Designing Process for Startup Success
Why invest in process design? Your clients. When your team is working in sync with minimal obstacles, your customers experience smoother, more consistent interactions along your service path. It's not about achieving perfection; it's about having a plan so that team members can find their way through the chaotic moments to a clearly defined target. The design process is about less redundancy, higher efficiency and confident employees that turn out great products, resulting in bigger profit margins and happy customers that keep coming back for more.
Benchmarking, Contextual Inquiry, Stakeholder Interviews, Task Modeling, Process Mapping/ Modeling, Process Design, Affinity Mapping, Conflict Management, Communication Facilitation, Report Writing & Design.
Improved collective understanding of department roles and needs for clearer hand-offs and workflows; Visual Process Map indicating a potential 50% increase in efficiency; Report on company pain points, team feedback & suggestions for next steps.
I was approached by the leadership team of a San Diego-based eLearning company to create a process map to be used as a company-wide visual tool that could help team members efficiently find their way through the development process and increase understanding of cross-departmental functions. As a startup that had experienced rapid growth over the previous year, the team needed a structured plan that would get all team members working on the same page and prepare them for future expansion. Working closely with the VP of Product and his team, I began the project with a process prototype they had put together in the form of an outline.
Determined to build process model with and not for the team, I put together a plan to engage as many team members as possible, covering all departments, Executive Leadership, Sales, Instructional Design, Project Management, Design and Development. I began by benchmarking various mapping models and collecting available data and documents from each team, and then scheduled a series of stakeholder interviews, contextual inquiries as well as time for immersed observation.
I interviewed team members individually and in groups of multiple configurations to cover all points of agreement and disagreement.
Once all teams had been interviewed, I organized the comments into an affinity map that uncovered several primary themes, helping to identify and prioritize issues according to the number of people affected and perceived levels of urgency.
As I collected input from the various departments, I began to sketch out the process so that I may visualize and share rough, low-fi models as early as possible. These sketches acted as rapid prototypes to be tested during early interviews and became more detailed and accurate with each iteration.
Both the process model and the map design evolved over a few weeks. Each round of feedback added more detail in the design elements, adding clarification to communication design. As the tool became clearer, the process became more defined and easier to see. This visual clarity led to deeper discovery of the the process flow, departmental hand-offs/ responsibilities, communication chains and inter-departmental relationships.
Each department has it's own swim lane so a team member can look at his/her own department, follow it through to the end and quickly see how their tasks and responsibilities relate to those of other departments.
While drawing the process accurately presented a challenge, the real work was finding agreement between all departments. With the company split between New York and San Diego, an all-hands meeting was not an option. Therefore a great deal of work went into tracking and addressing inter-department conflicts and facilitating productive communication to find solutions. In the end, all departments agreed to the final results. Both the map of the general process and one key sub process was printed and hung on the wall as a visual guide. Team member collaboration throughout the project, set the stage for change management, earning buy-in and establishing champions for implementation.
I updated leadership with a series of informal reports throughout the project by way of Slack, emails and photos of sketches and affinity mapping results.
A formal report showed the results and suggestions from members of the entire company as well as my own recommendations for how to use and proceed with the research.
As I had come to the end of my contract, I left the research in the hands of the company leaders with a plan for a 50% improvement in process efficiency and some general suggestions for a change management plan. As the process was still a prototype and required time for testing, I recommended a checkpoint in three months to measure progress and work through any unexpected challenges.
Engaging the Youth Generation
This story was recently published on the OpenIDEO Stories Medium Page.
This project is a concept born and developed on OpenIDEO as a part of the Financial Empowerment Challenge. The idea takes the form of a grassroots youth campaign engaging our current generation of students, ages 17 and up, in open discussions in order to break down social taboos and change the way we think and communicate about money and financial stability. Full details and current status can be viewed here.
User experience research, collaborative brainstorming, mock ups, user maps, user scenarios, prototype testing and implementation planning.
A community minded concept that connects with an expansive youth demographic to foster a brighter financial future for current and upcoming generations.
The problem is broad. It strikes a a universal chord. We all need money to survive and thrive on this planet. It is at the core of our basic needs. However, many people around the world find themselves lacking the necessary education and support to build financial stability. The goal of this project is to develop a design solution that will tap the power of communities to extend the reach of financial education, resources and support, ultimately leading to a brighter financial future for everyone. "How might we use the power of communities to financially empower those who need it most?"
Inspired by another contributor's research on the Awesomeness of Credit Unions, I was reminded of a story I had heard of an awesome credit union in my home community. Chaco Credit Union is a bright spot in Ohio, an example of a credit union that puts its mission of “people helping people” into action through education programs and community-oriented services. How can their success be distilled, expanded, or channeled to inform a global solution?
With the kind cooperation of Chaco Credit Union, I began my research contribution with a series of SME interviews with four Chaco leaders. Over the course of the meetings, four main themes began to surface:
Empowerment, specifically how Chaco empowers the community through investments and a member-run business model.
Programs & Services, for example, two education initiatives for teens and adults, a new budgeting app and second chance checking.
Collaboration with other community partners such as schools, churches and shelters.
Challenges they face in reaching the community, including lack of motivation to change, lack of volunteers and lack of interest.
The idea for a youth campaign came about when Chaco Credit Union Market Manager, Mitch Vocke, mentioned "Rock the Vote" as an example of a successful movement that got young people motivated and interested in a subject they were previously not engaging with. The concept is rooted in the idea that by tapping into students, we can potentially change the stigma around money-talk, build a generation of financially responsible adults and get people excited to learn how to take control of their financial health.
Over the course of the first month, after the general idea was presented on the open forum interested contributors began to gravitate the idea. Energy began to build around the idea and the concept began to grow and expand rapidly. Brainstorming in the form of online comments and suggestions led to the development of specific structures, engagement tactics and prototypes, including a quick loop of feedback between the virtual team and a high school classroom.
With a test group in place, I used the teams ideas to construct a prototype for a conversation starter kit called "Money Talk". The kit was designed to initiate conversations in a supervised classroom setting, collect information about youth psychographics, and test student willingness to participate outside of the classroom with online and take-home activities.
MONEY TALK KIT PROTOTYPE
A downloadable kit to use in high school and university classrooms, clubs, churches and community groups to start conversations about money, and gives young people the chance to get involved at the start of the campaign.
The kit includes:
Conversation starter questions to raise personal awareness of participants. The campaign team can use the student's feedback to inform the messaging platform.
A slogan contest gets students to directly contribute to campaign messaging. The winning idea can be selected as the official slogan.
- An audio interview activity keeps the conversation going with family. The recordings let stories to be shared on the campaign blog and social media to start breaking down taboos and spread advice person to person.
View active user feedback here.
User Journey Map
Measure campaign reach:
1. Social Media pages (Who is signed up, reading, reposting, liking, what are the comments? etc.)
2. Web site analytics (how many audio recordings are being sent in, how many signed up for blog, how many participants in contests, etc.)
3. Audio recordings (who are they interviewing? are families being engaged?)
Measure impact on financial literacy:
1. Track referrals to local financial literacy programs
2. Partner with other programs and gather information on the results of our referrals (for example, Financial Peace measures money saved and debts paid...how many of those dollars are from our referrals?)
3. Anonymous online surveys (For example, intermittently collect our member's credit scores, and personal debt, compare them to national averages for our target audience and track progress overtime.)
As the campaign has grown into a concept with many moving parts, it has become necessary to map out a rough plan for how projects could be implemented once funding is established and testing phases are complete. The team has found many possible avenues for sustained engagement.
Over the course of the next six months, I’ll be looking for partners and funding to further the efforts of the campaign. The goal is to get the Money Talk kit prototype, as well as Art Wall prototypes, out into communities and onto campuses during the in order to gather data that will inform the identity, marketing plan and website development.
I’d like to build a presence that becomes a trusted household name. I want to see this campaign present on every college campus, Facebook page and high school in the United States. I truly believe that by rallying existing community forces there is real potential to create a substantial positive impact on the financial futures of current and future generations.
Designing Tuscan Luxury
What is the defining factor that makes a brand "luxury"? Service. While this work began with the objective to enhance client presentations with rendered design concepts, closer examination of the business revealed the need for the consideration and re-design of multiple touch points along the path of the client experience. The project quickly expanded into a yearlong contract to revamp the company’s visual brand, client presentations, internal communications and online presence with the goal of realigning company's service image with the elaborate, upscale floral designs they had been providing for years.
Business Review, Journey Mapping, Stakeholder Interviews, Pain point Identification, Internal Process Evaluation and Design, Redesign of Digital and Face-to-Face Interactions, Visual Branding.
Visual branding and Interactions re-designed to align with the industry standards and business goals; New modern, responsive website; Better processes and tools for improved efficiency and flexibility of services.
Upon arrival to the company, I was tasked with identifying design elements and operations that could use improvement. Over the course of the first week, I began to observe, and talk with internal stakeholders, employees that had spent years inside the company to begin to identify the potential scope of work and challenges faced in their workplace. By the end of week one, I determined that there were multiple pieces of their brand image and internal processes that could be better aligned with the goals of their business and service standards of their industry. The objective was defined: Evaluate and re-design service interactions and design operations to better align with the Luxury Event service industry.
During the discovery phase I built a picture of the current state of the business, marketing plans and design processes by employing a series of research tactics:
- Business Review of goals and targets
- Marketing plan and tools review & evaluation
- Mapping the current workflow from the client and stakeholder points of view
- Stakeholder interviews
- Affinity mapping to identify common themes and primary pain points
- Benchmarking for comparison and parity with competitive and compatible businesses
Once pain points were established and agreed upon among stakeholders, I held a meeting with business leadership to establish a prioritized list of challenges to tackle, identify constraints such as time and resources, and put together a plan of action for the coming months.
Client touchpoint evaluation & redesign
A client journey map was drawn up to reflect the client experience observed during observation and discussions with clients. As a primary partner in bringing clients through the service experience, wedding planners played an important role is collecting and providing feedback. Projects were prioritized according to impact on client experience and business objectives. Many of the projects affected multiple touch points in the client journey.
Business process EVALUATION & REDESIGN
Another goal was to uncover any major redundancies or inefficiencies within the internal operations of the Design Department that were hindering the quality of service. Photo finding/ selection and the need to repeatedly re-format the current proposal document throughout the design workflow were two primary pain points identified.
DAM SYSTEM – With over 135,000 digital assets on file, it took designers an average of 8 minutes to find images needed for a proposal. By implementing Extensis Portfolio, search time was reduced to an average of 2 minutes per image. Considering an average of 50 images per proposal, the improved search functionality resulted in a time savings of approximately 5.5 hours per proposal.
The viewing functionality gave clients the opportunity to explore the images more quickly during meetings. Allowing greater flexibility and quicker results when making selections for their event.
As Portfolio also identifies duplicates, the image bank was reduced from 135,000 to 18,000 in redundant images.
CLIENT PROPOSALS – were not only an important piece of the visual rebranding project, but addressed a major problem in the design process as well. Working in Word was causing the need to reformat the entire proposal with every small change. As there were several phases and often multiple rounds of revisions, this task was time consuming for the design team. By creating an InDesign file, I was able to create templates that allowed designers to drag and drop images into pre-formatted presentations directly from the DAM system. Layers made the document adaptable as the project moved through design phases and into production; reducing designer time by an average of 4 hours per project.
Implementation of the entire project took place over a one-year period, beginning with pieces that were identified as priorities. Co-creation of solutions with the designers and other staff was a key factor in gaining team support. The process updates required time and commitment to change as well as some staff education. For example, both Indesign and Extensis Portfolio were new to the team and required software training. By the end of the year all changes had been adopted with significant business rewards in efficiency and target audience reach.