NCR Critical Reflections

 

My experience at NCR as a whole provided a great deal of valuable insight into the inner workings of a corporate business. However, as can be expected, there were both positive and negative factors to the overall experience. This section will detail my experiences and discuss my reflections on several aspects of my time at NCR Dundee.

 

Management of workload

At the beginning of the Socially Mobile project I decided to follow a hybrid form of the Double Diamond design process with certain service design methodologies used throughout. This process plan acted as a successful tool for keeping me on track and could be easily altered as my process become more informed. As a result, my process plan evolved as the project developed.

  1. Framing (Me) (find out what the problem is and what stakeholders are involved)
  • Objectives and research questions
    • What is the problem and who does this problem effect?
  1. User insights (Users) (find out who is/isn’t communicating and how they do so)
  • User Journey Map (Satisfaction & Actors map)
    • A map of the individual stakeholder’s interaction to the service journey. The map will include individual satisfaction and actor touchpoint maps. The researcher will then ask the stakeholder what they felt the reason was for each of their highest and lowest points.
  1. Personas (Users) (Find out how to best appropriate the design for each stakeholder)
  • Persona and User Analysis
    • Discover what each stakeholder’s service attitudes are, are they leading there section or are they lead, are they the controlling stakeholder or are they submissive? The persona will also detail the individual motivations and demotivations of the role they play. An understanding of the tools they use each day will allow for an understanding into how to best position the end output, be it an app or another such service.
  1. Design scope (Me) (define a clearer image of the challenge and objectives)
  • Design Challenges
    • Rework the initial objectives, given the new insights. What is the service that needs to be improved? Who are the key stakeholders? Describe the measurable goals of the service and finally state the newly honed design challenge.
  • Design Requirements
    • Considering the new design challenge, what are the highest level goals within the Physical (usage environment), Active (activity’s and operations of use), Emotional (non-functional), Relational (interactions with other), Tangible (physical item) and Rational (functional) contexts? Select the most important requirements that will make the most difference if offered a good answer.
  1. Ideation (Me) (develop several ideas and condense them into viable concepts)
  • Inspiration Blossom
    • Place the design challenge in the centre of a page with the main requirements arranged around it. For each requirement, select a current example of a product/service that acts to fulfil the requirement. Think about why this example is effective and write the reasons down, arranging them around the example product/service. Finally combine the best properties from the examples into ideas for the future service.
  • COCD Box
    • Once you have collated all the ideas from the previous exercise place them into their corresponding CODA box. After you have assigned each idea you will be able to now categorise them into ideas to “forget about”, “look to later”, “consider” and “may include”.
  1. Concept Refinement (Me) (speculatively illustrate the top concepts in action. Do they address the issue?)
  • Concept Storyboard
    • Now create a storyboard for those ideas that seem to be the most valuable, considering all the key stakeholders. Acknowledge and state the activity and any touchpoints that may be made in each scene, highlighting any potential pressure points.
  • New Speculative User Journey Map
    • Create a journey map that considers the actor touchpoints and if the concept would work effectively considering all the key requirements.
  1. Prototype and test (Users) (Test the concepts and analysis there use)
  • User Satisfaction Map
    • Create or get the user to create a satisfaction map that highlights the individual pressures and satisfactions whilst using the service concept.

The plan can be divided up into the four categories of the Double Diamond process:

  • Discover – Steps 1-3
  • Define – Step 4
  • Develop – Steps 5 & 6
  • Discuss – Step 7

I found that applying most focus on the discover stage was of great value as it allowed me, as an external observer, the ability to gain insights into NCR as a company and the individuals it employs (my user group).

 

Challenges

The greatest challenge that I faced was the general corporate culture and the issues that related to it . I speculate that the challenges I faced are typical of most large international corporations and I do not believe them to reside solely within the NCR Corporation. However, the related issues affected my process dramatically whilst fortunately also educating me in how to better my research practice.

In the initial stages of my process I developed a short interactive questionnaire  that I disseminated to my identified user group, to better understand what role each participant played within the ATM service delivery journey. This initial dissemination yielded no results and so a follow up email was sent to all those that were invited to participate. It was quickly identified that I was most likely not going to receive any responses and so the document was re-disseminated by other members of the UCD team at NCR, in a hope that the invitees would respond to a higher level within the NCR hierarchy. Even this attempt yielded no response and after several varied attempts I re-evaluated my focus and began to find the information by other means. This company wide lack of cooperation was indeed the greatest challenge that I faced, a challenge that has been flagged to NCR as one of my greatest insights. This challenge helped me to learn that not all people are as eager to provide help as I originally perceived and that there may be a flaw in the means at which I designed the original questionnaire.

I overcame this cooperation challenge by targeting key individuals within NCR and asking a few specific questions within a semi-structured interview setting. I was able to target and interview key people internationally, that gave me great insight into their specialised field. With the information I gained I was able to inform the continued development of my process.

 

Collaboration

My main points of contacts within the NCR Corporation were the User Centered Design (UCD) Team; of whom I met for discussions and feedbacks sessions regularly. The wide range of design skills that the UCD team provided, allowed for a thorough review to be conducted whenever I required peer input. I also liaised with international NCR specialists on a regular basis, these interactions allowed me to build a greater understanding of the design requirements and how to best address them.  Most of these discussions took place over the phone and were arranged in a semi-formal interview structure; this allowed me to ask for further detail on discussion topics and created a deeper connection with the participant, allowing for follow-up questions to be asked later. Around roughly half of those that I invited for an interview accepted my offer in some way, even if it was simple an email reply to my questions, and so I had a greater deal of success via this communication technique than I had had in the past using my insights questionnaire.

 

Project Output

It was clear from the beginning of the placement that those that had issued the original project brief did not truly know what the final output would look like. Due to this I began the project with the mind-set that I would concentrate on the Discover stage of my process before I thought about what form the project would take. It was quickly noted that after the first two weeks, and after my first progress presentation, that my placement supervisors had begun to think about what form they desired as an output. The term “App” was stated on several occasions during my presentations and potential outcomes were usually discussed in more depth after each meeting. In my experience, I have always found it to be counterproductive to ideate before you have all the information necessary to feel comfortable in the development of a design solution. I found the constant ideation discussions quite distracting, it was subtly noted that my supervisors wanted a digital application output from this project.

The disciplinary field of digital application design is relatively alien to me, I have had limited interaction with those that practice the skills but have not every partook myself. This aspect of the project resulted in a new challenge that in turn resulted in a notable educational experience for me. As a first time application designer with a limited time scale I decided to use an online application prototyping tool called “InVision”. This tool would allow me to stitch together several PDF images in an attempt to mock the functionality of my application designs. I used my graphic design skills to develop several 2D layout designs and then used “InVision” to stitch them together. The resulting prototype displayed the basic functionality and graphical elements of the finial concept. I was informed by placement supervisors that the outcome was impressive and that it demonstrated all the aspects that they wanted to see in the final output. I consider my efforts as a success and I am a happy with the learning process and skills that I developed along the way. Through this experience I learned how to create basic application prototypes and gained further knowledge into how a digital app should be developed. Through discussions with a NCR senior interaction designer I learned what aspects of the prototype I had completed well and others that I needed to improve on.

 

Greatest Success & Failing

My overall process consisted of several successful aspects as well as several unsuccessful ones. Interestingly my greatest success and failing are interlinked. From discussing my outputs with my placement supervisors it was raised that my greatest weakness was the lack of cooperation that I faced with the company, however this was also my greatest finding. This finding is mutually beneficial for me and NCR as the UDC team now have evidence that certain research techniques do not function with certain user groups and I have acknowledged that failing in one aspect can result in new insights in another. I believe that my process was overall successful as it functioned well in keeping me on track and I did not loose direction. However, the initial stages were complex and user feedback was quite weak. Using this experience to further my development, I now know that I applied to much focus on the early stages (stages 1–3) and not enough on the later (arguably more important) iterative development stage (stage 7).

 

Personal Improvement

There are many ways in which my experience has acted to improve my abilities and many ways in which I can see it informing my future work. The major aspect of my experience that I will carry forward is user consideration. I believe that my initial insights questionnaire failed in part due to its overall design, considering both design language and scale of ask. The questionnaire was developed early in my process, without too much insight into the work that the targeted users groups are used to. I speculate that the “Insight Toolkit” document appeared alien to the user groups and without any incentive, there was no desire to complete the task. This combined with the fact that the document consists of eleven pages could have acted to deter the user from completing the task. I have since researched ways in which I could have condensed the content and made the task more desirable. I acknowledge that my main failing was that I was asking for all the information I desired and not considering how that focus could affect participation. From this experience I will be much more considerate in the future in how I ask questions and how I design the content to improve participation.

During my placement I also worked on developing skills in application design, from doing this I have built my confidence in prototyping applications and have gained a further understanding of their development. I see this as a valuable skill as the digital world is growing rapidly, and an understanding of how to apply my design skills to this field will soon be a necessary leap.

Additionally, all the experiences I have gained in relation to corporate culture and industrial design within an international corporation have added to my knowledge base, acting to inform my future work. I now have a greater understanding of how to appropriate my design skills to new user groups as well as how to address and communicate with those that I seek information from. I have gained industrial design skills such as how to complete a competitor product review, host live user trials and complete R&D tasks. All these new found skills can feed into my future work and will act to boost my currently active abilities.

 

Conclusion

To conclude, my experience at NCR Dundee has had its road blocks but has at no point hit an educational standstill. Every fall back has resulted in a lesson learned and every success story has helped to aid in my further development. I am pleased to have had the opportunity to spend time within a corporation such as NCR and will carry the experiences forward into my future design work.

cover image 1
Hero image detailing the NCR Voice mobile application in use.

 

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