I am a software analyst and in this and a few other posts I will be sharing my thoughts about systemworkflows I am revisiting at work, how I approach their redesign and what difficulties I encounter. This post talks more about development of a customer journey map for a number of personas across existing suite of products. I haven’t written posts like this in a while and from a writer’s perspective they may honestly suck. I may also be wrong in what and how I do. You are free to tell me what you like, what you did not even get to because it was so difficult to comprehend and what you don’t like/don’t agree with. The way to get in touch is Facebook, email (donotcross03 at gmail dot com)
There are two capabilities we plan to include for users in the feature set we are currently working on: adding persons and vehicles to a CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch) call. While it sounds simple, this work becomes quite challenging because it affects multiple products used by different roles. In the past I have already done the investigation on the side of the product I am working on (911 incident dispatch software) and that research gave me a relatively good understanding of the work to be done in the context of a 911 dispatcher’s workflow.
Information coming from dispatch however can be utilized by other personas like first responders (fire fighters, police officers, command staff) and record clerks (records division in police departments usually) meaning that there are integration points in system workflows between dispatch and responders, booking officers and record administration. This also means that whatever we want to build, needs to be designed in such a way it could be integrated into all those workflows that I still did not have a good understanding of.
I needed to understand the integration points between our part of the puzzle and the other products before putting together a vision of the to-be state for user flows we were planning to add. After thinking about the tools that could let me do that, I ended up selecting customer journey map for definition of as is experience and user story map for description of the to-be state of things.
Below I am sharing my experience with the technique and some of the observations.
The reason I have chosen cjm is that this tool provides a way to decompose user’s interaction with a product or a company in general from high-level tasks and goals to very specific steps and elements the person is interacting with. Besides that, the tool can help to capture the emotional aspect of interacting with the software pinpointing areas of experience today that are causing frustration and are subjects for improvement or on the contrary cause delight and therefore should not be lost.
My plan was to organize a two part meeting where during the first meeting we would build an as is cjm involving person and vehicle information and then during the second part of the meeting we would assemble the to-be part of the process primarily affecting dispatch. Spoiler alert: the second part of the meeting did not work out very well and that is one of the lessons learnt from this exercise. Nevertheless, the part where we have described as is experience, worked out pretty well.
CJM allows to convey the story of using a product through quite a few lens:
- Persona – a specific type of the user / customer who is working with the software
- A certain segment of user’s entire experience with the product (finding out about the product, using the product, interacting with support)
- User goals (understanding what the user is trying to achieve during that specific part of the process)
- Touchpoints (parts of the software, specific persons a user is interacting during their experience with the product)
- Process / tasks (actual steps of the user, specific actions they take)
- Emotion (feelings the software invokes during the process of experiencing it, be those positive or negative)
These lens are coming from Uxpressia’s CJM template (see image below). SAP presents a slightly different view – you can review it by following one of the links above.
The idea of the technique is to break down the experience of a product by a user to phases and then go through the specific steps in each one of those phases to understand areas of improvement that then can be used as the rationale for new projects and become target outcomes whose project strive to achieve. The length of the process of preparing a high-quality CJM can vary from hours (for smaller products) to weeks (researching the CJM of interacting with a large company like an airline) and can consume a lot of resources.
Preparation for the workshop
Since I was planning to have a 2 part workshop where both as is and to be would be explored, I invited product management representatives as well as onsite developers and quality assurance from my team. There are pros and cons for doing it this way. On one hand, developers may not be as effective in contributing to the as is process since typically they don’t interact with users as much as product management does. On another hand, product management representatives from other products may not necessarily be the best audience to come up solutions specific to your part of the product that they not be very knowledgeable about. The one definite positive outcome of such a team setup is that at the end of the workshop, both development and product management come to a shared understanding of what is typically happening in the product today. In my opinion, another positive side of this setup is that everyone is more alert to the meeting because the conversation about how the interaction takes place is happening now and there are questions being asked and eyeopeners coming up this very moment
Since I knew I was pressured on time, I tried to focus on phase, touchpoints and process for specific personas skipping emotions however those did come up primarily after realizing the deficiencies in the existing workflows.
To actually conduct the workshop, I needed to have some preparatory materials explaining the customer journey map (I had my materials ready from a workshop I ran in January with dispatchers so I planned to reuse those), my rough understanding of the existing cjm (in case the whole conversation turned out to go the wrong way, I needed a plan b that could be used to trigger thought process in the group), and a few reminders (I’ve printed out images of some of the most used screens in the system to remind attendees about the workflow users were going through). That actually proved to be helpful when identifying pain points in the existing flows.
I also took a few large paper sheets we usually use during our periodic SAFe-based release planning (that is something worth another topic on its own) and placed them on a wall. The idea was to use the drawing board for as is process and then switch to to be and map it out using those sheets glued to the wall.
As for the group size, the workshop included 3 product managers for products that represent a large set of the entire suite, myself, 2 senior developers, 1 QA and 1 UX designer who was primarily observing what was going on. I have sent out the invites in advance however I failed to mention that the workshop is intended as a primarily offline activity. Because of that one of the product managers was present remotely constantly watching what is going on via a camera.
The exercise I prepared as an introduction to cjm is quite simple and easy to do. It is a task to draw a map for ordering food for a family gettogether on a Sunday evening while watching a movie. I have prepared a few slides explaining what I would expect from the participants and even did my own cjm for that in case things really go south however once I’ve explained what I want: phases, steps, touch points and told them it was ok to draw using blocks everything went really smooth. You can review the full example here https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1BBmLfWXaE6BEAoWYisx4rou8J5lp8vdN_sdyffK43dI/edit#slide=id.p
Lastly, to run the workshop I also needed to define the approach – whether it is scenario-based and we review everything in context of a certain nature of a 911 call or it is a generic 911 call and we try to outline all of the possible branches the call process may follow. After a discussion with a UX designer, I came to a conclusion it was best to focus on specific scenarios rather than describing a generic call that would add too much often irrelevant facts and make it really easy to forget specific steps that may come up only for certain natures (i.e. how an in progress robbery is handled may differ from a suspicious person or domestic violence call).
The workshop, actually
The workshop was scheduled for 2 hours with the first hour dedicated to investigation of as is experience. It actually took 1.5 hours and one of the contributing factors was that not all of the participants realized it was an offline meeting only so some of the time was eaten communicating updates to the person online however we found a way to mitigate that more or less.
Before we have started I have shared the agenda that included the following main points:
- As is process from a 911 call to what happens after arrest
- Integration points between P&V throughout different products
- To be process for person and vehicle entry
I have explained that we would be using the cjm for this and explained what cjm comes down to (the lens described above).
The first step was to determine the actual phases of a 911 incident and put those on the board. Initially, it felt more like a show and tell activity where I am standing in front of the board and everyone is waiting for me to write stuff and then nod in agreement or disagreement. That however was exactly the type of thing that I wanted to avoid. Because I was pressed with time, I skipped the exercise of trying to draw our own cjm for a pizza evening and very briefly explained it by drawing the blocks representing phases of the process (Determine food, find pizza place, find the right pizza, order, get delivery and enjoy the meal). I had to call everyone to the board to make sure engaging the participants into the conversation was really easy. That actually helped and everyone being closer to the board and given an actual marker had more rationale to do something.
The product managers were the ones who helped me to define the actual phases (911 call, CAD Incident, Arrest, Booking, Report, Report to prosecution, IBR report, Court case, Sentencing and Jail Management). Since the software we are developing does not cover some of those phases like Report to prosecution, court case and sentencing), those were mentioned with diving deep into details of what actually happens in those workflows.
The next step was to actually find out what is being done process wise by involved personas during each of the phases under discussion (911 call, CAD incident, Arrest, Booking, Report, IBR report).
I have used a specific example (domestic violence in progress resulting into arrest). Domestic violence is a frequent flyer in the world of 911 incidents where one of the spouses exerts verbal and/or physical violence onto their partner or children. This scenario may evolve into a variety of others including homicide, shooting, manslaughter, etc.) and can be a good starting point to understand all of the involved public safety processes
Adding meat to the bones
During this part of the workshop, we focused on adding actual details to each process phase. CAD Product manager added details related to the 911 call and CAD Incident. Law Product Manager was collaborating with Records Product Management (both were law officers in the past) on the arrest, report and IBR part of the process. As you can see in the resulting map, some parts were left blank (intentionally). At the end of the exercise, this is what the board looked like.
I have then converted the map into a digital format using uxpressia.com that turned out to be a nice tool for my purposes. There are some things that took time to figure out but I was able to put the whole thing together probably in under two hours. The result looks something like this (I removed pain points and ideas from here for the purpose of not releasing sensitive information)
The As Is map was intended to be the first part of the meeting and frankly speaking I probably should have stopped right there since the to be part of the meeting clearly did not go as planned. I also had to stop it half through since I already ran over time scheduled for the meeting. I think I will focus on the to be map (I will use storymapping to define it) in one of the next posts.
Number one: As is map is a good way of bringing different people to a common understanding. It is helpful for product management, development, myself because all of a sudden you are seeing the whole process in front of you with touchpoints, pain points and areas of improvement. You can challenge your own assumptions and build something common using the parts coming from everyone
Number two: when covering bigger processes, it is a bad idea to combine as is and to be into a single meeting because of complexity, amount of thought involved. Fatigue will develop naturally resulting into lower engagement level among participants
Number three: this exercise can easily take days hence it is important to understand what it is exactly you are trying to find or what aspect of the entire flow you want to focus on
Number four: you don’t necessarily need to build the map of the entire process if you are making changes to a part of the process. The reason I tried walking through the whole process was that I never did it before and felt this would be a good opportunity
Number five: it is important to develop a scenario-based mindset in the events of a complex process or a process crossing multiple products otherwise there is a high chance of getting rid in the myriad of details that may not be relevant in a particular scenario. If you want to compare or build alternative maps, you can dedicate a whole day to running a few scenarios and describe different maps every single time. This time I was unable to organize a day-long workshop with product managers
Number six: it really is debatable whether or not to invite development to as is maps. On one hand, hearing the conversations they are likelier to understand more about the current process and better see the problems we are trying to address. On the other hand, it is valuable time that can be spent on other important tasks. Up to you to decide!
Number seven: it does make sense to do a warm up exercise with a simpler map to build the right expectations with everoyone and transform the exercise into a collaboration as opposed to show and tell the main problem with which is not picking brains of others enough to have the learning happen
Number eight: bringing food (donuts) is a good idea because it gives people sugar, boosting their thinking process and b) who does not like donuts?
Number nine: sharing info in advance is optional. Someone will review it however most likely not
Number ten: prepare screenshots/wireframes/images from existing product, photos of existing customers to trigger thought process. This also means you may need to have done some preliminary cjm yourself just to make sure you can help bring everyone back on track in case someone wanders off
There are more things but I think I will stop here for now