Human Centered Design and SharePoint

Human Centered Design with SharePoint

I’m grateful that a consulting partner of mine recently introduced me to IDEO’s Human Centered Design (HCD) technique. I think it is an outstanding approach for building anything of value, and I’ve been working through applying the nuance of that system to our SharePoint engagements. (Read the HCD toolkit here.)

What is Human Centered Design?

HCD is actually a double acronym standing for both, “Human Centered Design”, and “Hear, Create, Deliver.”  With HCD, cross-functional teams interview potential end users to identify their challenges, and from that data they create tools through an iterative process that solve their problems. So, they hear what users have to say, create a solution, and deliver it through small prototypes.

Each of these phases can be divided into distinct steps, but the idea is to start with concrete objective facts through observations about and from end users, move into abstract themes to identify the types of solutions that would work, and then move back to the concrete with prototyping.

Phase 1 of Human Centered Design HearPhase 1 Hear

The first phase, HEAR, is divided into several steps:

  1. Identify the design challenge- What are you trying to do?
  2. Recognize existing knowledge- What do you know and what do you need to know?
  3. Identify people to speak with
  4. Identify the methodology by which they should be approached- Individual interviews, group interviews, immersion, self-documentation, community driven discovery, or expert interviews.
  5. Develop an approach- Choose questions, hypotheticals, compare and contrast, etc.
  6. Develop the mindset- record objective facts without interpretation.

Hearing with SharePoint

Typically the design challenge has already been identified before I’m brought into a SharePoint conversation with a potential client. The company has identified that a workflow, collaboration system, document management system, or whatever isn’t working well, and I’m asked to participate in solving the problem.

Engagements in which I have access to the end users for this kind of research typically go much better than engagements in which I am insulated.  Interviewing end users, using whatever methodology, leads to better solutions. Users need to understand what SharePoint can do, and the SharePoint team must understand the business and user level need. (See my post on Educating on SharePoint for more ideas.)

Human Centered Design CreatePhase 2 Create

In the second phase, CREATE, the feedback from users is gathered and synthesized into possible solutions. The emphasis is on involving the end users on the solution development because they are the local experts, and they are more likely to accept solutions that they create.

  1. Develop the approach- Orient your approach around empathic design, that is designing from the perspective of the user.
  2. Share Stories with other researchers- After the interviews are conducted, share stories in an objective way with other researchers.
  3. Identify Patterns- Work with the other researchers to extract key insights, find themes, and create frameworks for understanding the data.
  4. Create Opportunity Areas- rearticulate the problems in a generative, forward-facing way.
  5. Brainstoming new solutions
  6. Make ideas real- create prototypes (models, role playing, story boards, diagrams) to work through each idea. The prototypes should be quick and cheap, disposable, and should answer a question.
  7. Gather Feedback- show prototypes to users to gather their feedback.

Creating With SharePoint

After the interviews with end users, I bring the facts back to my team and the client find themes, areas for improvement, and priorities.  We can then create solutions for solving these known problems and prototype them for the client.

SharePoint is uniquely well built for prototyping because deploying new solutions typically takes very little time. We use our demo site to create mockups of how systems could work and would look and get feedback from the client and users before deploying.

Sometime small, end user level solutions have a big impact. See my post on my company’s site about small SharePoint solutions for more ideas.

Human Centered Design DeliverPhase 3 Deliver

In the final stage of the HCD process, the product is taken from prototype and put into production in a way that allows for continuous improvement. Financial and organizational models are chosen and an innovation pipeline that drives further development is established.

  1. Develop a Sustainable Model- both financially and organizationally the product must be sustainable, meaning that the customer’s value proposition should be clear, and all stakeholders need to be incentivized to participate.
  2. Identify the Methodology for Delivering Solutions- When, where, how, and why might the customer experience the solution and what will it take to make it available?
  3. Plan a Pipeline of Solutions- create a plan for continuing to build on the idea. (See my post on SharePoint Committees for ideas.)
  4. Create an Implementation Timeline
  5. Plan Mini-Pilots & Iterations
  6. Create a Learning Plan- track indicators to determine if the solution is working
  7. Evaluate Outcomes and Adjust

Delivering with SharePoint

After the client and users have signed off on a design, the next step is to implement it. The HCD process acknowledges that further iteration and development will be necessary and that the organization should expect not to finish everything perfectly on the first pass.

The Innovation pipeline also fits well with SharePoint. SharePoint is a tool for solving current problems and future problems. Setting up a system for discovering more opportunities to extend the value keeps the site from growing stagnant. (See my company blog’s post on Marketing SharePoint for other ideas.)

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