Ambiguity is a constant part of everyday work for Seattle-based companies Ratio, a leading digital agency focused on the user experience, and Launchbox, an experienced team of market and design researchers.
The challenge they faced in May 2015 was no exception. Their client, an innovative hardware-based engineering company headquartered in Milwaukee, was looking to expand their core product into the residential market after a decade and a half in commercial production of exclusively business-to-business products. They approached Ratio with an idea for a consumer product they wanted to build and were looking for help in adapting the needs and behaviors of their new customers. Ratio enlisted Launchbox to lead the user research while their team would drive the business strategy and product design.
With three teams coming together for a single goal, the first order of business was to take a step back and make sure everyone understood not just what they were building, but also why. “We knew we needed to organize and structure the problem before we tried to solve it,” explained James Senior, VP of product at Ratio. “But it would have to happen in a way that encompassed the client’s business needs, the engineering team’s concerns, and the unique points of view of the end customer.”
Right about the same time, we released the beta version of 10,000ft Insights. Ratio and Launchbox were early adopters of the tool and used it as an intermediary between their two teams. “We were able to work apart but still easily integrate our respective data and multiple perspectives when we’d come back together,” noted John Thomas, owner of Launchbox. “There was a seamless transfer of knowledge with the tool because all of our ideas and analysis were captured in one place. No one has too feel like a lone wolf anymore, gathering information that doesn’t end up getting shared or influencing the group’s decision-making.”
While building the project roadmap, both teams collaborated on competitive analysis and feature prioritization and incorporated the client’s input every step of the way. Launchbox synthesized their user research findings on top of Ratio’s strategy work to create a more holistic view of the situation. They also documented their early brainstorms and SWOT discussions with the client in the tool, which made it easy to reference later in the project, especially when a project leader was suddenly unable to attend a key meeting.
“It’s pretty common in our industry for someone to leave mid-project and unfortunately, their ideas and insights into the project usually go with them. It takes time to get everyone on the same page and back up to speed,” shared John. “With 10,000ft Insights, the institution of knowledge around the project feels well-captured and reduces the risk of being lost if someone steps away or if the project gets passed on or presented to a new group.”
James was surprised by the team’s response to using the tool. “Both teams inputted and explored all these ideas, analyzed them with two-by-two matrices, and voted on them based on key criteria we had decided on - all within the tool. Even some of our employees who tend to be less vocal were excited because they could suddenly share their ideas in a forum that was designed to be a collaborative experience without the pressure that can sometimes come in a brainstorming room,” continued James. “One of our engineers said, ‘Wow, this is great. I finally have a voice and can see where I’m making an impact on the decision. I see that my input matters every step of the way.’”
When it came time for the client presentation, they used the tool as a guide to drive the discussion and show how all of the work and thinking had been incorporated into each decision. “You typically present with a standard Power Point,” explained James. “But that always creates a very linear discussion. If the client has questions about a particular portion of the approach, you have to refer them to appendix slide 147, or whatever. With 10,000ft Insights as the focal point, it was a far more dynamic and valuable presentation because we could dig into the decisions with the client right there and have a discussion about it.”
“Inevitably, the client will offer up new information or change their mind during the meeting,” added John. “In that case, we could very quickly tweak the final output just by clicking a few boxes. They saw the rigor that our teams put into the design process.” The client left the meeting with more confidence in the final decisions than when they had first walked in the door. “We were able to visually communicate not only the final outcome, but also the methodology and reasoning that led us to that outcome,” concluded James.
“From the client’s perspective, out of a pretty nebulous endeavor, it was clear that we put a lot of care, attention, and detail into the work,” shared John. “We actually made a better, deeper decision in the end because of the layers of analysis and being able to critically consider more variables than you can hold in your head.”