A happy UI/UX for our people should be valued highly says Matt

This is not a new concept. Technology change projects can tend to bias User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) principles for an organisation’s customers and external stakeholders. Certainly forgivable.

In our experience, Hart Square’s clients and technology partners also uphold the virtues of a happy UI/UX for their people: the hard-working daily users of the technology.

However, in the trundling wheels of a major implementation, how do we mitigate against the risk that this gets de-prioritised or deferred as a priority in a project? Of it becoming, against our better judgement, a Nice to Have?

A happy UI/UX for our people. How do we as project managers, tech partners, organisational leaders commit to the mantra alongside all other project criticalities? And how do we preserve this mantra post go-live?

A reassurance – organisations can usually rely on modern solutions’ innate UI and UX. There is almost always basic acceptance when we plug in and build functionality onto a solution. Most look, feel and flow well “out of the box”.

What of human nature’s instincts though? Our need to shape and personalise the stuff of our lives? We’re used to this now in our personal online activity. Why should our project, our organisation’s technology be any different?

One of the two pillars of the Lean Way, “Respect for People”, is useful here. As a first principle let’s commit to our people’s insight. They are the experts of the work. Respecting this principle builds trust and collaboration.

Let’s then commit to adult-adult dialogue. Our people understand budget limitations, negotiation of priorities, system standards versus tampering even if this brings conflicts of interest. This commitment empowers maturity.

Let’s then commit to pragmatism: where? Where do we embed UI/UX within our technology roadmap, so it has its right place for our people as well as our customers and stakeholders?

Here are six key places to embed UI/UX principles for your people within your technology roadmap:

  1. Requirements gathering – almost all tenders for websites include descriptive lines on UI/UX requirements to serve customers. Why not offer that key steer to tech partners on high volume, high intensity processes where look, feel and flow will be key to keeping performance levels high and driving user adoption?
  2. Vendor selection – Hart Square has recently introduced a standalone demo session to business leads within our new technology tender process. Well populated, this session is a perfect place to assess how good a tech partner’s innate UI/UX performs to the right audience.
  3. Specification/ To Be process design – this is Lean, this is invaluable. The blueprint for future processes must allow space not only for functional redesign, but also harmony in how processes look and flow through systems.
  4. Show and tell/User Acceptance Testing – Here, the focus is often as it should be: on the engine, how it operates. Yet most tech partners offer the opportunity for input on UI/UX in these sessions – refining form layout, tidying tabs and ribbons; the best partners offer on-the-spot refinement where appropriate.
  5. Training – everyone “on-system for go live” needs training. There are always the early adopters, the 20% who know and willingly share with colleagues the happy virtues of the new UI/UX. Commit to training these people well upfront, and they will become your UI/UX champions as well as process champions.
  6. Regular review points – one month after going live will be too soon; 12 months after sounds a little late. So, after three to six months, build in a rolling review point with your people. Using a survey or user group will help you understand what flows and what still falters in the ongoing solution. Giving the highest value recommendations a priority in your development plan should ensure UI/UX remains valued by all.

A final reassurance – recognise that it is sometimes daunting and not innate to preserve these principles when so much is at stake during major changes or a busy development diary.

“Good enough” is still a positive if there are heavy constraints on what you need to do with the time and money you have got to spend.

Keep mastery in sight, though. Always valuing UI/UX for our people makes masters of the work and of the mission.

Ask the expert – Harriet Barker and Billy Peat, both Business Change Consultants

This month’s resident experts are Harriet Barker and Billy Peat, both Business Change Consultants at Hart Square. Billy has been delivering projects with HBF, the Children’s Society and Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) with Harriet working with Ben (charity for the automotive industry) and STEM Learning to name but a few. In this month’s “ask the expert” article, they discuss how to make an informed decision when choosing a new technology provider.

Vendor selections – how to make an informed decision

At Hart Square, we carry out around 25 vendor selection projects per year, where we aim to run engaging and informative selection processes so that our clients can confidently appoint an appropriate partner for their implementation project.

Importantly, we’re not there to make the decision for you. As an independent consultancy, we’ll support you with choosing appropriate organisations to invite to tender, but it’s completely down to you to decide who to go with.

It’s therefore critical that our clients use every opportunity they can to gather information about the vendors to support their final decision. Here are some tips we recommend to really get the most out of vendor selections.

Speak to the vendors’ clients

A key part of selecting a new technology provider is speaking to their existing clients through the references they provide. This is an important part of the process as it enables you to speak directly to representatives who have worked with your potential providers, independently of both Hart Square and the vendors themselves.

We encourage our clients to speak to references as early as possible within the process and where feasible to arrange site visits to see the technology in action. The purpose is to not only discover the positives but understand the lessons they have learned and how the vendors overcame any challenges.

References are extremely important to get a more rounded view of the vendors and we strongly recommend that you make the time early in the process to carry them out.

Don’t judge by sales people

Every selection process should involve at least one face-to-face touchpoint for you to meet each vendor and see a demo of their solution. At Hart Square, we think that’s so important that we have three face-to-face meetings in our selection processes, each with a different focus.

This gives our clients the chance to really get to know the vendors, clarify any areas in the ITT, and get a feel for whether they are a good cultural fit for their organisation. The technology solution is of course an important factor in deciding who to go with, but it’s also important that you feel you’ll be able to work well with the technology provider.

It’s important to remember though – the people you’re meeting will mostly be in the sales team and once the project starts you likely won’t see them very much. Make sure you get to meet at least one or two people from the project team to get a better idea of who you’ll be working with.

Structure the final presentation

Each vendor you’re considering for the project should be asked to finish the selection process by presenting their proposal to you in person. This is their last chance to engage with you so it’s important to think through what you want to get out of the meeting and share this with them in advance.

This is a good opportunity to ask to see demos of specific scenarios (we suggest between 4-6) that are critical areas for the project. It’s equally important to ensure there is enough time to discuss the project methodology, project timelines and to ask any other questions of the vendors that you may want to clarify from their proposal.

Thinking through these expectations in advance and providing an agenda means they have the best opportunity to showcase their solution and ensures you’ll get what you need from the final presentation.

Don’t base everything on just functionality

When it comes down to making your final decision, it shouldn’t just be based on the technology solutions. What else is important to you about who you work with? Do you have a preferred delivery approach, or is it necessary that they have experience working with similar organisations? It’s useful to think through these criteria early to help structure your decision-making process and ensure you get all information necessary from the providers throughout the process.

At Hart Square, we include Selection Criteria in our Invitation to Tender, detailing the key criteria that is important to our client and which their decision will be based upon. This gives vendors the chance to address these points during the vendor selection process to give you confidence that they are a good fit for your project.

In summary:

  • Check out references
  • Get to know the whole team not just the sales person
  • Have a structure to meetings to ensure you get the most out of them
  • It’s not just about functionality

If you would like to discuss this further, please email us at info@hartsquare.co.uk

Ask the Expert – Sadhana Bhatt, CRM Consultant, talks preparing for change

Each month one of Hart Square’s expert consultants will share their experience of delivering projects for our clients – what works well, and how to avoid potential pitfalls.

This month’s resident expert is Sadhana Bhatt, Consultant at Hart Square.  Sadhana has been with us for 18 months, delivering major transformation projects for CITMA and TTE to name a few.

In this month’s “ask the expert” article, Sadhana discusses digital transformation projects – what can you do while your technology provider is building your system?

It’s always great when your organisation has decided to invest in new technology, successfully got the business case signed off by the Board, been through a vendor selection and have kicked off a partnership with a new technology provider to transform the organisation.

But what should you be doing once the requirements for the new solution have been agreed and signed off with the technology provider and now, they are in the development stage of your project? This may seem like a “lull” period as suddenly you will no longer hear from the supplier on a day-to-day basis. However, clients ask me as they enter this development phase what should they be doing next and my reply is usually the same. I always recommend the following areas to start focusing on – and take advantage of this thinking time while you have it!

Website: if you are implementing a new website, start thinking about content.

What is coming from the old/current site? What needs rewriting, what is no longer relevant or required etc. So, when the skeleton website is delivered, all the material that needs to be uploaded is at hand. And more importantly, you’ve decided on what’s no longer required!

UAT (User Acceptance Testing): plan and prepare for the testing that needs to be carried out for the UAT stage

  • confirm team members who will be responsible for testing and what will they test
  • start thinking, planning and documenting all the tests that need to be carried out for each area (e.g. membership, events) that needs to be tested

Processes: with a new system you need to think about what the new/amended processes will be. Many manual processes (e.g. updating manual spread sheets) will be eliminated and therefore, you should start to consider

  • what reports will you need?
  • how will certain transactions will be processed going forward?
  • what will be automated etc.?

I have heard many times, senior management stating that once the manual processes have been eliminated, their staff will have time to concentrate on key functions related to business development. To enable this, and to get the best out of your new technology, senior management need to ensure new objectives are implemented and appropriate training and communication is related to the employees.

Data migration: this can be one of the most challenging tasks a client carries out. Clients usually have two options to consider:

  • shall I take all the old data and tidy up on the new system? Or
  • should I tidy up and make sure the new system only has the data that is correct and needed?

In theory, the answer is you can pursue either option; it all depends on how you want to run the migration. However, in my experience, if you are leaving cleaning data until the new system is deployed, time must be allocated to do the tidy up pre-go-live or immediately after. In most cases this does not happen due to changing priorities, mainly related to the taking advantage of the new functionality you now have at your fingertips – all too often, data cleansing gets forgotten. This can then lead to new solution with data issues that may then provide incorrect information, and stop you getting the best out of your investment. My personal preference is the second option – invest the time to clean the data before you migrate this to your new technology.

Planning data cleansing and migration to ensure data is fit for purpose can be a time-consuming task. So, it’s essential to plan and start early in the project ensuring any decisions made are documented, approved and communicated. It is vitally important to work with the technology partner to ensure the data load can be planned and tested.

In summary, my main tips are to use this time to:

  • review your content
  • plan your User Acceptance Testing (UAT)
  • review your processes
  • review your data in advance of moving to your new system

If you would like to discuss this further, please email Sadhana at info@hartsquare.co.uk

Ask the Expert – Rhys Evans, Senior Consultant, talks Change Management

Each month one of Hart Square’s expert consultants will share their experience of delivering projects for our clients – what works well, and how to avoid potential pitfalls.

This month’s resident expert is Rhys Evans, Senior Consultant at Hart Square.  Rhys has been with us for almost 5 years, delivering major transformation projects for the Bar Council, UK Theatre, Royal Society of Medicine, Public Health Dorset.

In this month’s “ask the expert” article, Rhys discusses if change should be considered a key element of a technology project?

How should change be considered in a technology project?

At Hart Square all the projects we work on are built around the desire to bring about a positive change to client organisations. But what that change means to the people involved can vary greatly based on your position, experiences and expectations.

For the change initiators it is the movement towards a new vision; for the more practical it’s a transition from one set of systems, working practices and business processes; to some it’s the disruption of something you have learned to live with to be replaced by something unfamiliar. In the face of a challenging transition the ‘better the devil you know’ mentality can be hard to break down.

As change projects take months, or in some cases years, to deliver, the way these different views are understood, managed and addressed throughout has a huge bearing on success.
A food-oriented colleague likened the impact of a technology change project to an individual who cooks every day with a small, simple microwave. It’s seen that there is the possibility to do more and better, so the microwave disappears overnight and gets replaced by a fully-fitted restaurant standard kitchen and a training session.

Without the right engagement throughout, our microwave chef struggles adjust to this new environment and can easily become overwhelmed, disenfranchised and ultimately, hungry. The supportive advice that ‘Michelin star chefs use these tools to do amazing things’ is of little comfort here. The downfall is not necessarily the boldness of the vision, but the manner of the engagement with those who matter to the project.

So how do we go about proactively managing change?

Firstly, start early. At the outset of a programme or project there is a vision, a roadmap and stated outcomes and beneath this the different groups affected by the project:

  • the executive board
  • the project delivery team
  • the internal users
  • the governing bodies and
  • the members or customers

Each group will harbour their own set of hopes, aspirations, fears and misgivings about the project and its impact. The early phase of a project is the right point to engage with these groups, unpack those considerations and put in place plans for how to engage them at the right time in the right way throughout the project.

Secondly, ensure you have the right person or people in a position to do this work. The badge of ‘change management’ is frequently namechecked in project governance discussions but is less frequently defined as a set of specific responsibilities and resourced as part of a project makeup. Working within a constrained budget often results in the change management aspect being either seen as a collective responsibility amongst the executive tier of the governance structure or bundled in with the responsibilities of the Project Manager.

In both cases while they have a part to play in the change management it’s all too easy for the practical aspects of delivering the project to dominate time and headspace, marginalising the focus on change management. This can be addressed by a ensuring a specific role with the right skillset engaging with the project a purely from a change perspective.

Finally, ensure that change management is a two-way street. The complexity and sophistication of the technology involved in a change project can distract from the reality that they only succeed if they allow people to do things better or do better things as a consequence.

The knowledge and experience of internal and external stakeholders are vital project resources. Part of change management is unlocking and leveraging those resources rather than the change being applied to them. This includes working across the very keen and change ready to the more removed and harder to engage stakeholders – all have a role in the project but may need different environments and techniques to get the best of them.

It all comes back to the early vision and aspirations for the big change that’s going to move your organisation forward. Bold and positive change is rarely made without difficult times and a lot of hard work.

If you make the management of change part of the solution rather than the problem and prioritise it appropriately, each bump in the road becomes easier to navigate and those involved better positioned to make that vision achievable.

If you would like to discuss this further, please email Rhys at info@hartsquare.co.uk

Ask the Expert – Chris Gilbert, Senior Consultant, talks Business Processes

Each month one of Hart Square’s expert consultants will share their experience of delivering projects for our clients – what works well, and how to avoid potential pitfalls.

This month’s resident expert is Chris Gilbert, Senior Consultant at Hart Square.  Chris has been with us for 7 years, delivering major transformation projects for MIND, Action on Hearing Loss, Royal Society of Edinburgh, to name but a few.

In this month’s “ask the expert” article, Chris discusses the need to review your processes, not just implement new technology and hope for the best.

Technology projects – Don’t forget your business processes!
(or don’t wrap new technology around bad processes)

When embarking on a technology project, it’s often assumed that the project will also “fix” existing processes for users of the new system.

There’s also an assumption that your technology partner will give you all the help you need to make their solution and your business fit together, and more importantly, convince your staff that these changes will streamline what they do. Sadly, you are in for a great deal of disappointment on Go Live day when you realise that is usually not the case…

Your technology provider will deliver functionality but will rarely prescribe an efficient process and set of steps for you to follow to deliver the business outcome. Which fields you fill in, in which order, with what information is something that cannot be templated across each and every organisation but is something that is often poorly defined when moving ahead with a new system.

In the rush to embrace new and flexible technology that allows for in-house configuration, the flip-side is often lost… flexibility results in different ways to get to the same end-state and relies on your organisation having a clear idea of how your process will be enabled and streamlined by new tools.

The need to own business processes outside of the delivery of technology is critical in eliminating wasteful steps between teams (and within teams), streamlining processes, correct management of data, and reliable outputs (not only reports and dashboards, but serving up information to websites and bulk email systems).

Without those, replacing old tech with new becomes a way of providing a few new features and very little else in terms of productivity improvements.

Could the technology project also deliver business process change at the same time?

The short, sharp answer is ‘It could, But shouldn’t.’

That is not to say that you should have two projects working in silo from one another, but to expect the implementation of a new system, or upgrade of an existing one, to also include the delivery of future (or “To Be”) processes across all teams involved is to misunderstand the volume and type of work/skills required of each strand of work.

Revising and streamlining processes is a hugely beneficial exercise, and one that all organisations should build in as a rolling programme of review to maintain good practises, including the documentation of these, regardless of new systems and projects. This isn’t often the norm for a lot of organisations we’ve encountered though, and so making it clear what the technology project delivers and what it does not, can be an education piece in of itself.

However, using the technology project as a catalyst for this kind of business process review strand is a great way to both better understand how teams work cross-departmentally, and on their own, and use the implementation of a new technology to drive those changes forward.

Your technology project will benefit hugely from that work being undertaken prior to its implementation but running in parallel is also a possibility if you can align your timelines and ensure you’re not impacting the technical delivery of the system by revising processes and delaying the project’s key milestones.

Another significant benefit of mapping and reviewing these business processes are in your assessment and formal testing of the technology itself. Writing User Acceptance Testing (UAT) scripts is a tough job if as a tester you don’t have a set of processes to base them against. If you do though, confidence in the solution increases, further efficiencies can be recognised, and possible missed opportunities and requirements can be identified.

Embrace the change your new technology will bring but understand that it can only make your organisation’s processes better with your additional investment in this separate strand of work.

If you would like to discuss this further, please email Chris at info@hartsquare.co.uk

Key tips:

  • Don’t… expect that your business processes will be improved just because you are implementing a new technology
  • Don’t… expect too much of your technology partner. Typically, they will help you use the new technology – How efficiently you use it is up to you
  • Do… recognise that improving business processes takes focused effort and resource
  • Do… consider a separate process review and streamlining stage as part of defining your requirements

Ask the expert – Matt Dunphy, CRM consultant, on Good Projects

In our Ask the Experts series, Matt Dunphy, Consultant at Hart Square shares his insights after his first full year in the role; the questions clients ask and the key things that make a successful project.

Questions I always get asked

I’ve been working as a consultant at Hart Square for just over a year now, after many years working for healthcare organisations and charities as well as delivering CRM projects elsewhere. In the last year I’ve worked on large and small projects, but no matter what the scale of the project, I always get asked about the most important elements to achieve a good project (and avoid a bad one).

Tips and tricks when starting a project

Start before you start! It may sound strange yet good foundations are simply vital and many aspects of the project should be defined before a project kicks off with the whole team:

  • the project structure
  • its governance
  • who likely team members will be and board representatives
  • crucially who the project will be sponsored and championed by
  • then key assumptions about how the project will be delivered and what it aims to achieve.

A business case will start this process and then all planning for an implementation project that can be done alongside a requirements exercise and a protective vendor selection is of vital use to be in the right place on that date when you get everyone in a room and say ‘let’s begin’.

Key questions at the start of implementation

There will be questions and answers before an implementation kicks off that are really worth addressing. These should also be communicated to team members and staff to get buy in and build a collective understanding of what an implementation will deliver.

For me, two items stick in the mind of particular importance for implementation projects at the start:

  • what are the tolerances of this implementation – i.e. what may be the acceptable time, cost or scope decisions which may be made by your board in the event the project encounters major issues or a need for changes?
  • how exactly will we know we have succeeded upon or after delivery of the implementation project – what are the project’s measurable outputs basically and how and when will we measure our success against these deliverables?

How to run a successful project

Preparation is key. Communication as required to everyone is paramount. And sustainable progress at the right pace – especially if it is a delivery of 12 months or more – is one of the ways you will ensure you get there successfully. Finally transparency – if there is an issue, say so and record it, and manage it, plus be honest about major project risks and how to manage them.

Working with suppliers

In most Hart Square implementation projects, we work to create one team – the client, the supplier (technology provider) and Hart Square. Ensuring this holds true through an implementation is the successful way to work with suppliers for mutual benefit. Most of all for Hart Square, this is the best way to ensure success for the client and deliver what their organisation needs and is trying to achieve.

One of our key roles is to be the sounding board for the supplier, to help them think through how they will deliver a project for a client. Often Hart Square is on-board first and has worked over many months with a client before an implementation with a supplier begins. That gives us a great insight into how a client organisation operates, and (hopefully!) goodwill to share with suppliers about what works and what doesn’t in that organisation, especially around how change affects the organisation and how best to negotiate the management of this change.

Do you have a specific question?

These are just some of the insights I have gathered in my first year as a consultant, and I am learning things every day. If you have any specific queries, please email info@hartsquare.co.uk