Digital Transformation – Charity Comms networking event

“What does it actually mean, and what does it look like for your charity?” This post is a quick summary of the most interesting ideas that came up in discussion at this Heads of Digital networking event, 15 March 2017. The event was held under the Chatham House Rule, so I won’t be sharing anything identifiable.

Upskilling everyone equally might not be as useful as significantly upskilling some key individuals.
Build a community of product owners, train them and empower them through management of their own backlog and budget.

Digital transformation sees digital outgrow its regular home in communications and move into:

  • Service delivery
  • Business transformation
  • Making sure that the organization meets user needs.
  • Foundational business processes and infrastructure.

Don’t be proscriptive with change. Instead, invite teams to let you know where you might be able to help them achieve their goals more effectively with digital tools.

If you start by optimising a small number of key user journeys, this can give you a clear way in.
Follow this thread towards transformation. The necessary changes emerge organically, and it’s easier than getting buy-in upfront.

Digital Transformation scrapbook

Here are some key insights from articles I’ve read on digital transformation.

The evolution of (Digital) strategy

Discussions on digital: How strategy is evolving—and staying the same—in the hypergrowth digital age

“My view is that the role of strategist, first and foremost, is the mobilizer. People need to understand where the company is going and take autonomous decisions. ”

“the way to manage a company has changed a lot in the last couple of decades, from “top down, the leader knows it all, let’s execute,” to a model that’s more like a federation, where you expect empowered teams to make the right choices and follow in the general direction. So it’s even more important to have a strategy that allows that federation of little teams to do what they have to do and not refer up the chain every time.”

Be wary of taking a narrow conception of what ‘digital transformation’ is

Digital strategy: Understanding the economics of disruption

“what they had wasn’t a digital strategy, it was a list of priorities for digitization. Explicitly, it was how are we going to reduce the cycle time in our end-to-end processes, how are we going to improve the customer experience and build new apps, and so forth. It was about how they digitize. It was not actually the choices they were making about a big disruptive economic force, which is the changes that are made possible by digital technologies.”

“The word ‘strategy’ is used too loosely with digital to mean our priorities for digitization not the choices we’re going to make in terms of where we compete and how we cmopete in the face of a big disruptive force.”

“We found that going back to the fundamentals of economics, trying to understand where there is economic room to be attacked, where your open flank is, or where you could thrust a spearhead, was a much more useful way to approach the problem and simplify the problem and focus on the right priorities.”

“Do not just think digitization. Think digital strategy. How will the economics of my business change in the future? How can I change the economics of other businesses? And, therefore, what should be strategy in the digital age be?”

How companies become digital leaders

“incumbents, particularly laggards and followers, sometimes reflexively try to drive digital marketing and sales. They mistake the world of digital for the world of online-selling success. And that narrow set of levers and aspirations for digital transformation is often unsatisfying and unsuccessful. Because there is a lot of opportunity unlocked by digital: the ability to fundamentally change how productive your assets are, the ability to leverage data and your consumer base in a different way, and the ability to actually develop innovative new propositions that you could never have offered before – the world of universal connectivity and ultracheap and ultrafast processing power. the ability to do these things is often a lot more powerful than trying to get a laser-like focus on pure digital- marketing and -sales performance.”

Thinking digitally can be difficult

Achieving a digital state of mind

“One of the biggest changes digital allows is that what might have been product sales become services. … You may have bought a thermostat, but now you’re buying energy management. You may have bought a TV, but now you’re buying entertainment streaming.”

What ‘digital’ really means
“diverse perspectives [on what digital means] often trip up digital teams”

“digital should be seen less as a thing and more a way of doing things.”

  1. “creating value at the new frontiers”. This could be about developing new businesses in adjacent categories, or identifying and realising value pools in existing sectors.
  2. “creating value in the processes that execute a vision of customer experiences”. Obsessively seek to understand each step of a customer’s purchasing journey, regardless of channel, and think about “how digital capabilities can design and deliver the best possible experience.” e.g. supply chain to give flexibility and deliver the product efficiently and in a way that the customer wants.”
  3. “building foundational capabilities that support the entire structure” “Being digital is about using data to make better and faster decisions, devolving decision making to smaller teams, and developing much more iterative and rapid ways of doing things.” [see below on decision making and oversight] I.T. should be delivered in a two-stream model. Legacy systems that support critical functions should work at a slower pace, and a separate stream supports fast-moving, often customer-facing interactions.

Making the cultural case for change

Digital disruption is impacting every sector, even law firms

“We should not try to convince management of the importance of digital. Instead we should frame the conversation around their pain points and struggles. Every senior management team has certain objectives that they need to reach or barriers they need to overcome. The chances are that digital can help with those and that is how we should position it.”

Customer obsession

Achieving a digital state of mind
“Everybody will say they’re customer oriented, but, as digital leaders would say, they have to be customer obsessed. And that’s something that a lot of organizations still struggle with. So that’s where you should start. Take the customer perspective.”

How to think about building digital services

Digital disruption is impacting every sector, even law firms
Not like creating a building, where you draw up the plans, then build, then do minor maintenance.
It’s more like planting a garden. Start small, then add more elements. Keep pruning, trimming and evaluating as you go.

Design sprints

Preventing the Executive Swoop and Poop with Design Sprints

  • Takes a week
  • Uses a team of participants from different roles and perspectives in the organisation.
  • Define and unpack a problem. Built a shared understanding
  • Generate ideas and decide which ones to pursue for testing
  • Build a prototype of their ideas, and validate assumptions by observing real people using it.

This helps you escape the risk of designing by starting with a list of stakeholder requirements, which may not be correct. “Unfortunately, because there’s usually no validation process built into the conventional design process, it isn’t until late (sometimes as late as when the product ships) that the team learns they went down the wrong rabbit hole.”

“Trying out what seems like a great idea and discovering that you’re wrong is a fantastic way to learn. Doing it quickly and early in the process mitigates the risks associated with heading down the wrong paths, delivering more educational value to your organization at lower cost.”

“When an organization integrates design sprints into projects, they see a dramatic decrease in outside influencer disruptions and an increase in their design quality.”

Continuous optimisation

Optimize Customer Experiences With Online Testing And Continuous Optimization

Improve your online testing through the following continuous optimisation objectiveS:

  1. Learn from every possible customer interaction
  2. Test customer interactions across the entire lifecycle
  3. Align with a customer-centric strategy
  4. Deploy testing within every possible digital channel

Failure and experimentation

Amazon’s 2015 letter to shareholders

“failure and invention are inseparable twins. To invent you have to experiment, and if you know in advance that it’s going to work, it’s not an experiment. Most large organizations embrace the idea of invention, but are not willing to suffer the string of failed experiments necessary to get there. Outsized returns often come from betting against conventional wisdom, and conventional wisdom is usually right. Given a ten percent change of a 100 times payoff, you should take that bet every time. But you’re still going to be wrong nine times out of ten.”

Different types of decision need different types of oversight

Amazon’s 2015 letter to shareholders
“One common pitfall for large organizations – one that hurts speed and inventiveness – is ‘one-size-fits-all’ decision making.”
“tendency to use the heavy-weight Type 1 decision-making process on most decisions, including many Type 2 decisions. the end result of this is slowness, unthoughtful risk aversion, failure to experiment sufficiently, and consequently diminished invention.”

There are actually two types of decision:

  • Type 1: consequential and irreversible or nearly irreversible. “one-way doors”. “these decisions must be made methodically, carefully, slowly, with great deliberation and
    consultation”. A minority of decisions are Type 1.
  • Type 2. Changeable, reversible. “Type 2 decisions can and should be made quickly by high judgment individuals or small groups.”

    Data-enabled decision-making and the role of top management

    An executive’s guide to machine learning
    “Frontline managers, armed with insights from increasingly powerful computers, must learn to make more decisions on their own, with top management setting the overall direction and zeroing in only when exceptions surface.”

    How companies become digital leaders
    “Not doing anything may be the riskiest move of all.”

    Rapid development and measurement

    Achieving a digital state of mind
    “If you’re doing to do a rapid ‘test and learn’ and get those feedback cycles, the whole philosophy has got to be that what we do is measurable.”

Paul Boag: Digital Adaptation – summary

Paul Boag outlines how to adapt your organisation to meet the challenges presented by digital, in the excellent Digital Adaptation. Further resources are available on the Digital Adaptation website.

User expectations are set by industry leaders

“You may not be in direct competition with Twitter, Google, or even MailChimp, but users will expect the same ease of use that they have been given on those platforms.”
“You are not just up against your competitors, you are competing with the user experience of every digital player out there.”

If you don’t change to meet evolving user expectations, a competitor will appear and render you irrelevant

Napster changed users’ expectations of how they could consume music. People now expected cheap, fast (digital and on-demand) music, focused on tracks not albums.

“The music industry fought hard to have Napster closed down, but the damage was done. User expectations had changed and there was no going back… Instead of adapting to this change in user expectations, the industry failed to act.”

Between 2000 and 2010, record store sales fell by 76%. HMV and Tower Records “crumbled.”
Apple created iTunes and delivered what people wanted. “The music industry lost an unprecedented opportunity because of its failure to adapt to the changing landscape.”

Similarly, Blockbuster had numerous opportunities to purchase Netflix for as little as $50 million. But Blockbuster didn’t accept that customers didn’t want to visit a physical store. By the time it accepted this and began offering a postal service, Netflix was already transitioning to digital streaming. Once this infrastructure was set up, Netflix’s costs plummeted. Blockbuster, with its physical stores and associated costs, could not compete.

Use digital to help you adapt strategically to a changing environment

“With such a rapid rate of change, creating a three to five year strategy is impossible…
Instead, a digital strategy should help the organization become flexible enough and properly prepared to adapt to new challenges and innovations as they arise. The digital strategy should create a digital team capable of thinking strategically on a daily basis.”

“The web requires fast adaptation and close collaboration of people with very different skills. This means that it is the people working with digital every day who have to make rapid, informed decisions. They can’t wait for senior management’s consent.”

Boag recommends: “Good Strategy/Bad Strategy” by Richard Rumelt. A framework for creating a strategy:

  1. A diagnosis
  2. Guiding principles
  3. Coherent actions

“a responsibility matrix is considerably more effective than a web steering committee”

“Web steering committees are not a bad idea in principle, but in practice they can often significantly slow the agility of an organization in a realm where responsiveness and adaptability are crucial.”

“Important decisions are often delayed until a date can be found for the entire steering committee to meet. The meetings themselves often focus on endless internal discussion, rather than basing decisions on data and user testing. Finally, and probably most significantly, most of the people in the room are not qualified to be making decisions on the subjects being discussed.”

Instead, Boag recommends using a RACI framework, showing who is responsible/accountable/supports/is informed about each area of decision-making:
Responsible: doing the work
Accountable: formally accountable for the success of the work
Consulted: consulted about the work
Informed: told of the outcome

Better collaboration across teams

You don’t need to remove departmental structures – just make the edges of departments “fuzzier”.

“Departments should not be the only structure within an organization; there should also be working groups and other smaller teams that work across these departmental divides. But do not mistake this for more committees. I am not talking about interdepartmental committees. I am talking about real teams made up of people from multiple departments who sit and work together.”

Policies promote good decision-making

Standard sources of conflict experienced by digital teams: homepage space, requests for low-value web content, hostility to removing out-of-date content.

Save time on these arguments by having policies. These are impersonal, and have organisational buy-in.

“Instead of saying no to somebody who wants content on the homepage, you are just implementing a policy. Instead of removing somebody’s content, you are just following the rules. It’s not personal, it’s policy.”

Martha Lane Fox’s strategic review of the UK government’s digital offering, 2012

  • Manage digital centrally. Commission content from departmental experts as required. (“complete reversal of the previous policy”)
  • Focus on user needs and the delivery of online services – not just communicating information.
  • Radically simplify the government’s digital footprint.
  • Move from large technical projects to a more agile, iterative approach based on extensive testing.

Predicted that if the government moved 30% of its interactions with citizens online, they could save more than £1.3 billion.

If the UK government can make radical change, so can your organisation

“If an institution with as much inertia and legacy as the UK government is willing to consider such fundamental cultural change, then it demonstrates that this is possible for the vast majority of organizations.”

Common cultural characteristics of effective digital organisations

  • Collaboration.
  • Agile, iterative development.
  • Digital by default.
  • Innovation.
  • Service-oriented

Generic advantages of digital approaches

  • Cheaper
  • Faster
  • More flexible
  • Easier to monitor
  • More targeted

Senior management need to completely re-evaluate the business in the light of digital

Boag recommends Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas as a tool to achieve this. Explore the following areas:

  1. Customer segments.
  2. Who are your customers, and can digital help you better understand them?
    Could you personalise your offering?
    Could you serve niche audiences that were previously not cost-effective?
    Could digital help you broaden your customer base?

  3. Channels.
  4. Can you deliver your offering through new channels?
    Could you move to a purely digital offering?
    Can digital enhance existing channels – by making them faster, more efficient or cost-effective?

  5. Customer relationships.
  6. What expectations do different customer segments have of you, and could digital help you surpass these?
    Could digital help your manage customer relationships more cheaply?
    Could you transition from telephone support to self-service?
    Could customer service be automated?
    Could you build online communities where customers support each other?
    Could you use digital to enable customers to take a more active role in evolving your products or services?

  7. Value proposition.
  8. What problems does your organisation solve? What needs are you satisfying?
    Could digital help you make your offering more valuable?
    Could digital allow you to solve new problems for your customers?

  9. Revenue streams
  10. Could you collect revenue more efficiently, and more easily for customers, using digital payment?
    Could you introduce new revenue streams, e.g. a subscription model?

  11. Key resources
  12. What are the foundational resources for delivering your offering?
    Could digital be used to replace these or lower their costs?
    e.g. do retailers need physical store fronts?

  13. Key activities
  14. What are the foundational activities required to deliver your offering?
    Could digital streamline these, or even automate them? (e.g. automated dispatch management of ecommerce orders)

  15. Key partners
  16. Who are your key partners or suppliers?
    Could digital tools help you manage them, or even replace them? e.g. self-publishing.

  17. Cost structures.
  18. What are the most important costs associated with your business model?
    Could digital lower these costs?
    e.g. lowering distribution or customer acquisition/retention or stock management costs.

    Looking at competitor organisations during this process can help motivate senior managers.

Embrace failure as integral to improvement

“we need to see failure as a necessary step towards success. Only by failing do we understand what success looks like.”

“In an industry so young and dynamic, the only way to innovate, the only way to progress, is to experiment and that will inevitably mean failure. We need to nurture a culture where failure is acceptable and, in fact, expected.”

“You might think that building something that fails is a waste of time and money. That is true if huge amounts of both have been sunk into its development. However, if you are working within an iterative process, centered around rapid prototyping this will not be the case.”

Test your assumptions by building something and seeing if it works. If it doesn’t, you can learn and improve.
If you have competing ideas, you can test them against each other at prototype stage. This de-politicises decisions, and helps organisations make decisions based on evidence.

Allow staff some time to explore new ideas, and create a culture in which new ideas can be expressed and valued.

Unless you are solely competing on price, you need to embrace customer-centricity

Marketing departments are still focused on broadcasting to mass audiences with mass media, rather than focusing on connections.

“One step in the right direction would be to make user testing a permanent and ongoing feature of your company’s culture.”

Twitter have an ongoing programme of usability testing that is open to anyone.
“user testing is not a periodic event confined to a small team, but an ongoing company-wide policy.”

In “Rocket Surgery Made Easy”, Steve Krug recommends a rolling programme of monthly testing.

How to get the most out of your digital team

“The most important factor is to give your digital team the freedom to do its job and set its own direction. This is a new and very light form of leadership based on respect rather than authority. It means relinquishing control and allowing people to direct their own roles.
I am not suggesting staff should be given the freedom employees of Valve or GitHub have. Although this might ultimately be beneficial to both employee and organization, it requires such profound organizational change that it is beyond the reach of most companies.”

The Harvard Business Review advises that “Senior leaders need to get used to the idea of abandoning absolute control”

“digital workers… need to see the reason for management decisions. It is not enough to tell them how things are going to be; they need to understand why a direction has been chosen.”

Your digital team needs the right tools

“You wouldn’t expect a professional tradesman to work with the same DIY tools we buy from B&Q, so why do so many companies insist that their digital teams use the same technology as the rest of the organization? What some perceive as luxuries such as smartphones, high-end computers, and tablets, are in fact tools of the trade for a digital professional. They shouldn’t have to fight to get these tools, they should just be provided.”

The knowledge of your digital team is their biggest asset. You need to actively invest in growing this

“you need knowledge. You need experts in creating digital solutions. They are your most valuable asset.”

Give staff the time and opportunity to continually strengthen and update their skills.
Digital professionals are motivated to do this – you just need to give them the time to learn and experiment, and to meet with peers.

Traditional project management approaches don’t work well in digital

Digital projects are so complex that traditional project management approaches struggle to scale.

For example, “It can prove nearly impossible to accurately specify large web projects due to the huge number of variables and complexities.”

Incremental change is better than big projects

Monitor user behavior to identify problems, prioritise areas for action (based on value of fixing and ease/cost of fixing), invest in a small incremental improvement, test and iterate, then go live. This reduces the risk of failure.

“This significantly reduces the amount of planning required and acknowledges the uncertainty inherent in running any large website.”

“The idea is to establish a rhythm of building, measuring, learning, and improving so that the site naturally evolves over time.”

Focus development work on user needs, not stakeholder requests

Any development work should be based on a user need, and to serve a defined persona.
“These personas need organization-wide approval and they become the bedrock on which your applications are built. Only tasks that meet the needs of these personas should be considered, and no task should be built that prevents a persona from completing one of their key tasks. They act as a filter for deciding which user stories will be accepted into the backlog of work to be developed.”

Tips for building grassroots change

Support each other, to build a safe and fun environment where you have the support of your team to take some initiative.

Try implementing small improvements to how you work. This will build your confidence and get management used to the idea. Don’t ask for permission – just make the change. Have a clear rationale ready in case you’re challenged. This should be focused on how it benefits the organisation.

Always educate and build bridges. So don’t just say “no” to requests.
Make sure you aren’t seen as a blockage that needs to be worked around.
Help colleagues think through alternatives – focus on their underlying need, rather than on the particular approach they’ve advocated.

Educate colleagues:

  1. Highlight best practice. (Competitor examples are particularly effective)
  2. Destroy preconceptions, using evidence. (e.g. any weird beliefs that people have)
  3. Promote your successes. Explain why things worked – builds the credibility of your team, and the organisation’s understanding.
  4. Explain failures. Explain why they happened and discuss how they could be avoided in future. Build a culture that embraces failure.

Senior management

“Getting frustrated with them will not help, but learning more about them will.”

Understand their objectives/targets and needs.

Focus on:

  • topics that they are interested in
  • their broader objectives and targets
  • return on investment
  • threats

Could you be a Digital Superhero? Julie Dodd (Camp Digital 2016)

Here’s a summary of Julie Dodd’s talk at this year’s Camp Digital conference.

Julie argues that digital superheroes…:

  1. Make products that really help people

    e.g. the Ugly Mugs app, built for sex workers to make sex work safer, or Tony Canning’s use of 3D printing to reduce the cost of prosthetic limbs from £20,000 to £40 – and reducing production time from months to hours – and making the technology available open source so that others can use it.

  2. Use any tool or platform that they can get their hands on

    BBC used Whatsapp at the height of Ebola in Sierra Leone in 2014 to provide information. Largely simple infographics. Reached 20,000 people in the first 3 months who were otherwise very hard to reach. The BBC used existing technology as it was cheaper, quicker and more effective.

    Crowdfunding sites – e.g. Kickstarter and IndieGogo – reduce the need for people to go through a middleman. Charities need to think what this means for them.
    Girl Scouts in America used IndieGogo to raise funds after rejecting a $100,000 transphobic donation. The troop of Girl Scouts that turned down the donation started a crowdfunding campaign that raised 4 times as much money – and sent out a powerful message about inclusion. They also changed the policy of how the national organisation takes donations.

  3. Aren’t frightened to try new ways to do things

    For example bringing in service design thinking or agile methogologies.

    St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington has created the ‘Helix centre’ innovation lab. It’s focused on lean, iterative solutions and combines online and offline. Projects include increasing rates of bowel cancer screening, offering guidance for clinicians on how to communicate about end of life care, asthma management tools for kids, dealing with storage of IV fluids.

    The Town of Jun use twitter for civic discourse and interactions – e.g. booking an appointment with the doctor or making a complaint. Everyone was trained. Saw a rise in public workers being thanked.

  4. Can be found anywhere – not just in tech.

    Google studied a favela in Rio, and didn’t expect to find much technology. Rather, they found a flourishing ecosystem, with radio stations, cyber cafes. With the proliferation of smartphones, people often ‘leapfrog’ the desktop ‘stage’ of development.

  5. Can have significant impact on organisations.

    The British Library now conceives of itself as a data institution, rather than a custodian of physical objects.
    The #tweetmythesis movement encourages academics to share their thesis in a tweet.

  6. Can have an impact in major commercial brands too.

    Barclays set up Digital Eagles programme, driven by the profit motive of reducing cost by moving more people to online banking. (And thereby reducing interaction costs, e.g. staff and branch costs). So it has trained 20,000 staff to train people across the community.

  7. Should work for organisations interested in changing.

    When researching “The New Reality” Julie found some organisations just weren’t interested in digital transformation. She thinks many won’t survive a decade, and wants to spend her energy not fighting those ones to change, but working for the ones that do want to change.

A few miscellaneous recommendations:

  • Recommended meetups: Citizen Beta and Tech for Good
  • “Apps without marketing are pointless”
  • If you do pro bono work with a charity, make clear the equivalent financial value. Otherwise they won’t value it because it’s free.
  • “Asking people to experiment is easier than asking them to commit”

Design for Real Life

Design for Real Life argues that we need to take accessibility more seriously. This goes beyond just conforming to a set of content presentation guidelines (e.g. the W3C standards), and goes to your overall design process. You can buy the book from A Book Apart

  1. Identify and challenge assumptions

    Think about what assumptions you’ve built into what you’re designing. What will happen if someone falls outside these?

    Facebook’s Year In Review – a feature designed to help people celebrate and share their great year – wasn’t designed with the experiences of people who’d not had a great year in mind.

    Inappropriate Year In Review images included:

    • a photo of the user’s apartment on fire
    • a photo of an urn containing the user’s father’s ashes
    • a sonogram of a pregnancy that later ended in miscarriage
    • a photo of a friend’s gravestone

    Facebook’s design team had a narrow vision, and so excluded all of these users. Meyer and Wachter-Boettcher challenge us to bring “edge cases” to the centre. “Instead of treating stress situations as fringe concerns, it’s time we move them to the center of our conversations – to start with our most vulnerable, distracted, and stressed-out users, and then work our way outward.” All users will benefit from this more focused, understandable and empathetic approach.

  2. Make space for real people

    Give people “enough room within our interfaces to be themselves.” For example, gender is often presented as a binary choice between male and female, which doesn’t fit with our current understanding of gender. Facebook is an example of best practice here, allowing people to choose male, female or custom – which is a free text field with a list of common choices as prompts.

    Other examples of systems not giving people space to be themselves include systems that can’t handle names longer than a certain length (e.g. 15 characters), systems that don’t accept hyphens in names, or ones that don’t accept names that don’t pass culturally-specific test of validity. (e.g. Facebook rejecting Shane Creepingbear’s name as not real.)

    Organisations often make assumptions about what matters to users, or about who they are. The ‘Apple Health’ app didn’t include period tracking on launch, even though it boasted that it tracked ‘all of your metrics that you’re most interested in’. Its implicit focus was on men. And period tracking apps themselves often have a bias towards straight, sexually active, partnered people.

  3. Incorporate stress cases

    A DIY and home appliance retailer was looking to improve its product guides. Originally these were written in a chirpy, positive tone, for happy, confident home-improvers. But sometimes users are more stressed when carrying out these tasks. The team found that there were two general categories of use: “urgent” and “upgrade”. They updated their style guide to write for the urgent case. This improved the guides for all users, as the clarity of information increased. Guides now feature installation availability and time-frames, estimated cost ranges, greater user of subheadings to allow for easy skimming, one-sentence summaries, reassuring tone.

    You can incorporate stress or crisis cases in usability testing. And you can test how a product performs in a cognitively-demanding environment by either testing in that environment, or by tiring people out mentally before the testing – e.g. by giving them some maths tasks to carry out.

  4. Only ask necessary questions in forms

    Organisations are often pushy to obtain as much information as they can from every web form. Often this is done with a total disregard for the user’s experience. Caroline Jarrett has a protocol for evaluating each question you want to include:

    1. Who in the organisation will use the answer?
    2. What will the answer be used for?
    3. Is the answer required or optional?
    4. If the question is required, what happens if the user enters rubbish data just to get through the form

    This question protocol can help open up a discussion about the true business value of each question.

  5. Learn from users

    Work to understand how your users see the world. This goes deeper than just testing top tasks on your website, or discussing product features.

    Steve Portigal recommends three types of question:

    1. Gather context and collect detail. e.g. asking about a sequence (Describe a typical workday) or specific examples (What was the last app you used?)
    2. Probe. e.g. ask for clarification of how a system works.
    3. Draw out contrasts. Useful for uncovering frameworks and mental models. e.g comparing processes or approaches.

    Open-ended research is about opening up questions and ideas, expanding your vision and the types of question you ask. This helps you move towards a design process centred aroudn real people and their needs.

    Customer mapping can help you identify pain points, broken flows, and content gaps, through analysis of lenses, touchpoints, channels, actions, thoughts and feelings. Adaptive Path have produced a guide to customer experience/journey mapping.

  6. Making the business case for accessibility

    Karl Groves, an accessibility consultant, argues that there are only three business cases for anything. Here’s how to argue for accessibility for each of these:

    1. It will make money. You can use accessibility to stand our from your competitors. e.g. Slack gaining users through ease-of-use. You can reach new audiences if more people are able to use your product.
    2. It will save money. You can cut customer service costs. The UK government found that as of 2011 it was receiving 150 million avoidable calls a year – calls for which an online service existed. This represented a possible annual saving of around £4 billion a year. Improving accessibility saves you money by increasing user retention – which is between 5 and 25 times more cheaper than acquiring new customers.
    3. It will decrease risk. Accessibility helps you avoid negative experiences and associated backlash – e.g. Facebook’s year in review generated a lot of negative press.

The DSDM Agile Project Framework for Scrum

I’ve highlighted a few key points from the DSDM Agile Project Framework for Scrum. I’d strongly recommend reading the 2014 White Paper produced by Andrew Craddock, Keith Richards, Dorothy Tudor, Barbara Roberts and Julia Godwin for the DSDM Consortium. Download the 22-page white paper. (DSDM is ‘The Dynamic Systems Development Method’.) The paper provides a useful summary of Scrum and Agile methodologies, and reflects on the integration of more granular sprint-focused methodologies with larger strategic project governance frameworks.

The usefulness of combining Scrum with DSDM

The Agile Project Framework for Scrum “brings together the strength of DSDM at project level and the streamlined simplicity of Scrum at the delivery team level”
Scrum is focused on the product rather than the project, “so more emphasis is placed on incremental release of a product in the context of a product lifecycle than is placed on formally ending development work after an agreed period of time.”

Documentation

DSDM ‘Foundations’ phase covers the full breadth of the project, but deliberately avoids going into detail. This is very different to the ‘Analysis and Design’ step in a waterfall approach.
The Agile Manifesto values values working software above comprehensive documentation.
The DSDM Agile white paper follows this: “break the illusion of security and stability that comes from document-driven, predictive processes. Specification of every detail of requirements, solution design, plans etc. in documents that get ‘signed off’ by stakeholders before work is allowed to progress is now widely accepted to be both wasteful, in terms of time and effort, and ineffective as the basis of governance and control. AgilePF for Scrum embraces the need for high-level versions of requirements, design and planning artefacts in the early phases of the project to frame development and delivery and to support governance.”

Collaboration over contract negotiation

“Typical commercial contracts assume that a traditional Waterfall process under-pins development and, accordingly, ‘a fixed price for a fixed specification’ is the standard for project contracts. Agile projects emphasise collaboration, and therefore contracts need to reflect this.”
Contracts should be “‘light touch’ and ‘guiding’ rather than being ‘detailed and prescriptive’.” “the Product Backlog may represent a contract, effectively defining the scope of a project. But it is cast at a high level and requires customer collaboration with less formality to flesh out the detail of requirements throughout the iterative development of the solution during the project lifecycle.”

Principles

  1. Focus on the business need
  2. Deliver on time
  3. Collaborate
  4. Never compromise quality
  5. Build incrementally on firm foundations
  6. Develop iteratively
  7. Communicate continuously and clearly
  8. Demonstrate control

Variables

Traditional approach:
Fixed: Features
Variable: Time, Cost, (in practice) Quality

AgilePF Approach:
Fixed: Time, Cost, Quality
Variable: Features

One of the four project variables must be flexible: “With proper planning, any three of the four project variables can be fixed provided one is allowed to vary.”
Agile PF fixed time, cost and quality and varies the scope of the features delivered.
To reach this point in the foundations phase, “an understanding of the high level features is required, sufficient to provide a sensible estimate for those aspects of the project that are fixed. At the same time, it is normal for a subset of the features to be identified as mandatory.”

Feasibility phase

Quickly established whether the project is likely to be technically feasible and cost effective from a business perspective before proceeding.
“The effort associated with Feasibility should be just enough to decide whether further investigation is justified, or whether the project should be stopped now, as it is unlikely to be viable.”

Plan for organisational/business change

“In the context of a project, the solution will include both the Product (often software) and any associated changes within the business wanting to exploit that product.”

Role of the Project Manager

“Managing an empowered team requires a facilitative style rather than a command and control style. It is usual that the Project Manager takes responsibility throughout the duration of the project. This must include both business and technical delivery aspects of the project, from establishing the foundations of the project through to the deployment of the solution.”

How charities could use digital to change the world

Charities can go beyond one-sided interactions with supporters

In an earlier post I looked at how charities can use digital to improve their provision of static information, and to provide proactive advice and support. But that is still quite a one-sided interaction, with organisations being in a position of power and enlightening their beneficiaries. What could happen if we go beyond the idea of service provision?

Organisations with social, political, cultural or economic aims want to change people and the world. We know our objectives, and so do our supporters. We could use digital to work together more closely to get things done. This is where digital gets really exciting, and it’s the part we haven’t figured out yet.

I propose that we take our implementation of the social web a step further. By enabling people to connect and plan and create ideas and drive change, digital can change the world. As charities, our job is to help facilitate this but not to lead it – at least, not to lead it in the way that we tend to think of leadership.

Rather, we’re thinking about nurturing spaces for self-organisation, collaboration, network formation, knowledge and content creation. Not telling people what to do, or what’s best for them, but letting them decide for themselves, and supporting without stifling. This will feel creative, exploratory, emergent, chaotic, and probably a bit risky and uncertain.

Facilitating this in a a digital space is going to take something better than a walled platform owned by an organisation with corporate interests and an ability to control what people see. So Facebook probably isn’t the ideal space for this. But there may be a problem if any organisation – even a charity – is perceived to own a platform or network, more than the people that make up that network.

What does national campaigning for a charity look like now?

The experience of being involved in national campaigning for most charities is something like this:

  1. Sign up for a mailing list.
  2. Receive emails from time to time. These emails update you on what’s happening and ask you to take a range of different actions to help the organisation campaign.
  3. When your interests and the request from the organisation intersect, you take action.

What do charity networks look like now?

Charity networks seem to largely exist offline, or at least in silos. Initiative seems to come from the centre – the national organisation – rather than arising out of the network. Opportunities for communication and agency between nodes in the network are limited.

UNICEF’s network seems to exist mainly in specific discrete geographical locations – see its Schools Campaign Network and its regional fundraising groups. Involvement in the international cause is channelled through a national organisation, which directs the activity of local groups.

Oxfam lets you choose to take part in an action, but doesn’t seem to be focused on letting you set direction. Just like with UNICEF, Oxfam’s campaign groups seem to mainly exist as an email address on a map, rather than a live conduit into a trouble-making world transforming network of energetic activists. I wonder if these groups could be in touch with each other more powerfully, and work together more ambitiously?

oxfam find a local campaign group

The Oxfam supporter panel seems like an opportunity to contribute to the organisation’s direction, but it looks quite one-sided. The organisation asks you about what you think about what it’s doing, so that it can decide on improvements to make to what it does:

“The Supporter Panel was set up to help us understand more about how supporters view our communications, fundraising ideas and campaign work, and enable us to make improvements. As a member of the Oxfam Supporter Panel, we’ll send you a short survey once a month, which will never take more than 15 minutes to complete. We’ll then use your opinions and insights to help steer the way we fundraise and campaign for a fairer world.”

What about Oxfam’s communities platform? It seems to be based around fundraising groups and get togethers. I wonder if this space could also be used as a hub to plan projects?

Amnesty UK has specialist networks but these seem to be quite one-directional: taking organisation-led actions, reading a blog, and receiving a newsletter. “Create a profile on our website to get involved with any of our networks and sign up to receive regular emails, actions and news on the issues that matter most to you.”

Again, like UNICEF and Oxfam, their local groups live in a directory, separate from each other and on separate websites. (To start a group, you have to fill in a word doc, pay a membership fee, and send it back to the central organisation.) Local organisations being separate makes logistical sense, but in some contexts we want to aggregate them and combine them so that they become something greater. We want the living network to be more than a list of names in a PDF.

What about Avaaz? That’s an international grassroots campaigning network, isn’t it?

My main experiences of Avaaz have been receiving an email telling you to fill in a petition. Upon filling it in, you’re taken to a page placing your action in exciting real-time global, and quite personal, context. This is cool, but this action was still directed by the organisation.

Avaaz has made moves towards empowering its network. I’ve been impressed to see the annual objective setting questionnaire, through which members contribute to the prioritisation of campaigning activity.

avaaz's campaigning priorities for 2014

I’m also intrigued by the newer Start your Own Petition functionality. I don’t know how much organisational intervention or vetting there is on these petitions.

avaaz community petition - landing page form

Metaphors of control and power; insiders and outsiders; sailing ships and motor boats.

Alice Jay, a campaigns director for Avaaz, explained that “We’re like a sailing boat, not a motor boat.” I think the metaphor here is that the organisation’s supporters are like the wind behind a sailing ship. The staff of the organisation have to work out the nuances of the route, they have to sort out the logistics and worry about avoiding risks, but the general direction of travel is powered by the supporters. Supporters don’t need to worry about finesse, or to have too much knowledge or skill – they just need to keep the wind blowing. A motor boat, by contrast, would be an organisation doing things under its own power – not dependent upon outside support.

But what if the direction of supporter enthusiasm is at variance to the presumably high-quality expert insights of people inside an organisation? What if the direction of popular enthusiasm seems like it’s heading for the rocks?

The situation can become tricky when people inside an organisation believe that they can achieve better results through more private negotiation, and perhaps giving some ground, as opposed to a more belligerent and uncompromising public stance. At the height of opposition to Andrew Lansley’s reform plans, campaigners sought signatures to force a parliamentary debate. But campaigners at 38 Degrees thought that this might not be the best way forward. “that ended up as a real shit storm. People were covering their Facebook wall asking why they weren’t supporting the existing petitions. It just doesn’t look very good.”

I prefer metaphors of sailing boats to metaphors of galleys. A sailing boat organisation is powered by supporters, moving towards a shared objective, with the details of the journey worked out by those on the ship. A galley organisation, by contrast, would have its supporters on board, but they wouldn’t set the direction, and would be told when to row.

Can we go beyond metaphors of insiders and outsiders?

The sailing boat metaphor still relies on a distinction between those inside the organisation and those outside it. Why is that necessary?

I think we can nuance this a bit. Within an organisation, we already divide responsibilities. We leave finance to the people who understand and are interested in it. The specialist digital team handles digital work, working with those inside the organisation who are also interested and skilled. So perhaps we can think of charities working with supporters in a similar way. Break down the charity’s work into different areas, and let everyone who is interested be a part of decision making and implementation. (Do we need to set a barrier for competence?)

So I don’t necessarily think that the outsider vs insider dichotomy is something we need to trip up on.

There must already be examples of charities moving away from central control towards a network-led approach

Movements like Anonymous, the SOPA blackout, the arab spring and Occupy suggest that people are able to come together, making use of digital channels, to achieve change. Which charities are doing this sort of thing already?

The draft of this blog was written in January 2013, but never brought to completion. I decided to finish it off and post it today.

Delivering Digital Transformation – How charity IT and digital teams can work together effectively

Some key points of interest that I gleaned from Charity Comms” Digital transformation: How to get it right in your organisation

The division of work between digital and IT is often unclear

In most organisations, the division of responsibility between IT and digital is:
– IT support internal infrastructure.
– Digital support externally-facing initiatives. eg social media, web and CMS, SEO and PPC, online giving.

But often the scope of digital has not been clearly defined.

As digital has grown beyond marketing and communications and started to manage emerging projects (eg hosting, mobile, other digital services (eg Elefriends), database systems, and (for some) service transformation and data-driven initiatives), this can cause confusion of roles.

Digital teams should remember that IT teams are useful to them

IT teams often hold useful resources – eg developers and expertise with procurement (and processes? – eg agile).

How to make the case for digital in your organisation: think operationally

You need to make the case for change, and you need to explain what digital can do for the organisation.

Take up the discussion at senior level.
Focus on user needs.

(Don’t focus on faults with underlying legacy systems or structures, and don’t just take up the discussion with IT)

If a lack of formal structure or governance is an obstacle to change, set up that structure.

Digital is often thought of as just concerned with fundraising and campaigns. But by thinking operationally you can go beyond income generation and move into efficiency gains and potentially cost savings. eg use of data can refine service delivery; digital can join up disconnected or outdated processes and services.

So identify what issues are stopping your organisation from operating effectively, and identify where digital can play a role in joining up processes and reducing reliance on manual activities.

Look beyond your organisation for inspiration, and articulate your results in the operational language of the rest of the organisation. Think about proving your claims, and about how you will provide evidence of success.

Agile innovation in income generation for charities

What is gamification and how might it be useful for charities?

Gamify This! – NFP Tweetup 18, 13 March 2013. I’ve picked 10 or so tweets to summarise the evening, and added in some of my own notes.

  1. Gamification is making an activity more like a game.

    The definition of ‘game’ used here encompasses rewards, external markers of success, and (often) competition; but it also incorporates play, fun and collaboration.

  2. Gamification defined – taking something that isn’t usually a game, but applying game principles #nfptweetup
  3. Don’t just ‘gamify’ – you need a goal and to tailor towards it. Reward the behaviours you want to encourage; don’t go half-baked #nfptweetup
  4. #nfptweetup Why do gamification? For fun. To solve problems. To reward people & take advantage of competitive behaviour
  5. A recommended book on gamification (@david_whitney, on the panel, made the original recommendation):
  6. Yes a damn fine book RT @aarora17: This is the book #nfptweetup > Gamestorming:Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers+Changemakers
  7. Some examples of gamification

  8. Cancer Research UK’s Dryathalon:

    Dryathalon – Not drinking for a month, to raise money for Cancer Research UK.

    Based on 12 months of research and preparation.

    “Men are willing to support a charity as long as it is low involvement, derives personal benefit, and facilitates banter with friends.”

  9. 41% more was raised by people who signed up for the gamification, as opposed to those who only signed up for JustGiving accounts. (Aside: how much of this difference would we expect to see through normal stewardship?)

    They used the JustGiving API to grab data each day for the overall leader board.

  10. They also used data from the API to send each dryathlete an email when they hit certain fundraising targets. Participants were sent a badge signifying the milestone. Messages thanked them for their support, and told them about the cause they were contributing to. (We don’t yet know the extent to which the cause message appealed to people, or if they were just interested in the personal/competitive milestone.) Open rates for these emails were 60%.

    Impressive results, reaching a new audience. 80% of followers of the dryathalon Facebook page do not follow Cancer Research UK on any other platform.

  11. Dryathlon- I take my hat off to you. New audience of young males; £4m raised; merging the fun competition with serious messaging #nfptweetup
  12. I wonder the extent to which this could lead to longer-run behavioral change, or sustained engagement with the charity.

  13. Citizen Science

    Crowdsourcing simpler elements of scientific work. One example of citizen science is Cell Slider, also from Cancer Research UK.

    I’ve seen similar projects with protein folding – eg fold it: solve puzzles for science – and with distributed computing (although projects like World Community Grid and [email protected] don’t have an active game element to them – they’re just about donating your computer’s processing power. You do get feedback on your contribution, though.)
  14. Can take CRUK scientists up to 18 months to classify cells – open up the data & putting in a game to analyse data stream #nfptweetup
  15. Gamification doesn’t require computers

  16. An old school charity “gamification” which occurred to me is blood donor awards. Remember my nan being chuffed she got silver! #nfptweetup
  17. Some challenges faced by gamification

    How do you keep people interested in a sustainable way? @b33god cited Foursquare’s recent traffic plateau here.
    Could competitiveness demotivate some people?
    Could gamification appear crass or insensitive for some causes?

    Breakout session – Could we communicate a short public health message through gamification?

    Some ideas:

    You could have a leader board for spreading the message, and track the number of people reached by the entire campaign for a more collaborative focus.
    You could award badges for the top participants in a given time period.
    You could crowdsource content generation and rating.

    Lifestyle change seems like a good target for gamification’s incentive structures. The ability to have emotional feedback, a system for tracking progress (and required tasks?), as well as sharing with peers for support, combine nicely.

    Adding a layer of personal, tangible reward to quitting smoking sounds like a great idea, for example:
  18. “Kickit a good way of linking goals with money saved towards treating yourself to eg an iPad” #nfptweetup
  19. The power of games, rather than gamification