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Utilising Guilds to Develop and
Support a Culture of Research
My Experience and Learnings.
David Sheridan
● Senior Digital Product Designer
● Working on the design system and user research initiatives
● Working at Storyful since October 2017
My Background
Storyful is a Social Media Intelligence
and News Agency that uses
unparalleled access to data, proprietary
technology and sophisticated analysis
to deliver actionable insight to our
partners.
Agile & Scrum
● The product team uses Agile as our feature
deliver model.
● Teams use Scrum and work in 2 week sprints.
Early Feedback Methods
● Used demos for gathering user feedback
● Was low risk as the company and our product
suite were smaller.
● But we were still relying on stakeholders
opinions to guide us.
Scaling Agile & The Spotify Model
● Storyful was acquired by News Corp in 2013.
● The business and product teams grew
considerably.
● Applied the Spotify model to help
accommodate and organise the new Scrum
teams.
But It Wasn’t a Smooth Transition
● Weren’t able to work as fast or as closely with
stakeholders.
● Were often building unneeded features.
● Our products were going in the wrong
direction.
“Agile methodologies are focused on
developers. They grew out of programmers’
attempts to solve common pain points
experienced during big software
development projects.”
Laubheimer, 2017
Testing The Waters
Testing Research in My Scrum Team
● Joined the company working on the beta
release of a new product.
● Convinced the team to let me do a competitor
analysis & usability testing with SME’s.
● Resulted in refinements to the product's
structure and focus.
Increasing Research Output within the Team
● The team was later refocused to develop a
new search tool.
● Pushed for field research with stakeholders to
uncover pain points and goals.
● Used the findings to develop the initial
roadmap.
Getting The Wider Product Team Involved
● Discovered a capacity problem across multiple
stakeholder groups.
● We initiated a wider product team research
initiative.
● Did a half a day workshop on field research
fundamentals.
● Developed note taking templates to help the
team.
Getting The Wider Product Team Involved
● Facilitated a feedback session with designers,
developers, QA engineers & product owners.
● Produced a service blueprint to highlight pain
points.
● Summarised findings in a report and used
them to define the 6 month roadmap for each
team.
Introducing the
Research Guild
Creating and Leading the Research Guild
● Wanted to continue building momentum.
● Would help develop & support a growing
culture of research
● Monthly meetings to discuss research
techniques and topics
Storyful Research Principles
● Needed a set of principles to guide and
structure our approach to research
● They needed work within our Agile setup and
align with our principles.
● Decided on Minimum Viable Research.
Defining Methodologies & Use Cases
Methodology Use Case
Focus Groups Uncover stakeholder analysis methodologies.
Interviews Define potential feature development opportunities.
Understand customer goals and pain points.
Usability Studies Uncover usability issues before and during development.
Field Studies Understand higher level issues across stakeholder
workflows.
Remote Survey Measure impact and usability of recently released features.
Sprint 1
● Field Studies
● Focus Groups
● Interviews
● Usability Studies
Sprint 2
● Usability Studies
Sprint 3 & Release
● Usability Study
● Remote Survey
Fitting into the Product Life Cycle
Materials & Template Library
● Created a shared centralised library of
templates for each methodology.
● Reduce the capacity needed for performing
ongoing research
● Ensure standards are applied consistently
across the product team.
Learnings
My Learnings So Far
● Start small and continuously communicate the potential impact to gather buy in from key
stakeholders.
● Leverage momentum to scale the culture you’re developing.
● Customise industry best practices to suit the culture & structure of your organization.
Resources
● Just Enough Research — Erika Hall
● Rocket Surgery Made Easy — Steve Krug
● Observing The User Experience — Mike Kuniavsky, Elizabeth Goodman, Andrea Moed
● https://uxdesign.cc/my-most-recommended-resources-for-user-researchers-march-2020-
9f66162521bb — Nikki Anderson
David Sheridan
Senior Product Designer
davidsheridandsgn@gmail.com
@shredivan
Questions?

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Utilising Guilds to Develop & Support a Culture of Research

  • 1. Utilising Guilds to Develop and Support a Culture of Research My Experience and Learnings.
  • 2. David Sheridan ● Senior Digital Product Designer ● Working on the design system and user research initiatives ● Working at Storyful since October 2017 My Background
  • 3. Storyful is a Social Media Intelligence and News Agency that uses unparalleled access to data, proprietary technology and sophisticated analysis to deliver actionable insight to our partners.
  • 4. Agile & Scrum ● The product team uses Agile as our feature deliver model. ● Teams use Scrum and work in 2 week sprints.
  • 5. Early Feedback Methods ● Used demos for gathering user feedback ● Was low risk as the company and our product suite were smaller. ● But we were still relying on stakeholders opinions to guide us.
  • 6. Scaling Agile & The Spotify Model ● Storyful was acquired by News Corp in 2013. ● The business and product teams grew considerably. ● Applied the Spotify model to help accommodate and organise the new Scrum teams.
  • 7. But It Wasn’t a Smooth Transition ● Weren’t able to work as fast or as closely with stakeholders. ● Were often building unneeded features. ● Our products were going in the wrong direction.
  • 8. “Agile methodologies are focused on developers. They grew out of programmers’ attempts to solve common pain points experienced during big software development projects.” Laubheimer, 2017
  • 10. Testing Research in My Scrum Team ● Joined the company working on the beta release of a new product. ● Convinced the team to let me do a competitor analysis & usability testing with SME’s. ● Resulted in refinements to the product's structure and focus.
  • 11. Increasing Research Output within the Team ● The team was later refocused to develop a new search tool. ● Pushed for field research with stakeholders to uncover pain points and goals. ● Used the findings to develop the initial roadmap.
  • 12. Getting The Wider Product Team Involved ● Discovered a capacity problem across multiple stakeholder groups. ● We initiated a wider product team research initiative. ● Did a half a day workshop on field research fundamentals. ● Developed note taking templates to help the team.
  • 13. Getting The Wider Product Team Involved ● Facilitated a feedback session with designers, developers, QA engineers & product owners. ● Produced a service blueprint to highlight pain points. ● Summarised findings in a report and used them to define the 6 month roadmap for each team.
  • 15. Creating and Leading the Research Guild ● Wanted to continue building momentum. ● Would help develop & support a growing culture of research ● Monthly meetings to discuss research techniques and topics
  • 16. Storyful Research Principles ● Needed a set of principles to guide and structure our approach to research ● They needed work within our Agile setup and align with our principles. ● Decided on Minimum Viable Research.
  • 17. Defining Methodologies & Use Cases Methodology Use Case Focus Groups Uncover stakeholder analysis methodologies. Interviews Define potential feature development opportunities. Understand customer goals and pain points. Usability Studies Uncover usability issues before and during development. Field Studies Understand higher level issues across stakeholder workflows. Remote Survey Measure impact and usability of recently released features.
  • 18. Sprint 1 ● Field Studies ● Focus Groups ● Interviews ● Usability Studies Sprint 2 ● Usability Studies Sprint 3 & Release ● Usability Study ● Remote Survey Fitting into the Product Life Cycle
  • 19. Materials & Template Library ● Created a shared centralised library of templates for each methodology. ● Reduce the capacity needed for performing ongoing research ● Ensure standards are applied consistently across the product team.
  • 21. My Learnings So Far ● Start small and continuously communicate the potential impact to gather buy in from key stakeholders. ● Leverage momentum to scale the culture you’re developing. ● Customise industry best practices to suit the culture & structure of your organization.
  • 22. Resources ● Just Enough Research — Erika Hall ● Rocket Surgery Made Easy — Steve Krug ● Observing The User Experience — Mike Kuniavsky, Elizabeth Goodman, Andrea Moed ● https://uxdesign.cc/my-most-recommended-resources-for-user-researchers-march-2020- 9f66162521bb — Nikki Anderson
  • 23. David Sheridan Senior Product Designer davidsheridandsgn@gmail.com @shredivan Questions?

Editor's Notes

  1. Hi, i’m David, i’m going to be talking to you today about my experiences of using guilds to develop and support a culture of research within Storyful.
  2. So as I said i’m David, I’m a senior digital product designer at Storyful working on the product team. As part of my work i’m a part of the design system steering committee and am currently leading the development of the companies user research initiative. And i’ve been working at Storyful for nearly 3 years
  3. - And just for context around the kind of stuff we work on here at Storyful. So we are a…. [read above] - Meaning that our journalists and analysts work to, license and sell social videos and perform social analysis for news organisations and companies. - To support this, the product team has works on web based applications focused around these areas.
  4. Our product team has always worked using the Agile methodology Scrum. We’re setup in multi disciplinary teams of Product Owners, Designers Developers and QA engineers. Initially we worked in two week cycles called sprints, with which are based on our sprint backlog. During the sprints we hold daily catch ups to track progress and highlight blockers. At the end of these two weeks cycles we hold sprint demos to show our stakeholder the work that was done.
  5. So with this set we were using our demos as a way to gather user feedback by asking them what they wanted, and if they liked what we had just delivered. We would then use that feedback to define our backlogs, develop our roadmaps and plan our next sprint. This was fine at the start as we were small & nimble meaning this method was relatively low risk as we could adjust direction on the fly.
  6. But in 2013 we were acquired by Newscorp and began to scale rapidly The size of our product team increased from one to six scrum teams with each working in tandem on different products, often working in collaboration. We integrated the Spotify Scrum model to help our agile practices scale. Our team structures stayed the same but we added chapters to align people of the same discipline and guilds to allow cross discipline knowledge sharing.
  7. But with the growth our number of stakeholders increased and we were still relying on their opinions to guide us We started to experience a lot of inconsistency between what they said they wanted and what they actually needed. We were hearing a lot of complaints from the teams such as “we built it but they don’t use it!” or “we added that button they said they needed but now they’re saying it’s not what they wanted” We were wasting our time building features our users didn’t actually need.
  8. And so…[Read caption] Meaning that agile is great at helping teams to move quickly and build things but it doesn’t help teams understand what they should be building.
  9. With all of this going on I kept thinking that we needed to find a more reliable way of understanding their actual needs and reducing the scope of risk we were taking in our sprints. And at the time I was finishing my masters in user experience design and was doing a lot of applied user testing and research. I really thought using this type of approach in the product team might be a good solution for this. But before we could even think about doing this, we needed to make this was the right choice for us as a company.
  10. So I joined the company in 2017 and began working on a product that was nearing its beta release to clients. There as a clear need for research into the usability and direction of the product to ensure it was a good fit for market. I proposed doing secondary customer research and some in house usability testing with subject matter experts within the company To get buy in for this I communicated the financial risks associated with releasing a product to market that people can’t or won’t use. From this we were able to generate personas and highlight problem areas within the application which we fixed and tailored before the release date.
  11. Later that year, my team was refocused to work on a completely new search tool to replace its unsuccessful predecessors. It’s roadmap however was unclear but this fresh slate was the perfect opportunity to increase our research effort within the team. We pitched the idea of running field studies with a number of our journalists to understand their goals & pain points in searching social data to our Product Owner to avoid making the same mistakes again. Once we got the go ahead, myself and one of the other developers on the team shadowed a number of our journalists to understand their goals & pain points in searching social data. From this we were able to create an affinity diagram that highlighted all of their goals, pain points and team setups. This helped us shape the initial roadmap for the app.
  12. With the success of that initial research, we began to push for research opportunities within the wider product team At Storyful we run a bi yearly product summit with key stakeholders from each pillar across the company so we can understand their business goals and ensure our product development is tailored to help them reach these goals. And after this particular summit we got our chance. One of the main outcomes from it, was that we had a capacity problem across all of our key stakeholders groups but we have no understanding of why this was the case. So we were given the green light to conduct field research with all of the different stakeholder groups we service. Before running sessions, did a half day workshop Developed a note taking template using the AEIOU method So over a 2 week period we ran this initiative, with a working group of ~12 people from the product team who went off in pairs to observe our users.
  13. At the end of the two weeks we setup a war room and put together a skeleton blueprint diagram. We chose this format so that we could see the pain points across the whole process, from sales all the way to client delivery. We organised a workshop with everyone who was involved with the field studies as well as the PO’s. We made sure the Product Owners were present to show the impact & value of the work we were doing. The design team facilitated the workshop and the group organised and discussed the findings. From this, we agreed on next steps and the design team wrote up a report on the study. These findings were used to define our product roadmaps for 6 months.
  14. So, as I mentioned earlier guilds were designed so that people who are interest in the same topic, can meetup once every so often so that they can share knowledge and discuss ideas.
  15. Wanted to continue building momentum, pitched to my manager The goal of this guild would be to develop and support a culture of research in the company by providing resources and meeting up to discuss research topics, once a month. We got the go ahead and have been running these meetings since last summer. Initially, meetings were based around the needs and interests of the participants at that time and we had no long term roadmap Overtime though we realised people weren’t getting the knowledge they wanted and were losing faith in it. So we switched tack. We developed a 6 month roadmap focused on developing people’s knowledge of research basics Meetings are now run as interactive workshops where people work in teams on dummy briefs and get feedback afterwards.
  16. Once the guild was up and running we realised we needed to define a working set of principles that people could use to guide their research efforts. We wanted our principles to align with our agile setup and principles, so we needed something that optimises for efficiency and don’t slow down our product development. Our product development works around the concept of Minimum Viable Product meaning we ship the minimum that is necessary for a feature to have value to our stakeholders. So I came across the book, Just Enough Research by Erika Hall, which revolves around the idea of Minimum Viable Research, meaning that you do just enough research so that you can answer a well defined research question. This was the perfect solution for us as it meant we could do quick research studies in tandem to support our product development, so no need to spend months working through huge studies.
  17. From here, we minimised our set of methodologies to reduce the decision making time and to prevent people who are less comfortable with research from becoming overwhelmed. Having our stakeholders working alongside us in the company made this a very realistic goal. We mapped out each methodology to the specific use cases to further reduce ambiguity around which method to use when. [Discuss contents of slide]
  18. As I mentioned earlier, our teams previously worked in two week sprints. We’ve since updated it so that we now have 6 week release cycle with two releases per quarter in a quarter Within these cycles we have 3 sets of 2 weeks sprints. This allowed us to develop a recommended timeline for when to use each methodology based on when certain research questions are likely to come up [Discuss contents of slide]
  19. As we have set methodologies, we were able to build out templates and guidelines for each. Doing this allows people to design studies efficiently and ensures we have high standards consistently applied to each. We created a shared Research Drive to house these templates that was distributed across the product team. Over time — sharing research. Created specific folders for the various disciplines within the product team.
  20. And from all this, I had a number of learnings to we’ve gathered along the way
  21. Changing the culture of a team can be an uphill battle. People become accustomed to working a certain way and often won’t be able to see why they should change for what you’re proposing. Starting small though can be a great first step as it’ll be easier to get the go ahead. The more of these small initiatives you undertake, the more people you’ll have on your side as they can see the value in what you’re trying to achieve. So as you start to have more people who believe in what you’re trying to do. Leverage this and try to scale up your plans. Take on bigger challenges and reach out to more people within your network. If you have people on your side fighting your corner, it’s easier to convince others to join you. Finally, there’s a lot of industry advice and best practices for organising and conducting research within organisations. However, everyone’s company is different. In our case, we’re a small product team with no budget to hire dedicated researchers. Instead we tailored our solution to what fit wit our setup and culture. Customising your solution to your company gives you the best chance of sustaining it indefinitely.
  22. So here’s some of the resources I used along the way to help. If you’re looking to do something similar in your company, these may be of help to you.
  23. Feedback Image for giannir for intro page Add slide introducing myself at the start and adjust script