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How to kick-start a project in non-agile organisations

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]In the last couple of years of consulting, I met a variety of *new age* UXers – fresh graduates, BA turned into UXers and UX Developers. After working with them for a few months I realised that every one of them had a very different understanding of “How to kick-start a project”. They were not sure about:

  • What workshops to run?
  • What is the goal of the workshops?
  • Who shall we engage?
  • What do we need from clients up-front?
  • When to do visual designs?

So I thought to put together a “How to for dummies” guide on this topic, especially when you’re dealing with a waterfall company as consultants. If you’re a novice and just starting in the consulting world, here are the basic workshops and questions you need to ask:[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”Meet and Greet” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]It sounds simple, doesn’t it? You say hello to everyone, crack a couple of jokes and get to know the team. Done! But in reality, it is never that simple. The aim of this “Meet and Greet” is to identify 3 distinctive groups of people:

Project Sponsor(s) – the people who pay invoices – These people have a great influence on the project since they are funding it. In most cases, the person you are dealing with is a Project Manager, not a sponsor. It’s a very good idea to capture the business requirements from the sponsor to make sure that our visions align.

Generally, project sponsors are busy people with multiple projects on hand and may not attend your team stand-ups or sprint demos. So, always keep them in the loop with every small milestone and progress of the project.

Business Stakeholder(s) – the decision makers – These people are generally responsible for the project deliverables, budget and timelines. They are chosen by the sponsors to run the project and manage resources. It is equally important to identify this lot as they make most of the decisions such as backlog prioritisation, design approvals and purchase of assets etc. They should a part of all your workshops and showcases.

Working Group – AKA the core users of the system you’re going to design and build – No-one will have more valuable feedback or use-cases than these people. So make sure you ask the stakeholders to either nominate or put together a team of 5-8 people from different areas of the company to act as a Working Group.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”Workshop 1 – Validating Requirements and Identifying Pain-points” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]This is the most valuable workshop in every project. I run this separate for Stakeholder Group and Working Group since they both have different insights on how a system should work and the problems they have in using it every day.

I generally start the workshop with my understanding of the business requirements and have a quick discussion about it. Then I distribute Post-it notes to everyone and ask them to write all the pain-points they currently have. And give them about 5 – 7 minutes maximum otherwise people start inventing pain-points they never had.

Once we have all the post-it notes, just stick them on a white-board and group them based on similarities. This will give you an overall idea of what we are dealing with. Use these pain-points as a foundation and derive use-cases from it.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”3577″ img_size=”full” add_caption=”yes” alignment=”center” onclick=”link_image”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”Workshop 2 – Sketching” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]The aim of this workshop is not only to come up with a basic design of the system but to settle the disagreements between stakeholders and working groups. Pair a stakeholder with a working group member and get them to sketch together.

Assuming there were 8 people in this workshop – you get 4 different sketches. Now ask everyone to work together and come up with one final sketch. This exercise gives everyone the sense of ownership and collaboration. And by the end of the workshop, we have a design that was put together by the very people who are using it and approving it.

Now, that’s a great place to start. We get a good idea of what features to prioritise and build. And these sketches serve as a starting point for our wireframes.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”3580″ img_size=”full” add_caption=”yes” alignment=”center” onclick=”link_image”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”Workshop 3 – Card Sorting” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]If you haven’t heard of this term, Card sorting is a quick and easy way to design an information architecture, workflow, menu structure or website navigation paths. In other words – we give users a list of items (content) and get them to organise it the way they think is logical. This workshop gives us good user insights we need to make informed IA decisions.

I usually use online card sorting tools such as OptimalSort to nut out the navigation. Once you’re setup online, just send a link to all the users in your working group and get them to spend 15 minutes in completing the card sort.

[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”3583″ img_size=”full” add_caption=”yes” alignment=”center” onclick=”link_image”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”Customer Journey Map” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]Customer journey maps are used to understand your customers better.

The idea is to map the relationship between a customer and an organization over time and across all channels that they interact with the business on. It is always told from the customer’s expectation but also incorporates the touch-points between business and user experience requirements as the journey progresses.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”3603″ img_size=”full” add_caption=”yes”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”Interactive Wireframes / Prototypes” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]

In simple words, wireframing is a technique to represent your design at the structural level. I use them early in the development process to establish the basic structure of a page before visual design and content is added. The ultimate aim is to get stakeholder approval on all the elements on the page and why it belongs there.

Wireframes can be static or interactive (Axure or HTML), and it can be used for the first round of user testing to validate the high-level concept.

[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”3609″ img_size=”full” add_caption=”yes”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”Content Strategy and Governance Model” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]This is one of the major challenges I face in every consulting gig. Clients want us to build a new system, but they have no content strategy and governance model in place. They have 4,300 pages in their current system and have no clue which ones are supposed to be archived or deleted and which ones are to be migrated.

I am not going to dwell deep on this topic since it’s huge, but I’d recommend you ask questions about content strategy (what content to use, what to discard and what to migrate) and governance (who’s responsible for the content) well before you start coding.

Always remember – without content your system will look lifeless.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”Visual Design?” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]I don’t recommend creating visual designs until we have a solid idea of what we are building. Wireframes are the way to go until that stage.

Get all the stakeholders to agree on the structural design of the new system (app, website or portal) you are building. Validate the wireframe designs with as many users you can get hold of. This way you have a strong foundation to build your visual designs on.

If you begin with visual designs and take it to stakeholder meetings, believe me, the conversation will be all about colours of buttons and placement of images instead of the content structure.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”What’s Next?” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]By now you should have gathered enough information and idea on what you are building. So go ahead and start the Build Phase.

Remember, what I discussed above is the basic set of rules to follow when starting a new project. I have worked on projects where we had 3 months for Discovery, where we spent days talking to customers, users and running various UX workshops. Since time and budget is constrained in many consulting gigs, I stick to the above.

Hope this helps and good luck with your journey![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]