Build Systems, Not Stuff
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Build Systems, Not Stuff



This presentation is for anyone who has had technical, strategic and/or budgetary constraints influence what was built vs. what was imagined. We will dig into how to use systems-based thinking to ...

This presentation is for anyone who has had technical, strategic and/or budgetary constraints influence what was built vs. what was imagined. We will dig into how to use systems-based thinking to understand how things influence one another and learn techniques to discover constraints sooner. We will learn how to start creating efficiencies of digital process, infrastructure and communication in pursuit of better user experiences.



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  • Brilliant and the like the simplicity and clarity of the contents. Thanks and it's really helpful . Highly admired.
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  • Abby, so timely and amazing. Very helpful to the issues that are happening in my own organization. Do you have a PDF? In my environment it's sometimes easier to discuss printed slides.
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  • Awesome stuff! Thank you for sharing.
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  • Great presentation, only the font is really bad for quick reading and scanning (which i tend to do first).
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  • Brilliant. One of the best decks I've seen this year. A well-told, engaging story with real-world, actionable outcomes. I'm sharing this broadly. Thanks for your great work, Abby!
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Build Systems, Not Stuff Build Systems, Not Stuff Presentation Transcript

  • Build Systems, Not StuffPresented by @Abby_the_ia 1
  • 2
  • I Make theunclear, clear for people who use and make things. 3
  • 4 4
  • Most recently I Have helped• Change the audience for Sharpie from a office supply consumer to teenagers looking for a self expression tool• Grow a 150,000 member Facebook fan base for JELL-O over the weekend.• Pilot a revolutionary diet for people with Type 2 diabetes• Analyze and strategically prioritize digital marketing efforts and improvements for Herman Miller in support of their movement into the B to C market 5
  • I hear a lot of the same things over and over...Our current digital marketing is:A) Embarrassingly out of dateB) Not flexible enough to support needsC) Not able to be affected quickly because of politics and the bureaucracyD) All of the Above (Eeeeekk) 6 6
  • The behavior of the system cannot beknown just by knowing the elements - Donella Meadows 7 7
  • Meet the Blind men of digital marketing “I post on social media and send emails”“I controlthe money” “I manage the Websites” “I design the marketing” 8 8
  • Observation:Its always the same issuesaffecting the same partsof the same systems 9 9
  • We needto buildsystems,not just stuff. 10 10
  • When Stuff is king... 11 11
  • Spray-n-Pray is common wisdom 12 12
  • Corporate Underpants start to show 13 13
  • Shiny, dusty objects accumulate 14 14
  • Trends win out over needs 15 15
  • “Skunkworks” projects used to achieve tactical goals 16 16
  • Everyone feels rushed and underserved 17 17
  • We ask for more stuff We need aFacebook page vs. We need a Digital Recruitment engine 18
  • Sound familiar? 19 19
  • There has to be a better way 20 20
  • But we arent in manufacturing! 21 21
  • isnt Creativity meant to be messy? 22 22
  • One important (and easy) question: How should we spend our finite creative energy? 23 23
  • By analyzing thesystem, maybe wecan improve theUser experience ofworking in digitalmarketing 24 24
  • Systems-based thinkingthe process of understanding howthings influence one another. viewing "problems" as parts of anoverall system, rather than reactingto specific part.focusing on cyclical rather thanlinear cause and effect. 25 25
  • When System is king... • Effectiveness becomes measurable • Solutions have longevity and reuse • Entities are able to remain in sync while operating independently • Adequate time and budget is allocated • People feel like things just work 26 26
  • Reinventing the Wheel Repeatable Magic 27 27
  • Systems Thinking 101 28 28
  • A system is a set of stocks andflows that is interconnected in a way that it produces a predictable pattern. 29 29
  • STocks: Assets within your organization that are able to be measuredfor example:• Knowledge of industry trends• Marketing Budget• Creative Talent 30 30
  • Flows:Process that affects and connects stocksfor example:• How insights become strategy• How designers are briefed on architectural decisions• How code is accepted in development 31 31
  • Cold hard Facts about systems1. Levels of stock areonly able to be affectedby manipulating flows2. Stocks take time tochange, because flowstake time to flow 32 32
  • anotherfact:DigitalMarketingis a system 33 33
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  • Digital Marketing: A common system 35 35
  • Digital Marketing: A common system 36 36
  • If you are doing itright, you start here 37 37
  • Digital Marketing: A common system 38 38
  • But, a lot of peoplestart here... 39 39
  • Digital Marketing: A common system 40 40
  • And even here... eek! 41 41
  • Digital Marketing: A common system 42 42
  • A lot of people stop here. 43 43
  • Digital Marketing: A common system 44 44
  • and This part is almostalways ignored or weak 45 45
  • there are sharedlessons that allorganizations canlearn from 46 46
  • Five common system failures 47 47
  • 48 48
  • What’ssupposed tohappen 49 49
  • What can alsohappen 50 50
  • Symptoms• brittle feeling interactions• Not knowing all the incarnations of the experience• Not being able to defend cost of improvement 51 51
  • Diagnosis: Low Awareness of how something works today leads to bad strategyYou need to work on research. 52 52
  • Idea to Combat:Measure quality of existing systems: 1. Heuristically 2. Analytically 3. With real users 53 53
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  • Lets try to finda way to apply online 55 55
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  • Symptoms• All the content is there and nothing can be found• No research has been done into what users want• Low conversion and roi 59 59
  • Diagnosis: Lack of clear goalsand key performance indicatorsleads to confounding experienceYou need to work on goal setting 60 60
  • Idea To Combat:Define S.M.A.R.T Goalsand a plan to measureagainst them q Specific q Measurable q Achievable q Relevant q Time bound 61 61
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  • Symptoms• Content feels forced into boxes it doesnt fit into• things are jimmied together• Creative production always costs more than expected and often assets are reused inappropriately 64 64
  • Diagnosis: silo-ed decisions on content degrade quality of experience offeredYou need to work on architecting 65 65
  • Idea to COmbat: Let the users make the call when content organizationchallenges arise. Card sorting, contextual inquiry andcollaborative design can all be used for this. 66 66
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  • Symptoms• Devices and tools are devised to assist people in understanding the marketing material• Navigation is bloated, landing pages lack focus• Functionality is heavy and unneeded 70 70
  • Diagnosis: Too many things, no priority. SUch a mess. You have to work on documentation 71 71
  • idea to Combat: Create a roadmap of features defined notjust against resources available but against user and business goals 72 72
  • 73 73
  • h,p:// 74 74
  • Diagnosis: NEver completing the feedback loop.You need to work on measurement 75 75
  • Idea to Combat:Host a conversation with designers, marketers and researchers to talkabout improving the flow of strategic guidance and insight 76 76
  • How to get started in your organization 77 77
  • to Become a system advocate in your organization 78 78
  • Lesson 1: You need pictures, because systems happen all at once. 79 79
  • Pictures arethoughtstarters 80 80
  • Pictures allowyou to see theconnections 81 81
  • pictures allowquickillustration ofproblems andsolutions 82 82
  • Pictures are great forunderstanding thesystems, roles andrules 83 83
  • Pictures canillustrate a higherlevel view 84 84
  • Lesson 2: Evaluate the System as is• Get the right people in the room to discuss the results of the current digital marketing environment• Document it in simple pictures, perhaps stocks and flows• Highlight hardships you feel today or know about externally 85 85
  • Lesson 3: Take Stock of what you need• Identify the goals you have for your digital marketing• Identify the obligations you have to meet for stakeholders• Identify the things colleagues have complained about or asked for 86 86
  • Lesson 4: Prioritize issues to work on• Identify the issue type. Is it a lack of resource, bad process, old technology?• Determine how much (and who) it hurts?• Assign a internal and external priority 87 87
  • Lesson 5: Try New flows• Get the space, team and instance needed to experiment.• Make sure people know they are guinea pigs• Treat it as a research assignment (try A/B testing, and asking followup questions in a focus group etc...)• Document what you are trying, why and how you feel it will change things 88 88
  • Lesson 6: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle• Reduce the complexity across initiatives• Reuse technological investment across campaigns, building an arsenal of owned solutions over time• Recycle your “stuff”: Always think about the lifecycle of the “stuff” your systems are producing. 89 89
  • Lesson 7: Have the right attitude• Be honest and transparent• Be collaborative• Be forward looking• Be willing to fail and try again 90 90
  • So...Next time someone asks for stuff 91 91
  • Think... How can we take this up a level?Are we thinking about the life cycle? Can we measure our impact here?Who else is impacted by this and how can they help solve this? 92 92
  • How can we...Build a system, not just more stuff 93 93
  • Thanks! @abby_the_ia 94 94