Senior management in both Tescos and Sainsburys have to spend some mandated time every year at the checkout in the stores. This keeps them in tune with what it is like to be at the front line. Taking them out of the realm of reports and documents and experiencing the reality of their strategy and decisions.
Becky Carroll recently posted a blog about looking through the eyes of others.
It shouldn’t just be the senior managers of supermarkets that do this. There should be no reason why the whole project team should not gain some sort of exposure to the people whose lives will be touched by the product they are building.
Creating personas and scenarios that everybody is familiar with is a start, but it is no substitute to seeing what really happens. It may not be feasible to let everyone on the team get out onto the shop floor, but how about videoing the users at work; a five minute video of traders on the trading floor, customers at the checkout, call centre reps on the phone. When new team members join a project don’t just give them a verbal briefing or a bunch of documentation to read, let them see what’s going on.
Why is this important? Because we carry the baggage of our experience, and that is not necessarily the best or most appropriate way to approach things. We may think we are doing something cool with the technology, but is it appropriate to our users? As an ergonomist my first impression when seeing traders with four screens in front of them is one of shock. Its information overload and a poor way to work. But in the context of use, watching traders in their environment, you understand why so many screens are important. Through observation I was able to change my perceptions to reflect reality rather than my preconceived opinions.
If marketers need to “see your company through the eyes of your customers”, IT professionals need to “see your product through the eyes of your users”.