Tag Archives: kevin mcdougall

Guest blog: the importance of understanding the user

I’ve stopped attending internal communications or employee engagement events.

I actually stopped a few years ago.

To me, the content always seemed to be the same.

And the questions posed were identical to when I first found myself in internal communications, nearly a decade ago, and the case studies seemed to be a tad dull.

Almost everything seemed to be on a loop and marginal success seemed to be over celebrated.

Around this time, I started working with some of the UK’s leading digital thinkers and quickly found myself emerged in ways of thinking that were totally alien to me as an ‘expert’ in internal digital communications.

Their user-centric approach to building products with a focus purely on delighting the user was a substantial shift from merely keeping stakeholders holders happy with little true knowledge of the project.

It was joy to work with the actual end users of the products and engage with stakeholders using data and research to drive decisions rather than mere opinion.

This approach led to the creation of some of the best digital projects out there, according to the IoIC.

And these all began with a sole focus on the end user at the formative stages.

They did not have a project manager.

Instead, they had a product manager running the show, supported by a handful of business analysts – something I have not seen too much of in the IC industry.

There is method in the madness. At the messy start of each project, we set out to discover what type of product should be built or what type of channel should be developed.

The amount of interviews and sessions with users is mind-boggling compared to the early days of delivering internal channels.

There is a landscape designer in the US who lives with her clients for nine months before she designs the landscape.

Yes, you’ve read that correctly.

I’m not suggesting taking nine months to understand your audience but a deep sense of understanding is essential before even thinking about the product.

This experience changed the way I approach IC.

Nowadays I always start with deep dive into Persons (and non-personas) and the Employee Journey: the two underlying pillars that enable the building blocks of employee experience.

This is followed by several sessions called Assumption Consumption, which takes all of the assumption towards an audience, a channel or a product and rips apart them if the evidence is there.

This takes away the painful conversations that may come in the design/build phases of a product.

I don’t go into the complete methodology here, but wanted to use this opportunity to nudge you not to ‘lean in’.

Turn around. Take a moment.

Spend time taking a long look at what is happening outside the world of IC.

Kevin McDougall

It may just help you create the some of the best products and services you can.

** Kevin McDougall is an Employee Experience Consultant helping businesses understand its people’s needs and requirements.

Kevin has worked with the BBC, Unilever, Transport for London and Hiscox Insurance.