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Design Thinking and business context at Forecast

Design Thinking and business context at Forecast

My role

  • Interviews and contextual research
  • Participatory design
  • Requirements analysis
  • Sketching and wireframing
  • Testing prototypes

Objectives

How do we introduce design thinking into an organisation whilst continuing to bring business value? How can we fulfil the business needs and build something that resonates with our users mental models? In this section I describe how I went about building a new feature for a Project Management product.

 
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The Problem

After performing user interviews, it became apparent that a great pain for many Project Managers is the inability to find a tool that provides an integrated experience for planning work and managing their resources' calendars, many even resorting to create their own custom spreadsheets. The team had already worked in a scheduling feature for an earlier iteration of the product, but it was isolated from the work planning part of the app, so it didn't solve the users' most pressing concerns


Research: Personas and Processes

Based on the early interviews I created a set of initial personas, which I would refine as I learnt more about the detailed nuances of PMs lives.

Through these interviews, and contextual research, we created an "ideal project life-cycle" and mapped which personas were involved at what stages as well as all the pain points as opportunities for an app - the scheduling is intertwined with other activities at different stages of the project managing lifecycle.

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1- Articulating the problem: Co-design

It was important to extract knowledge from the team members, who had worked in the tool for years. But they struggled to get out of their developers mindset, so I created a set of activities that would encourage them to think about the problem first, and stop proposing solutions. We had some improv icebreakers to get them to think creatively and then I used the personas and scenarios to anchor them. We had two sessions of HMW and then aggregated the questions into themes by affinity mapping.

 

2 - Defining desired outcomes

Based on the personas and the themes from the ideation sessions, we divided the user needs into goals-activities and tasks. We mapped the activities step by step, imagining an ideal system and then we had another group session where we prioritised the paths we wanted to build first.


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3 - Implementing solutions: Prototyping

Over a month, I collaborated closely with the Tech Lead on building the feature. We intended to work Lean, so I produced few initial hi-fi prototypes in Sketch to guide his vision, and then, the rest were paper sketches to illustrate and guide our conversations.


4 - Testing: A working prototype

The Tech Lead quickly put together a working prototype that I put in front of users. It addressed the overall concern of bridging the gap between the work planning and people scheduling, without getting into the finer details yet.

 


Findings: Quick Booking

During the user testing sessions, it quickly surfaced that PMs wanted something more goal-based than a mere calendar with pointers to projects. So, I took inspiration from the airline booking systems to create the Quick Booking functionality, where the PM enters a project name and set of skills and get a list of available team members for that period. This is now one of the major selling points of the whole application.