Enterprise UX at Deloitte Digital & Teaching PM at General Assembly.



Co-Lab Scribe

A digital tool used to solve problems with remote collaboration and brainstorming.

Research, Design, Ideation — Mobile + Hardware — 2013

Overview
In this school project I worked with a team to create a hardware / software solution for people working remotely.
Problem
In Chicago, it's cold... We found ourselves using remote tools to meet to discuss school projects. When we were looking for a problem space, we realized that colaborating remotely was a huge pain. After a couple weeks of research, in multinational companies, we found that there were others who had challenges collaborating remotely. The problems we wanted to solve for were: difficulty communicating with sketches, challenges of people talking over eachother when on conference calls and taking notes.
Process

The groups of people we were interested in (target consumers) were:

  1. College students working in cold climates where remote collaboration could provide flexibility in meeting times
  2. Startups with distributed teams
  3. Consultants who travel and might need to work with a remote client

After talking to people about their challenges and observing them conduct remote meetings, some common themes started to appear across the research.

Themes in our observations were:

  1. Team members often had to repeat points to ensure understanding
  2. When statements were repeated, it was sometimes difficult to find another approach to explain
  3. Members who were muted were less engaged
  4. There were barriers in being able to reference sketches
  5. Members would try to use the mouse to point out areas on the screen
  6. It seemed difficult for others to understand when people were engaged or how they were feeling
  7. Phone quality was not always ideal
  8. Next steps usually were clarified via email afterwards
  9. It was difficult for someone to know when to speak with out talking over someone else

To get a better understanding of what problems we could solve in the space we did an analysis of the activities and tasks involved with collaborating remotely. The first activity we did to analyze the space was to create a mind map. We sketched out our tasks as well as the relationships between the tasks.

After creating a shared understanding of the problem space we organized our thoughts into the Jobs To Be Done framework.

After the jobs to be done exercise, we researched existing solutions in the marketplace to see if it was a valuable problem and to understand the competition.

The existing solutions didn't seem to be addressing all of the needs we had been observing. They all did the same thing in a similar way and noon of them were designed to be mobile. When the research and competition were analyzed there was a strong shared understanding of the problem space and existing solutions. The next step was to jump into brainstorming to create some solutions to the problems with remote communication.

After brainstorming solutions we assessed the ideas against technical constraints, market viability and amount of pain addressed. After a couple of hours evaluating the outcome of the brainstorming session we decided to focus on the problems to address.

  1. Non-Verbal Communication is Critical
  2. People need to be engaged
  3. Multiple people talking at once is a challenge
  4. Abstract concepts are difficult to communicate
  5. Having necessary hardware is an issue
  6. Interpreting tone is difficult

After focusing our energy on a handful of problems we came up with a list of features we could create to address the issue.

A list of our final feature set:

  1. Video & Speech Support so people could see facial expressions
  2. A "wand/raise hand" feature to ensure one person talks at a time
  3. Tone interrupter to display mood of speaker
  4. Verbal log to be automatically sent to participants
  5. Automatic transcription
  6. Hardware pen to allow sketches to be shared and enhanced by the team

Solution

Retrospective

Looking back on this, I would have re-structured the process a little to encompass more iterations and add stronger structure to the research. I feel like an area to improve would have been to incorporate a conjoint analysis to get some quantitative data about how people felt about the problems and features. There was no talk of price in this project and I feel like it allowed us to be un-encumbered but it also wasn't realistic.

Adding more iteration also would have been very helpful to incorporate more feedback, more often. I love keeping the users in the loop on projects because it has a great way of keeping teams focused on high value problems and less on opinions.

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