Agile Development, Behavior Modeling & Design, Business Analysis, Information Technology, Innovation, Product Development, Requirements Development, User Analysis, User Experience, User-centered Design

It is beyond doubt that the current times of digital, mobile and social age demand professionals who are versatile, agile, sociable and dynamic. Business Analysts and product specialists are no exception to this. Whether its due to the industry demands, peer pressure, market needs or pure evolutionary tactics, BAs today are far more leading-edge, competitive, assertive and visionary contributors to the products, processes and businesses, at large. From an also-ran team player role, new-age analysts have come a long way as the multi-disciplinary, multi-skilled and multi-dimensional professionals. In this post, I will touch upon the many facets of the new-age Business Analyst and how they are adapting to the continual changes happening in the spheres of business, technology, professional and personal lives.

Emergence of the new-age BA/PO

As we discussed in the previous posts, there have been several factors that led to the emergence and evolution of the Business Analyst. The BA today moved on from just a requirements owner and a document expert and is now addressing several facets around products, processes, business and technology. Their focus still remains pretty much around the problem space, compared to the facilitation role in the solution space. The analysts identify problems, dependencies, needs and opportunities. However,  products, processes and business domains. The BAs today have been involved in scoping, release management, continuous engagement with customers and users, strategising, laying out roadmap, and working with multiple teams.  In a nutshell, the Business Analyst of the modern age is much like a leader, architect, soldier, team player…all rolled into one.

NBA_Leader.Architect.Soldier.Team Player_Texavi

Leader, architect, soldier, team player & more – the new-age BA

From being an analyst, the BA needs to transform into a leader, architect, soldier, team player and perhaps many more such roles, all rolled into one. Of course, they need not be all of these roles at the same time. The analyst today has to don one, few or all of these various roles based on the context, time, stage of implementation as befits the occasion. During the initial stages, the emphasis could be on being an architect, while during the scoping it could be that of a soldier. However, throughout the project, or initiative analysts have to keep their hat of leader and team player, no matter what stage the work is in. I touch upon the four primary facets of the new-age Business Analyst in the following paragraphs.

1. Sensible leader, not just an also-ran

You can’t talk enough about the all-imperative skill and art of analysts to work with people. They must have their hands firmly on the pulse of the different categories of people. These include the various stakeholders – direct and indirectly responsible for the product and process, from senior management all the way through to people working on the factory floor. As an able leader, the analysts must not only lead the way, but also set an example by following and working along with the team members. They should  listen actively, take steps pro-actively and be able to put in their efforts with sustainable passion, drive and commitment to achieve this shared vision and common goals.

2. Architect and a builder, not just another player

New-age business analysts must be able to look beyond the near term goals and benefits. They must have a really good and long term vision to not only lead themselves but also the team members and the organisation, at large. They must think far and beyond, using their rich experience, in-depth and specialised domain expertise. The added advantage is that these help the analysts with a “peripheral vision” around the markets, business domains, products, processes and technologies.  Besides, the new-age analyst adds great value by laying a robust roadmap that is flexible, scalable, high-performing.

3. A soldier, well-equipped and prepared

Like a soldier, who is well-equipped and well-prepared to face any kind of challenges, the new-age analyst must be prepared with all the right tools, methods and a positive attitude. The very nature and aptitude of business analysts help them to stay on the top of their game, be it at home or outside their turf. Their ability to adapt easily and quickly depending on the situation helps build on to the agility of the new-age analysts.  Analysts’ skills of being sensitive, scrupulous and open-minded, help them usable insights from ideas and actionable intelligence from information. In addition to these, the BAs try to keep ahead by addressing all possible scenarios, potential challenges and constraints, internal and external dependencies and assumptions – stated and implicit.

4. Team player, not just a one-person show

Business analysts over the ages had been looked at more as specialised consultants who come in, do their work and get out. The contribution of analysts is considered from the prism of a “support” role who comes in early in the project, find problems, specify scope and requirements and exits the scenario. However, with the advent of agile practices such as Scrum, user stories, XP, BDD and TDD being put in place, organisations are increasingly looking for analysts to be well-integrated into the development teams. The analysts today are very much an integral part of the teams and by being  participative, they contribute to the collective value delivered by the team. So, new-age analysts are equally adept at being followers and team members themselves as much as they excel at leading the teams.

I hope this post helped you understand the many dimensions, skills and demands of the new-age business analyst. We will cover more specific details on the tools, and methods for the business analyst/product owner in the upcoming posts, until then, ciao!

Agile Development, Business Analysis, Information Technology, Product Development, Requirements Development, User Analysis, User Experience, User Stories

Gone are the days when you had professionals relying on the accumulation of knowledge alone. In this day and age of continual changes in technology, business, career and life styles,  there is an increasing emphasis not just on acquiring knowledge, but also on applying the experience and rich expertise. The focus has shifted from knowing to doing and sharing, from information gathering to using the right tools and methods and from just quantitative measures to insightful analytics. Like all other professions, this paradigm shift is quite apparent to a large extent in business analysis and product management areas too. In this post, I will touch upon the many facets that make up the emerging avatar of the new-age business analyst/product owner.

Many facets of the modern BA/ProductOwner

The traditional business analyst’s focus pretty much hovered on the requirements, documentation, functionality of the product. Also, the key lookout for the traditional BA has been one centred around the problem space, whether it has to do with the product, process, domain or business. The new-age business analyst’s core competencies are still based on the problem space and functional areas, their scope of influence has expanded further and beyond. This is thanks partly due to the continual changes in business, technology, ways of work and life. It could also be attributed to the “survival-of-the-fittest” theory and that the business analysts have to consistently re-invent themselves to keep them relevant to the changing and demanding times. New age_BUSINESS_ANALYSIS_Texavi_NBA

Realm and reach of the new-age BA

So what makes the new-age business analyst different from that of the traditional role? Interestingly, one school of thought identifies the BA as just another team player, there is quite another emergent thinking that is pitching the BA as a more responsible, leadership-oriented professional. From a mere documentation specialist, the realm and reach of the Business Analyst of today scaled up to that of the product owner and/or product manager. While functionality and features, problems and opportunities remain relevant and current to the new-age BA, the additional roles of release management, process improvement, increased customer and user engagement added a new dimension.

What make up a new-age BA/PO

Now let us try and assess the factors that make up a class act new-age Business Analyst. On the one hand, you need to be on the top of the product, process, business or domain, on the other hand you must also be able to connect well with “people”. A new age business analyst works her way very well through not just the product or process team members, but also key stakeholders, customers and users. Yes, it is true that the BA must be versatile and equipped with generic skills, it is beyond doubt that specialism and in-depth expertise add to the winning factors. In a nut shell, the new-age Business Analyst/Product Owner is versatile, agile, tech-savvy, responsive, responsible, and a leading-edge visionary.

In the next posts, we will look in detail the approach, tools and methods that shape up the new-age Business Analyst. Hope this post gives you enough food for thought till then. Until next, ciao!

Agile Development, Behavior Modeling & Design, Business Analysis, Innovation, Product Development, User Analysis, User Experience, User-centered Design

Innovation, as you all know, is a very powerful concept and tool. It could be used to understand the problems and create improvements in the existing products. Innovation also helps us to create completely new solution(s) to solve the otherwise unimaginable problems. Innovation is not just restricted to the products space, but is equally effective in the improvement of services, processes or solutions.  Just a week ago, I participated in a very interesting workshop on collaboration through Innovation Games. This workshop is based on the concepts and exercises proposed by Luke Hohmann and also the GameStorming techniques by Dave Gray et al. In this post, I will touch upon the key takeaways and useful tips from the workshop. Also in this post, I will make a business case for Innovation Games and how they could be used to boost the productivity and bring about value to businesses and individuals alike.

Let’s talk innovation

Innovation would never lose the sheen and shine, despite the numerous changes in work, education, lifestyles and thinking over the last few decades.  This could be partly due to the very construct and meaning of the word, innovation intended to find out “newer, different, better” ways. But then innovation by itself is not just one tool or technique, but a collective application of a whole suite of theories, schools of thought, approaches, tools and techniques. How would you then decide which one of them. That’s where Innovation Games come in and help you choose the right technique, and bring about the right value in a quick, fun, cost-effective way.

Innovation Games_Texavi_Workshop_Items Innovation Games - at play

Innovation is collaborative product development

First off, you would need interested and motivated people who are motivated to pave way for innovation. Also important is a conducive environment to help boost the free thinking and to let the creative juices flowing. Innovation games, as the name suggests, are a fun, interactive and engaging way of bringing out the innovation and creativity among teams. These are serious games played to bring out the hidden problems, create fresh ideas and arrive at plausible solutions. Innovation games are cost-effective, quick-win tools that can be organised with very less effort and minimal preparation and planning. There is no doubt that Innovation Games provide a perfect setting for aiding innovation with supporting collaboration tools and techniques.

What are and what aren’t Innovation Games

A word of caution here…Innovation Games are not the same as gamification or the Game design that you might have come across. So, what exactly are these Innovation Games? Product in a Box, Prune the Product Tree, Speedboat, Show-and-Tell are a few popular ones. While some of these help you in convergence (idea generation), some help in shaping (structuring) and  a few others help support for divergence (prioritising and pruning). You can get more information about Innovation Games and collaborative exercises from the leading thinkers and authors in the innovation, collaboration and product development arenas. A few sources for some great inspiration are “Innovation Games : Creating Breakthrough Products Through Collaborative Play” by Luke Hohmann and “Gamestorming” by Dave Gray et al.

Innovation Games_Consultants and agile coaches

Business case for collaboration through Innovation Games

Now that you are aware that there is a great tool set for you to help in collaborative product development, let us look at the business case for using Innovation Games. In the context of an agile product development, Innovation Games certainly help bring various stakeholders, team members and customers in the same room. They do help in setting common goals and also provide a fun and interactive environment to promote innovation among teams. Another important aspect of using Innovation Games is their adeptness to not only generating ideas, but also prioritising the features and decision-making.

Innovation Games_Collaboration_Benefits

 

When and where to use Innovation Games

You might be wondering in what scenarios you can use Innovation Games and how they can help you and your teams. Well, they can be put to use when you or your business is in need of generating ideas, pruning them, prioritising the features, and understanding the problems and needs of your customers. This means that Innovation Games are a great tool in the context of product development, process improvement, creation of a solution or a service. The collaborative tool is extremely handy not only in the creation of new products, services, solutions or processes, but also in enhancing or re-engineering the existing products, processes or solutions. In short, Innovation Games are of great relevance when you want to bring together people, and create a collaborative environment to help foster innovation and creativity through focus, group dynamics, interaction and yes, most importantly a bit of fun.

Hope this post helped you in getting a grasp of Innovation Games and collaborative product development. In the future posts, I will get into further depth and discuss the details on this topic. As always, drop in with your valuable feedback and advice. Until next, ciao!

 

Agile Development, Behavior Modeling & Design, Business Analysis, Information Technology, Product Development, Requirements Development, User Experience

Ever since the role of Business Analyst came into being, they have been associated with one specific area more than anything else. That is requirements and over the last four decades or so, the words analysts and analysis  have become synonymous with requirements.  In a traditional project or product development context,one of the frequently asked questions for a Business Analyst undoubtedly  is “Where are the requirements?”. However, in the recent times of agile methodologies and lean processes, like all other roles in technology and business, BAs too have had a significant makeover. In this post, I will touch upon this transition and look at the all powerful tool kit of the new age business analysts.

Texavi_NBA_Transformation

Business Analyst as the owner of requirements 

BAs traditionally had been responsible primarily for requirements in a product development or project execution scenario. Even though the role of business analyst involves right from the pre-sales stage all the way through to the project delivery, their focus area had always been scoping and requirements areas. BAs traditionally had their mainstay contribution to the product/project starting with requirements gathering, and then specifying and documenting requirements and communicating them to the stakeholders ranging from the management to the team members and from customers to the end-users.

Not just requirements in terms of the functionality, the influence and focus areas of the analyst could well be extended to some of the adjacent areas. Besides requirements, the reach of the BA would still be restricted to the peripheral aspects such as vision, scope and roadmap for the product, system, process or business in question. BAs have been made the masters and owners of requirements. This has been the case with the various roles, forms and names of the business analyst – be it a business consultant, product specialist, functional consultant or a domain expert.

Traditional meaning and scope of requirements

 So, what exactly do I mean by requirements in the traditional sense of the business analyst’s focus? Let me clarify this very important point with some examples. Requirements traditionally meant the long list of documents that ran into hundreds and thousands of pages. Some were called as Business Requirements Documents (BRD) while some others were referred to in the eighties and nineties as System Requirements Specifications (SRS) during the time of SSAD (Structured Systems Analysis and Design) times. As we moved slowly into the software analysis and development, the focus of the BAs slowly shifted into writing Functional Requirements Specification (FRS) and Software Requirements Specification (SRS) documents. You can notice that its just a change of the name, however the perspective, work and the output of the analysts still remained the same.

NBA_Texavi_Blog_31Jan2014

New age BA goes beyond documentation

In the age and times that we now live in, virtually everyone and everything  is going digital, mobile, agile and social. Like all other professions and roles which have undergone a huge shift, BAs too have had a significant change, after a really long time. The actual transformation in the role, responsibilities and contribution of the analysts came with the introduction of agile development methodologies like SCRUM, BDD (Behaviour Driven Development) and User Stories.  As we started implementing more and more agile and lean methodologies in the businesses, products and projects, the role of the business analysts has a far reaching impact on how the end products or processes shape up.

Texavi on the NBA requirements and communication

Today’s analysts need to move beyond the realms of requirements area and become more versatile and tech-savvy. All the way from interactions with key stakeholders through to the time the product or process has been delivered, the new age BA has to actually work with the team members. Analysts have to actively engage with various people involved in the project, product, process or business context and work alongside them analyse, design, develop, deliver and continually enhance the solution. This means that the analysts have to now create various artefacts such as the product backlog, user stories, wireframes, domain models, solutions models, prototypes and test cases, to name a few. I will discuss the details  of how the new age business analyst creates and works with these more effectively, in a separate post.

Hope you found the post useful – like always, please feel free to drop in with your valuable feedback. Until next post, ciao!

 

 

Agile Development, Business Analysis, Information Technology, Product Development, Social business, User Experience

In an age of rapid changes in the business, technology and lifestyles, organisations and individuals alike have to be adaptive. Business Analysts are not an exception to this much alike the other professionals. What does it take to be a modern day business analyst. Is it just the logical thinking, sound communication skills, good domain knowledge? Yes, these are all necessary but not sufficient. The modern day business analysts have to be agile, suave and tech savvy. They need to be adaptive and quick to embrace change, not just to survive but to succeed. In this post, we will look at what it takes to be a successful business analyst in this new-age of digital, mobile, agile and social times.

Transformation of business analysis in the new-age

Business analysis today is less of writing requirements in long documents and more of working with the design and development team. Its about owning the product roadmap, business strategy and/or the organisational processes. Gone are the days of writing up functional specifications documents running into hundreds and thousands of pages, spending months and years. Its the time for them to be agile and lean, and move on from being traditional verbose document writers. So business analysts today have to write user stories, create wireframes and mockups, model problems and solutions, validate and test the functionality.  They must be open to change and pro-actively understand the impact of changes on business, technology, products and people.

NBA_platform_Definition_Framework

Business analysis is changing and how

From a traditional perspective,  BAs needed to be good with communication skills. They were positioned as domain experts and to some extent looked up as product specialists. Some analysts have been positioned as specialists in business process management. However, in the last few years, business analysts have moved on from mere requirements owners to product/process owners. With the extensive use of agile practices, business analysts too emerged as the change management experts. In this digital, mobile, agile and social age, the focus of business analyst has shifted to user stories, customers and users engagement, stakeholder management, modeling domain, problems and solutions. In short, the modern day business analyst is versatile, cross-disciplined, tech-savvy, agile  and a team-working professional.

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The new-age Business Analyst’s toolset

I give below a diagrammatic representation of the toolset for the modern day business analysts. This provides a snapshot of the fundamental set of skills and knowledge that power the BAs today.

NBA_BA_Skills-and-knowledge_Toolset

Alongside the mainstream skills, the business analyst needs to be a master of communication and leadership skills. From interacting with the key stakeholders, engaging with customers and users, and working alongside the team members, business analysts must have excellent “people skills”.  Also, technology has been playing a key role in the design, development and delivery of products and services today. So, needless to say that the business analysts today have to be aware of the technologies, platforms and the application of these technologies to business context. I don’t however see that the business analysts have to be experts in technology but then they must be able to use technical applications, tools and methods to understand problems and help create solutions. Also, the new-age BAs have to be creative and be equally good with the right brain as much as they are comfortable with the data and analytics.

Hope you find this post useful – as always, please feel free to get back with your review comments and helpful feedback. On behalf of Team Texavi, I wish you and your loved ones a very Happy New Year, 2014! May your personal and professional lives be filled with joy, prosperity and success! Until next post, ciao!

         

 

 

Behavior Modeling & Design, Business Analysis, Events, Information Technology, Innovation, Mobile, Product Development, User Experience

Look around you and what you find everywhere being used by almost everybody is no surprise. Yes, Mobile has taken us by storm and no doubt that its one of the most happening thing in the modern age. There are positive aspects and as some say, more negative effects to this Mobile revolution. From large global technology organisations to small, local startups  jumping on the bandwagon, Mobile has indeed become a potential mega-trend of the 21st century. As Mobile is fast becoming a pervasive, persuasive and personal technology choice, you might wonder what makes the Mobile tick and wish to know about the key ingredients behind its success. In this post, I will touch upon the things that make Mobile the most sought-after medium of communication and interaction in this day and age. Also of note is, this is one of the topics at Texavi’s IMAGINEERING – INDIA, 2013 conference to be hosted in Hyderabad and Mumbai, India in Aug,2013.

The Mobile Eco-system – Sum, not just parts

First, let us try and define what Mobile really means before we get any further. Is it the phone(device), the operating system that runs in it, the network that enables it or the apps that user? Well, its not just one or the other, but all of these and much more that make up the Mobile. There is no denying of the success of the Mobile platforms and the ubiquity of the smartphones that pushed the penetration and usage of Mobile. Also, the wide range of networking and communication technologies e.g., GSM, CDMA, Edge, 3G etc. make it a compelling case for the rapid build-up and penetration. And yes, you can’t also discount the sudden impetus provided by the affordable Mobile apps. So, it’s the sum-total of all the components in the eco system that have contributed to the success of Mobile. I present this view in a graphic below to sum up the components that make up this Mobile eco-system.

TheMobileEcoSystem_Texavi

Pervasive – Anywhere, anytime…

The biggest driving factor for the success of Mobile is its ability for being pervasive. It is this anytime, anywhere, the always on and always accessible aspect of Mobile that contributed big time to its wide spread usage all over the world. The portable form factor of the device, the supporting communication networks all make it a really pervasive technology. There is no question that the powerful combination of the Mobile platform, networks, devices and apps make it virtually anytime, anywhere.Also,increasingly the ubiquitous Mobile apps have only added to the pervasive nature of Mobile. I have put together a diagram (shown below) to depict the positives, not so positives and the neutral aspects of the Mobile, as we see them today.

Mobile_Pervasive_persuasive_personal_Texavi_final

Persuasive – Why Mobile makes it compelling

From the school student to the retired grand parents, Mobile has found its place in the hands of almost everybody. It doesn’t require a certain person with specific education, work experience, technology-savviness and employment credibility to start using Mobile. The beauty of the Mobile is its appeal to one and all, irrespective of the background, potential or skills. With the later generations of the Mobile devices, improvement of the networking technology, and the availability of the applications, Mobile has picked up momentum.  Increasingly, with time and over the generations of the Mobile devices and technologies, its not getting just easy to use  for the existing users, but also easy to learn to use for the new users.

Personal and private – From possessive to hazardous

During the late 80’s the PC came in and conquered the whole world, making the computers personal. Then came the block/brick phones as I they were popularly referred to.  Slowly the Mobiles have reached far and wide across the world and now it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that some are not happy with just one Mobile at their disposal. With a wide choice of devices, platforms and networks available to the consumers, Mobile is definitely getting more personal and personalised. From details of the contacts, official and personal eMails, chats and conversations, photos and videos, Mobiles have virtually become your second personae. Aside all these positives, there is also the potential hazards to privacy and security of personal data.

Wearable Technology  – Wear it on your sleeve

Besides the personal and portable aspects of Mobile, in the last couple years, wearable technology has been placed in the same league as 3D Printing. From the much-touted smart watches to the small fitness devices which one can carry on them, there has been a surge in the wearable technologies. Move over the Bluetooth-enabled ear-pieces, Mobile phones are now acquiring a new meaning of wearability. These come in different shapes and sizes ranging from the smart watches and fitness devices such as Fitbit, Jawbone Up and Nike Fuel, wearable technology is now coming of age. Mobile is only powering this wearable technology revolution and we might see more interesting use cases in the near future.

sony-smartwatch-android-watch

As you would have noticed, what I have mentioned above is merely touching the surface and there is more to Mobile than meets the eye. To get a detailed perspective, come join us at the Texavi’s IMAGINEERING – INDIA, 2013 Conference to be hosted in Hyderabad and Mumbai in Aug, 2013. Until next post, ciao!

Agile Development, Behavior Modeling & Design, Business Analysis, Innovation, Product Development, User Analysis, User Experience, User-centered Design

There is one news item that I have been following very keenly in the evening newspaper , going back home from work, daily. It caught my attention a week ago and ever since, it has been on my radar. The news is not  related to the bad state of economy, nor  connected with  sports , movies or  music. It is the ‘Get London Reading’  news story  published on the front page of  London Evening Standard newspaper.  This caught my attention because of the very title of the campaign and the positive vibes being generated and the potential impact and change it would create. The very title of this initiative is a great example of a behavior  definition, nevertheless if it is a tad bit broad and ambitious, if not ambiguous.

Behavior change is possible

In my last post, we looked at what behaviors are and the main types of behaviors. Some people actually asked me the difference between a behavior, goal and task. When I have seen the ‘Get London Reading’  campaign, it instantly occurred to me as an example to help clarify this. A quick look at the campaign page hosted online will give you an indication why I refer to this as an exemplary behavior change programme.  Well, in this post , let us take the next step and understand the Behavior Model touching upon the relationship between motivation, ability and triggers.  I wish to draw some insights from Fogg Behavior Model (aka FBM)  proposed by Prof. B.J.Fogg, using my examples.

The Poppy Appeal – Persuasion success story

A couple weeks ago, people in the UK observed Remembrance Sunday paying tributes to the armed forces personnel who sacrificed their lives in the line of  service.  People from all walks of life came forward to commemorate the bravery of  soldiers  in various ways. There were  donations collected in different forms , the most visible of them being the Web site making the ‘poppy appeal’  and of  course, the sale of poppies on the roads. You would have seen  many people in London and other cities wearing and flaunting these poppies proudly, to show their support to the Royal British Legion. The poppy appeal  program is a massive hit, garnering generous amounts of funds, besides all the attention. I wish to take the poppy appeal case as a success s story to elaborate my case about persuasion and behavior change.

    

Will do -> Want to do + can do

Let us consider a case when somebody comes and asks you to donate funds for the cause of soldiers. How many people will  donate  the money? Notice that some people do want  to donate, because it is serving the noble  cause  of  helping the defence services personnel, albeit  in a small way. But not always do you find that all these motivated people can actually give.  So, it is not enough to want to give funds, but  most importantly, people should also have the ability to donate amounts. Great, so you found some people who want to and also who can donate. Is the job done? Not exactly. They need to be asked, reminded and provided with ways to  donate . These are all the various triggers  used to facilitate these motivated and able people to take the step and donate the amounts. Then and only then, would the motivated and able people come forward to donate.

Fogg Behavior Model (FBM)

So, from the above example, let us try and generalize this  using the Behavior Model proposed by Prof. B.J.Fogg, Director of Persuasive Technologies Lab, Stanford University. You would have understood that people will do a task, not only when they  are motivated but also when they have the  ability.  In other words, the first step in the process of behavior change is to identify those people who have high motivation.  The next step is to simplify the task or  process, or to increase their ability to do the task.

However, it does not always happen that these people actually do the tasks, until they are triggered with the right call to action. These triggers have to be placed on the journeys or paths of these people,  at the right time, in the right place and with the right visibility. That’s the secret  behind many successful products and services, which have been able to bring about a behavior change  in their users.

Change is in the air – Lean & agile

You  would have seen that this persuasion and behavior modeling is all about change, but change of a different kind.  Organizations and products have been trying to induce the behavior change in the people.  The beauty of this model is that it perfectly aligns with the spirit of other successful contemporary models for change management . These include  but not limited to Agile product development and lean startup. All these models and schools of thought have an almost similar ideology. Agile product development is about identifying and responding and managing changes with the right people, tools and techniques. Lean startup embraces the philosophy of doing something in a small way leading up to a gradual and sustainable growth model.  The behavior model encompassing behavior  modeling, behavior change and persuasive design combines the best practices from psychology, change management, design and product  engineering areas.

Mantras for changing behaviors

FBM is a powerful model which is applicable across different industries, product lines and market segments. It is very apt in the scenarios where you wish to make a long term behavior change, with an aim to make a positive habit among your customers and users. Here are some tips and guidelines, given by Prof. Fogg, based on the points discussed in this post.

  • Behavior depends on how motivated users are, their  ability and response to the right triggers for action
  • People’s behaviors can be changed by motivating them, making it simple and/or  inciting them to act
  • Place triggers on the paths of motivated people who are able to do the behaviors
  • Habits can be formed in people through behavior change
  • Focus on increasing ability by making tasks easier for users
  • Help people  do what  they already want to do

Hope you enjoyed reading this post and it is as helpful to you as the previous ones. Until next post, ciao!

Behavior Modeling & Design, Innovation, Product Development, User Experience, User-centered Design

Behavior change it is, if you are wondering what’s hot in the consumer space. I see this as a game changer , with organizations now looking beyond satisfying the explicit needs of users. Simply put, as a product or a services company, you have the power  to change the behavior of your users. Apple, Google and Facebook  are great examples of  how well they understood the behavior modeling and persuasive design and successfully applied it in their products.  Numerous products such as FitBit and DailyFeats-Jawbone UP  use similar concepts to make people fit and healthy, bringing about a change in their long term habits, resulting in better health and lifestyles. We will talk about these products in the coming posts, in detail, but in this post I focus on the ‘persuasion and behavior design’ boot camp that I attended recently.

      

 Persuasion and Behavior Design Boot Camp by Prof. B.J.Fogg

Last week I participated in the 2-day Persuasion Boot Camp held at San Francisco, USA. The workshop was conducted by Prof. B.J.Fogg, Director of Persuasive Technologies Lab, Stanford University. It was a great experience, learning directly from Prof.Fogg, who is an eminent thought-leader on this subject. In this post, I will briefly touch upon the next 2 paragraphs with my views and then give a few snippets and key takeaways from the workshop. I wish to share with you the learning from this workshop and also my experience applying it. Watch this space for interesting stuff to come in the future posts. For complete set of photos from this workshop, please visit www.facebook.com/texavi

Essence of Boot Camp in few words

I give below a few points briefly on how the workshop was conducted, why I think its different from others and the important takeaways from the boot camp. To start with, the following one-liners summarize the learning.

  • Its all about users’ behaviors, not just product’s features
  • Solutions, not just problems
  • Focus on creating solutions quickly
  • Ideate, initiate & Iterate
  • This model aligns with the agile development and lean startup
   

Myths and misconceptions, shattered

The workshop helped address a few myths that we have about product design, development, human psychology and behavior design. I mention below a few misconceptions prevalent in the industry that we should be wary of .

  • Blind trust in excessive academic research
  • Focus on features  is important for products
  • Attempts to motivating people on a continuous basis without simplifying the tasks
  • Focusing on attitudes, instead of behaviors.
  • Everything big is good – big ideas and big initiatives are always successful
  • Its difficult to make people adopt to new behaviors

Great content and context

The workshop was refreshingly different not only in the content but also in the context and delivery.  Open-house discussions and interactive brain-storming replaced the more traditional ways of presentations. I can say that the highlight of the boot camp was that there was little or almost no usage of computers and Powerpoint presentations. Going by its apt title, the boot camp did its job aiming to make the participants experts in the specific areas. Prof. Fogg chose the topics very carefully and was even more meticulous in their delivery. He ensured that the core concepts are registered in the minds of boot campers using intensive hands-on sessions and role-plays rather than relying on typical pedagogic methodology.

  

Nice ambiance and a perfect setting

Far from the maddening buzz of the urban landscape, the workshop was conducted in serene ambience.  Held in a beautiful guest house located by the riverside, the place was the best fit for learning and sharing . Also Healdsburg is a place surrounded with fertile land and so there is no dearth of natural vegetation. Every household here grows vegetables and fruits and no wonder you get the best quality natural products, direct from nature. This place also boasts of some fine vineyards and wineries around. All of these provide a great backdrop and a wonderful setting for the workshop.

  

And to wrap it up…

  • Good use of different rooms and sometimes outdoors kept the workshop alive and participants active
  • Outdoor activities and exercises were nice, thanks to the pleasant weather
  • Perfect blend of individual and group exercises made the sessions insightful and interactive, as well
  • Assignments right after discussions ensured that we applied the concepts to understand better
  • Interactions with alumni and previous bootcampers helped understand the value of the boot camp
  • Last but not the least, nice food and to top it all, a grand dinner  arranged by the local wine trader
In the next few posts, I shall write more on the behavior model and how you can use the behavior design to create persuasive products and services. Hope you enjoyed reading this post. Until next one, ciao!
Business Analysis, Business Case, Information Technology, Innovation, Product Development, User Analysis, User Experience

As you all know, during the recently held “Lets talk iPhone” event, Apple officially announced the launch of  iPhone4S, iOS5 and iCloud. While it was a disappointment to some people who were expecting the big upgrade to iPhone4, that’s beside the point I want to make in this post. Rewind to April2010, when Apple first launched iPad, as the first ever consumer Tablet in the market. There was a knee-jerk reaction from lot of people, who rejected Apple’s new Tablet concept. There were more naysayers who expressed that they didn’t find any use for it and that the iPad was just a “glorified and bigger iPhone which can’t be used for calls”.  Its everybody’s knowledge how that perception and reactions changed drastically over a period of time. Apple created the undisputed benchmark and a leader in the Tablets market, with many more companies bucking the trend and releasing their me-too versions. In this post, let us look at what it takes to create great products by managing users’ reactions and how you can better define the product.

Great products vs. good products

Some times, you would have come across products that not only have features and functionality to help you do the mundane tasks, but also fit in very well into your life and work. Discerning readers like you are very well aware that there is a difference between great products and good products. Great products differ in that they offer rich context, enable users to realize their goals and enchant them satisfying their implicit and unmet needs. These often go beyond the briefing and provide more than just nice features. Its true that not all products are created with this intent and that they gain users’ acceptance slowly over time.

iPhone and iPad

How users relate and adopt to new products

I have seen an almost pattern-like behavior from users on how they react to products launched as groundbreaking new concepts which go on to become a huge success. I call this the 5A model of User reactions to new products. It starts with an almost hatred like feeling towards the new product. This is because users develop habits with the existing products and are happy using them the way they are. They perceive the new product as a change and a potential threat to their comfort. This could be because of the innate behavior of aversion to change and anything new. Then over time, due to various factors, both external and internal, customers tend to develop an acquired taste for the product.

The 5A model for product adoption

The perceptions and reactions of users to new products almost always follows a gradual progression of steps leading to great adoration for the products. I am not sure if anybody has patented this model already, but these terms came to my mind 3 months ago, when I was working on a new concept product for one of my clients.

  1. Aversion
  2. Acceptance
  3. Admiration
  4. Aspiration
  5. Adoration

I observed this model applicable to many successful products, tracing back to the times of their launch, how they changed with marketing, alignment to business and better product definition.  One of the most successful product companies, Apple and its successful creation, the iPad are not an exception to this model, as we discussed above.

Ask what you are creating

The trickiest thing in developing new products is in understanding, defining and communicating what your product is and what it can do. Most products fail, not because they are designed badly or implemented in a technically incorrect way. They fail because the product vendors could not communicate the purpose and benefits of the product clearly to the customers and users. Or worse still, products are hit the hardest, when the product owners themselves are not clear about the vision and definition of their product.

How to define your new product

Innovation and thinking differently often help you in defining your product, which is a first step in paving the way for its success. The standing example for a successful application of innovation with thinking big is Metamorphosi which changed the way lamps and lighting are created.

Lighting Solution, not just a lamp  Metamorfosi_lighting_solution

While every other player in this market thinks of creating better and attractive table lamps, Artemide realized that they are not merely creating lamps, but helping keep people in better mood through their lighting. So, they decided their product definition as not just as a lamp, but a ‘lighting solution’! Small wonder that Artemide and Metamorfosi are equated to innovation in the home decor segment that triggered many admirers, followers and copy cats too, all around the world.

New product development checklist

The critical success factor in the product development is having a clear vision, direction and purpose for the product or application, that you are creating. You need to define the scope, intent and content of your product, which help in translating the vision into the product design, development and delivery. It is often necessary to go beyond the immediate form and name of the product under description. Do not get attached to, nor be limited by the physical aspects of your product. I always do a check with the following parameters to decide how well we are doing and whether we are on the right path. I use these as a definitive check list to assess the potential success of your product or concept.

  • Business viability
  • Technical feasibility
  • Product usability
  • Resource availability
  • Consistent Quality

The above factors play a decisive and definitive role in the assessment of your product’s potential and performance. Do not underestimate the potential of validating your product against this check list. This would give you a very good measure of how your product is faring and in what direction it is heading to. You can then take necessary course correction and take preventive steps to steer your product back on track. We can talk in detail about applying each of these in the context of your new product, in a separate blog post.

Hope you found this post informative and usable. Happy Diwali to all my Indian friends and followers. Until next post, ciao!

 

Information Technology, Innovation, Interaction Design, Product Development, User Analysis, User Experience

After all these years of my experience in engineering software products and applications, I realized that there is one phrase that I tend to hate the most. No, its not “Give me a ballpark estimate” or “I need this delivered by e.o.d. today”, though these come close enough to be 1st and 2nd  runners-up :). The one I am referring to is “Let users figure it out”. It is a nemesis to developing successful products, often resulting in a shoddy product.  The “Figure-it-out” syndrome as what I call it,  could be an evil for product development which can be as bad as, if not worse than Featuritis. The plausible cure for this syndrome is when the product is made easy to use for those people who are using it for the first time. In this post, I touch upon the ease of learning and use and give some tips about making your products a breeze for your users.

Easy to learn and use

Let us be honest, how many of us got trained on using the ATM card to withdraw money from a cash machine? At the least, how many went through the user manual, supplied? Popularly known as Any Time Money, the Automatic Teller Machine was conceptualized and designed so that users from different segments can get to use it with little or no effort. This is a classic case of designing a product which is not just easy to use, but also easy to learn for new users as well. Easy to learn and use a product is a critical yardstick to measure its success and is often ignored to a large extent for various reasons. Lacking this, a product might become a nightmare and the product or feature puts off not only novice users but also some experienced users, some times.

New user scared of technology product :)

But then it has the ‘user manual’

Training, setup guides, user manuals, glossary, help docs and other such documents are meant to support the new users in coming to grips with the product. Like a site map which provides a clear guide on how a web site is structured, most of the above artifacts are meant to make it really easy for the users. But then, there is a view prevalent among the Design community that site map comes handy only when a web site is not usable by itself. In other words, only when users are confused, puzzled and left with no option, that they would look at a site map. So is the case with the supporting documents and help guides that I mentioned above. No matter how effective and efficient your technical writing team is, your documentation goes often into the dust bin. The golden rule is ‘Customers and users don’t read user manuals!‘. Bear in mind that these are good supporting aids but they can never replace a well-designed product.

The ‘Figure it out’ syndrome

Whether its the apathy towards customers and users, or the need for speed in delivering the product to market, the figure-it-out tendency gains ground with the product development team. You don’t suddenly wake up one fine morning with the syndrome. It gets built up over time and plagues your product and users to no end. Here are the factors that can potentially contribute to it…lack of empathy and concern for users, a frog-in-a-well approach. Also, an unwritten but strictly-followed preference attached to functionality and technology over user experience tilts the scales against making the product intuitive.

Don’t undermine the impact of this syndrome, it could be long term, deep cut and manifold. It affects not just the product creators – the stakeholders and the development team but also the product consumers. For the creators, due to the relatively short-sighted  aspects of their planning and execution, there will be heavy overheads of customer-reported defects leading almost to a total rejection of the product by the users.  Some of the products tend to be so overly complicated for new users that they instantly give up and return them or pass on to others. There are umpteen examples of products which flopped not for their technological maneuvers, nor for their functional richness but merely because they are rather too complicated for users to start using it.

Steps for ease of learning and use

The first step in making your products easy to learn and use, is to know your users. There is an oft quoted saying in the User Experience industry that tells it all – “Know thy user and you are not your user”.  The next step is to design and develop the product in such a way that it is intuitive and clear for users. Cluttered and dense interfaces, confusing controls, unclear messages, lack of help when needed- all of these make it hard for your new users.  As Steve Krug puts it in his book, ‘Don’t make me think’, the moment you let your users start thinking about how to use any feature or functionality, you start to lose the user ‘s interest.  Also, there should be a flow that lets users feel immersed when doing a task. This would make them not only feel that they accomplished the task but also delighted. I would equate this to the concept of flow as explained by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his classic book on psychology – “Flow: the psychology of optimal experience”.

yes, don't make them think   Let there be a flow with the tasks in your product

Who are you creating the product for

To be able to design your product better for ease of learning and use, you need to clearly identify who you are creating the product for. Going back to the ATM card example which we discussed above, the product was intended to be used by the larger number of users with little or no literacy, who would have never seen, leave alone using a computer before in their life. It was designed and developed knowing fully well that it needs to work with all the users with different backgrounds and literacy levels.

Atm machine in use   Monk using ATM machine

The beauty of the ATM product lies in that they cleverly disguised a computer into the machine. Without users’ knowledge, they are actually using a computer and its all made so much of a breeze to use it. No wonder, the concept and product caught up and it has changed the very definition of  ‘banking’ on a global scale.  Another case in point is Intuit’s QuickBooks. While every other accounting product in the market was geared towards the accountants and qualified book keeping professionals, Intuit understood that there is a huge demand for a simplified accounting product for the non-accountants and novices. They launched QuickBooks with the sole focus on this segment of users and today it is the most successful product in that segment, popular for its ease of use among new and expert users, as well.    

QuickBooks - Accounting made simple for non-accountants

Expertise and experience make a big difference

I would suggest that you classify your existing and/or potential users, based on the following:

  • Demographics
  • Education and computer literacy
  • Professional
  • Psycho-graphic (attitudes, likes and behaviors)
  • Tasks and scenarios

More importantly, to make your product easy to use, you must first profile your users based on the product usage experience. The following is a typical way of classifying the user groups, but you can adapt this and modify it to suit your needs.

  • Novice /beginners
  • Intermediate
  • Advance
  • Expert/experience

Specify your target

Now that you had a considerable start in the path of creating a great product, you now need to ensure that you have the right pick. The list below will help you in approaching the product definition in a structured way.
  • Identify the composition and distribution of your existing and proposed user base
  • Have a clear markup of the proportion of new users vis-a-vis advanced or expert users
  • Specify which of the above user types you will target with the product
  • This is applicable equally to the features and functionality and not only to the entire product

Here is how you can make IT easy

Beside the above suggestions from my experience, I offer a few other tips below to do a quick check on how effective your product or feature in the scale of ease of learning and use. You might use these as guidelines during the design and development of the product or as checkpoints to validate the features and functionality in your product. I am classifying them into the typical buckets of user experience, so that its easy to assess them individually.

Functionality

  • What can I do with this product?
  • What do I need to do, so that I can achieve my goals?

Navigation

  • Where am I now?
  • Where can I go from here?

Interaction

  • What should I do to make this work?
  • How responsive is it to my inputs?

Presentation

  • Does this look pleasing to my eyes?
  • Am I distorting anything to make it appear what it is not?

Help

  • Can I get help when I need?
  • Is help provided when I require it?

As always, hope you find this post informative and useful. Please do give me your feedback. Until next post, ciao!

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