#Blended #program #management #Prince and #Agile methods Part 1

Blended Program Management

I have been involved in project and program management since 1989 across various sectors and more recently have been focused in banking and finance.

I have experience in Prince and Agile methodologies and will expand on the blending of these two methods through the use of user stories (a user experience method) and the positive relationship between waterfall and iteration components in the following parts of this post.

Simply put (before getting into the detail) Prince and Agile = Delivery and in Banking and Finance they can give startling results.

This will not be a shock to many people but I’m not going to be describing the what, but the how.

I have managed some highly complex projects that would have failed if they had been run in Prince or Agile alone.

The clear advantage of blended management processes is that;

the project becomes team centric and affords an environment where success in common and that value is attributed to the correct people

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5 #UX #lies, damn lies and absolute #myths

1. Anyone can do user experience, nope!

I meet a lot of people claiming to do user experience, process and deliverables aside, they don’t have a usability background so they cannot do real user experience.

User experience is a personal capability (not all usability people can do user experience) based upon the experience of conducting usability testing and user research. Usability testing and user research provides the standards and experience of the user that is needed to understand their perspective, illicit the correct (there are wrong ones) requirements in workshops or testing and represent them in projects.

I met (in 2006) a UX expert, I’m always worried when I meet UX experts I don’t know, because I am a UX expert. Anyway she was moving from Razorfish into the freelance world for the big bucks and working a large project for Honda cars through a digital agency. Unfortunately she did not know how to use any software apart from word, so I checked her out sure enough she was a PA at Razorfish not a UX architect as claimed.

This happens so often it’s shocking, my favourite one has to be the PHd student I met working as an accessibility consultant repackaging W3C guidelines as work for several agencies. What I love about this guy is he does public speaking and has even done UX London and people wonder why I’m not interested in these conferences!

There are loads more fakes some of them milking huge daily rates from major companies, as these companies don’t do any checking it’s their own fault, but it makes me quite sad that clients and employment agencies can’t tell the quality from the junk.

Not only is the user experience world full of fakes, I’d go as far to say that of the people I’ve met in the last 13 years involved in UX;

80% (8 in 10) of UX people are fakes and have no idea what they are doing

These fakes can certainly sell themselves and get work (now in some very senior positions) because the clients did not then and still don’t know what they should be getting out of a user experience professional.

2. User experience can be learned from reading books, nope!

Absolutely read books, but read lots of them, but don’t quote them like the Bible that’s a bit odd. But reading about someone else’s experience does not mean you have any or in fact really understand the context or scope of those experiences.

Do some testing and research, I’m seeing a great deal of roles advertised for UX researcher or UX workshopping this is a great concern as the priority of discovered requirements and their interrelation is almost impossible to communicate in written documents. This critical project information should always be available.

Separating UX research from the UX solution activity may make sense for IT activity but for User Experience Professionals it does not

I assume this was a bright idea of someone who doesn’t actually know anything about UX regardless of their job title.

3. User experience is an IT activity, nope!

User Experience is not an IT process, it starts in the business area before IT is involved

I know a lot of company IT departments have tried to subsume User Experience into their IT process; user experience is considerably less effective this way.

User Experience leads the projects speaking for the End User Stakeholders (customers) as the Business Stakeholders speak for the Business

User Experience fits better into Change Management, Operations or as separate Standards Authority within organizations.

4. User experience is a design activity, nope!

Not exactly no, it sets the project brief and requirements then latterly gets involved in research first before creating solution concepts, user testing concepts then defining the final solution.

If there is no research, user experience solutions are not possible

5. The cost of user experience is going down, nope!

Perhaps a better understanding is that the market is flooded with willing bodies, the quality goes down and so does the price because people find it difficult to sell invisible clothing (the kings new cloths) even to people who like the colour and the cut, so accept a reduced price.

So the value of the job title is going down.

User experience should provide major cost benefits and advancements to companies who wish to stand out from the crowd, provided they find people who know how to do UX correctly.

This is the same problem that Agile is going through, people have picked up the language and use one or two of the activities incorrectly but don’t exceed the current status quo because they don’t know how to.

Great Agile is fast and accurate, flexible and delivers usable software, just as Great User Experience should provide the experience that customers want and allow them to interact with the client, accurately and often.

Great User Experience delivers increases transactions, interactions and communications towards relationship building.

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#Holistic #UX #Customers don’t think or interact along #channels

Business management does not reflect customer (users) activity

The management of a businesses online presence is broken up into various channels in order to simplify the management, responsibility and accountability for overall effectiveness and value. However customers (users) are unaware of these business rules and are only focused on their task or tasks, which will cut across several channels.

Holistic customer (user) experience is cross channel

Given the behaviour of customers (users) it is clear that effectual user experience is cross channel as well. This creates some problems for business, however with the advent of Agile, user stories it may be time for businesses to at last really focus on their customers (users) by changing their online management to reflect key user pathways rather than holding on to legacy notions of management.

Customer experience an example (not everything)

1. Engagement > 2. On boarding > 3. Payments > 4. Servicing > 5. Supporting > 6. Retention > 7. Up/Cross Selling

  1. Engagement – how the customer finds out about the company, where their expectations are set (also includes brand identification) and they self filter based upon personal tasks and objectives
  2. On boarding – agreement that the company provides the service required, through written and visual material, social media, personal recommendations, reviews, sign up routes
  3. Payments – payment or funding pathways related to e-commerce, m-commerce (including micro payments)
  4. Servicing – providing the goods or services, delivery and tracking
  5. Supporting – providing help and support both online and telephony (can complete servicing)
  6. Retention – managing potential loss of customers, analytics, advanced planning
  7. Up/Cross selling – data mining existing customers to up or cross sell other products and services to existing customers

For a customer this process can take hours, days, weeks, months or years and contains three key user experiences;

  1. A transaction (engagement, on boarding, payment, servicing, support)
  2. Customer relationship management (on boarding, payment, servicing, support, retention)
  3. Marketing (engagement, on boarding, retention, up/cross selling)

These experiences cross relate as can be seen by their components.

Managing the web in a holistic manner reduces risk and lowers cost

The problem remains at present that the customers (users) experience is supported by multiple sub-systems with owners and their own agendas.

Digital channel management costs a huge amount of time and money and creates a great deal of risk that valuable customer activity will become secondary to internal politics

There needs to be an importance given to the customers overall experience and the need to join it up in terms of user experience, visual appearance and standard interactions across multiple platforms and systems.



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6 ways to keep your #identity #secure #online

Think about what your doing, security is a choice

I have been using the Internet for years in fact long before the world wide web became available but one thing has always mystified me;

Why do people willingly give away so much private, valuable and dangerous information about themselves?

Going back to a pre-web example, I realized years ago, in my teens that my signature was valuable, it may have been while forging my mothers on a school sick note. But the knowledge of that essential truth made me have different signatures for different purposes, government documents, cheques, membership forms etc all have different levels of importance and risk.

And because of my experiences I have taken this kind of thinking into the digital realm

1. Don’t always use your full or real name

I know some websites require your real name but unless you need to make a payment you could spell it in a different way, add middle names or initials other than those on your birth certificate.

2. Don’t supply your real date of birth

Most websites will never do anything with this information apart from market stuff at you. If this makes you feel weird make your self older than you are, plus or minus two years works well, but change your day and month too.

3. Don’t provide your real address

Some websites require this for their security, put some typos in on purpose, add an A or B to your building, but remember them and use them consistently across the web (as there is a look up database). If your buying things you’ll need your correct address and postcode for 3d secure card security.

4. Don’t supply your real town of birth

Give your best friends or partners town, this is usually a really important banking security question, so any answer you can remember is relevant (usable security).

5. Don’t provide real bio metric information including pictures

Don’t use pictures that can be used to create identification documents, have your head turned  to one side or the other, also be taller or shorter, just don’t give very accurate information.

6. Don’t supply extra information

If it’s not required (if a good design indicated by an asterisk), give the bare minimum to get access.

Why does the security of your online identity matter at all?

Well in the simplest form all anyone needs is three key identifiers;

  • your name
  • your date of birth
  • your town of birth

and they can get a copy of your birth certificate totally legally in the United Kingdom.

Once they have your birth certificate they can apply for other forms of identification and then start spending your credit value.

Another useful thing from this type of attitude to supplying information is to find out which companies are selling your data and then decide if you still want to deal with them.

Never provide any information to someone who messages you online on on the phone, if they called you they already know who you are, if your interested to communicate don’t use any link or numbers they give you look up the company independently and call them through their switchboard.

And finally;

careless information costs billions, no matter how secure a company says it is always assume they will be hacked at some point either electronically or by a staff member

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Mobile is now Slowbile, mobile experience is destroying user experience (UX)

I like many other people love to use my mobile phone to view the web, contact friends through mobile applications and keep up to date. But recent changes by companies are driving me nuts; it’s so bad that I’m considering not using their services.

So what’s the problem with mobile?

When the World Wide Web started to go mobile, the complex problem of screen size and control had many solutions, some worked some did not. I remember writing my first WEP site; it worked but was an awful user experience. Then CSS took over as the solution of choice, now it’s purpose built applications (less functionality, one for each device and a rather expensive route) or the responsive web (resizes with same functionality, the direction I’m taking). However it’s the change in user choice that’s driving me nuts, as a user I used to be able to choose to have an application or not, now I’m being forced into an experience I don’t want.

A recent forced bad user experience with LinkedIn

I really like the concept of LinkedIn but they have really lost contact with users and the following experience really expresses this detachment better;

I was using my iPhone and I wanted to manage one of the groups I run on LinkedIn, so I used Safari on the phone to access LinkedIn. I had to do this as the LinkedIn iPhone application does not support group management. So through Google I went to LinkedIn and I was given an interstitial page about the iPhone application. Great they are clever enough to know I have an iPhone, but not clever enough to know I already have the mobile app but am not using it!! maybe there is a reason, I can’t cancel this (never see again checkbox, a feature I put on all interstitial pages as its just good user experience) so every time I try I get this bad experience.

I get to the website, great I put my email address and password in (really not easy on an iPhone, that’s an easy fix, but just look at all the sites and companies who can’t be bothered to make it easy for users) and click login — I’m expecting to get into my account, but no I’m forced into their (very slow) mobile site.

At this point I’ve already been asked if I want a mobile version and said NO, I’ve logged in and now I get asked to login again. This is because their credential store is not set up to pass my credentials to their mobile site version; this is really poor, even in the most basic WordPress system that is integrated.

Anyway as I don’t want the mobile version as it does not have the functionality I require, I click on the go to desktop version. I’m back at the desktop version but I have to login again, at this point I want to throw the iPhone under a car.

It took 25 minutes to login to LinkedIn, Mobile is now Slowbile

At this point I’ve arrive in the office and decide never to bother with this again, way to go LinkedIn forcing me to hate your thinking and technology when your concept is such a good one.

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#UI is not #UX

There seems to be a huge level of confusion around user experience (UX), but one of the key things is that the user interface is not the user experience architecture.

  1. User Interface – what the user sees
  2. Interface Logic – what the user can do
    • Logical connections
    • Interactive behaviours
    • Content/data calls
    • Content/data inputs
  3. Data Systems – the content the user creates and interacts with
  4. Platform – the users delivery mechanism

Difference between UI and UX

user experience is defined by what users can do, not just what they can see

If you are paying for UX you should be asking “how did the UX change the interaction, logic, data systems and platform” if it did not influence it, you only got UI design.

The user interface is the top level component that users see.

The user experience is not a single component it is a set of features that is facilitated through several components.

An update about paying for UX, as business start to recognise that visual tweaks to a product after the solution stage are not enough for savvy consumers.



Also the non-system elements – customer service, marketing and POS material (is this consistent with the message being communicated on the system) etc.

The customer, client or worker doesn’t see the difference – they see one big system.

It is often frustrating to do a piece of research and find out all the weak points in an organisations’ “system” and be told, just tell us what the UI needs to do. It is a rare job indeed that they are interested in the other non-system fail-points of the user experience.


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#Information #Architecture (IA) the #classification of #information Part 2

Given the response from the last post I’m going to take the educational publishing example a bit further, if I have time before my next contract I will also create an investment banking example. I am also being asked for diagrams that explain these relationships, again if I have time I will do these also.

Educational publishing Information Architecture (IA)

The last point in the previous post was describing multiple audiences looking at the same content from different perspectives. The example in educational publishing the audiences often include;

  • Distributors
  • Sellers
  • Institution
  • Teachers
  • Pupils
  • Parents

Each one of these groups will have a very specific context of use, when looking for content, the descriptions they use and understand to find it and their underlying purpose in doing so. In this case they will each require a separate structure around an entity and may require their own version of the taxonomy.

Additionally there are criteria that operated as informational facets (now commonly associated with faceted search) which act as secondary entities;

  • ISBN
  • Bulk price
  • Unit price
  • Country standards
  • Regional standards
  • Education level
  • Education target
  • Education skills
  • Education method
  • Exam board
  • Exam year
  • Pupil/student age
  • Content subject
  • Content brand
  • Content group
  • Content purpose
  • Language
  • Language Tone of Voice
  • Media type
  • Media format

The above entities enable the audiences to find the content assets that meet their specific needs. It is very important at this stage not to confuse entities with hierarchies. Hierarchies are the structuring of entities in a direct or indirect relationship that are above or below (immediate superior or subordinate) this also includes cross related relationships. As previously mentioned (in the last post) there may already be standard hierarchies in the domain in question that should be observed.

But how do you find these entities in any domain?

Taking the above example the standard hierarchy in publishing is ISBN a review of several entities within a single ISBN item will reveal many of entities above. To get the rest research is required (it cannot be done any other way);

  1. Find out who the audience is and what is their objective?
  2. Find out what are the rules, laws and governance?
  3. Find out who buys, distributes, delivers, services, resells and what their relationship is to the originator?
  4. Find out specifically who the audience is currently, competitor and target audience?

Define ‘What is the smallest component of viable (useful) information?’ and use that to model the information system. I have worked with several huge education providers and universities and the questions I ask is ‘What is a course?’;

  • A course has a title
  • A course has duration, with a start and an end
  • A course has a subject
  • A course has a level
  • A course has prerequisites
  • A course has an outcome, which leads to options
  • A course has a delivery mechanism

I also ask, ‘Who is a student?’, ‘Who is a tutor?’, ‘What is an outcome?’ even ‘What is a college?’, if a course has a regular location then this creates a secondary set of entities.

  • A location has an address, telephone number, email address
  • A location has facilities
  • A location has transportation links
  • A location has a community
  • A location has accommodation

And it goes on and on, this is Information Architecture 101.

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Mobile applications move towards the sinister, data connections without asking permission!

I finally upgraded my iPhone to the 4S from the 3GS (with the go slower shutting down for no reason capability!!!).

Anyway I thought I should get some new games for some relaxing time while travelling. But I found was a new crop of games that constantly call their server without asking permission. These sinister data connections in the background without user permissions may be the new norm, I don’t know but it leaves me feeling like I’ve been had.

Some of them are great fun but since they do not let me control my data costs with a settings control I have had no choice but to delete them as they increased my bill by 60% in the first month of usage.

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Save 35% ££ on banking change, requirements gathering should take no more than six months

Best practice, puting the missing part in a puzzle
Best practice, puting the missing part in a puzzle

Requirements gathering in Banking change programs are over detailed, over long and for the most part undeliverable.

There is and has been a huge requirement for change in British banking for several years as senior bankers have sought to lever the capabilities of technology and distributed workforces. This has in turn a great opportunity for IT consultancies to enforce their business models on the banks and make huge amounts of money without delivering anything. This has of course not gone unnoticed and forced many banks to increase their internal IT teams, but the problem remains, as the overall strategy is wrong.

The current strategy for business change requirements gathering is to fully understand the current problem with the assistance of subject matter experts (SME’s) and then defined the end state with the internal client. There are several major problems with this approach;

  • Fully understanding the problem is almost endless in Banking
  • Using SME assumes they really are experts which for the most part they are not
  • That the internal client can see the future of their business
  • That the same consultants will carry the project all the way through

The solution to this problem is a new strategy, in fact an Agile based one;

  • Defining 6 to 10 features of the new system at a high level
  • Involving the enterprise architects to see what has to be new, legacy or adapted
  • Launch the development team during the definition phase
  • Detail the features and get time costs from the designers and developers (not the PM or delivery manager)

Doing the above will change the relationship between requirements and delivery making requirements a service to the delivery of the project rather than an impossible set of promises made by people who will never have to keep them.

The 35% savings is probably low it’s just the 14 months and 35% of a budget wasted on an investment banking project that were eventually discarded. I’m considering a new concept in banking requirements gathering, value for money, is anyone interested?

You can contact me on karl@karl-smith.com

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