Research Driven Balance to a Technically Focused Project
Summary - UX is not always able to live with a product for the duration of its development. Though this is often considered an ideal state, it is not always the reality of many work environments. By remaining nimble, researchers can provide insights that balance business, technical, and user needs. Providing clarity, direction, and boosting teams’ trajectory towards their projected goals.
While supporting multiple development teams, I jumped in to provide support on a more technically focused team working towards the goal of developing a tool to help Solstice connect their clients to the expertise held by their employees. The expectation was to unveil this tool for a rapidly approaching event as a headline experience.
Develop a better way to connect clients with internal subject matter experts within the company and across its sister companies during an event.
Inspired by the power of Elasticsearch, the team developed a concept with which to move forward.
This concept succeeded in allowing users to connect with company experts and share resources while showcasing the technical capabilities of Elasticsearch.
This demonstrated the abilities of Elasticsearch by asking users to navigate through a digital knowledge web, while continuously collecting the names of subject matter experts and recommended articles.
The team identified the data from the company’s Slack account as the source from which Elasticsearch would create a knowledge web representative of the company’s internal knowledge and identify subject matter experts and shared resources.
I worked with the team to review this concept, gather questions, and identify where assumptions had been made. I defined a route to help determine where research could help validate that this concept would successfully provide value to its users.
Company employees use Slack as a platform to discuss and share resources.
Slack is used by employees to discuss and share resources that clients would also find beneficial.
Clients find value in creating a collection of resources and internal experts to utilize later.
Clients want to continuously interact with and map their journey through the knowledge web.
The next step was to get this concept in front of users, but I also was faced with balancing a few restraints.
The Development Team’s Productivity - The development team was already assembled, eager for work, and the business did not want to waste money waiting on research.
Timeline - Our deadline for code freeze was only 6 weeks away.
Users - The company was reluctant to disturb clients for user interviews.
I put together a plan of action. Working with the developers, I recommended an investigation into the employee focused assumptions by creating a POC utilizing the data from Slack. This would allow time for me to conduct low fidelity validation utilizing paper prototypes. As users were in short supply, I was able to work with those in the company who had the closest relationships with our clients to use proxy users. This even allowed me the exciting opportunity to speak directly with two potential client users. I quickly drafted a research plan, testing protocol, and specifically focused discussion guide to ensure I could analyze the data quickly.
After conducting and analyzing a round of qualitative interviews, I provided the team and PO an informal but actionable readout of the research insights.
Participants did find it valuable to connect with experts.
It was not valuable to provide users with articles they could easily Google.
The continuous exploration of the Elasticsearch knowledge web lacked the feeling of achievement.
At the same time, the team’s investigation into the Slack data showed that while identifying experts might be possible, the subject employees often discussed on the platform were often more aligned with subjects such as pets, sports or games. Though channels with the types of topics assumed to interest clients existed, it was now clear that Slack was not the primary platform used by employees to share their expertise as assumed.
It was clear the team needed to pivot within the next 24 hours to avoid jeopardizing our deadline and provide user value. I took on the challenge and organized a redirection workshop with the team for the following morning. The workshop consisted of a research readout, agreement to pivot, brainstorming, and ideation sessions. After only a few hours, the carefully focused workshop yielded not only team alignment but a new whiteboard concept our designers could implement immediately.
This quick turnaround was successful because of the team's dedication and the ability User Research has to balance business goals and user value with the technology.
The end result donned the name ConnectLive and allowed event attendees to identify and connect with company experts they could later contact on their own time. The tool illustrated the expertise held within the company but without overwhelming clients with the entirety of the Elasticsearch knowledge web.
ConnectLive went on to be a headliner of the event and continued to receive praise, including many accolades from clients and inquiries of interest far beyond the event and anything anticipated. Our only oversight, found later thanks to our analytics strategy, was that client attendees were satisfied with exploring the company's expertise and finding an expert via the concept, and thus very few actually chose to connect with experts in person beyond the experience itself.