Collaboration remains one of the top three traits sought after in looking for talent1. It is the keystone to making sure teams are aligned before and during a project, reaching a common understanding, and choosing the right priorities. When you are pushing date-driven deadlines, collaborating becomes much harder. It’s easy to focus on building features of a solution rather than identifying and fulfilling collaboration workflows between multiple stakeholders in the industry.
This post is inspired by a talk my colleague Kyle Bernhardt and I recently gave at X Summit, a conference where we celebrate human centered design at Autodesk. Kyle and I are on the team that is designing, building, and delivering the next generation of cloud-enabled design collaboration products. You’ll get to “look under the hood” at the design philosophy that inspires our work at Autodesk.
Beyond deadlines: How human centered design enables collaboration and innovation
As the BIM project delivery software team at Autodesk, we are chartered to build better collaboration tools for the industry on a platform that explores data in new ways—across models, across teams, and across deliverables. It is comprised of two large product groups from widely different domains and tech stacks spread across Europe and North America. This collaboration system is a critical part of making Autodesk fluent in BIM.
But where do you start when building something new? How do you manage what is most important to build and when? How do you ground those without industry experience to solve the most impactful problems our customers and industry faces?We faced questions like these when we began two years ago.
We were committed to rethinking our strategy with principles of human centered design using toolsets from the LUMA Institute. In fact, when I visit Autodesk customers, I often use a LUMA activity or two to help them solve a “sticky” problem.
As the Experience Design Lead on this project, I learned many things from this endeavor. It is my hope to share some of these learnings with you, to help frame your problem statement and kickstart collaboration and innovation on your project.
1. Who comes first?
Our product team agreed on this primary goal: “Customer comes first”.
We didn’t include customer feedback only when solutions were built and nearing delivery. We involved them in every phase of the project, from setting portfolio priorities to testing working software.
There are desirable, feasible, and viable ways to solve a problem, according to IDEO’s Design Thinking approach. To find the most valuable solution is to look for design that lies at the confluence of these three ways. A good place to start is by gauging whether end users will find value and desire a solution. If not, it may well be a waste of time and resources.
Who is your customer, and how can you center their needs in every phase of project delivery?
What are some ways to involve the project owner, key design partners, operations, and end users for crucial feedback without obstructing throughput?
2. Why plan, and how to stick to it?
At the outset, we knew two things. We had to first start by identifying the key workflows that provide the most value to the end user. Then, we had to put up sound barriers to prevent noise that inevitably expands project scope repeatedly, diluting our commitment to completing intuitive, lovable workflows.
As engineering teams were working on the technical foundations, our leadership team and Research Strategist, Bego Choren Jimenez, started to collaboratively and iteratively evolve what we affectionately refer to as the “Big Picture Workflow” using LUMA tools. It’s an artifact born out of an extensive service design activity. We created it by mapping the various components of our customers’ workflows to better understand components, stakeholders, and interactions.
By setting our sights on goals most valuable to the end user and ensuring we eliminated distractions, it became easier to stick to priorities defined early on in the process.
How can you coordinate a large multidisciplinary team of designers, engineers, and other stakeholders to identify common outcomes?
What are the key workflows all must follow altogether?
What measures can ensure that everyone sticks to priorities in the plan?
3. What does the big picture look like?
Kyle, Senior Product Line Manager, is steeped in industry knowledge. It is a privilege to work with him and his insider insight. However, Kyle cannot be in every meeting nor arbitrate every conversation or decision needing consensus.
We made the “Big Picture Workflow” by iteratively co-creating it with our customers, not just talking to them. It became the sitemap for our project, showing our engineering teams where their work fit into it, and reducing the risk of errors or ambiguity. We extensively used it to ground conversations, pick essential workflows, and prioritize tasks.
What are some ways to set the stage for a “big picture workflow” on your project?
While a BIM Execution Plan is a great start, does it show the relationship between stakeholders and responsibilities?
What about collaborators upstream or downstream?
What we’ve found over the course of these past couple of years is that, yes, collaboration is hard. It is difficult to align priorities across customer needs, leadership targets, technology readiness, to name a few challenges.
But collaboration cannot be accomplished by tools alone. It is an upfront investment in time and resources made by the right stakeholders. The more you can get the right people together to creatively problem solve early on using modern methods to set priorities and action plans, the more efficient your teams will be.
Let us know how you use human centered design or other methods to increase collaboration and innovation in project delivery! Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org