a certain
technology that’s that is going to be the case or they’re like things going on
dynamics between different departments politics so it’s always good to be aware
of those things and like taking some time to talking to those stakeholders
and ask them questions thank you very much there’s one last question okay last
one one of the hardest things about selling
finding users use the effort and sitting down is it very often is embarrassing
and some people usually get a good feeling but like maybe you don’t have
any tips for what you can do we’ve been in the beginning or help or fix it after
it happens well I mean I just from my experience my not quite an easy question
but I did notice that some people are more comfortable in this situation than
others I’m quite happy to watch users having a terrible time
doesn’t bother me whereas some people will immediately need to say that it’s
this one over here or you know and that and they can’t help save them because
they or it might be precisely because they can’t understand why anyone could
possibly get that relevant you know I think that they need to put it out so I
did you know I meant to a people on the team but I did seek out those people who
had a bit of a natural aptitude for asking open questions even though I mean
everyone was trained but some people they just couldn’t help themselves
they’re more like real teachers and they wanted to teach the people the interface
so then of course you immediately don’t find out the flaws in the interface or
the prototype or even the even in the interviewing stage you know when you
just do an open question see no so so it depends on the person but as if you’ve
got those recorded one thing that I think is really important is to not
digest that and just produce a report have those raw recordings digested by
the team people to say okay you know teach them obviously to do it in two
steps don’t do a solution just to observe what happened here you know
that’s interesting about this particular topic that came up
and through different things we’ve never even heard of that what is that you know
those kinds of things so but expose them to it directly because I really believe
that research she’s a research empowers the people that are exposed to it it’s
often why you know project villagers they they like to keep hold of that
because they like to be the ones that are exposed to the research they can
have all the ideas but they everybody has different kind of ideas as we know
so the more people we exposed to the research if we’re open to letting them
have their ideas that might be technical ideas if so developers it might be
design ideas if they’re designers you know we all benefit but it’s you know
you win some you lose some they might the team might start out
meeting together and seeing that it’s really effective and then somebody says
you know you’re not allowed to spend that time on that only these three
people or to do that from now on so then sometimes you just have to work within
the constraints that you’ve got have had lunchtime sessions if people are open to
it if they understand that that will empower them that might be willing to go
on and learn what’s really going on in these as well what we’ve done out the
up-arrow section is we’ve put some tape on the wall under some lights and we
invite you to stick your cards just there so then you can continue the
conversation you can read what other people and carry on is discussing the
specs and there’s

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