Checking job postings important for Project ROI.

This past week I was hired by a client to research a product idea that they had.

The client had done their own research and found out that the product did not exist today in the form they presented. They had even found a similar product targeted towards a different set of customers. Given that, they felt strongly there was an opening in the market for their product targeted against the customers they had identified.

Once I was hired, I gained an understanding of what the benefits of their new product was and who the likely customers were. I asked them to establish why they felt the opportunity was there – what made them unique.

Taking the knowledge provided by the client I then did research of my own.

1 – I confirmed that indeed there was potential for their product.

2 – I identified that indeed the product did not exist in the current form that the client was wanting to create.

3 – I crunched the numbers of the expected product cost against potential.

4 – I researched other companies that provided the same proposed solution but in a different market.

All looked strong for my client’s desire however I found a fly in the ointment.

Taking the list of companies in the different market who dealt with the same potential clients as my customer but without the product that my customer was planning to create, I did a job vacancy search.

Luckily for my client, the competition did not consider it a strategic risk to post their employment needs along with their company name. In fact with the strongest possible competitor, that company was advertising exactly for the skill set that my client would need to create their proposed product. In the company’s job advert, they went to great length to explain the direction the company was moving in and how it was a great opportunity to come on board and build the product.

A little bit of research saved my client from putting money into a product that another stronger competitor was getting ready to build.

I cannot say this will work every time because if the job openings had been filled at the competitor I would not have stumbled across the  job vacancies that described the direction of the company. As a back up solution, you can check the patent registry to see if any competitors have filed patents closely related to the product you plan to build.

When is the UI too simple? A study of www.mojomotors.com

Today I will tackle the subject of when the User Interface is simplified to improved the user experience at the expense of other users.

I was reading an article about car buying that suggested that existing sites like www.AutoTrader.com and www.Cars.com were cluttered sites and that people considering buying a used or new car should try www.MojoMotors.com. Since I buy used cars on a fairly regular basis, I was intrigued and decided to give it a look.

Unfortunately I found the site a disappointment after reading the hyped up article but I do not think it all bad, just that I was not one of the “Personas” of users that was considered.

In User Interface and User Experience, we have to consider who are the people that are likely to be using our product. We then group people with like attributes together to create various personas. To go further, we would tie the personas into market research to see which group is likely to make our product the most successful by identifying some agreed upon measure that could be applied across the different personas – could be number of users, amount of income created by the product etc… This would then be used to justify the strategic investment in the development of the solution. Unfortunately it is cost prohibitive to develop a solution for all personas identified.

As I landed on the site I was not greeted by some open white space as I expected from reading the article – think early Google – but instead by a top navigation bar, data entry line, lots of stuff about the company, links to how wonderful it is and of course a picture that has nothing to do with cars but rather a person – at least Cars.com has a car in their picture. So strike one. However please note that it is lighter in look than AutoTrader.com  – as it has the large banner advert at the top – but Cars.com looks a lot more inviting to use.

The icons in the top navigation bar, I could guess at what they mean but I could not see a help option to walk me through them above the fold. In today’s world, I would expect a video welcome to walk me through the benefits of this web site – above the fold or at the very least some help icon. By the way if you click on “Reviews” in the bottom navigation – you lose the icons at the top and no matter how often you click on the top “Mojo” icon it does not bring them back – Strike 2.

Now that I have the site at 2 strikes, let me explain why I strike out completely for my use. I buy used cars regularly every couple of years but at the time of my purchase I do not know what make or model of car I am going to buy because car availability varies by time of year, geographic location, fuel costs etc.. I have a budget and I look for cars that have features – such as 4 doors, pick up, convertible etc.  With the results of my search I narrow my search down to specific models that come within my price range for the location I live in. MojoMotors does not seem to allow me to do the initial search. www.cars.com, www.autotrader.com and even somewhat www.craigslist.org all allow me to get in there and do a generic or advanced search. www.mojomotors.com is therefore by itself useless for my user persona. Strike 3.

What is the saving grace for www.mojomotors.com? For people that know exactly what model/s they are looking for (but you can’t specify year – another issue) , I think it is possibly a good site because they can let the site keep an eye on the market for them and let them know when a car price drops. I presume it also allows the dealers to track what cars are being watched/purchased the most so that they can steer their inventory in that direction and be aware of what price they are selling for.

Looking back at the original article I read on MojoMotors.com, it made me visit the site but the site failed to come close to my expectations. In its current form I would be very unlikely to use it to purchase my next used car. Simplicity of site that was inferred by the article did not fit my user persona at all. I do however wish them luck as they grow and develop. If you come back to that site in a year, I am sure it will have some of the changes that make it not work for me in its current form.

If I have missed or misrepresented something on the web sites mentioned by writing this article, I will gladly correct it once it is brought to my attention. My purpose is not to harm the owners of the web sites represented but to explain why a particular web site does not always work for everyone.

 

 

 

ui – Tactile feedback – Why BA’s need to consider cost of failure without it.

In this article I want to ask Business Analysts to consider risk cost calculations when it comes to UI that reduces or removes Tactile Feedback from a user interface.

I like to share examples of User Interfaces that seemed good in the lab but not in reality.

In the book  Yeager by General Chuck Yeager / Leo Janos,  the pilot Chuck Yeager makes reference to the one time the F16 airplane had a “Fixed Force” sidearm control. Basically a control stick that did not move but relied on the amount of force the user applied to it to determine what the controls would do.

It was not a success as the lack of tactile feedback made it difficult for the user to know how much force they were applying. In his case, they replaced the fixed with a moveable stick that could move about an inch in two directions.

Even then, moving of a stick by itself may not be enough as witnessed by the crash Air France Flight 447 on June 1st 2009. The article link below explains how lack of Tactile feedback may have led to the crash of the flight. In the article it is suggested that since the co pilot could not see or feel what the other pilot was doing (they were using a sidearm control) he was unable in time to rectify the situation.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/9231855/Air-France-Flight-447-Damn-it-were-going-to-crash.html

With the advent of more touch screens devices, we are bringing the lack of tactile feedback to the masses. Certainly we can feel a swipe of the screen but when it comes to pressing something, we have no clue by our touch that the event took place. Even with the swipe, it is possible that the screen was dirty and thus did not register our swipe. In not all cases will it be possible to follow our hand / finger movements with a glance by our eyes thus making the Tactile feedback more critical in those situations. We could add sound to each contact but then that can lead to over abundance of sounds which in themselves become a distraction from the task. Military pilots in various recent wars have complained about having cockpits full of various informational sounds all at one time that if they can turn them off they do. This act of silencing the sounds nullifying the benefit the sound was meant to serve.

While we can see the advantage of the flexibility of the touch screen in that we can change the controls displayed to match the task at hand, the risk of the task needs to be considered. As Business Analysts helping business introduce new technology, we must make sure that the risk of limited or no tactile feedback is calculated against the cost if something goes wrong. This information will help fund the UI/UX department in their quest for the best/affordable UI interface for the situation.

 

5 Common Types of Business Analyst

November 11, 2013 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Business Analyst Skills 

A lot of people these days call themselves Business Analyst (BA) but put them in a room to talk and you will soon see they are quite different.

This difference also creates problems for employers as they need to find the right BA for their role.

For this post I have broken the types of BA’s into 5 distinct groups that require unique talents to be successful. I am sure that there is more and feel free to comment with your suggestions. It is quite possible for a BA to have been in all 5 roles but the longer they are in one role, the weaker their skill become in the others. In later posts I will go into depth on each role so you can gain an understanding of what the pro’s and cons are.

1 – Business Process Analyst

The focus of the Business Process Analyst is to look at Business Process and see opportunities for improvement beyond the limitation of IT. They may suggest hiring additional people in a role, timing changes of process events and even communication methods. May even suggest IT solutions. Note however that they are not limited to just Information Technology. Generally a Business Process Analyst is knowledgeable about the business to the point that they could perform tasks within the business realm. In fact a lot of Business Process Analysts once worked on the business side, even gaining licenses in the chosen field. Think about Nurses or Doctors advising on business process because they know the role very well. It is unusual for an IT Business Analyst to end up in this role for they do not know the business from not having worked in it. Business Process Analysts, generally are the highest paid of the Business Analyst roles.

2 – Business Data Warehousing Analyst

Data Warehousing is all about data and to be in this role, you need to be comfortable spending you days looking at data elements, tables and database structures. This is a great role if you don’t like interviewing people to understand their job so that you can capture requirements. Most of the focus of this job is gathering data to store in the Data Warehouse and responding to request for data from the Data Warehouse. My friends in this role like it because it does not change much and they don’t have to deal with business users as much.

3 – Business Reporting Analyst

Sometimes this role is included with the Data Warehousing role but other times it is not. These BA’s spend their time pulling data and formatting it for report generation. Knowledge of databases, reporting tools and ways to slice and dice data is usually a requirement for this job. As well as a keen understanding of the requirements that go along with reports – summary fields, paging, sort order etc.

4 – Business Infrastructure Analyst

They gather the requirements around IT infrastructure upgrades. It is a technical role (at least you have to understand technical jargon relating to networks, servers and software upgrades) and rarely involves direct business involvement. Focus is more about making sure IT projects have their infrastructure requirements documented and met. Think along the lines of a Windows Upgrade project and you will get the idea.

5 – Business Application Analyst

Consider this role the more traditional IT BA role however it is going through some changes which I will discuss in a later post. These BA’s work closely with the business to provide IT solutions that tie in with their business process. Generally they are approached by the Business to provide an IT solution or enhancement to their existing business process.

So there you have it, 5 possible BA roles that you may end up in. Each role requires different skills to be successful in and I look forward to discussing them with you at a later date.

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