Blog

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.

 

Paper Based Sketch Prototyping

In order to best visualise how the platform will function I developed a paper prototype of each interface within the general applications functionality. I completed this task for both a mobile and web based application (these can be seen below). Through the development of these paper prototypes I am able to traverse through the applications and test the functionality. This was an iterative process and each time I went through the prototype’s interfaces I was able to determine if there was any missing steps that would help with the flow of the interaction. This process was also a great learning exercise to see what aspects worked visually and what aspects, such as social capital, looked like when translated into a tangible interface.

 

2016-07-27 14.09.43

I now intend to digitise the application design and subject it to review by some of the UCD team. I suspect that in the next week or so I will be able to test the basic functionality with users online.

Prototyping: Mobile and Web Application Map

To really understand what the platform would look like I decided to map out the interaction functionality for both a mobile and web based application. Both maps host similar functionality however content review and text based input aspects, are stronger on the web based display due to the benefit of having a large screen and additional input functionality (keyboard etc…). The web based system also has additional functionality in the form of an admin section. This section is for those within the product development team that govern the customer/consumer insight gathering aspect of the platform. Due to the additional capability that are available on a computer (web app) in comparison to a mobile device the admin aspects may not be available on a mobile device, this conundrum is still under discussion however.

Mobile Appliocation Fuctionality map-page-001 Web Appliocation Fuctionality map-page-001

I now intend to sketch prototype the aspects of the maps that can be seen in this post. I will then sue these sketch prototypes to ask for further advice on the platforms development.

User Stories

In this post I will illustrate using a technique called “User Stories” the functionality that the platform must present, to fulfil the needs of its users. The “User Stories” technique asks the designer/developer to fill in a small template with the necessary details, the temple is as follows:

“As a <role>, I want <goal/desire> so that <benefit>

This template then illustrates the individual user need, for each respective goal they have. The detail present in each individual user story can vary largely. The below examples show my completion of this task, considering both the external and internal aspects of the platform and involving three of the key user groups (UCD, Accounts and CEs). The examples are then followed by a discussion of the resulting conclusions:

External insights

  • As a UCD team member, I want to gather customer & consumer insights so that I can improve on the current product delivery.
  • As an Accounts Manager, I want to gather customer & consumer insights so that I can provide a better service to my customers.
    • As an Accounts Manager, I want to provide a better service to my customers so that I can receive a higher commission.
  • As a CE, I want to gather customer & consumer insights so that I can gain reward points.
    • As a CE, I want to receive reward points so that I can exchange them for the things I want.
  • As a CE, I want to gather customer & consumer insights so that I can aid to improve the current system for product maintenance, easing my job.

Internal Insights

  • As a UCD team member, I want to observe and take part in internal discussions so that I am more informed of the situations that could/can be remedied at the product development stage.
    • As a UCD team member, I want to be more informed of the situations that could/can be remedied at the product development stage so that I can alter them and receive kudos.
  • As an Accounts Manager, I want to observe and take part in internal discussions so that I am able to feed my input I to the wider company.
    • As an Accounts Manager, I want to feed my input into the wider company so that I build social capital and receive a sense of self-worth.
  • As an Accounts Manager, I want to observe and take part in internal discussions so that I am able to receive peer support when tackling an issue.
  • As a CE, I want to observe and take part in internal discussions so that I am able to improve my current ease of work.
    • As a CE, I want to improve my current ease of work so that I am able to complete a job efficiently.
  • As a CE, I want to observe and take part in internal discussions so that I am able to feed my input I to the wider company.
    • As a CE, I want to feed my input into the wider company so that I build social capital and receive a sense of self-worth.

From this exercise it can be concluded that the main user goals all revolve around improving product delivery/efficiency as well as receiving personal kudos and self-worth. It can therefore be stated that these aspects must make a strong appearance within the platform and act as the motivational driver.

I now intent to map out the functional structure of the platform as well as to sketch prototype the individual interfaces for both a mobile and web version.

Concept Refinement & Elevator Pitch

Following on form my last post regarding concept generation, this post will detail the now refined single concept that I intend to go ahead with.

The platform acts to facilitate the gathering of insights from both, internal and external, NCR sources. Internally the platform facilitates the cross communication of NCRs employees, in aid of tackling companywide issues in a selection of multi-disciplinary areas. Discussion topics are generated by NCR employees and are open to all, a tagging system allows for participants to target specific people or groups in a hope to generate individual interaction.

The second aspect to the platforms insight gathering is internally managed, however acts to gather external insights (VOC). This aspect gathers the key insights from NCR’s customers through the utilisation of the currently active channels in place between them, and NCR’s customer facing stakeholders (Accounts, Sales, and CEs). Objectives are assigned and managed by a governing body (product development teams), that target the groups or individuals most valuable to the specific objective.

In addition to insight gathering, there is a strong personal collaboration aspect to the platform thought the use of an extensive profile builder and reward point system. The reward point system is used to incentivise the users into continued and motivated participation of the platform as well as to build social capital within the company. Through gamification and the presence of a leader board it is speculated that users will compete to provide valuable content that are actionably rich.

 

Elevator Pitch

“NCR Voice” is a new platform that allows employees to gain social capital through the gathering of insights. Insights from both internal NCR employees and external customers and consumers are gathered through employee cross communication as well as the currently active channels in place between them, and NCR’s customer facing stakeholders. Kudos is then received for each uncovered actionable insight, acting to build the users social capital and company recognition.

I now intent to create a map of the interface structure of both a mobile and web-based device. Following that I will create a series of paper sketch prototypes to illustrate the interfaces and how the connect together.

 

Concepts

Now that I am nearing the third chapter of my time at NCR, I have begun to venture into the ideation stage of my design process. For many weeks now I have had ideas rattling about in my head and it’s a relief to finally put them down on paper. I have organised my ideation into two categories, Must Have Features and Concept Cores:

Must Have Features

The must have features have been realised from research into both the suspected users, and currently used products.  It is of great importance to consider both these elements as without them the service could be either unfamiliar or not appropriate to the user. The five speculatively diagnosed features can be seen below:

  1. Custom homepage
  • In order to build a relationship between the user and the platform and to encourage continued use and gamification.
  1. Personal profile generation
  • To encourage use through the building of social capital and ego incubation. The use of a profile will also help to facilitate an informed user allocation system through the building of each user’s skill sets.
  1. Incentive system
  • In order to maintain willing participation and a gamification aspect to the platform. The reward system will also play on an already familiar system that exists currently with the NCR culture.
  1. Idea box or managed question system
  • A system that allows for the users to either offer their own insights freely or a system that allows for the facilitated governance of an allocated question system.
  1. An IM system
  • A service that allows for instant communication across the platform, this will be useful when discussing a topic between peers.

 

Core Concepts

I have developed four concept cores from the information I have gained over the past weeks. A concept core is an idea that has no physical form, and instead purely details the ideas intention. The below concept sheets demonstrate what each of the concept suggests, utilising a relevant image, 100 word description and the pros and cons of the general concept. See below:

Disscussion Platform-page-001 ideas box-page-001 Managed Quistions-page-001 positive feedback-page-001

I next plan to whittle these concepts down into my main concept and to create a visual map of how it will function. I will then intend to sketch out what each feature is and what it could look like. After doing this I would like to get everyone within the UCD group together to review and critique the concept.

Inspiration Moodboard

Below, you will see a selection of images that demonstrate what the market looks like in regards to my project direction. The images that can be seen below are all examples of communication platforms and mobile note taking applications. I have used these examples to understand what features are popular within the market and to try and make sense of why that is. I intend to us these images as inspiration during the concept ideation stage of my process.