Thursday, March 25, 2010

Selling the Value of Process

I joined a new team in my office recently which seamed to appreciate design more than other groups. I was quite enthusiastic about this new potential for proving out the value of a proper design process. It was soon clear, however, that while the appreciated the value of the final product they did not understand or value the process of design itself. The expectation was to magically land on that final beautiful elegant solution.

The main points of resistance that i was hitting was the perception of delaying progress due to red tape or legacy speed bumps. Explaining needs gathering efforts, persona modeling, scenarios and others was "understood". That is, they didn't disagree with the explanations. However within that meeting, they were eager to jump into the wireframes. Here is where the public perception of wireframes grew to be a bigger thorn in my side. For an outsider, the number of wireframes produced quantifies progress. Personas, scenarios and the like are seen as obstacles that delay that count. I think at some point I even blurted out "I am not defined by wireframes!". The more this wireframing continued without proper definition of scenarios and personas, the more derailed and "artistic" the site became.

A month later, the amount of progress that had been made was disappointing/expected. Meetings still kept getting derailed by new requirements and distorted scenarios. The amount of time needed to properly define personas and scenarios would have been made up, not to mention a stronger platform to build upon.

Looking back, the problem is easy to spot and it happened very early on. Before anyone can even think about wireframes, process has to be communicated and expectations have to be set. When you try to explain process a couple of weeks in, it is seen as an obstacle. The value if process also has to be quantified in order to speak with business stakeholders. "Two weeks now allows design to work independently 5 weeks earlier". It allows scopes to be estimated and schedules to be met.

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