By ©Jimi Wikman
In most projects there is that one perfect moment when you look up from your screen and observe the team you are leading only to realize that they no longer need you. It is both terrifying and absolutely the best moment you can have.
As a project manager I have my own style that comes from many aspects of my life. From my brief time in the military I bring my sense of protection of the people I lead and from my childhood upbringing I bring a desire to encourage and treat others with respect. On top of that I add a touch of my need to understand the things around me and a curiosity to learn new things.
These things make me be the first one to start the workday and the last one to close my laptop at night. It is also the reason I gladly spend hours upon hours to make sure everything is prepared before my team start their work. Not because I want to control their work, but because I deeply feel that my single purpose as project manager is to make their life easier.
In order to do that I will put my heart and soul into solving as many problems as possible before my team ever need to know that they exist. This so they can focus on the work at hand and on becoming more than just a group of people working together so they can become a team.
I do not control my team, because I trust them completely and because I know that they work better if I give them the tools to manage themselves. In the beginning I steer the the team towards a work process I have used before and then I encourage the team to make changes together so we fine tune the process based on the need of the team.
By focusing on their need and by making sure everyone feel that their voice is heard and respected the team grow towards a sense of unity. I give responsibilities and make sure everyone in the team is pushed a little bit beyond their abilities or comfort zone. Not to punish, but to help them grow as I am there to support and assist every step of the way should they feel insecure or have doubt.
Then somewhere along the course of the project that perfect moment will happen. Usually when sitting at my desk on the outskirt of the team as I try to make sure the team sit closely together with me on the outside. In that moment it is like the sound of the room will change and become almost inaudible and as you look around you see the team engaged in work, helping each other or discussing solutions together.
Instantly you feel that the team no longer need your guidance and you no longer need to help them find their place within the team. They are a team now and all the heard work to build that up is now over. There is a positive energy over the team and you will see them smile and laugh together and then returning to their work with an amazing focus and efficiency.
In that moment there is a pride in your heart that threaten to bring you to tears. Not because of your accomplishments, but for theirs. As a proud parent you will see the growth of each of the team members and you will see how they take on responsibilities because they want to, not because they have to. They respect and protect each other as a team.
It is in that moment you have accomplished the most important aspect of leading a group and that is that you have managed to make them all feel safe. Safe to speak their mind and safe to take on any task knowing that it is ok to fail and try again. Safe because everyone share the same vision and motivation and safe because that they all know that no matter what happen you will always be there for them and have their back should they need it.
While you are no longer needed to guide them and to help them become a team, they still need you to be there to support them. Your role will change from that point on and you will spend less time managing and more time leading. Your team will look to you for decisions and clarifications, but other than that they are from that point on more than capable of managing their work on their own without you.
It is truly one of the best feelings in the world.
By ©Jimi Wikman
Requirements are very important. In fact I would say that 95% of all failed IT projects can be traced to a poor requirement process. This is baffling because requirements are really not that complicated and yet I see people fail in organization after organization.
After I started to look into the different flavors of Requirements I start to understand why things are so very hard to understand for many. There are such confusion about what type of work you should actually do, who you actually work for and what you actually should deliver.
So let us define what a requirement is first:
"A Requirement is a legal agreement between the requester and the performer."
That statement alone will surely get a few people raising their eyebrow for the simple reason that it does not fit in their job description. Again this baffles me that we have so many different work description for a single discipline. My only explanation is that people are confused on what different levels you work with requirements.
If we simply break down the three most common way of working I have seen: Facilitate, Investigate and Document. Then add it to the three common areas of work: Business, IT and translation between the two, then we can make a nice matrix. From there we can see what actual roles people have.
For me I think that anyone working with facilitating meetings as their primary function is a manager. Anyone who just document the need is a secretary. Those two types of "requirement analysts" I see frequently and in my opinion we should make sure that we call them for what they are so people do not think that this is requirement work.
In the investigative category it is common to work in all 3 areas depending on who you work for. Business analysts help business to define their need and IT analysts help IT define their need. This is however not requirements as their final product, but need. That comes BEFORE requirements. In this matrix we can see that the only role that actually work with requirements as the final product are the Requirement Analysts. This makes sense since the definition of requirements as a final product is:
"The outcome of a Requirement is a translation between need and realization of that need."
This is where many fail. I see many, many requirements that are nothing more than a granular break down of a need, but lacking the translation. Many are often either to undefined and border on a business need, or other times I see technical specifications instead of the need. My theory is that people do not understand what requirements are and who they are for.
We can see this in the delivery of requirements as well. I do not know how many times I have seen people claiming to work with requirements simply dump a bunch of documents on the development team and move on to next project, or next iteration of the project. This way of working when you build walls and throw packages over it is NOT a proper way to work with requirements.
As we can see in the matrix above a requirement analyst sit between business and IT. There she function as a bridge between the two, translating need in both direction to ensure everyone understand and agree on what should be realized. This can only be done with active communication, person to person, and you never deliver a requirement, you make a handover.
I think that this is the key for making requirement processes work: handover and asking development and test to take over the responsibility of the requirement. To ask the most important question there is: "do you understand what business want and can you realize that need with the information you have been provided?" If the answer is no to that question, then you are not done with the requirement.
If you just understand your place in the requirement process and you understand what a requirement is, then the requirement process will be easy for you. If your organization understand that as well, then life will be great for everyone.
So do you still think requirements are difficult?
By ©Jimi Wikman
In the past 5 years I have been living my dream. I have been through a journey that far surpass all my dreams and I find myself in a position where I can look back with a happy smile and a heart filled with satisfaction. This is when I take the next step and try new things.
I started almost 5 years ago as a Neurowebdesigner and since then I have held positions as designer, tester, project manager and many more. I have worked with large and small companies and I have had the privilege to work with some of the best minds in the world. It's safe to say that I have been truly blessed being able to learn from such greatness.
As this summer begun I felt it was time for a change. For far to long have i restricted myself in terms of writing about my work, or rather the fields in which I do work as the work itself is mostly classified. I have my personal page where I so far have mixed personal topics with my professional topics. It has always bothered me a bit to not be able to have those separate and I have had a vision in my mind of what I want to do.
Now it's time to make reality of that.
In the past few days I have started to build the new website and after almost a week of tinkering I feel I am closing in on something that resemble what I want. It's a big site and the concept of building it around hubs of information and not in the standard blog-like fashion still feel a bit strange, but in a good way.
I build this new site on Wordpress of course with Buddypress and BBpress as the community base, but it's the concept of hubs that makes it really fun to work with.
I have divided the site into my areas of interest: Code, Design, E-commerce, Leadership, Quality, Security, Strategy and Tech. These will be the focal points of the site and then each area will be divided into additional hubs.
For example I have a hub under Code called Code IDE which list the different IDE's like Webstorm. This hub will act as a list, while the Webstorm Hub will be a full hub with ratings, news, videos and so on.
It's a bit abstract right now until I get things going, but I have the idea ready so now I just need to start adding content and fix the design.
This new project that I call omniconsultant.se is just the first change of many coming my way this fall. I have another great surprise to share in a few weeks, but i need to keep it under wraps a little longer due to a promise.
I will write here about the changes and if you feel like it, please follow me here or join me at omniconsultant.se. You can also follow Omniconsultant here on Linkedin and on Facebook of course.
So, until next time...have a great summer!
By ©Jimi Wikman
One of the biggest challenges when it comes to how to present your product on the product page is not how to actually show the product, it is how to sell it. I constantly see product pages with tons of bells and whistles. There are multiple product pictures or perhaps even a 3D model which is now getting more common. There are splashes for sales, discounts and campaigns. There are social media links and sharing capabilities. There are reviews, some better presented than others, and there are product attributes.
The thing that I rarely see is: the selling text. How many e-commerce sites have you visited and looked at a nice product only to be served som SEO optimised text that just spit out keywords and attributes? Imagine for a moment that you ventured into a store and you see that same product. You walk up to it and just as you do that a sales clerk come up to you and start to talk:
“ Stainless steel watch featuring textured dial border, contrasting chronograph subdials, and pebbled leather band with stitching.
Quartz movement with analog display. Protective mineral crystal dial window.
Features buckle closure, date window, stick hour markers, and blue second hand.
Water-resistant to 300 feet (100 M): suitable for snorkeling, as well as swimming, but not diving.”
I bet your first reaction would be to wonder why the sales clerk talk like that and then you would probably feel a bit uncomfortable because you would suspect that the person is a robot. No one talk like that, it’s simply not a very human like way to communicate. You probably already know that psychologically we tend to like things we can relate to, like people with similar taste in music, clothes or that look like us. Imagine if we instead write the text like if a real person would speak to us and see what happens:
“This beautiful stainless steel watch have a nice textured dial border and the armband is actually handmade in Verona, Italy, that’s why the stitching have that special look. It was designed by the famous artist named Bruno DiMalo who is famous for his attention to the finest details and for his glass sculptures that are featured in many fashion magazines in Italy. In this particular piece he added contrasting chronograph subdials and a protective crystal dial window.
The rumor has it that this watch was designed as a gift for a famous Italian actress and that is why the second hand is sapphire blue, just like her eyes, but also because of her love for the sea. Because of that love for the sea this fine watch can be used in water, but you should not dive too deep with it.”
Suddenly we weave a story around the watch and if I have done my research on my customers this text should attract the customer and s/he can probably picture the city of Verona or some other Italian city in the mind. We add a feeling of luxury by tossing in words like handmade and then connect it’s origin to a celebrity. All of a sudden the selling text sound more appealing, even if I did not put a lot of effort into it. A skilled copywriter can surely do much better than this and it does not have to take a lot of time to write.
So why not make a test, right now. Pick say 5 products that you are already measuring conversion for and re-write the selling text and weave a story around the product with the use of basic copywrite techniques. Match the story to fit your best selling usergroups and see what happen! If you do it right you should see a nice increase in conversion as you connect to your users, just by writing as a human and not as a robot.
If you do, please let me know how your experiment turned out!
By ©Jimi Wikman
In the world of e-commerce things are moving fast. We see new reports every day about how E-commerce is breaking new boundaries. Mobile E-commerce is overtaking the desktop, as king of the E-commerce according to reports and on the surface it looks like E-commerce is the tip of the spear and the cutting edge of modern commerce. That is not the case however and in many ways E-commerce industry is still in its infancy. I will give you some examples on what I mean.
1. Still see things like multi- and onmichannel as new concepts.
It is quite remarkable that the concept of combining different channels into a whole is still something that most E-commerce companies struggle with. Despite the fact that E-commerce has been around for quite a while, many companies still consider this as a separate channel to be developed in parallel with their physical stores when looking at brick and mortar companies and the opposite for pure players that start with E-commerce and want to expand to physical stores.
Like Johan Hallgårde writes in his articles about omnichannel it is not a new concept and its time that we stop looking at E-commerce as something different from regular commerce. It’s all commerce and omnichannel should not be a vision for the future, it should be at the core of every business decision made internally in all projects related to commerce.
My best suggestion is to contact Johan Hallgårde and set up a inspiration day where he can elaborate on how you can move to the front of the competition by start thinking on your business as a whole and not a jigsaw puzzle. I assure you that you will not regret that decision.
2. Unrealistic belief in advertising agencies
In the E-commerce industry, especially in the larger companies that comes from a marketing driven brick and mortar past, there is an unrealistic belief in advertising agencies. I say unrealistic because there is a belief that because a advertising agency excel in advertisement and print, that does not in any way mean that they have a clue about the web. Even if they do there is the fact that web design is not the same as E-commerce design that makes it even more unrealistic.
The sad truth is that most of the larger companies want to work with a partner that they know can handle design and as they do not see the differences between the different mediums they often go for large print/web firms. I have seen, and I have heard of large, and small, E-commerce companies that did that and got a nice flashy website that did not convert half as well as the old one.
As I am a graphic designer, web developer and Neuro web designer with many years experience in E-commerce I tend to get invited as external consultant to act as support to the design companies from time to time, or even asked to take the full responsibility of the design myself. With my background as a system scientist and frontend developer as well as business/Requirement analyst I find that this role is quite rewarding as I can utilize my full skill set in these situations. So if you need a hand in ensuring that the design you ordered is well suited for E-commerce, feel free to contact me and discuss the situation.
3. Focus on technology instead of users
In every E-commerce project there are a great deal of technical aspects to consider and it’s natural to become internal and focus on “we need” instead of “they need”. As a requirement analyst I always have to ensure that workshops stay on the right level, as they tend to dive right down to the data mappings and API calls instead of the actual requirements. Sometimes that’s where they need to be, but a lot of times it is not. This is because the focus is on internal need where it’s all these nitty-gritty details that fill their day.
Unless you are focusing on building E-commerce site for your own sake, for a few millions, it’s crucial to lift the eyes above the wall surrounding your office and look at the users that will actually use the E-commerce site. What do they want? How can we make our products or services irresistible and what does that mean for the project, regardless if it is a redesign project of a feature based project.
At the end of the day the most important question you need to ask yourself is: whom do I build this for and do I really know what they want? This question is not just missing in E-commerce project but in most IT projects as well as the focus is on technology and not the users. The best way to take care of this problem is to ask the users. Set up workshops and interviews for internal usage and questionnaires, interviews and user testing for external users to create personas and hypothesis for a User Experience approach.
4. Interaction design instead of UX
Because many projects focus on technology and not users many projects get stuck in the interaction design phase and have problems moving over to the UX phase where the real magic happen. I have seen projects where the aim has been to improve UX that failed completely. Not because the effort was not made or the competence was missing, but because the project worked on assumptions coming from stakeholders that did not match reality at all.
Without understanding of the customers it’s impossible to work with UX because the very definition of UX is to improve the experience so it matches the users need. This is something that still seem to be unfamiliar and scary to many companies and in some cases it might even lead to a poor use of A/B testing as a substitute to communication.
If you feel that you have not really communicated with your users or feel confident that you can describe your 3-5 most important types of users as well as the top least desirable type of users, then you are most likely stuck in the interaction design phase, or wasting money trying to A/B test things based on hunches.
5. Analyze but don’t talk to their customers
Another thing that I see quite a lot is that companies spend a lot of time and money on setting up advanced tracking for their analytic system, but then either don’t know how to interpret the data or lack the communication with the users to improve the experience.
Having a good setup and track what happen on the website is very important and fortunately many have started to realize this. Tracking data and interpret the data is however a very different matter and it takes an experience analyst to really be able to draw conclusions from the data. It is also quite a difference between noticing that something is wrong with say the checkout and be able to understand what the problem really is.
In some cases it might be enough just to look at the troubled area, but most of the time you actually need to understand the users in order to understand the problem fully. The best way to solve that problem is to simply locate a few customers that match the personas of your most important user groups and then do a think-aloud test to get their opinions on the trouble areas. This is not an expensive test and it can give a lot of insight.
If you feel that you are focusing more on internal requirements and that even if you analyze your customers you are still not communicating with them or really know whom they are, then feel free to contact me or my co-worker Åsa Jonsson to discuss what you can do about the situation today.
These are just a few areas where the E-commerce industry is currently a bit behind in their thinking and where they seem stuck on old ways, seeing the E-commerce part of the business as a separate channel instead of a natural part of all their commerce.
Other areas include mobile maturity, lack of understanding of accessibility causing exclusion of the disabled, poor understanding of neuromarketing for web and not capitalizing the power of copywrite and quality graphics. I thought I should cover those in another topic however since this turned out to be quite a long post already.
If one of the topics above interests you, please let me know and I’ll focus on that for my next post.