So here’s a little peek at my framework. It is a distillation of learnings from the projects I’ve worked on, and therefore mostly design-orientated. It is neither complete, nor is it thorough. Some of it is aspirational, and I definitely need to be more conscientious in my application. As I’m writing this, I’m also taking the chance to review and improve.
This isn’t actually mapped to a typical project timeline, though it may seem that way. The three phases — Discover, Execute, Finish — are used for one single part/phase/activity of a project. For each phase, I go quickly through a series of questions:
Reflection: Have I done this before? How do I do better this time? What happened the last time?
Objectives: Why is this necessary?
Activities: What are the possible activities that need to happen for me to understand the reasons above and to validate them? What are the possible roadblocks?
People: Who can I work with on this? What’s in it for them?
Results: What do I need to move forward?
It’s a long list. While they manifest as questions here, I use the above as reminders (some of these have their own bulleted lists!). Most of them eventually turn into deliverables or action items. Having considered the above, what happens is that I’m ready to answer questions and defend our work (I learned this the hard way).
For example, a brief has just come in and I need to figure out how to run research — what kind of research is required, how to run it, and who should be involved.
1. Discover: Laying it out
Reflection: The last project didn’t have time for any user research and we had only a competitive analysis and expert review of our existing product. We then ran into some problems during prioritisation; we only had business and technical input, and we were not able to sufficiently support some of our design decisions because we did not have user input.
Objective: Ensure there is enough time to get feedback from actual users, and to run through with product owners for alignment before starting any design.
Activities/People: Determine and confirm all research activities, then create a research plan and schedule where we will be able to run the standard research protocol. This should include reviewing user reviews on the App / Play store and interviewing #X users from the identified target segments. Also, prepare to engage agency for user recruitment, incentivisation… etc.
Identify resource requirements, then discuss with the leads and project managers for resource availability, and engage the available people for the planned activities.
Results: Research plan approval and commencement by end-January.
2. Execute: Getting it done
Reflection: Not everyone knew what was happening during the week of user interviews. There wasn’t enough hands on deck, and the interviews took up way too much time, which affected the time we allocated for other research activities.
Objective: Ensure everyone knows what they need to do, and why it’s needed.
Activities/People: For each research activity, prepare a dashboard that includes a checklist and mini timeline. Check against the checklist and identify a rep for each of the activities, ensure that their schedule is available and that they get sufficient prep and support. Kick off research with a briefing for everyone.
Results: Close all research activities before mid-February.
3. Finish: Crossing this off the to-do list
Reflection: Our findings were pretty generic, and did not yield enough actionable insights. We ran out of time and did not sufficiently consolidate our findings before we started on design.
Objective: Ensure that our findings are substantiated, and can be translated into actionable recommendations.
Activities/People: Check in with respective reps on completion status, perform additional research, do a sanity check for our recommendations with tech, prepare presentation deck, update or re-scope project if necessary.
Results: Synthesise all research findings and come up with actionable design recommendations by mid-February. Finalise design proposal and present to management.