Creating a proposal for field research

3 Mar 2004 - 5:41pm
10 years ago
12 replies
559 reads
Dave Malouf
2005

Hey there,

I've been tasked with the job of writing a proposal to my supes to convince
the powers that be that field research will give real results and show true
value to all involved stake holders. I'd love to gain some insights from
others who had to do the selling of this great idea to people who just don't
get it at all.

Background: I work for a very business driven company. Our clientele (those
that pay) are very exclusive in a particular way and our sales teams guard
access to them and the dev and marketing teams are not fully convinced
either of the value of UCD in general let alone something as amorphous and
qualatative as Contextual Design or Goal-Directed research and design.

Here is the value statement I came up with:
The way to keep current customers is by providing them better service.
We can provide them better service if we better understand their user's
needs.
To better understand their needs we need to have a picture of the context in
which they use the service; what of their existing busienss processes are
not being met; and in what wasy is the services functionality not meeting
the business processes it was designed to meet.
To get this picture we need first hand access to both the customer and the
customer's user-base.
What the customer gets out of this experience is ...
real contact with the decision makers who are designing THEIR tool.
thus being able to directly effect that design.

Does that work? Is there something I'm missing here? Any help would be
appreciated.

-- dave

Comments

3 Mar 2004 - 5:55pm
vutpakdi
2003

--- David Heller <dave at interactiondesigners.com> wrote:
>...
> To get this picture we need first hand access to both the customer and
> the
> customer's user-base.
> What the customer gets out of this experience is ...
> real contact with the decision makers who are designing THEIR tool.
> thus being able to directly effect that design.

Also, if the customer is currently unhappy, a visit from the vendor to whom
they can vent their frustrations can really improve the situation. We've
gotten tremendous PR boosts from going onsite to do usability tests to
address a concern that some of the users were having.

>
> Does that work? Is there something I'm missing here? Any help would be
> appreciated.

Another point might be to trot out the examples of projects where your
company didn't get any input/validation from users and not having that
input was extremely costly in terms of products that had to be reworked,
didn't sell well, or didn't sell at all because no one wanted it. I've
been in two companies now where some field research, particularly geared
towards validation, would have corrected the path of some projects and
killed others thereby saving quite a bit of money.

Ron

=====
============================================================================
Ron Vutpakdi
vutpakdi at acm.org

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3 Mar 2004 - 6:12pm
Todd Warfel
2003

David,

A few key highpoints we typically use when discussing Field
(Ethnographic) Research:

Ethnographic Research
• Ethnographic research by its very definition allows us to uncover
real user behavior by observing and interviewing users in their
real-life environments.

• By watching what users actually do, we are able to identify offline
experiences and interactions that can be brought into the online medium
as well as “frustration points” in the current processes that may be
alleviated by online resources.

Surveys and interviews are great for weighing in on "opinions," but the
only way to get real hard data on processes and behaviors is through
observation. And that observation is typically done through field
research, or usability testing. The best thing about field research is
that you can dig into their current behaviors and workflows (reality)
vs. what they think their workflows might be (perception).

As an example, when we do surveys, we'll ask people about where they
get their news from. If they say that TV isn't one of the sources
(which happens due to the stigmatism that comes with watching TV), then
we'll still ask the questions related to TV. And we always find that
even those who "don't watch TV" still know a great deal about the
programming that's published - things they couldn't know if they hadn't
watched TV. Now, finding real data on how much is going to be really
easy with one day of field research. Much harder w/o.

On Mar 3, 2004, at 5:41 PM, David Heller wrote:

> Does that work? Is there something I'm missing here? Any help would be
> appreciated.

Cheers!

Todd R. Warfel
User Experience Architect
MessageFirst | making products easier to use
--------------------------------------
Contact Info
voice: (607) 339-9640
email: twarfel at messagefirst.com
web: www.messagefirst.com
aim: twarfel at mac.com
--------------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.
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3 Mar 2004 - 10:24pm
Elizabeth Bacon
2003

Hi David, et al.,

I recently took a fantastic class at UCLA Extension in the art of
persuasion, which has already had numerous applications throughout my work.

Rather than putting forth your value proposition up-front, a powerful way to
approach your situation is to make your supes FEEL THE PAIN of their current
way of doing things *first*. It's only when people recognize the *cost* of
their behaviors that they tend to embrace change, accept risk, and otherwise
look for new solutions. In fact, psychology shows us that most decisions are
made on emotional basis - shocking news to those of us who like to think
business is rational & analytical.

The basics of this approach are outlined in a sales process known as
"consultative selling", which unfortunately I'm having trouble finding good
descriptions of online. The key idea of this process that I want to share is
that you first dialog with your buyer/prospect/supe in order to discover
their true problem(s), and then you quantify the cost of that problem, and
then you make your buyer/prospect/supe articulate that problem themselves.
Make them actually say the words out loud themselves: "We are losing
customers because we aren't delivering the features that they want" --or
whatever it is you zero in on as your supes' true point of pain (where the
cost for them = losing customers). Then, and only then, can you propose the
solutions that would ameliorate the problems.

Your value proposition stated below is, of course, on target...it's just
that your supes may not even really *hear* it if they aren't focused on why
they should take action to solve their problems. And it really sounds like
you're up against some serious denial, based on your background description.

I hope this idea can help you with your proposal. Truly, the class was one
big A-HA moment for me, for I looked back on various opportunities to sell
my services to people and I realized how much more effective this approach
would have been, unlike my previously all-too-self-assured "Here's what I
can do for you and boy is it great!!" approach. ;)

Cheers,
EB

-----Original Message-----
From: David Heller [mailto:dave at interactiondesigners.com]
Sent: Wednesday, March 03, 2004 2:42 PM
To: discuss at interactiondesigners.com
Subject: [ID Discuss] Creating a proposal for field research

Hey there,

I've been tasked with the job of writing a proposal to my supes to convince
the powers that be that field research will give real results and show true
value to all involved stake holders. I'd love to gain some insights from
others who had to do the selling of this great idea to people who just don't
get it at all.

Background: I work for a very business driven company. Our clientele (those
that pay) are very exclusive in a particular way and our sales teams guard
access to them and the dev and marketing teams are not fully convinced
either of the value of UCD in general let alone something as amorphous and
qualatative as Contextual Design or Goal-Directed research and design.

Here is the value statement I came up with:
The way to keep current customers is by providing them better service.
We can provide them better service if we better understand their user's
needs.
To better understand their needs we need to have a picture of the context in
which they use the service; what of their existing busienss processes are
not being met; and in what wasy is the services functionality not meeting
the business processes it was designed to meet.
To get this picture we need first hand access to both the customer and the
customer's user-base.
What the customer gets out of this experience is ...
real contact with the decision makers who are designing THEIR tool.
thus being able to directly effect that design.

Does that work? Is there something I'm missing here? Any help would be
appreciated.

-- dave

3 Mar 2004 - 9:37pm
Marci Ikeler
2003

One thing that I've found to be particularly useful in selling and
evangelizing user-centered design is to apply the practice of
user-centered design to user-centered design itself. What I mean by
that is to directly address the specific goals of your audience. I try
to figure out exactly what they want, and then tailor my presentation to
address those needs. Use their language so that they understand, and
back it up with hard facts and examples.

In the example you're referring to, your audience the business. I
assume that their goals fall along the lines of improving productivity
and thus making or saving money. If this is the case, you should
explain to them how UCD can affect the cost returns of a project.
You'll be spending more money up front, but having a better
understanding of your user base (through one-on-one interviews) will
provide you with a better understanding of the processes the software is
meant to address. Therefore, there will be a higher customer
satisfaction and an increase in sales. Examples can really help here --
show some projects (your own or someone else's) that got good results
using a user-centered process.

Same goes if you're talking to a marketing department. You might might
want to explain how sitting with users gives you insight into their
goals and allows you to identify the most important feature set to focus
on in a product. You might even adopt their terminology, calling the
interviews "one-on-one focus groups" or something like that. I think
the "PR-value" that someone else mentioned is also a great example.

If you're talking to developers, you can emphasize the values of UCD by
saying that they will spend less time re-architecting entire systems
because the original foundation will be more solid. Also, in many cases
good interface designs involves consistency, which will allow them to
reuse their code, ultimately saving time and resources.

The question you raised is something that I've been struggling with for
a while. I'd love to hear how other people address this problem. One
problem I see with the UCD/ID/IA/<insert accronym here> is that we're
too insular as a community and have trouble explaining what we do to
"outsiders". Thoughts?

Marci

-----Original Message-----
From:
discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesign
ers.com] On Behalf Of David Heller
Sent: Wednesday, March 03, 2004 5:42 PM
To: discuss at interactiondesigners.com
Subject: [ID Discuss] Creating a proposal for field research

Hey there,

I've been tasked with the job of writing a proposal to my supes to
convince the powers that be that field research will give real results
and show true value to all involved stake holders. I'd love to gain some
insights from others who had to do the selling of this great idea to
people who just don't get it at all.

Background: I work for a very business driven company. Our clientele
(those that pay) are very exclusive in a particular way and our sales
teams guard access to them and the dev and marketing teams are not fully
convinced either of the value of UCD in general let alone something as
amorphous and qualatative as Contextual Design or Goal-Directed research
and design.

Here is the value statement I came up with:
The way to keep current customers is by providing them better service.
We can provide them better service if we better understand their user's
needs. To better understand their needs we need to have a picture of the
context in which they use the service; what of their existing busienss
processes are not being met; and in what wasy is the services
functionality not meeting the business processes it was designed to
meet. To get this picture we need first hand access to both the customer
and the customer's user-base. What the customer gets out of this
experience is ...
real contact with the decision makers who are designing THEIR
tool.
thus being able to directly effect that design.

Does that work? Is there something I'm missing here? Any help would be
appreciated.

-- dave

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4 Mar 2004 - 1:25pm
Anirudha Joshi
2003

Excellent statement Dave. And some fantastic responses. I would just add
something borrowed from Industrial Design, and extended for the purpose
of IxD.

"In the good old days, the craftsman was the skilled guy, the financier,
the skilled worker, the accountant, the marketing executive and the
shopkeeper. He had an overview of all activities and could course
correct everywhere. He also had the desired contact with the customer.
So the shoemaker could sit with the shoe user and both could easily
figure out where the shoe pinches. He not only repaired the shoe quickly
for this customer, he could quickly feedback the problems into the
production process to make sure that no future shoes pinched.

Then came industrial revolution, and all these roles got separated into
different department. No one group or person knew the customer well any
more. That is where the industrial designer came in. His role was to
fill the gaps and close the loop.

With software products, the knowledge gaps are wider still. The user
expectations from software are higher, software can do almost anything.
But user knowledge is lower by proportion. Software gets downloaded
across continents. It may be used in the most un-intended manner and for
the most un-intended purpose. Also software is new, and has small shelf
life. So it has less time to develop gradually. We need extra efforts in
knowing users to design software better."

A bit longer than I intended, but can be tightened for the right
audience. I will appreciate if you can compile all online and offline
responses to this excellent post.

Anirudha

Here is the value statement I came up with:
The way to keep current customers is by providing them better service.
We can provide them better service if we better understand their user's
needs.
To better understand their needs we need to have a picture of the
context in
which they use the service; what of their existing busienss processes
are
not being met; and in what wasy is the services functionality not
meeting
the business processes it was designed to meet.
To get this picture we need first hand access to both the customer and
the
customer's user-base.
What the customer gets out of this experience is ...
real contact with the decision makers who are designing THEIR
tool.
thus being able to directly effect that design.

3 Mar 2004 - 11:59pm
George Schneiderman
2004

On Wednesday, March 3, 2004, at 05:41 PM, David Heller wrote:
> I've been tasked with the job of writing a proposal to my supes to
> convince
> the powers that be that field research will give real results and show
> true
> value to all involved stake holders. I'd love to gain some insights
> from
> others who had to do the selling of this great idea to people who just
> don't
> get it at all.

One thing that I've found can be useful is to provide some anecdotal
evidence about the sorts of problems that often occur when there is no
field research, and designers just press ahead and make incorrect
assumptions about the work or the context in which it will be
performed. As I recall there are some good anecdotes along these lines
in Constantine & Lockwood's _Software For Use_, and in Hackos and
Radish's _User and Task Analysis for Interface Design_. You want to
shift the way the question is framed, so that the decision makers are
focusing more on the risks of NOT doing field research, than on the
cost of doing it. Try to choose examples that are fairly specific,
that have some relevance to your industry, and--above all--that had a
clear business cost in lost productivity or the need to fix a broken
system.

--George Schneiderman

george at post.harvard.edu
718-499-0617

4 Mar 2004 - 1:12pm
ralph lord
2004

Another rhetorical method is to agree and get confirmation from sales
and marketing that sales and marketing know a lot about the customers.
Agree and get confirmation that this knowledge is valuable for many
reasons. Propose and get confirmation that NOT having the knowledge
would make their job impossible. Then explore HOW they got that
knowledge. The answer will, of course, be direct contact and/or
observation. Then assert that the LACK of that knowledge hinders the
dev organization from meeting customer needs as fully or as effectively
as possible. After they agree with that, suggest that the dev org needs
and is entitled to the same direct contact and/or observation as sales
and marketing.

The methods you use I would leave alone. They don't need to know and
they don't care. Gaining "permission" or establishing your right to
contact and observe is the goal.

Ralph Lord
Atlanta

4 Mar 2004 - 1:20pm
Elizabeth Buie
2004

Ralph Lord writes:

>Another rhetorical method is to agree and get confirmation from sales
>and marketing that sales and marketing know a lot about the customers.

Sales and marketing may know a lot about the customers; that doesn't
always mean they know a lot about the users. If the customer is not the
user -- as tends to be the case when a company or government agency (the
customer) is issuing you a contract for purchase or development -- talking
to sales and marketing doesn't necessarily help much. You have to
convince and persuade your contact in the customer organization.

Elizabeth
--
Elizabeth Buie
Computer Sciences Corporation
Rockville, Maryland
301.921.3326

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4 Mar 2004 - 2:38pm
sandeepblues
2003

I like this post a lot. It is about attaining a goal
via a clever means using persuasive techniques, versus
insisting upon the the goodness of the goal. Learn
captology. It helps in other aspects of life, besides
IxD.

I lost a lot of my "good status" in a company, because
I tried to juggernaut field research at sales and
marketing, and kept touting the greatness of
ethnography etc. I merely came across as merely
academic and a little arrogant about my IxD expertise.
I spent the next couple of years writing code for
dumbass UI designs by product marketing folks.

David's goal is to convince marketing and sales to
allow him to step into their turf. They believe that
they represent the users and customers to the rest of
the company. So, look for a win-win situation. There
are companies that might be in your vertical market
that have not bought your product. Build contacts in
those companies for doing field research. Suggest to
sales and marketing that the end goal of your field
research is to provide a report of your findings to
sales and marketing, and hand that contact to them.
This supports their self-image of representin'. YOu
become their scout, in their war to conquer the world.

The hard question is: Will your direct supe. support
you in doing extra work involved in establishing
contacts and field research with these companies?
Does your direct supe. believe in the advantages of
field research? If not, you are screwed, I think.

As for doing field research with existing companies:
Start with usability testing. Tell the S&M folks
about the need to improve UI Ix by observing your
existing products being used. Tell them that the goal
of that testing would be to provide a list of
suggestions for improvements that they can utilize in
writing their MRDs. (win-win) Demonstrate the rigors
of usability testing that would be "menial" or
"painful" for S&M to conduct themselves. (win-win)Tell
them that you don't want to meet the buying
decision-maker, but rather the users that he bought
the product for.

Good luck!

Sandeep

--- Elizabeth Bacon <eb at elizabethbacon.com> wrote:
> Hi David, et al.,
>
> I recently took a fantastic class at UCLA Extension
> in the art of
> persuasion, which has already had numerous
> applications throughout my work.
>
> Rather than putting forth your value proposition
> up-front, a powerful way to
> approach your situation is to make your supes FEEL
> THE PAIN of their current
> way of doing things *first*. It's only when people
> recognize the *cost* of
> their behaviors that they tend to embrace change,
> accept risk, and otherwise
> look for new solutions. In fact, psychology shows us
> that most decisions are
> made on emotional basis - shocking news to those of
> us who like to think
> business is rational & analytical.
>
> The basics of this approach are outlined in a sales
> process known as
> "consultative selling", which unfortunately I'm
> having trouble finding good
> descriptions of online. The key idea of this process
> that I want to share is
> that you first dialog with your buyer/prospect/supe
> in order to discover
> their true problem(s), and then you quantify the
> cost of that problem, and
> then you make your buyer/prospect/supe articulate
> that problem themselves.
> Make them actually say the words out loud
> themselves: "We are losing
> customers because we aren't delivering the features
> that they want" --or
> whatever it is you zero in on as your supes' true
> point of pain (where the
> cost for them = losing customers). Then, and only
> then, can you propose the
> solutions that would ameliorate the problems.
>
> Your value proposition stated below is, of course,
> on target...it's just
> that your supes may not even really *hear* it if
> they aren't focused on why
> they should take action to solve their problems. And
> it really sounds like
> you're up against some serious denial, based on your
> background description.
>
> I hope this idea can help you with your proposal.
> Truly, the class was one
> big A-HA moment for me, for I looked back on various
> opportunities to sell
> my services to people and I realized how much more
> effective this approach
> would have been, unlike my previously
> all-too-self-assured "Here's what I
> can do for you and boy is it great!!" approach. ;)
>
> Cheers,
> EB
>
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: David Heller
> [mailto:dave at interactiondesigners.com]
> Sent: Wednesday, March 03, 2004 2:42 PM
> To: discuss at interactiondesigners.com
> Subject: [ID Discuss] Creating a proposal for field
> research
>
>
> Hey there,
>
> I've been tasked with the job of writing a proposal
> to my supes to convince
> the powers that be that field research will give
> real results and show true
> value to all involved stake holders. I'd love to
> gain some insights from
> others who had to do the selling of this great idea
> to people who just don't
> get it at all.
>
> Background: I work for a very business driven
> company. Our clientele (those
> that pay) are very exclusive in a particular way and
> our sales teams guard
> access to them and the dev and marketing teams are
> not fully convinced
> either of the value of UCD in general let alone
> something as amorphous and
> qualatative as Contextual Design or Goal-Directed
> research and design.
>
> Here is the value statement I came up with:
> The way to keep current customers is by providing
> them better service.
> We can provide them better service if we better
> understand their user's
> needs.
> To better understand their needs we need to have a
> picture of the context in
> which they use the service; what of their existing
> busienss processes are
> not being met; and in what wasy is the services
> functionality not meeting
> the business processes it was designed to meet.
> To get this picture we need first hand access to
> both the customer and the
> customer's user-base.
> What the customer gets out of this experience is ...
> real contact with the decision makers who are
> designing THEIR tool.
> thus being able to directly effect that design.
>
> Does that work? Is there something I'm missing here?
> Any help would be
> appreciated.
>
> -- dave
>
> _______________________________________________
> Interaction Design Discussion List
> discuss at interactiondesigners.com
> --
> to change your options (unsubscribe or set digest):
> http://discuss.interactiondesigners.com
> --
> Questions: lists at interactiondesigners.com
> --
> Announcement Online List (discussion list members
> get announcements already)
> http://interactiondesigners.com/announceList/
> --
> http://interactiondesigners.com/

5 Mar 2004 - 5:42am
Peter v. Savigny
2004

Hi,

this issue is very pertinent to my current situation, where I have been
asked by a potential customer to describe the added value of field studies
over lab usability tests. I would welcome comments/additions to my list.

Here is what I came up with:
====================================================
• *** Higher significance through studies of real usage situations ***
In real situations, which are about their own work of even own money,
people behave differently from laboratory tests. People have different
expectations and requirements. Those are discovered by usage studies in the
field.

For instance, in preparing and carrying out a real stock market transaction
with my money, I have information needs different from a fictitious test
situation where my own money is not involved.

• *** Field studies shed light upon the significance of further resources
in the usual work environment ***
Further online- and especially offline resources – including other people
which can be consulted! – often are decisive for success. The usefulness of
an online resource can be substantially increased by integrating such findings.

• *** Field studies shed light upon hindrances and aggravating
circumstances in the real usage situation ***
Only in the real usage situation it becomes clear what is really practical
and efficient - and what isn't.

• *** Uncovering of overlooked and unused parts and the reasons behind it ***
Some things, which are used in carrying out prescribed tasks during
usability tests, don't occur in self-determined usage. The reasons behind
that need to be understood.

• *** Involvement of important customers feasible ***
Important customers, who would not be able or prepared to leave their
workplace for several hours in order to participate in a lab test, can be
involved in field studies - possibly even in the design process. Their
satisfaction can thus be assured.
======================================================

Would this list convince or help convince a supe, who has had lab usability
testing performed, to give approval for field studies? What else would be
needed or useful?

Greetings,

Peter

P.S.: I can see quite a bit of overlap with what has been said here,
especially by Todd:
>• By watching what users actually do, we are able to identify offline
>experiences and interactions that can be brought into the online medium as
>well as “frustration points” in the current processes that may be
>alleviated by online resources.

The last point seems to resonate with what Ron said:
>Also, if the customer is currently unhappy, a visit from the vendor to whom
>they can vent their frustrations can really improve the situation. We've
>gotten tremendous PR boosts from going onsite to do usability tests to
>address a concern that some of the users were having.

=========================
Peter v. Savigny
Tel. privat: +49/(0)40/ 56 75 56
Tel. Büro: +49/(0)40/ 63306-313
Tel. Mobil: +49/(0)177/ 6 63 66 69
http://peter.savigny.bei.t-online.de
=========================

5 Mar 2004 - 1:08pm
jstanford
2003

Hello,

I agree with the points below. Usually, I just summarize by stating that
people use products in the context of a current sitation and generally
people don't like to drastically change what they are doing...they just want
you to come up with a way that they can get things done the same way but
better. If you understand what people are currently doing in the context of
their current environment (including all the other people, tools, software,
organizational structures, etc. that they interact with), you can design a
product that fits into this environment successfully and addresses the
user's needs within the context that they are activated.

Julie

> -----Original Message-----
> From:
> discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesi
> gners.com
> [mailto:discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interac
> tiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of Peter v. Savigny
> Sent: Friday, March 05, 2004 2:42 AM
> To: discuss-interactiondesigners.com at lists.interactiondesigners.com
> Subject: Re: [ID Discuss] Creating a proposal for field research
>
> Hi,
>
> this issue is very pertinent to my current situation, where I
> have been asked by a potential customer to describe the added
> value of field studies over lab usability tests. I would
> welcome comments/additions to my list.
>
> Here is what I came up with:
> ====================================================
> • *** Higher significance through studies of real usage
> situations *** In real situations, which are about their own
> work of even own money, people behave differently from
> laboratory tests. People have different expectations and
> requirements. Those are discovered by usage studies in the field.
>
> For instance, in preparing and carrying out a real stock
> market transaction with my money, I have information needs
> different from a fictitious test situation where my own money
> is not involved.
>
> • *** Field studies shed light upon the significance of
> further resources in the usual work environment *** Further
> online- and especially offline resources – including other
> people which can be consulted! – often are decisive for
> success. The usefulness of an online resource can be
> substantially increased by integrating such findings.
>
> • *** Field studies shed light upon hindrances and
> aggravating circumstances in the real usage situation ***
> Only in the real usage situation it becomes clear what is
> really practical and efficient - and what isn't.
>
> • *** Uncovering of overlooked and unused parts and the
> reasons behind it *** Some things, which are used in carrying
> out prescribed tasks during usability tests, don't occur in
> self-determined usage. The reasons behind that need to be understood.
>
> • *** Involvement of important customers feasible ***
> Important customers, who would not be able or prepared to
> leave their workplace for several hours in order to
> participate in a lab test, can be involved in field studies -
> possibly even in the design process. Their satisfaction can
> thus be assured.
> ======================================================
>
> Would this list convince or help convince a supe, who has had
> lab usability testing performed, to give approval for field
> studies? What else would be needed or useful?
>
> Greetings,
>
> Peter
>
>
> P.S.: I can see quite a bit of overlap with what has been
> said here, especially by Todd:
> >• By watching what users actually do, we are able to
> identify offline
> >experiences and interactions that can be brought into the
> online medium
> >as well as “frustration points” in the current processes that may be
> >alleviated by online resources.
>
> The last point seems to resonate with what Ron said:
> >Also, if the customer is currently unhappy, a visit from the
> vendor to
> >whom they can vent their frustrations can really improve the
> situation.
> >We've gotten tremendous PR boosts from going onsite to do usability
> >tests to address a concern that some of the users were having.
>
>
> =========================
> Peter v. Savigny
> Tel. privat: +49/(0)40/ 56 75 56
> Tel. Büro: +49/(0)40/ 63306-313
> Tel. Mobil: +49/(0)177/ 6 63 66 69
> http://peter.savigny.bei.t-online.de
> =========================
>
> _______________________________________________
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>

5 Mar 2004 - 10:26pm
Nick Ragouzis
2004

Hi all,

If I may bend your ear with a bit of a consolidated response, and two specific additions at the end:

I like Dave's, Julie's, Todd's, Peter's and really everybody's comments. It would be difficult for anyone to argue that interaction
designers aren't enterprise-level thinkers.

Perhaps that's what is useful to notice -- that we've covered a gamut here. But Julie's has gotten closest to that which is NOT
prospective and NOT retrospective. At least it seems to me that way.

The challenge with prospective is that it stands on the same ground that is tainted by the original skepticism -- what have you done
for me today? That's a bit harsh, yea ... but it's the basic sentiment we face when trying to make these strategic-level changes.

Julie's comments recognize that, when it comes to specific proposals these highly-prospective comments are self-defeating. Who
wouldn't agree: we might change the world if we only knew ...

Sure, Marci and others have reinforced the value of talking about potential value of such work ... but this is seen as circular to
such audiences. Recall that many don't have a model for how design proceeds and value is captured.[1]

Realize that our most challenging targets for these appeals constantly ... CONSTANTLY! ... hear that I could really give you some
great value if you just agreed to approve and fund my project. Further, anyone who's been an enterprise manager for a few years can
easily recount cases where gathering general information and building a general knowledge base has been mostly wasted. Or if not
wasted at first blush, or by organizational change, then the potential benefit lost to enterprise inertia.

Anirudha touches on a good, related, point ... the importance to strategic work of creating a story in the enterprise around the
work we do. Even better if that story included general and enterprise-specific profiles of systems of design and returns.[2] Related
to that could be demonstrating that ID is an effective steward of the enterprise's customer information -- get even better points by
showing cases of having pursued and derived useful results from other secondary information resources. Especially if for some
proposal at hand.

Ron points out some clear approaches to the more tactical situations. But the problem with past failings in justifying a new
business process is that they aren't convincing unless they are widely agreed to have been important failures and ... AND ... the
roots of the failures are widely agreed to be in the areas you propose. Besides, it takes a really strong sales force to know (how)
to put technical and design teams in front of an unhappy customer![3]

I think Elizabeth Bacon's comments are worth attention. For their general advice, sure. But also to sharpen the difficulty David
sets up: the sales process is highly engineered on finding problems FOR WHICH THE SOLUTION IS AT HAND. This is, of course, why
"pain" is the point in most sales -- you want to compel the customer to act to relieve it now. But, alas, the challenge David's
fronted isn't this sort of situation, and there are different techniques for different situations.

It is also why sales of consulting is done differently from general product and services. And that's the model to follow here. It
may not be compatible with Dave's timeframe, but the incremental, bootstrapping approach to consulting services is the same approach
required here ... a single grand proposal, bare of all this other history and incremental reinforcing effort, has the lowest
probability of adoption. But not impossibly so, of course. :-)

So what to do when attempting to start out in such an environment?

1. Address a Current Strategic-Level Uncertainty
-------------------------------------------------------------
Move from the prospective to ... no, not the retrospective, ... to a current strategic uncertainty.

What specific question do you have at hand? What is its potential value to the company in what timeframe? How, directly, will
specific bits of information reduce (just reduce) specific bits of uncertainty?

We are not selling a certainty for a solution here, for that's exactly what's not possibly, and not believable. The true difficulty
is that in David's statement we're not given the kind of immediate and present difficulties for which a list of improvements can be
set into marketing requirements for immediate incremental work on a current offering. Rather this is a strategic, forward-looking
challenge.

But the work cannot be advanced without a concise statement of the specific design decision being faced. That the ultimate problem
solved or opportunity captured is unknown in particulars or scope (it is not just some usability-collected bug) or that it lies in
the future is not an excuse -- it is the very reason for the difficulty and demands direct detailed attention in the proposition
itself. From the fuzziest front end there are unknowns wanting to be resolved, with some attached value. Often we skip over them for
thinking they are too obvious, or too many, or too difficult to describe.

Now there's a tricky bit here for those who 'just know' exactly how this information should be gathered ... you have to be ready to
give up on that, and be able to show alternatives. If not "real" field research this time, then next time. At least until you've got
a decent champion to the problem and the value.

To put a finer point on it, the audience for these proposals are usually painfully aware of the failures and the dependency on
designer and researcher error and plain bull-headedness. This is why David's statement falls down at it's third paragraph ("The get
this picture we need first hand ..." : that conclusion is not at all the only one to be derived from the preceding; and several
other conclusions are also correctly drawn. (I mean, have we even contrasted the 'picture' our enterprise has to that the
competition implicitly holds -- from an interaction perspective? More on that, below.)

There's another tricky bit too, the analysis of value is not a straightforward cost-avoidance T-sheet -- it'll call for a bit of
valuing multiple paths forward and must include some uncertainties and ancillary benefits (as several of you have mentioned, but you
must set a value these).

2. Profile Your Enterprise's Competitive Stance on Interaction Design Grounds.
-------------------------------------------------------------
The above, #1, can be made easier to bring to focus and easier to sell with one other bit of information: competitive pressures.
Well, ok, D'oh.

But what kind of information? I mean we're obviously not talking about an immediate competitive threat here, in the situation Dave
suggests ... otherwise other considerations would be in play. In this situation there are two paths.

One is through scenario work that gets agreement about the challenges ahead. Sure, this takes time (if it is to be non-threatening),
and there is even resistance to this sort of thing. But it doesn't have to be all that fancy or official ... just inclusive and
non-binding, and widely-communicated. I'd be surprised if just this wouldn't do as Elizabeth Buie suggests of the larger effort --
give the sales folks a new twist or two to use in their proposals and promotions, or training.

A second route is also available -- profiling your enterprise's stance on interaction design grounds vis-a-vis competition. And get
buy-in.

The key result contributing to selling more substantial research is found in the area of strategic and tactical following. Almost
certainly (certainty as in the certainty of loosing the California Lottery) your organization is leveraging following. Has it
acquired companies? Has it produced compatible interfaces? Is it using third-party offerings or leveraging closed or open standards?
And so on -- then it is leveraging following. But have you, the interaction design experts, profiled your own following strategy?
Where are you following strategically? Where tactically?

And then where, in what specific interactions or domains, can you get wide agreement that you are not following at all, that the
enterprise depends in some part on strategic leadership in interaction design? These will be few ... and even fewer where agreement
can be cemented. This last little bit is of course the whole point of the exercise. And it's on this basis -- often assumed or
distressingly wrong -- that such strategic-level investments in research rest.

But guess what ... if we have difficulties figuring out how to close the sale on the research, research of a strategic nature, then
we probably don't have agreement on the strategic value. And in that case "management" is darn right in declining our access to a
strategic resource.

. . . .

Riding on Ralph Lord's excellent proof-by-parallelism rhetoric ... have any of the folks here approached their sales teams or their
sales support teams to participate as a ride-along technical resource to customer sites? This is one area that few front-line sales
people will turn down ... once they know you're safe. Demonstrating that you are safe is tough in some occupations. But in this
occupation, where we are already dealing extensively with the target audiences, it should be much easier. That'll usually help win
over the executive sales folks ... maybe for a few HQ sit-ins as prelude. Might even be easier to pull off if your technical teams
are already over-the-shoulder with the customer service teams. What have you seen in this area?

Best,
--Nick

[1] I've found the AIGA design booklet on the process of designing a very helpful new resources in this regard, in starting a
general dialog. Online at: <http://designing.aiga.org/static/why.html>.

[2] The perspectives such as in Wheelwright and Clark's Leading Product Development ISBN 0-02-934465-4
<http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0029344654/> might help in framing that up.

[3] Maybe a best-practices update would be appropriate in this area, timed just before your proposal -- something along the lines of
letting enterprise leaders know of competitors and partners who are doing this kind of work, the level of investment, the
situations, the timeframes for the research and the results ... and the kind of questions they are pursuing.

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of David Heller
Sent: Wednesday, March 03, 2004 02:42 PM
To: discuss at interactiondesigners.com
Subject: [ID Discuss] Creating a proposal for field research

Hey there,

I've been tasked with the job of writing a proposal to my supes to convince
the powers that be that field research will give real results and show true
value to all involved stake holders. I'd love to gain some insights from
others who had to do the selling of this great idea to people who just don't
get it at all.

Background: I work for a very business driven company. Our clientele (those
that pay) are very exclusive in a particular way and our sales teams guard
access to them and the dev and marketing teams are not fully convinced
either of the value of UCD in general let alone something as amorphous and
qualatative as Contextual Design or Goal-Directed research and design.

Here is the value statement I came up with:
The way to keep current customers is by providing them better service.
We can provide them better service if we better understand their user's
needs.
To better understand their needs we need to have a picture of the context in
which they use the service; what of their existing busienss processes are
not being met; and in what wasy is the services functionality not meeting
the business processes it was designed to meet.
To get this picture we need first hand access to both the customer and the
customer's user-base.
What the customer gets out of this experience is ...
real contact with the decision makers who are designing THEIR tool.
thus being able to directly effect that design.

Does that work? Is there something I'm missing here? Any help would be
appreciated.

-- dave

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