Five Hacks to Weave Constituent Experience Into Your Nonprofit Organization (Video, Podcast, Transcript)
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Recording of a webinar presented in partnership with Community IT Innovators.
Being an expert in user experience doesn’t mean that you’re an expert designer or programmer. User experience is about how constituents experience your nonprofit organization. Learn five user experience “hacks” that come before technology—and how to create a “user-centric” experience of your organization.
The Five Hacks
- Agree that user experience is important
- Focus on staff experience
- Evaluate your physical environment
- Map your constituent journeys
- Collect and act on feedback
Our discussion of these five hacks, followed by Q&A:
a) Understand the Relationship Management Continuum (about minute 3:50)
b) Understand terminology (minute 5:00)
c) The Five Hacks (6:24)
d) First hack case study: user experience is important (7:15)
e) Second hack detail: your staff is your front line of users (12:00)
f) Third hack: physical environment (15:00)
g) Fourth hack: map your constituent journeys (17:50)
h) Fifth hack: collect and act on feedback (23:12)
i) Role of technology in all of this (28:00)
j) Q&A with Johan Hammerstrom from Community IT Innovators and webinar participants (31:32)
Johan Hammerstrom: Welcome to the February, 2018, Community IT Innovators Webinar. Thank you for joining us for today’s webinar on, “Five Hacks to Weave Constituent Experience into your Organization.” My name is Johan Hammerstrom. I’m the president and CEO of Community IT and the moderator for this series. Today, we are pleased to co-present the webinar with our partners at Build Consulting and I’m joined today by Build partner, Kyle Haines.
Before we begin the webinar, we’d like to share a few tips. Please interact with us today on the webinar. You can ask questions using the chat feature in Go To webinar. And you can also connect with us on Twitter. If you can, please avoid multi-tasking during the webinar today. You may just miss the best part of the presentation. If you do miss the best part of the presentation, we will have links to the recording and slides which will be shared with you after the webinar. We’d also like to share with you a little bit more about our companies.
Community IT is a 100% employee owned company and our team of nearly 40 staff is dedicated to helping non-profit organizations advance their missions through the effective use of technology.
We are technology experts and we have been consistently named one of the top 200 managed service providers in North America, an honor that we just received for 2017. And now, without further ado, I’d like to handover to Build partner Kyle Haines. Hello, Kyle.
Kyle: Hey, Johann. Thanks for having me today. So, just a little bit before we get started about Build. We lead in the social good sector by providing three types of services to nonprofits. Firstly, we serve as part-time on interim chief information officers for non-profits. Another thing that we do is we provide business process, technology and data projects that range from strategic assessments and tech road maps to system selections and implementations. And lastly with our Build Team’s offering, we provide outsourced data managers with deep development operations, experience and non-profit CRM expertise.
So, for today’s webinar, firstly, this is a topic that has been interesting me pretty much my whole life and I want to talk about that in a little bit. Today, what I want to do is I want to talk about what I think of when I think about user experience. And probably most importantly dispel the notion that you have to be some sort of trained expert in constituent experience to be good at this. I want to share a unique way about thinking about it or at least my way of thinking about it. When I can, I’m gonna share some real world examples and lastly, I want to relate this back to probably what most of the folks in this webinar are interested in. How this relates to technology projects.
So, like most young men, young boys, I loved legos. My mom hated stepping on them but I loved them. But what I really loved was more than thinking about legos as a pile of bricks. My favorite thing to play with was this simple space base. I spent hours laying out space colonies. I was always trying to optimize and figure out how to better use the space. Then in college, I was an urban studies major and truthfully, I hated and I really wasn’t very good at, the economics and sociology and poli-sci that comprised an urban studies major. What I loved was the design aspects. I loved the idyllic aspects. I loved the planning aspects.
So, how did this lead me to be interested in exploring this topic of constituent experience? Stories for me and for us are version of user experience. It’s a way to prevent overwhelming people with stories about technology or changing or challenging the way of thinking and hopefully finding a way to excite them. This slide I’m particularly proud of (4:15), it shows how we helped a global organization set expectations about how different relationships were gonna get managed. Not a particularly exciting topic. It was fun to develop this with them. We had to come up with something that could be easily communicated to people around the world that served in different roles, that had different educational backgrounds and had different languages. What I’m especially proud of is that what we came up with something that was elegant. It wasn’t full of buzzwords. It wasn’t dense. It was something that in one page captured a shared understanding. Simple trees growing, being nurtured, people just got it.
Of course, there is a ton of detailed stuff that sat behind this. But that’s not fun to show off in a webinar. There were a lots of details about the who and how we are gonna do this. But it revolved around a common understanding of how we are gonna map key relationships.
(5:11)One of the questions, I know, we got in advance and this is not uncommon. People are confused by all of these different terms that get bandied about and sometimes used interchangeably. Things where you’re doing from brand to brand architecture. To user experience and constituent experience and customer experience. Ultimately for today, these terms, I don’t think are super important for you to be able to differentiate. I think, what’s important is to think about how you can integrate your own understanding of your organization with things you already know into improving how your organization approaches constituent experience.
(5:50)Sometimes, people think user experience is something like this or something like this or something like this. We are taught that user experience as a design based discipline and we need designers. But I don’t buy into this. I don’t believe it. I think we’re all designers. Issey Miyake said this simply and elegantly: “Design is not for philosophy, it’s for life.” So, with that, let’s jump into the hacks.
(6:30)So, here they are in a single slide. This can help you determine whether this webinar is actually something you want to stick around for and hopefully, you do. But here they all are in one place. These actually go, when you first read them, from sounding like some of the easiest ones, you start with to ones that are more difficult. But in fact for many organizations, they are not.
Just briefly talking about the first hack. If you can’t get to a place to where your organization sees the first hack as important where they see that user experience is important, it’s gonna be harder to do the remaining hacks. So, the first one, I want to talk about.
(7:22) Gaining agreement that user experience is important. And I’m gonna use a case study here. Something that I was involved in. An organization where I serve as an interim CIO. There are seven vice-presidents and everybody there is very tired of the conference rooms. I could have undertaken this project simply as finding new vendors, getting some demos, making a decision unilaterally and then organizing training for staff about how to use the new conference room technology. But we chose to handle this a bit differently. We wanted to make sure everyone viewed the conference rooms the same way and had the same expectations about them.
So, I’m gonna go through the results and don’t worry, there is only five carefully chosen and written questions. So, even though, I’m going through all of them, I promise, it’s not that dense. So the first question was really interesting to me. It was about how the extent to which the vice-presidents viewed the conference rooms as part of the brand experience of the organization. There wasn’t a ton of strong agreement about this and there actually were some folks who disagreed. So, I don’t know and I haven’t gotten a chance to entirely unpack this yet, but I think this is something worth exploring more with this group. People come to the offices all the time for external meetings. I personally think that it’s a place to reinforce the brand. Clearly, not everyone agrees. The next one is around conference rooms being integral to the office. Not a ton of disagreement here, but my hope is that this question prompted some additional thinking in some of the subsequent questions. The next question was about considering, when folks do come to the office, how important are they in thinking about technology? How important is it to think about their experience in the conference rooms? This question really helped me understand the technology, not only as something that employees were users of the technology but they were actually external customers or external constituents that were thinking about that, that we needed to consider their needs as it related to the technology.
(9:48) The next slide, sorry the next question rather where I ask about about the extent to which staff should be able to operate the technology in conference rooms. I honestly had a hidden agenda with this question.
I wanted to see what the expectations were around using IT staff. If the expectation was that we don’t expect staff to be able to set conference rooms up, it would impact one, the design of the system but it also would impact the staffing levels and training needed for IT staff, if every time there was a meeting that required the use of technology, if the expectation was that the IT staff would be there to support those, that would be an important consideration. That would be something that would be important for us to plan for around resource scheduling, around training, all sorts of implications.
And then the last question was whether new hires, whether it should be a part of the on-boarding experience around conference rooms and how to use them effectively. This question helped me to answer the extent to which, we needed to look at the on boarding process and the IT on-boarding process and how the on-boarding process might have to change or evolve.
(11:19)I wanted to share just as a brief intermission one of our core beliefs. We believe that technology change ultimately is organizational change. So, something as “simple” as a conference room technology upgrade is something that actually impacts the entire organization from any number of perspectives. It impacts things that I mentioned. Things like training. It impacts how external people are gonna be supported as they use the conference rooms. It actually impacts the requirements for the technology itself.
(11:53) So, the next hack, focus on staff as the frontline of your brand. This one is really interesting to me and this actually caught my eye a number of years ago when I read a book by Elena Wheeler, called “Designing Brand Identity,” and just as a sneak preview- at the end of this presentation which we are gonna provide to everyone attending today and also post on the website, there is a bibliography with all of the referenced material in here, so you can easily grab that yourself. But this is where I first began to think about this in more detail. Thinking about employees as customers that needed to be thought of in a distinct and thoughtful way.
My wife actually works for QVC and it’s interesting because they believe in this passionately. They have an entire workplace campaign devoted to employees. The current one is called. “Know the difference, Be the difference.” And it is focused and it is something that is staffed by people across the organization that range from HR to internal communications, to IT and it is indicative of the extent to which they have recognized that their employees tangibly impact the experience of their customers.
(13:19)Some of these statistics confirm what all of us intuitively probably already know that companies that choose to focus on making employees happy and fulfilled are the ones that are most successful.
There is a ton of research that delves into this in more detail. What impacts employee happiness? But I can give you a little bit of a hint and we are not gonna go into detail today. It’s not always how they are compensated. The main take away from this is that treating employees as valued constituents or valued customer takes time, effort, energy and constant vigilance. It is not a one time effort.
So, what we do at Build, is we came up with something called the Build Way. And the Build Way is part of our weekly all-staff meeting and the focus there is on transparency.
Early on in our formation, we created an intranet that emphasizes how we work and this includes our values, this includes things that are more tactical like templates, but this is an area that is constantly evolving and constantly being nurtured and developed. But again, we are not done with this. And this takes a ton of energy, time and nurturing.
(14:50)The next hack is evaluating your physical environment. And this is something that is oftentimes difficult to approach specifically with noprofits. Because oftentimes, there is an emphasis on creating something like this and we all know that for non-profits, this is unrealistic and probably a bit awful. The emphasis in a nonprofit and for-profit space unfortunately sometimes is an imitation of spaces that somebody like the CEO have seen that they like. And we actually saw this recently at one of my clients. Another organization was touring the space to get ideas about how to configure their space. But I don’t believe that imitation is the most effective way to think about your environment and how employees crave working and want to work.
(15:52)In preparing for this presentation, I came across something that was succinct and much more interesting. And it’s this grid and this is something that before you do a build out or if you’re lucky enough to have an architect, this is something that you want to gain executive agreement on. And this is something that I think, I’ve been fortunate where I serve as the interim CIO, I don’t know that they use something like this. But they pretty much nailed it. They pretty much built an office that was, that matched the style of work for that organization. However, I have clients that are much more research focused and that might require a different work environment where people can quietly do work and do writing and focus.
(16:37)So, one of the things that I wanted to use as a case example was an organization called CEO, and CEO works with formerly incarcerated folks to reintegrate them into the workforce. Oftentimes by teaching them vital workplace skills. This office is actually in New York City and for those who have never been to New York City, New York City offices are generally not flush with space and even more so at nonprofit organizations. I’ve had clients in New York and other places where offices are filled with boxes. People are sharing cubicles designed for one person. And my question for those organizations is what message does that workspace send? Does it send the right message? Is it okay?
I also would point out that this office honors the folks who are coming to receive services. It is something that for New York is clean, modern, not cluttered and welcoming.
(17:50)The next hack: mapping your constituent journeys and this is something that gets a lot of attention in at least in the blogs that I read. This idea of mapping out how constituents or how customers move through an organization and all of the inputs and the actors who impact that constituent journey.
The thing that I think is most important when thinking about constituent journeys is prioritizing where to start.
There are a number of different journeys that your organization can choose to focus on and gaining organizational agreement about which constituents are the most important is an important first step. One way to potentially look at this is return on investment and that’s not always a pleasant way to think about it in mission-based organizations. But it may be a good way to get buy in. It may be a good way to convince people that understanding constituent journeys actually has impacts on how you deliver services, on how donors experience your organization, about any number of different folks experience your organization.
(19:22)So, it’s probably not surprising on this given my earlier slide that when I talked about a sample organization, I made employees the most important things. But it might be hard to convince your whole organization that employees are the place to start. One of the things that I want to call out is I’m not sure if people on the webinar noticed, I included a strange constituent in this list and highlighted it, vendors. And I promise, as a vendor, I’m not advancing my own interest here. But my question is: What happens if your organization creates a journey for vendors where they like working with you? What if they like working with you more than other organizations? What if you highly valued how they experienced your organization? What might that mean for how you were able to in turn, deliver experience for your constituents?
(20:30) I’ll confess that I spent quite a bit of time trying to find one of the least attractive constituent journey maps that I ever found and this definitely ranks up there. It’s not great and it’s actually funny because it shows how quickly things are changing. The idea that lots of people at this point are buying home theater systems with changes in how we view things, on mobile devices, how we view them remotely, all types of changes in viewing habits. The idea of a home theater system being something that is sought after the way that it once was is a little amusing at this point. What I don’t like about this constituent journey map is – first: it assumes that the people looking at it have a high level of organizational understanding. So, this is not something that I could probably approach in my first days working at this home theater system company. Secondarily, it doesn’t necessarily translate across all of the skill sets within an organization. So, is a delivery person, who is part of the constituent experience, are they gonna be understand their role in this? And actually, I just notice that they are not even included in this journey map. But they certainly, for those of us who get things delivered, they are part of the constituent experience or the customer experience in this example.
And it’s also not gonna be understood by perhaps somebody who has experienced just being a cashier, understanding all of the earlier parts. Something that I found from Designing Brand Identity, the book that I referenced earlier, that I think is a much more elegant way to represent constituent or customer experience is this.
(22:14) This was created for a large hotel chain and it showed the entire journey from the point at which somebody is researching a hotel to the point at which they remember their stay. And what I found interesting about this was that both employees and space, two of the hacks get a huge amount of emphasis in this drawing. The emphasis is in this drawing on the experience after the hotel presumably already has your deposit or has your reservation money. It is based on how people experience the space and how people experience direct human interaction. What if your clients or your donors and/or your members were all treated this way after they become linked or they bought in to your organization?
(23:24) The last hack is collecting and acting on feedback. So, I’m gonna go back to CEO actually and use them again as a case story because they are useful in two ways. So, CEO, the way that their program works is that after people are incarcerated, there is a process in which they become part of the program and then they go through a set curriculum (and I’m over simplifying this), with a case manager with a goal of reintegrating them back into the workforce. They measure the experience, sorry, CEO measures the experience from day one to answer a simple fundamental question: How are we doing? I showed you this picture earlier and it was a little bit of a teaser. What’s really most interesting about this picture is the TV in the background and if you can make it out, it says your feedback matters. And on this screen, CEO shows the results of surveys that it does via text messaging. The results don’t call out individual employees’ efforts, but they highlight the collective efforts of the entire organization. Not only are they gathering feedback for the benefit of program design and program evaluation, but they are actually sharing this with the people for who the program was designed.
(24:49)So, there is lots of research on how to design effective survey and feedback collection mechanisms and I came up with my own list based on a lot of things that I read and some of those sources are referenced in the bibliography at the end of the webinar. So, and I think it’s important to mention that CEO acknowledged that they had to experiment with how they ask some of these questions. They had to adjust the scale with how they measured. So, if memory serves, they originally were measuring people on a scale from one to ten. Measuring the experience rather on a scale from one to ten. And what they learnt very quickly was, it was very hard for people to make a distinction or at least a meaningful distinction between an eight and a nine or between a seven and an eight. So, in order for feedback to be effective, going back to collecting feedback, it has to be understandable which means that the questions have to be easily understood. It has to be relevant to their experience. It has to be measurable, so the feedback has to be something that is, can be actually measured. And it has to be actionable which means, I think about the surveys, I take after my experiences with organizations or with companies. It has to be actionable meaning the respondent has to understand how their responses might inform action on the part of the organization offering the survey. And then lastly, it has to be valuable. Asking questions that are not valuable are really ultimately not anything that helps you and it distracts the people taking the survey from getting to the core of probably what they want to share.
And as I said, if you don’t get these things right, people can go all the way from being frustrated and abandoning the survey to just deciding that they are frustrated with these surveys, especially if you’re asking them again and again and again as is the case with this CEO.
(26:57)So, coming back to the five hacks again. As I said, user experience can be a way to guide much of how your organization approaches various projects including technology projects. And it can be the difference in how your organization works and in turn serves its mission. And it’s rooted in the idea that when your organization uses user experience and tries to improve upon those user experiences, it in turn will power something much greater. And what has changed on this diagram is that the first three hacks are all things that are internally focused. The first three hacks, in my view, need to be addressed before you begin to think about how user experience impacts external folks and external constituents.
(28:02) So, I promise that I’ll be able to tie this back to technology. So, how did someone who is focused on technology get interested in this topic and how does this impact the work actually that Build does? So, we use something called our Information Strategy Framework and one of the things that we talk about is that oftentimes technology projects are pursued without carefully thinking through what comes before technology?
People fail to think about what it means to get leadership involved. People fail to think about how a project may actually change how the organization works. People fail to think about how business processes might change or even something as fundamental as what data is important to collect. Thinking about users of technology projects. So whether it’s a technology project that is an accounting system replacement or whether it’s a technology project like a conference room technology replacement. Thinking about who is using the technology, including internal users is an important consideration that oftentimes gets missed.
(29:16)And then finally this has become a bit of our rallying cry at Build and for folks that are on our webinars routinely, you see in this before. This formula is old organization plus new technology equals expensive old organization. And if you take nothing else from today’s webinar, I’d ask you, that when you’re thinking about weaving constituent experience in your organization, consider the changes that your organization may have to make that don’t include technology. What are the user experience changes that have to happen that are foundational in the organization? That need to happen in advance of selecting any new technology?
(30:10)So, as promised, I’m not expecting anybody to take a screen grab of this or read it. It will be posted on the Community IT website, following this, the webinar today. But here is the bibliography as promised and I also wanted to before we get to some of the questions that we got in advance and that are coming during the webinar, I wanted to show or share some of the ways to follow Build or to follow me. We or I would love to connect with folks. And with that Johann, thanks again for having us today and if there are some questions, I’m happy to take those.
Johan Hammerstrom: Yes. There are. And actually, I failed to send you the title and description for next month’s webinar. So, that is not being displayed here but I’ll just tell you, quickly what it’s gonna be. We are gonna talk about big data and business intelligence with Power BI. Power BI is an application that’s included as part of the office 365 suite and Microsoft has made it available at pretty steep discount for non-profit organizations. So, at minimal ramp up organizations can start to visualize and analyze key data. And so, in the webinar, we are going to review some of the capabilities and limitations of Power BI and just show some examples of how it could be used by nonprofits to better understand all different kinds of data. So, we look forward to you joining us next month for our power BI webinar.
So, let’s get into some of the Q&A. So, I’ll start with a few that were submitted before in the webinar, and then we’ll move on to some that have come in during the webinar. So, there is a question about sort of the, you know, donors were listed on a previous slide as part of the, as one of the constituents when mapping constituent experience and I think the question is about (32:00)organizations’ perception of their donors wants and needs when it comes to user experience and actual donor wants and needs. It’s easier in some ways to get that information from your own staff assuming you choose to ask and take the time to collect it. Sometimes, I think it can be harder to get that information from external constituents and particularly donors. So, do you have any suggestions for how to go about getting that type of user experience?
Kyle: Yeah, that’s a really good question and you know by way of background, my introduction into nonprofits was actually working in the development department of a mid-size nonprofit and I think oftentimes donors especially if you’re not talking about major donors or foundations or corporations, they are a mysterious band of faceless folks that support your organization are vitally important to the organization. And I think what came, the first idea that came to mind is a way to engage folks with a survey and solicit their feedback in that way. But to think, what’s important is how do you prime that group and communicate with that group in a way that the survey is not the very first way in which you engage them in a way that is not centered around asking them for money. So, I think, I got a bunch of words tangled up in that response. So, my, you know, my thought would be, I want to get to the point of doing a satisfaction survey of donors, what are the communication touch points that have to happen in advance of that rather than, that being the first time perhaps for many organizations or at least the organization that I worked at that they had heard from us in a way that wasn’t either a newsletter, that wasn’t targeted specifically to them or in a quarterly appeal or in a monthly appeal.
Johan Hammerstrom: (34:09)This is a common issue, I think for a lot of us. With regards to the question about clunky software, what are your tips for customizing experience when your main software is clunky and uncustomizable? I’m gonna take some liberties here with the question and say that more generally, enterprise software which is often very specialized and oftentimes the only software that can really meet very specific processes and other types of needs that an organization has, while a good fit from a functionality standpoint or a feature set standpoint is very clunky, old fashioned, old UI. If staff were spending a significant amount of their time using that software, you’re fighting an uphill battle in terms of delivering a superior user experience. How do you work around that or what are some of the ways that you’ve addressed that, not that you’ve ever worked with clunky enterprise software, but try to stretch your imagination.
Kyle:. Yeah, that’s an interesting question, I’m not sure that I have an easy solution for it. My initial reaction which I think just poses a question rather than provides an answer is – thinking about someone like Southwest Airlines who has notoriously amazing customer service. And all of the things that they have done to make customers’ experience important and improving upon that customer experience and actually differentiating themselves from other airlines. I don’t have any experience with Southwest Airlines ticketing and passenger management systems but I can’t imagine that they rely on a system that’s much different than their competitors’. So, for them, I wondered to what extent they have let technology help drive or be a limiter around customer experience and user experience. That being said, another nonanswer, is that clearly this is something that vendors are focusing on more and more. Salesforce recognized that their user interface needed to be upgraded and several years ago, rolled out Lightning Experience and continued to iterate upon it. Blackbaud, another major vendor in non-profit space, is also focusing a ton of energy on improving modernized vendor user experience. But I think I always look. When we go into organizations and do assessments, oftentimes, that’s where the dissatisfaction with a particular piece of software stems from. And that’s a lot of feedback that we get is- it looks old. It’s hard to use. Oftentimes, when we dig into the issues, there are usually organizational issues. Things like training, how people have been on-boarded to that software. How processes are designed. The extent to which organizations have used that software in a way that aligns to their business process or changing their business process when they can better align with those software. Those usually are the issues that we encounter and I can’t think of a time where we ultimately came to the conclusion that a particular piece of software needed to be replaced because the user experience itself was an inhibitor to the organization doing what it wanted to do.
Johan Hammerstrom: I thought your Southwest Airline example was a really good one because there are certain aspects of flying that are unpleasant whether it’s waiting in the boarding area, queuing to get on the plane, the safety demonstration, just the inherent sort of anxiety that a lot of people feel around flying are in some ways that real world analogs to a clunky old enterprise software package. Southwest can eliminate those things that are inherent in the experience of flying but through humor and tweaks to the boarding process, they found ways to really give people a better user experience within the context of things that couldn’t be changed.
So, maybe options for organizations to use humor even enterprise software isn’t very good have a monthly party where you, I don’t know. But I think one of the things that I really liked about your presentation is that oftentimes, we reduce user experience to just the technology and there are so many other things that go around it that can be addressed as well. That may be the best way to address clunky enterprise software- to find other ways to pamper the staff as opposed to, I want to throw it out the window and go.
Kyle:What I like about that is that by the time I even get to the gate, I’ve already had a terrible user experience going through the TSA line. And every time I go through, I want to kick myself for not getting the TSA prior, whatever it’s called. But Southwest didn’t stop and say, “people are already gonna show up disgruntled and unhappy.” They try to reclaim that user experience and in some ways, they try to make the last part of that user experience – the flight and oftentimes the most unpleasant and anxiety producing (especially for those of us as we get older, it gets more anxiety producing), they try to own that experience and they try to make it better within the confines of what they are able to do.
They are not able to redesign the plane to make it more comfortable. They are not able to make the boarding process any more efficient than they probably already have. But it didn’t cause them to stop wanting to make the experience better and I’m remembering back to my Southwest flight and some of the funniest things that I’ve heard people say and I like that idea.
Johan Hammerstrom: (40:48) So, here is a question from one of our audience members. Thank you for submitting this. Kyle, do you find that most success stories center around an internal change in an organization as in addition to new technology?
Kyle:Definitely. Whoever asked that question, I can’t think of a time when the technology project in of itself inspired organizational change. I’m sure it’s happened but that’s a bit of a moon shot and I think that, Johann you and I talk about this often, that because technology in the last ten years or 15 years now has become so much more accessible to us as consumers and people go out and buy consumer technology all the time to meet their individual needs. That I think people translate that experience to the experience that they hope to have with technology within an organization where there are multiple actors. I use this example a lot: I think about getting married and I think about commingling finances for the first time. And our solution, even though everything I talk about is not using technology to lead things. was to go get budgeting software, home budgeting software. But the reality was some of the most difficult conversations were ahead, conversations that were as banal as, – How are we gonna categorize our expenses in this? Also coming to agreement around what appropriate budgets were for us as a couple. It was at times funny but also at times a painful reminder that the technology wasn’t going to lead us through an exercise where we became more focused on how we are spending money and more focused on the strategic parts of saving money for the future. Did that answer the question? I was so enamored by my example that I want to make sure that I answer the question.
Johan Hammerstrom: I think so. And to the audience member who asked that if you have a follow-up question, please send that in. We’ll be happy to answer that as well.
Going back to your focus on staff experience, business and business decisions are often about making tradeoffs, make hard decisions, establishing priorities. Any suggestions on how to communicate those sorts of tradeoffs to staff when you’re soliciting input around user experience (43:30) and I think the specific example that comes to mind is website development and particularly, you know, maybe 10, 15 years ago, when it was kind of a new thing and organizations, especially smaller organizations, would tend to bring in the whole organization to work on the website development and ended up being a real nightmare because people wanted all sorts of things that were prohibitively expensive, technically not possible or conflicted with things that other staff members wanted. So, I could see that happening as you’re gathering input on user experience from staff – what are some ways that you can include communicating those tradeoffs as part of that process?
Kyle: (44:30) I think understanding what people’s hopes and vision for a technology project, if that’s what we are talking about and how they want things to work and look and feel. Documenting and collecting those but also finding a way to categorize those things and evaluate those things relative to one another. So, oftentimes, I think about in technology projects, when we are coming up with a list of requirements and people are at a stage where they are saying, they are getting very tactical, and they are saying, “It needs to have a field that does this,” or “It needs to automatically send an email when this gets completed.” When it gets to that level, which I think oftentimes is where people orient themselves in these types of projects and I think it would apply to a website, coming up with a list, even that you just keep internally and don’t share externally with the software vendor around what’s essential, what’s important and what’s nice to have. That’s one way. But I think sharing that with a broad group of people and acknowledging that you can’t do it all and being candid with people that things are gonna get left on the cutting room floor around the functionality or get left/not be accomplishable at this phase. Website development is really a great example. Within the last couple of years, the CEO of an organization forwarded to their chief digital officer, ESPN as an example of a site that he really liked. Now, clearly ESPN is a different type of site and they have a different level of resources than this non-profit did. But it is illustrative sometimes of how difficult it is to manage expectations on projects like this.
Johan Hammerstrom: Yeah, I think that’s the key: Managing expectations from the outside and when you’re thinking about physical space, it’s probably helpful to set some boundaries, that we’re probably not gonna have an office with a beautiful view of the Empire State building. Especially, located in New York.
Kyle:I would say that the requirements piece and agreeing upon requirements, it sounds like something that’s easy to do and pretty basic. I think it actually is an exercise that involves getting the organization aligned around a number of things. And as I said in an example earlier, oftentimes, when we start projects in an assessment, and we’re trying to understand how technology supports an organization, ultimately, what we come to learn is that technology is not the most important problem. That there are other areas that are far more important. And I think the more an organization can be transparent about that, and transparent about how decisions are being made especially or including technology, that will lead to people understanding sometimes that choices have to be made.
Johan Hammerstrom: (48:09) And that’s also an argument of better grading technology with the rest of the organization. Having technology leaders at the table when business decisions are made, and not having technology sort of siloed in its own department or, off in the IT support room and not really involved.
Kyle:Yeah, and I think that’s a great point. I think back to the example that I used with the conference rooms. The way I approached that, as a CIO, is – I was asking my peers what they wanted from the conference room and the questions that I asked were really core to the organization in some ways. They were core to how important are these conference rooms? Are they a showpiece? Do they just serve a functional need or do they actually, are they a brand? Are they a showcase of the organization? Do they offer an opportunity to communicate the brand, not only to internal folks but to external people as well? And if you recall, there was some disagreement about that. And if memory serves, it was split about 50-50, but that’s something to get answered first before I get into the requirements around how large should the televisions be in the new conference room. That stuff is much more important.
Johan Hammerstrom:Yeah. Because if you don’t address those fundamental issues first, you actually are never gonna get to a place where everyone is happy or at least accepts the solution that’s been selected and deployed.
Kyle Yeah. You and I have talked about how expensive conference rooms are. If ultimately, we decide to spend a lot of money on the conference rooms, and it causes us to have to not spend money in other places, I now have some level of agreement around how important those conferences were relative to other things.
Johan Hammerstrom: Yeah, even if at the end of the day, you just need the CEO or the EE to say: “This is what the conference room is used for.” But surfacing that conflict or that misunderstanding or disagreement and then driving the organization to a point where it makes a decision, makes a definitive statement about those sorts of issues is an important process for the organization to go through. But it’s certainly an important value of technology planning can have for the organization.
Johan Hammerstrom: Great. Well, thank you so much Kyle. This is fascinating, a great view into a completely different way of thinking about technology projects and delivering technology services and deploying technology solutions.
So, I thank you for your time and I thank everyone out there for joining us today. As we mentioned at the outset the slides and recording will be linked on our website and you can share those and find them there and we look forward to you joining us next month for our webinar on power BI. Take care. Have a great day.
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