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

Often times this thought come across to me as to what makes people choose their professions. Is it their interest, aptitude, passion or simply demand in the market? I think its not just one of these but a combination of all of these that make up the professionals that we are all today. From a doctor to an engineer, from an entrepreneur to a scientist, everyone has a choice to make and that pretty much defines how they get set into what they do as their career. Looking closely at an analyst or rather more appropriately a Business Analyst, its amply clear that the role does have specific requirements, demands and expectations. Not everyone would like to be a Business Analyst and not everyone would be a good Business Analyst. So, what is it that makes one a suitable New-Age Business Analyst? In this post, let us look at some of the key factors, skills and attitudes that are the qualities of the New-Age Business Analyst.

Business Analysis is an art and a science

Yes, its indeed the most under-stated fact that business analysis is both an art as well as science. One needs to have the flair for analysis, reasoning, communication, identifying problems and facilitating in creation of solutions. A good business analyst is passionate, enthusiastic and a continuous learner. On the other hand, there is also no denying the fact that to be a a better business analyst, you need to learn the right tools and techniques to hone your analysis skills. From the SWOT technique to various notations such as BPMN ( Business Process Modeling Notation) and UML ( Unified Modeling Language) almost everything can be learnt and mastered as a discipline on a scientific basis. I will touch upon the nuances of these tools, techniques and methods in the future posts.

The various avatars of a Business Analyst

First off, let us understand and define the various names, forms of a business analyst. From a business consultant to a product specialist and various other roles, business analysts have been known by different names. I have come across some roles such as Domain Expert and Functional Consultant too. You might notice that the Business Analyst as we know cut across different industries and verticals. This ranges from Banking, Manufacturing, Information Technology, to name a few. I give below a diagram which shows the numerous avatars of the Business Analyst. Though this is not comprehensive, it pretty well presents a picture to drive home the point that the Business Analyst comes in various packages – shapes, sizes, colours, names and forms. However, you will notice that the core work remains the same, which is what we will refer in the later sections of this post.

Identity of a BA

 

Focus Areas of a New-Age Business Analyst

The main areas that a new-age business analyst focuses on are Business, Product, People and Communication. Unlike the popular perception, it is not technology, nor projects that would interest a business analyst. As the name suggests Business is the paramount factor for a BA and up next is the product focus and product thinking. No business analysis is complete if it does not touch upon the people aspect. From customers, users and team members to stakeholders and management, business analyst has to cater to the various ‘people’ involved. And if you ask me to name that one thing that separates the New-Age Business Analysts from all other analysts, it is communication. I created the image below to represent the focus areas and priorities of the new-age business analyst.

Focus areas

You can notice that the following are the priorities for the new-age BA:

  • What and Why, over How
  • Problems over Solutions
  • Product over Project
  • Facilitation over Implementation

Hope this post helped you in understanding the basic skillsets of the new-age BA. We will discuss more on this in the upcoming posts on New-Age Business Analyst. Until next time, Ciao!

Agile Development, Business Analysis, Conference, Events, Information Technology, Innovation, Mobile, Product Development, Social Technologies, User Experience, User-centered Design

I am both happy and proud to announce the launch of Texavi’s IMAGINEERING conference. As part of the IMAGINEERING series of events, Team Texavi is hosting the IMAGINEERING – INDIA, 2013 conferences in India. The theme for this year’s event is Technology trends, challenges and opportunities in the times of Digital. Mobile. Agile. Social. The conference will have talks, panel discussions, special sessions, exercises, activities, fun and more. We have got a great lineup of eminent speakers on our elite panel, leaders who have been there, done that in the IT industry. This year, we are hosting the conference in Hyderabad on Friday, 23rd Aug,2013 and in Mumbai on Friday, 30th Aug 2013. In this blogpost, I will touch upon the motivation and bring into fore a few facts about the upcoming Texavi’s IMAGINEERING – INDIA, 2013 conference. Hope these will help in making a strong case and encourage you to be part of the event.

1. What is this conference all about

Texavi's IMAGINEERING - Main Theme

The IMAGINEERING – INDIA, 2013 is a conference for the  IT community organised by the IT community. It focuses on the topics and issues  that matter for IT professionals. The theme of the conference this year is Technology trends, challenges and opportunities in the times of Digital. Mobile. Agile. Social. We are living in an ever-changing world full of digitised and increasingly portable solutions. As they say change is the only constant thing, now more than ever, we have a need to be prepared, respond and manage change in a more effective and efficient manner. And then there is no denying that going social (and using the popular social and professional networks) is not an option anymore, for businesses and individuals too. So, it can safely be argued that the IMAGINEERING conference dwells on the most important, current and pertinent topics and issues for the IT community.

2. Theme and focus areas

With environment-friendly, cost-effective and accessible solutions, the digital, mobile, agile and social solutions are having a significant impact on the way we live, work and relate to each other. They help shape up and make us better equipped to face the ever-changing world. However,alongside the opportunities and benefits, these also bring forth numerous challenges in the form of intrusion into privacy, potential risks to health, hazards to the future generations of humankind and the long term impact on the sustainability of our Planet Earth. There is no better time and place to pause and ponder about these, than at the IMAGINEERING – INDIA, 2013 conference.

 

Texavi_IMAGINEERING_Themes

 

3. Who is the IMAGINEERING conference for

Texavi’s IMAGINEERING  – INDIA, 2013 is a compelling platform targeted for all the experienced, young and aspiring IT professionals in India. From the core IT workforce i.e., developers, analysts, designers and testers to the managers of projects, products and processes, IMAGINEERING 2013 caters to the needs and goals of the Indian IT professionals. The conference has everything you needed and more…from speeches by leaders to panel discussions, from career camps to contests, from interactive exercises to fun games and from useful insights and snippets to great takeaways. With all these interesting and useful programmes, rest assured the IMAGINEERING – INDIA, 2013 conference packs quite a punch!

Texavi's IMAGINEERING - Who should attend

 

4. What makes IMAGINEERING – INDIA, 2013 so compelling

There are a host of things that makes the IMAGINEERING – INDIA, 2013 conference unmissable for the IT professionals. Great line-up of speakers, fantastic panels formed of eminent and prominent IT professionals, current and topical themes are just a few reasons urging you to be there. Besides these, we have planned some really cool, interactive,  informational and entertaining programmes to keep the participants engaged and glued to their seats. Alongside the physical takeaways of swag bags filled with usable goodies, the participants will have great insights and ideas to take away, relish and cherish even long after the event. The conferences will be hosted at centrally located and accessible venues with state-of-the-art facilities. Also, the registration process is kept really simple and straight-forward so that you join us quickly and without any fuss. And last but not the least, the ticket price is kept very competitive so that we get as many people as possible. These are but a few good reasons for you to sign-up for the event, at the earliest.

5. A glimpse at the programme

I am giving below a peep into the package and coverage of the conference. Of course, this is neither full nor final but it’s enough to give you an idea of what the IMAGINEERING – INDIA, 2013 will have. Needless to say, the event is packed with the right mix of programmes, topics and people to offer the participants an enriching and rewarding experience. These are all presented in interesting and engaging formats ranging from talks, panel discussions, exercises, games and fun activities. The whole event is focused on IT professionals and so obviously we have quite a few programmes on the careers such as job hunting support and career camps. I mention here a few topics that we have already identified that form the crux of the IMAGINEERING – INDIA, 2013 conference.

  • What’s the next BIG thing? Advantage IT! A peep into the future of technology and technologies of future!
  • Pervasive, persuasive and personal! How mobile devices and apps are shaping up our world!
  • It’s a connected, changing and shrinking world! Blending technology, people and business for success!
  • Past Perfect. Present Tense. Future­­ ??? Trends, challenges and opportunities in the IT industry
  • Designed in India. Made in the USA! Paradigm shifts impacting the IT industry and community
  • From Promise to Profit! Prioritising is key with the 3 PROs – Products, processes and projects!

Hope this post helps in setting the stage for the upcoming IMAGINEERING – INDIA, 2013 conference. Keep a watch on this blog for more interesting and insightful posts on the themes, topics and focus areas of the event. Until next post, ciao!

 

 

 

 

 

Agile Development, Business Analysis, Conference, Events, Information Technology, Innovation, Mobile, Social business, Social Technologies, User Experience, User-centered Design

I have this question constantly coming back to me and kept playing in my mind time and again. What makes a great product? What is it that creates successful brand, organisation or an individual? After thinking about it from all possible experiences and view points, I finally came to a conclusion. The answer came to my mind when I applied myself to various scenarios, situations,industries and domains. Yes, I found the answer!!! It is balance. I would like to use this connotation of balance to bring forth the importance of IMAGINEERING in our professional and personal lives. In this post, I wish to bring to you the meaning and potential of IMAGINEERING, as a run-up to Texavi’s upcoming conference IMAGINEERING – INDIA, 2013 in August this year.

Imagination is a natural instinct

They say that “Imagination takes you everywhere!”, how true! Yes, with the very mind that we have we can create and weave bundles of thoughts. These indeed can take us places and sitting in London, we can go to Miami or Mumbai. Of course, this same imagination makes us travel across time as well, from the present to the past and lets us dream peep into the  future too, in the form of dreams. This greatest power especially found in abundance in young children, is responsible to make us curious, enthusiastic, inquisitive and exciting. This adds the much-needed zing to our lives, which otherwise gets mundane and monotonous. Though not entirely related, imagination could be mapped to the emotional part of the human instincts.

Logic is critical for growth

But then the next question could be “is imagination everything that you  need?”. Well, the answer to this question is a resounding “NO”. It is important to have imagination, but its not just enough. We need logic to back up the emotional appeal, analysis should be the engine that should drive the vehicle forward. Intellect powers the development of human beings and it is the constant churning of WHY and HOW that leads us in the right path to reach the right goal quickly. Its logic that lends support to the otherwise fragile and weak facade of imagination. I would even say that logic and analytical bent of mind provides the string and controls the high-flying kite of imagination.

Imagineering – the true meaning

Having looked at both imagination and logic, by now you would agree with me that we need to make the best of both worlds. To get it right with anything in the world, from building a product to a creating a powerful brand, and from taking an individual from good to great, we need to strike the right balance between balance between imagination and engineering. In the context of developing successful products and services, imagineering, as I refer to it, could be the powerful combination of technology and business.  Whereas in the case of building a brand, balance should be between identity and image of that brand. And in the case of an individual’s personality development, what helps the most is the right balance between left and right brains, or rather harmony between heart and mind.

Why is Imagineering powerful

Simply put, if we take a case of a problem and solution, we need to balance imagination with engineering and that’s what I would refer to as Imagineering, a powerful combination of creativity and logic. I didn’t coin this term though, but found out that this terms was copyrighted by Disney. What one needs today in the world of me-too products is the clear differentiation whose value-add can be clearly seen by your customers and users. While both are equally important to create any product or solution, sometimes Imagination precedes Engineering while in other times vice-versa. What is more important and more prioritised between the two of these, depends on the factors like…

  • Stage in the life cycle
  • Availability of resources
  • Personality and/or mental makeup of the people concerned
  • Business drivers

Digital. Mobile.Agile.Social times

There have been umpteen instances in our careers and personal lives, where the digital, mobile, agile and social aspects have been influencing us either directly or indirectly. These are playing a significant role in the way we live, work, interact, connect and communicate with our customers, family members, friends and followers. I penned my thoughts, views and ideas about the web of influence these 4 themes have on our lives. The diagram below depicts in a sense the various meanings, influences, challenges and opportunities posed by the quartet of Digital, Mobile,Agile and Social.

Texavi's IMAGINEERING conf theme

 

Texavi’s IMAGINEERING – INDIA, 2013 Conference

I take this opportunity to announce Texavi’s conference IMAGINEERING – INDIA, 2013. The theme for this year’s conference is “Technology trends, challenges and opportunities in the times of Digital. Mobile. Agile. Social”. We have good 3 months for the conference, but Team Texavi have started the planning and preparations are in full swing. We have a fantastic lineup of speakers for the conference, and the agenda has been shaping up  pretty nice. I will share more details on the IMAGINEERING – INDIA, 2013 conference in the coming days. As a teaser, I present to you the logo of the IMAGINEERING – INDIA,2013 conference. This logo is the result of the hard work by the team, putting their mind, heart, and soul into creating something splendid and I must say the outcome has been a pleasing experience.

Texavi IMAGINEERING-INDIA, 2013 Conference Logo

 

As a run up to the Texavi’s IMAGINEERING – INDIA,2013 conference, I will be writing more posts in the next few weeks. Watch out for more details not just on the conference, but also around the related themes and perhaps some guest posts too. As always, keep writing and share your feedback. Till next time, ciao!

Behavior Modeling & Design, Business Analysis, Interaction Design, Product Development, Requirements Development, User Analysis, User Experience, User Studies, User-centered Design

“There is no Average Joe Bloggs” – reads the copy on the billboard advertisement of an insurance company. I couldn’t agree more with this, especially in the context of designing and developing new products for end users. No matter how much I like Statistics, we just cannot apply it to all things in our personal and professional lives. While its good to be number-savvy, we need to balance the quantitative with qualitative aspects, to get it right. More so in the case of product design and development, the “law of averages” doesn’t quite contribute to the successful product development. We are all familiar with the concept of user profiles and personas used in the design and development of products. These help a great deal in understanding the real needs and goals of your target audience. In this post, I will dwell on why designing for average users is a misconception and how we can make use of user profiles and personas in developing successful products.

All customers are not users

This is the biggest notion among my clients that customers are well, users of the products. Not always true! The good thing is that both customers and users are both people, the similarities end there.  I think that “Customers” is a favourite term for Marketers whereas Designers and User Experience professionals connect better with the term “Users”. Customers are the people who purchase your products and services, while consumers or users use these. In some cases or well, most cases customers and consumers are the same. As in the case of some daily use products, white goods, FMCG, customers and users are the same i.e., people who buy your products use them as well. But in the case of high-end products, enterprise applications and productivity solutions, buyers could be different from consumers. For instance, office supplies, financial services, technology products like computers etc., the people who pay are different from those who suggest. These in turn are different from the people who decide and yes, the people who actually use the products or services could be completely different from the above groups.

First, know your Users

Knowing your users is the most important step in the approach to developing great products. By knowing your users, I mean to say that you must understand the goals and needs of the users. This understanding will help you in shaping your product or service, make it more suitable and appealing for the users. You can’t just create a product in thin air and then retro-fit it to the benefit of some people. As they say, the most important question in any business is asking “whose needs is the idea/concept/product going to solve?” . Texavi’s Unified Experience Framework has a whole phase dedicated to help you get to this. The “Know the Needs of your Users” phase has all the tools, techniques and technologies to ensure that we understand the real needs of the users. These are often unwritten, untold, unexpressed and even unknown to the very users. So, its a big challenge to get to the real needs of the users.

Know the Needs of the Users - Texavi Unified Experience Framework

 

User profiling holds the key

It doesn’t make sense to design and develop your products for all the people in the whole world. There is a danger of missing out on most people, as they think it doesn’t suit their specific needs and goals. Also, on the extreme end, it doesn’t make sense to design your products for one or two users. This argument lends weight for some people to think the middle path and rely on the law of averages. So, they think that the best path is to design and develop for average user. But hold on, what is an average user? How can you get to that person and define the characteristics of average user? The answer to this question lies in the user profiles and personas. User profiles are essentially the characteristic grouping of users based on various properties, traits and behaviours. This doesn’t mean that you are defining an average user. Instead, you are trying to understand the essential aspects of your users.  Using the profiles and personas helps the team to have a common language of understanding. This not only helps them in having a good picture of the end users, but also gives them a great affinity to the users, because of the name, form and physical characteristics.

UserProfiles_Personas_Design

Personas – archetypes not stereotypes

You might have heard of the term “persona” used in the context of marketing, research and product design. A persona is a representative user from amongst the group, but does not point to one user from within the group. It is a powerful design tool that helps the design and development teams and client relate to the target audience. Persona is not a stereotype of the users, but rather an archetype from the user group. In a persona, you give a form, a name and a picture to the representative users, so that all the team members and concerned people can relate to that person more effectively and easily.

Persona - Texavi example

 

Benefits of user profiles and personas

While there are many benefits of using the user profiles and personas in the product development life cycle, I list below a few of them that really stand out.

  • Understand the real users who you should target from amongst the many people in the population
  • Help prioritise the target segments within the groups of people
  • Know the real needs and goals of the target audience
  • Support in connecting and relating to the real needs of the users
  • Design, develop the products in a more practical and pragmatic manner
  • Evaluate and test the products, keeping the real users in mind
  • Minimise the effort, time and cost of development and rework

Hope you agree with me now that the average user is a myth and acknowledge the power of profiles and personas. Please keep writing in with your suggestions and comments. Till the next post, ciao!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Agile Development, Information Technology, Product Development, User Experience, User-centered Design

Today our lives revolve around the mobile, agile and social aspects that have global appeal along with local flavours. Their impact factors  could be attributed to the surge in various platforms, channels and devices that we use for both professional and personal lives. The PCs of the 90s are now complemented with the handy Smart Phones, ubiquitous Tablets and numerous trendy gadgets. Post (Snail mail) is giving way to Email, which in turn is waning in popularity compared to chatting, texting and gaming. There has been a massive shift in the roles of technology, business, products and services. Nowadays, there is one thing on the top of mind for clients, product designers and developers. No prizes for guessing the answer…Responsive Design! How can we deliver similar, if not identical experiences to our customers and users, despite the varied number and nature of the things around us? In this post, I will touch upon Responsive Design, as I see it in the light of delivering consistent and unified experiences.

The case for Responsive Design

Let us try and look at this from a technology perspective, especially computing technology at that. Till the late 90’s we were all familiar with the PC as an alternative to the manual operations. Back then there were only 3 major types – Windows, Mac and the more Open Source flavour – Unix. Applications and programmes had to be written specifically for 2 major mainstream platforms – Windows and Mac. Since the execution of the programmes depended completely on the underlying Operating System (O.S.), these had to be written and deployed specifically for these two platforms separately and explicitly. However with the advent of Java programming language, came the paradigm shift – “Write once, run anywhere”. In the early years of 21st century, Microsoft aggressively pushed its Dot Net platform and associated languages such as C-sharp. Both these were successful in ensuring the universal delivery and adoption of programmes and applications that were platform-agnostic.

The problem of plenty

New Technologies, same old problems

When the PC domination was waning, the cross-platform problem only got aggravated in exponential proportions. Thanks to the explosive usage of laptops in the early part of the 21st century, computing has gone mobile and portable. But this didn’t create many problems to the application and technology product vendors. Largely it was only the foot-print or size of the application that got impacted due to the new addition to the PCs. Following some other innovations in the programming and scripting languages, developers had some respite from grappling with re-writing massive applications to suit for multiple platforms. But it didn’t solve the problem completely. It only took a new shape with the onset of different browsers and their versions, numerous sizes, resolutions and vendors.

Solution to “the problem of plenty”

The good old sayings – “Variety is the spice of life” and “More the merrier” are applicable to most business scenarios and our own lives. However, with the advent of Internet and adoption of Smart Phones and Tablets, customers and consumers today are faced with the “problem of plenty”. This can be witnessed in the exponentially increasing numbers, varieties and ranges of platforms, operating systems, channels and devices. These are all increasing at such an alarming rate that often customers are pushed to the brink of confusion, chaos and frustration. But don’t lose your heart yet, there is a good news – the effective solution for these problems is a comprehensive  methodology  that comprises the approach, tools, techniques and resources. You can now analyse, design,develop, deliver and support solutions, products, applications for multiple platforms, channels, devices and browsers. In the following sections, we will look at how we can approach Responsive Design through the Unified Experience framework.

What is Responsive Design really

Design, by definition needs to meet the needs of the user in the right place, right time and right manner, of course, for the right users. Essentially, it is about creating products, applications and services that work and look the same across all systems, platforms and devices. While there are lot of definitions for Responsive Design, I would define it simply as designing, developing and delivering “Unified Experience“. Whether it is a product or service, the objective for product vendors is to deliver consistent, panoramic and unified experiences to their customers and users. Irrespective of the platforms, devices, underlying operating systems, numerous channels.

Responsive Design is Unified Experience

What makes a Design, Responsive Design

In the context of technology and programming, there had been a perennial debate on graceful degradation versus progressive enhancement.  Despite the growing number of platforms, operating systems and devices, users want consistent experience. This consistent experience can be delivered only when you take care of the underlying navigation, content, presentation, functionality and interactions. Don’t forget that the customers and users are the same, their profiles and personas are not varying across the different platforms or devices. The first step in this approach is to identify, specify and communicate clearly the problems, opportunities and needs. Then the the conception, conceptualisation and implementation of suitable solution will follow through smoothly and in a structured manner.

How to create Responsive Design – Tips & tricks

I give below a few guidelines to get it right with minimal rework, redesign and repurposing. When implemented initially in the development cycle of any product or application, these would help achieve the responsive design and offer optimal experience to your users.

  • Think ahead, far and wide
  • Build eco-systems not just stand-alone products and tools
  • Consider all possible options – short term, medium term and long term
  • Go beyond technologies, assess real business needs and goals
  • Use minimally the platform-specific services and components

Hope you got some insights about Responsive Design that you can take away and implement practically. Love to hear from you on how we can improve the Blog. Until next time, ciao and yes, Happy Easter!

 

Business Analysis, Information Technology, Innovation, Interaction Design, Product Development, User Experience, User-centered Design

When I talk to my clients about developing great products that offer fantastic User Experience, many of them ask me why, when and how to go about doing it. The most frequently asked question from customers is “what is that one thing that makes or breaks great user experience?”. My consistent response to them has always been one simple word that truly wields the real power. Yes, it is “Consistency”. That is the mantra for creating great products and services that stand the test of time, offering delightful experiences to customers and users! However, this by no means is a quick-fix, short-cut approach to creating successful products and services. In this post, I shall touch upon the important role consistency plays in offering compelling experiences to your customers and users.

Think different, but be consistent

In the constantly changing business and technology landscape that we are living in today, it is imperative that you have to stand out from the competitive me-too products and services in the crowded market place. There is a growing need for businesses and individuals to think and act different. This also works when you wish to develop a new product, concept or idea and especially with the start-ups. It is indeed the hallmark of good startups to be able to think differently from the others to cut the clutter and make their presence felt. However over a period of time, the product or service gets adopted and it gains sufficient market penetration and user acceptance. At that stage, having consistency in presentation and overall experience becomes critical for the long term success of the product.

Consistency – experience and expectations

What does consistency mean in a product development context? Does it mean repetition, cliche and mimicking the same, always and in all ways? No, on the contrary being consistent helps your users to focus on the right areas in your products so that they derive optimal usage experience. Consistency can be seen as an antidote to monotony and often the positives of being consistent far outweighs the negatives of being routine and repetitive. Do not restrict consistency to just one specific product of yours, but broad-basing it across the products in a product line would help your customers and users.  Consistency though largely is a broader concept, does vary to some extent based on the users’ culture and geography. The concept of “business” has remained the same all through the centuries. Customers and clients raise a PO (Purchase order) and vendors propose and offer their products /services and then raise an invoice/bill towards the products or services offered.  Customers then make payments to vendors against these invoices. This is a consistent way of engaging in business and doesn’t vary from country to country and also does not change with the times.

Sample this as a proof of why I think that consistency is of a great help to delivering great experience. People from across the different parts of the world have been driving cars over the last few decades. There have been a lot of  variants like petrol and diesel, differences in engine capacity and volumes.  Cars do come in different models, sizes and shapes  – sedans, SUVs, hatchbacks and so on. They also differ in the transmissions like manual and automatic. The steering wheel could be on the left or right side of the car, depending on which country you drive. However, no matter where you are driving, what type, model, size or shape of the car, the pedals for brake, clutch and accelerator (also called gas) are always in the same place and in the same order. From left to right, it will be clutch, brake and accelerator and its no doubt that this is what simplifies the driving experience for most of the car drivers in any part of the world. This is just one example of how being consistent helps the users to adopt the products quickly to their context, expectations and experiences formed.

Why be consistent?

Consistency when used in the right manner has the power of giving freedom to your users. It ensures that your users put their focus on the goal rather than the medium. I like to draw an analogy for this with the cinema screen and the projected movie. Consistency in your products is akin to audience watching the movie and enjoying themselves without getting distracted and disillusioned looking at the screen beneath the movie. It makes the experience smooth and lends flow and fluency to what the users look, learn and do within the product.

Let us look at some of the benefits of consistency

  • Is shaped on the prior experiences of users
  • Helps direct users’ attention
  • Sets the expectations of users
  • Delivers stability and safety of users, in a few instances
  • Aids users in strong brand and product association

Consistency doesn’t kill creativity

Quite a few people think that consistency kills the creativity and new ideas. I would argue that consistency doesn’t affect the innovative or imaginative thinking. Innovative product companies like Apple, Google implement consistency across their entire set of offerings. You can use standards and design principles as the basis for your product. These are the foundation based on which you should architect, design and develop the product. These are often sacrosanct and non-negotiable. Next in the order of priority are guidelines which are like rules of thumb. They are not prescriptive, but provide direction to what should be incorporated and how. But compelling user experience doesn’t stop at this level. Only when you start referring to heuristics and patterns, can the product start delivering delightful and superlative experiences to users. I drew the diagram below to bring out the main points.

Balance consistency with creativity_Texavi

 

How to incorporate consistency

In the context of product development, consistency translates into the overall user experience and not just the superficial visual design. You need to look at all the various dimensions that contribute to the overall experience and delight of users. The following diagram sums up how you can lend your product a consistent experience…

What contribute to consistent UX_Texavi

 

Through the optimal use of consistency, user should be able to feel that he/she knows:

  • What I can do with this product
  • Where I am now, where I can go from here and how I can go
  • Why something works the way it does
  • What a particular element means when it is in of a certain colour, shape and size
  • How I can press, click, tap an element to get what I want it to do

 

Hope you find this post helpful. As always, please feel free to drop in your comments to help improve the quality and usability of my blog posts. Until next time, ciao!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Business Analysis, Information Technology, Social business, Social Technologies

‘Man is a social animal’, – as human beings, we do have instincts, but we also have emotions, sentiments and experiences. It is these that separate human beings from animals. In our professional and personal lives, we tend to use the right side of our brains as much as our left brains. Or should I say our hearts step into action and not just our minds in almost all our activities and decisions. People’s behaviours and interactions on the social and professional networks are not any different. That’s why it is critical for businesses to listen to the voices of the people and understand the emotional aspects underlying their conversations. This post dwells on how listening (a.k.a social customer care) help businesses to understand not only people’s voices, but also help them with the right solutions.

Listening is an art and science too

I think the two most critical factors that made social media popular are freedom of expression and the ability to go viral in no time. People on the social networks are free to express their views and opinions. Most often these comments tend to be positive or neutral, but occasionally users do express negatively. Also, note that these are not just about the products and services, but also extend to the brands, organisations and people too. Businesses have been realising increasingly that these conversations and comments – positive, negative or neutral, are a great source of improvement. Companies like Dell, Kodak, Lego and Sainsbury’s started actively listening to the customers’ views and opinions on the social and professional networks.

You are a good listener
Image credit – Quinn Anya, Flickr

What is listening

Listening in the context of social media refers to the monitoring of the activities, interactions and mentions by users.  Also referred to as Social Customer Care, the social media monitoring is one emerging areas invested by most leading brands. The main goal for the monitoring is to understand the activities and derive insights to help take business decisions and help support the customers. Listening does not necessarily mean looking out for the problems alone, but also for potential ideas, insights and innovative approaches. More organisations in private and public sectors are actively engaging with their customers and monitoring what they are up to on various social and professional networks. Small wonder then that today we have some fancy job titles such as CLO (Chief Listening Officer) and Insight Managers.

“Dell has been listening for four years and created a position called ‘Listening Czar’ two years ago. We are a leader in the listening space.” 

– Richard Binhammer, Communications Executive, Dell

How does monitoring help businesses

Social media monitoring is not just a passive observation of what’s happening on social networks. It is extremely proactive in trying to identify the problems of people, understand their pain areas and resolve them in the quickest possible manner. Not just the problems, some times analysing the mentions and comments will help businesses with new and fresh ideas for improving their business, products and services. Often these conversations could potentially lead to new features and functionality but also new products. At a macro level, the social media monitoring and listening helps organisations to understand the customers’ “image” and compare it with their “identity”. Also, the mentions and comments on these networks move beyond just products and touch upon the experiences, emotions and feelings. Businesses can now reach out and unearth these, with minimal effort, cost and time.     Social Customer Care_Texavi on listening

Thanks to the explosion of the Internet, mobile phones and social media, individuals and businesses nowadays are facing a big challenge. Information overload, BIG Data or whatever you may call it as, this data deluge is a bane as much as its a boon. Sample the impact of the social media usage and the amount of data its creating, just the “Retweet” button on Twitter is creating a data equivalent to 2 TeraBytes in one day.What should businesses do to overcome this challenge and make use of the data to their advantage to service their customers better? To sift through this data deluge and make some meaningful relations amongst them, businesses have to plan and approach this in a structured manner. Also, they must use the right tools to help them get the best and draw meaningful and actionable insights.

 

Social customer care tools

Some of the prevalent tools in use today for the social media monitoring are sentiment analysis, NLP (Natural Language Processing). Also,  a few statistical tools such as Cluster analysis, Factor analysis are also being used to analyse the variables and dimensions. These and other similar tools and techniques enable us to look at and filter through the BIG data. The objective is to find the patterns, map the relations and draw usable insights from them. The outcomes are qualitative as well as quantitative and will aid businesses to take the right decisions in the right time.

“We get about 300,000 new mentions of Kodak every month and we don’t censor the comments or videos people create about our company.” 

– Beth LaPierre, Kodak’s Chief Listening Officer

One important suggestion is to ensure that businesses must not ignore the negative comments or mentions about their brands and products. Instead, they must actively look for them, understand the root causes and step in to resolve the issues. They must also ensure that the problems are addressed to help prevent their re-occurrence in the future.

Hope you find the post useful. As always, feel free to drop in your feedback for continuous improvement. Wishing you all a very Happy New Year 2013. May the new year bring in joy and success to all of you. Until next post, ciao!

 

Business Analysis, Business Case, Information Technology, Product Development, User Experience, User-centered Design

For the nth time, I am mentioning this, at the risk of sounding cliched, “User Experience is not the same as Marketing”. This is more true in the context of referring to customer and user research. While some terms and activities such as profiles, personas and interviews do happen to be common to both User Experience, that does not give us a blanket permission to assume that they both are one and the same. The very use of the words “Customers” and “Users” says it all – marketing is all about customers and prospects, whereas User Experience is well, about “users”. The importance of this topic came into the fore once again, thanks to a recent conversation with one of my clients. In this post, I wish to draw the main differences between User Experience and Marketing/Sales. Hope what you read and see below, will help shatter a few myths and misconceptions out there in most people’s minds.

Marketing helps build brands

I am not Philip Kotler to define what Marketing is. However, to my mind, Marketing is about the planning, activities and the outcomes related to understanding the needs of customers. The function of marketing helps organisations to create products, services and offerings to meet the needs of the existing and potential customers. And yes, marketing is about the brand that encompasses Marketing is a function of the 4Ps – Product, Price, Place and Promotion. And of course a fifth P was later added, which stands for Positioning. But I would say why stop at 5Ps? The sixth P that I would add for Marketing is “People”.

MarketingMix_Focus on Customers_Texavi

User Experience helps create Products

Like Marketing, User Experience is also about people and understanding their needs. However, as the words have it all it is about “users” and usage experience and not customers or prospects. However the focus for UX is on the consumers of the products and services more than anything else. It tries to look at the various elements of the experience such as satisfaction speed of performing the tasks. The 5E model of User Experience focuses on Ease of use, Easy to learn, Effectiveness, Efficiency and Error-free nature of the products and services. Over the years, UX has been catering to products more than services.

User Experience_5E_Focus on Users_Texavi

Similarities between Marketing and User Experience

While most of the other disciplines help provide the perspectives internal to the organisation. These range from operations, administration, finance and other support processes etc. Whereas Marketing, Sales and User Experience offer an external perspective on the organisation, brand, products and services. Both Marketing and User Experience are cost centres. Both of these rely extensively on quantitative and qualitative data. They use similar tools and techniques such as interviews, discussions, tests, among others. Both can be used to test the concepts, ideas and new products in their early stages.  In marketing, you call it as Market Testing or test marketing, whereas in User Experience, we refer to it as User Testing.

Smiley_face_User Experience_Marketing

 

Differences in Marketing/Sales and User Experience

I give below a table with the differences between Marketing and User Experience, for your quick reference. After all, its important for me to market my User experience skills :)

Marketing vs. UserExperience - By Texavi's Unified Experience Framework

 

Hope this post is helpful to you. As always, I welcome your feedback for the improvement of the blog content and coverage.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, 2013! Happy Holidays :-)

Behavior Modeling & Design, Business Analysis, Information Technology, Innovation, Product Development, Social business, Social Technologies, User Experience

A few days ago, I was thinking about what separates the great organisations from the good ones.  I tried to connect a few successful companies with the secrets behind their success. Here is a small question for you to get thinking on this..what is common to Google, Apple and simple? Of course the letters LE, but the prize goes to the correct answer, “their commitment to make people happy”. Google and Apple have positioned themselves as people-focused firms, creating innovative products and services that not only work for people but also delight them. They have established a clear differentiation based on delighting their customers, stakeholders and followers with simple and easy to use products and services. In this post, let us learn how any organisation which aims to become a social business, needs to focus on ‘the people’ to be successful.

Focus on people – Make them happy

Businesses traditionally have been focusing on people  in one form or the other. Every organisation works hard to keep their customers happy as that would guarantee their existence. Some businesses focus on keeping their employees satisfied with good facilities, pay and perks.These companies think that happy employees lead to higher productivity and thereby better results. A few large organisations with deep pockets can afford to keep not only their customers and employees  happy, but also extend their reach to the stakeholders like shareholders and suppliers.  However, a social business needs to do all the above and a bit extra as well. Let us see in the next section what social businesses need to do to get it right.

Social Businesses focus on People

Social business – Internal and external people

Social businesses have to optimise their business strategies, operations and resources towards the ‘people’. The people here means those who are both ‘internal’ as well as ‘external’ to the organisation. Internal people are the employees and other key stakeholders such as the management, sponsors and the shareholders. They are critical to the success of any initiative as everything starts with them, from the business vision to strategy, from planning to execution and delivery. External people refers to the customers and suppliers. However, in the context of social business, the list doesn’t end here. These external people include the followers, friends and fans on social and professional networks. Social businesses succeed by putting the people’s interests first beyond anything. Their business objectives and bottom lines are all dependent on their people-focus. Social businesses have to ensure that both the internal and external people are happy.Here is how they can achieve this. :

  • Involve, encourage and empower the right teams
  • Find, connect and follow the right people
  • Educate, influence and engage your followers

In the following sections, let us see how the organisations can become effective following the above rules.

Involve, encourage and empower the right teams

Teams make or break your organisations initiatives and attempts for successful campaigns. Great teams often are one of the biggest success factors behind great social businesses. You need to involve the team members from the very beginning so that they none of the team members feel left out. Also, this would help build ownership in them and increases their responsibility. Encourage and motivate the team members to start delivering towards the goals of social business. Empower them to take decisions on their own, try new things and implement their ideas. No matter if the ideas are bad or good, let the team work on those ideas and realise the efficacy of these ideas, on their own. Empowering the teams enables the team to own up the social business initiative and deliver activities and succeed, all by themselves.

For successful social business, empower the team and allow them to:

  1. Estimate the efforts and timelines
  2. Come up with the plan
  3. Commit and agree upon the plans
  4. Deliver on the plans
  5. Bring out the problems, if any, during the execution

Find, Connect and follow the right people

Whereas the teams working on your social business are internal to your organisation, you also need to look outside of your business. These are customers, suppliers and others, speaking of traditional businesses. Often in the context of social business, this extends to those people in your social and professional networks. Follow these simple rules to follow the right people on your social and professional networks.
  1. Define the profiles of the people who fit your business requirements
  2. Create a persona with the demographics and psychographics
  3. Search, browse and look out for the people fitting in the persona
  4. Connect to these people and follow their activities on networks
  5. Interact with them by liking and favouriting their content
  6. Engage with the people by sharing their content across networks
FindConnectFollowandInteractWithTheRightPeople

Educate, engage and influence your followers

Following people on the social and professional networks, interacting with with them and sharing their content is one thing. It is quite another level to get people to follow you. Even harder is to engage people consistently with content that they are interested in. Of course, the most difficult step in the social engagement is to be able to influence your followers, friends and fans positively and increase their trust in you and your brand. The starting point for all of these accomplishments is to start sharing content which aligns with the interests of your followers. Make it worthy of their likes, and encourage them to comment upon and share it with others in their network. Influence your followers

Given below are some useful tips to help you with engaging your audience and influencing them.

  1. Identify the target audience from amongst your followers, friends and fans on networks
  2. Understand their interests and focus areas
  3. Align your campaigns and content to be aligned with their interests
  4. Interact with them, encourage people to like your content and share it
  5. Reach out to friends of friends (FoF) and widen your network reach
  6. Influence your followers to trust your brand and make them your ambassadors

Hope you find the above suggestions helpful in your social business efforts. As always, please let me know your views for improving this blog. Until next post, Ciao!

 

 

Business Analysis, Business Case, Social business, Social Technologies, User Experience

Last week, Cadbury UK launched its new product Bubbly through their Google+ brand pages.  I think this is a brave new attempt that augurs well for the social networks and the businesses, in general. Social media are fast becoming the mainstay digital platform and are eagerly waiting to get alongside the traditional marketing channels. Not just the consumers and media, but technologies and businesses too are drifting towards the ‘social’ side, thanks to success and reach of Facebook, Twitter and Google. No wonder that we have social networks, social technologies, social business…everything has a ‘social’ touch today. But what are the effects of this socialification (I don’t want to use the word socialization, for obvious reasons) on your products and services? How can you leverage these social trends to your advantage and bring about the positive changes in the way you operate & deliver? In this post, I give you some tips addressing these questions and also touch upon some key aspects of our Social Experience Framework.

1.Get social – The emergence of ‘social’ everything

There is little doubt that the buzz word today is social and the whole world is now geared towards a ‘social revolution’ of sorts. From the revolution in Egypt to the ‘Occupy…’ movements, social platforms are aiding the way people connect, unite and demonstrate for a cause. The revolution is not just restricted to mass protests and demonstrations. It is expanding its reach and making inroads into our lives and work. Just a few days ago, Google began including the content from their social platform, Google+, when searching and showing the search results. This is yet another example of how ‘social’ content and interactions are  getting into the mainstream content. There are more people now who, before buying a product, read the reviews of “other people”.  Before saying anything good or bad about anything, some people “google it” or when in doubt, check it out on the “Wikipedia”. The growing emphasis on the relevance of big data and open source technologies and tools, is only adding more ammunition to this social revolution.

2. Focus on people and their social interactions

Yes, they are all people. You once used to call them  customers, users, partners and vendors. Your sphere of influence was restricted only to these stakeholders and perhaps extended to prospective customers. But now with social media and technologies, the reach has increased and the scope is broadened to cover more number of people. This includes not only prospective customers and product reviewers but also potentially  friends and family members as well. Now is the time to make your business, and technology, products and services more people-centric, for real and reap the rewards. Listen, observe and understand the various ways people interact online and offline too. Make these interactions more meaningful by providing context-sensitive information which they can use readily and easily. Simplify their interactions and enrich them by offering value-add through seamless channels and platforms.

3.Make it work on multiple platforms, devices & channels

The developers and testers among you will agree with me that its a real nightmare to design, develop and test applications on the ever-increasing number of channels, platforms and devices. However, this is great news for all the customers and users as they have a plethora of options (often to the extent of getting spoilt for choice). With newer technologies coming into the fore to help you, it might not be as complicated as it might sound. HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript, XML and other technologies, accompanied by the all-powerful bowsers, offer great ways to develop and deliver rich, interactive applications to your users.

4.Deliver social experience, not just user experience

As you have seen in the recent past, there has been a  proliferation of computers, laptops, mobile phones and Tablets. Also, there has been a significant raise in the Internet usage for education, work and entertainment. All along you have been focusing on delivering great customer and user experiences through your products, services and solutions. With the advancement of social context, it is just not enough if you try and look only at your customers and users only. The experiences have to be broad based, reaching out to friends, prospects, family members and ‘people’. I call it the ‘social experience’, covering all these. Our SoX Framework is an integrated experience delivered via multiple channels, devices, platforms and media. SoX is a pervasive, personalized and persuasive experience, delivered in context-rich, yet simple way.

5. Not just quantitative, but qualitative

There is a plethora of online analytics services that measure the social media usage. From Klout to PeerIndex and recently PeekAnalytics, these have been serving up measures and metrics on the engagement, influence and network reach based on the activities you do online and especially on the social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. All of these provide the scores, ranks and numbers. While analytics are good, they can only be useful, if applied to the right cause. As business leaders and product owners, one needs to balance the quantitative measures with the qualitative aspects. How do you get to the qualitative information? Be open and actively participate in the social networks and reach out to the audiences. For instance, Dell appointed CLO (Chief Listening Officer) whose role is to follow and listen to the noise and voice of customers on the social networks. British Gas resolves customer issues on Twitter, using it as a platform for understanding, tracking and closing people’s complaints.

To summarize, social businesses, technologies are already in and we are left with no choice, but to embrace them and use them to our advantage. Delivering social experiences require today’s businesses to broadbase  their focus to ‘people’, listen to them constantly and help them instantly. Let me know if you have a suggestion, question or comment. Until next post, ciao!