Mentoring Collaborative UCD


Published on

The benefits of mentoring in user-centred web design. Presented at OzCHI 2007 in Adelaide.

Published in: Technology, Education

Mentoring Collaborative UCD

  1. 1. Mentoring Collaborative User Centred Design OzCHI, Adelaide November 2007 Patrick Kennedy, Step Two Designs
  2. 2. User Centred Design can be hard enough, but what if you and your team have no experience?
  3. 3. Mentoring collaborative UCD <ul><li>User-centred web design can be hard enough </li></ul><ul><li>But what if… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>you and your team have no experience ? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>that team is new and still bonding? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>your organisation expects prompt solutions? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>hiring a team of experts is out of the question? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>What if all of these were the case? </li></ul><ul><li>Addressing this situation tends to be dominated by: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Outsourcing to consultants </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Hiring of contractors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Up-front formal training (before commencement) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Mentoring offers an alternative approach with many benefits </li></ul>
  4. 4. Agenda <ul><li>The next 15 minutes will </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Discuss collaborative information architecture </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Outline the context of my experience (redesign of a large government website) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Focus on mentoring in a teamwork situation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Entice you to read my paper </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Offer mentoring as a possible solution for you to consider </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Allow some questions, if we have time </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. Case study: government agency who did not have the skills to fix a website that was out of control
  6. 6. Case study: ESA government website <ul><li>ESA is an Australian government agency that deals with scientific data </li></ul><ul><li>Large information-rich website (approx 20,000 pages plus many applications) </li></ul><ul><li>Coordination is improving but website reflects organisational silos </li></ul><ul><li>Been through several design iterations in the past (typically outsourced) </li></ul><ul><li>The website has grown out of control </li></ul><ul><li>Technical side of website taken care of (by IT department) </li></ul><ul><li>But few skills in UCD and IA </li></ul><ul><li>They recognised there was little knowledge of the audience </li></ul><ul><li>Major redevelopment initiated, including the IA </li></ul><ul><li>There was no formal team for the website redesign, so one was newly formed </li></ul><ul><li>Team included staff from different parts of ESA, and was multidisciplinary </li></ul><ul><li>Little experience in working together, and varying levels of experience in web </li></ul><ul><li>Limited resources available and reasonable pressure to complete work quickly </li></ul>
  7. 7. Mentoring has many advantages and a mentor is an extremely valuable asset for any team
  8. 8. Mentoring has many advantages <ul><li>It builds the skills of the team whilst allowing progress </li></ul><ul><li>Practical skills and team confidence are developed early </li></ul><ul><li>Contractors and consultants are expensive and leave the team without the skills to maintain or further develop the site </li></ul><ul><li>Trying to learn , then do, takes much longer and risks quality </li></ul><ul><li>Mentoring is more interactive and well suited to adult learning principles </li></ul><ul><li>Mentoring is often overlooked , perhaps seen as old fashioned </li></ul><ul><li>Anybody been involved in mentoring of some sort? </li></ul>
  9. 9. Mentoring hit the spot in terms of achieving project objectives within present constraints
  10. 10. Mentoring was the best approach <ul><li>There was </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A limited budget for the project </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Recognition of the need for ongoing website development </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A desire to build up skills of team </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Thus, there was hesitation to rely on outsourcing </li></ul><ul><li>But needed to make progress fast , with best results </li></ul><ul><li>Mentoring was the chosen solution </li></ul>
  11. 11. Flexible mentoring agreement <ul><li>Our mentoring agreement allowed for </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Training sessions (focussed on key concepts) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Phone support (quick reference and advice) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Collaborative workshops (mentor blends into team) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Targeted pieces of consulting </li></ul></ul><ul><li>A gradual shift from training sessions to workshops </li></ul><ul><li>Providing some instruction but quickly putting the team into action, practicing what they had learnt </li></ul>
  12. 12. More than just training, mentors provide guidance and help point the team in the right direction
  13. 13. Mentors guide and offer direction <ul><li>More than just teach , mentors must act as a guide </li></ul><ul><li>Instilling confidence , such that they could do the work but also gain traction within the rest of the organisation </li></ul><ul><li>Encouraging discussion amongst team members </li></ul><ul><li>Starting with the broad concepts and then narrowing in on specifics </li></ul><ul><li>Role of a recommender very important (filtering and qualifying) </li></ul><ul><li>Many teaching aids were used </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Books </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Articles </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Blogs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Websites </li></ul></ul><ul><li>In these days of information overload, mentors should help simplify </li></ul>
  14. 14. Mentoring does have some constraints but with some juggling they can be overcome
  15. 15. Mentoring constraints <ul><li>Subject to availability of mentor </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Adding to the pressure was the fact that the mentor was based inter-state (ESA in Canberra, Step Two Designs in Sydney) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Limited face-to-face contact between mentor and team </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>This was reserved for training sessions and workshops </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Additional discussion made use of phone and email </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Less than ideal , ultimately it proved successful </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Fortunately, the ESA team were all geographically close </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Requires mentorees to do bulk of work (can be seen as risk) </li></ul><ul><li>Depends on a good rapport between mentor and team </li></ul>
  16. 16. There are several ‘tips of the trade’ for those considering mentoring in this type of situation
  17. 17. Findings <ul><li>A new team can successfully collaborate on complex design activities in which they have little expertise, with the help of a mentor </li></ul><ul><li>Mentoring is not necessarily just training </li></ul><ul><li>Mentors end up talking a lot; but being able to ask questions is possibly the most valuable part from the team’s perspective </li></ul><ul><li>An in-house mentor would be generally more effective </li></ul>
  18. 18. The issue of time <ul><li>How much of the mentor’s time is taken up? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>5% of the working week, up to approx 90% peak </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Overall increase in project time </li></ul><ul><ul><li>If team inexperienced this will be substantial </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>But mentoring is quicker than training before starting </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Delays due to mentor unavailability </li></ul><ul><ul><li>This is an issue, especially if the mentor is not in-house </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>But can be beneficial, forces team to stretch themselves and build confidence </li></ul></ul>
  19. 19. Feedback after the project <ul><li>Consequences of up-skilling </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ It’s unusual that the organisation would want to build up the skills of the team” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Yeah but the problem is that once you train them up, they will leave and get an IA job” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Yes, but not an exclusive issue for mentoring </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Long term sustainability </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ How sustainable is it? Have the mentorees become mentors and champions of UCD?” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Yes (‘train the trainer’ ripple effect) </li></ul></ul>
  20. 20. Conclusion <ul><li>Mentoring can be a superior alternative to outsourcing, using contractors and up-front training </li></ul><ul><ul><li>It’s often more cost effective </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Allows immediate progress while ensuring quality </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Builds internal skills and ensures long-term capability </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Perfect for inexperienced teams with limited time/budget </li></ul><ul><li>Flexible solution, allowing many different activities </li></ul><ul><li>Guidance and direction are key roles of a mentor </li></ul><ul><li>Face-to-face is best, but workarounds can be found </li></ul><ul><li>Demands on mentor’s time is not excessive </li></ul>
  21. 21. Thank you <ul><li>Original paper is on the conference proceedings CD </li></ul><ul><li>Your feedback is most welcome </li></ul><ul><li>Patrick Kennedy [email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>Blog: </li></ul><ul><li>Website: </li></ul>
  22. 22. So why are they so unpopular?