Putting the Focus on People – Experience Mapping and Agile Project Management in Digital Transformation

By Olga Murdoch, UCD Agile

You may remember that last year, I chatted with Josephine about the Student Experience Mapping project for the November edition of the WST Newsletter. I am back to talk experience mapping again, but this time in the context of the digital transformation element of UCD’s Rising to the Future.

At the start of 2021, a project team of 8 staff from across the University delivered Stage 1 of Enabler 04, Implement advanced systems and services to support our operations. The goal was to ground digital transformation in a clear understanding of what processes and services are important to our colleagues and students.  Stage 1 put people first.  You can find the outputs from this work on the Presidents’ Intranet.

In this article I want to focus on how we achieved what we did.  The short answer is focused on people too – working with colleagues using experience mapping and agile project management (I also have a previous post on Agile PM if you want to check that out).

Before I get into that, I want to recognise the project team who worked tirelessly for a condensed period to deliver this project. As well as myself as project manager, the project team included:

  • Michael Sinnott, UCD Agile
  • Orla O’Shea, Registry
  • Sarah O’Flaherty, Finance
  • Bridin Walsh, IT Services
  • Ursula Byrne, Library
  • Andrea Forde, Research
  • Cathy Gibson, Human Resources

What are experience mapping and agile project management and how do they work together? Experience mapping is about ‘seeing through the eyes of the customer’.  In this case our ‘customers’ were named in the strategy:  students, academics, employees, and managers/leaders. Agile project management is how we planned and delivered the project, with a focus on quick iterations and visibility of work. I’ll deal with these separately now.

Experience Mapping

Having the experience and learnings from the Student Experience Mapping project in 2019 under my belt led to using experience mapping for Enabler 04. Given we are looking for the common experience across a diverse range of people, experience mapping lets us use a small but diverse sample of each of the four cohorts to ‘see through the eyes’ of.  We were looking for what the common experiences were, rather than an exhaustive picture, so we needed variation in our sample rather than representation:  this allows a focus on what is common across our interviewees as opposed to their differences.

Given a team of 8 people were available to do this work, we were able to do  one-on-one interviews rather than group workshops. The benefits of this were:

  • A more in-depth exploration of an individual’s experience was possible
  • The avoidance of ‘group think’ – many people’s opinions being swayed by the voice of another
In conducting the interviews, the project team set out to take a user led approach. This meant letting the person being interviewed drive the conversation, with minimal prompting by the interviewer. Each member of the project team left their ‘unit hat’ behind throughout the interviews and analysis.

But how did we allow the interviewee to drive the conversation and still have outputs from each interview that allow us to easily identify the commonalities? This is where our interview template came in.

Each interviewer has a different style and approach. Some of us used the template in Mural and shared the screen with the interviewee, adding postits as the interview went on. Others used a document and shared the notes with the interviewee afterwards. Either way, the measure of success was the extent to which the notes were an accurate reflection of the interviewees experience. In brief, each interview took the following approach:

  • The focus was on what the interviewee was trying to achieve in the activity
  • We noted what they were doing to get those outcomes
  • Their overall sentiment is like a radar for identifying challenge areas, as well as examples of the good
  • We looked at what they used to do this, though a lot of the time this became a discussion of who they were supported by rather than tools
  • Then we picked up the details, positive and negative.
  • And lastly, we looked for their ideals for how this activity could be made better.

A total of 55 interviews were conducted by the project team. Once the interviews for a section of the community were complete, the project team came together to discuss the interviews and identify any common themes emerging. With the input from the project team gathered, two of us completed the analysis offline, bringing it back to the project team for validation and refinement. When all sections of the community were complete, a final analysis enabled the identification of the seven overarching themes presented in the final report – those themes being most likely to have the broadest impact across all sections of the UCD community. These themes were then overwhelmingly accepted by the UCD community through a broader consultation – the results of which you can also find on the Presidents Intranet.

Agile Project Management

Some of the challenges we faced led me to carefully consider my approach to project management:

  • Something that is both desirable and challenging about experience mapping is that you don’t know what you are going to get before you start.
  • I was expecting the project team to complete an experience mapping exercise with little/no experience.
  • We needed to make sure that whatever we produced was in a format that would be usable for later stages of Enabler 04.
  • We had a short timeframe to complete this work but still needed to manage the expectations of the project sponsor and the steering committee.

Agile project management is a good way of dealing with these challenges, We split the work into ‘sprints’ (iterations), delivering quick outputs for review and feedback, with each section of the community completed in a single sprint. We also split the project team into two ‘pods’ which meant we could complete two sprints at a time.

Taking this approach meant that at the end of each sprint we could:

  • Learn from the experience of doing the previous interviews, address any challenges or issues arising and share what we felt worked well – improving how we work in the next sprint.
  • Provide the sponsor and steering committee with insight into what is coming up so they have a sense of how to plan for the next stages of the project.
  • Test the format we provide the outputs in so that we could adapt in subsequent iterations if necessary.

If you are interested in using any of these techniques in your own work – or you already have and want to share your story – feel free to get in touch through agile@ucd.ie.

The project – from first meeting to final deliverable – ran from 25 January 2021 to 13 March, with the outputs being published through the President’s Bulletin and being used as a foundation for the work arising in digital transformation.  With the focus experience mapping and agile project management put on people, this was both a rich experience in working the team and a rich experience in working with our many colleagues and students across the campus.

Talk to us if you would like to know more about this approach.

Related links:

 Enabler 04 on the President’s Intranet

Student Experience Mapping on Agile’s website

Student Experience Mapping post on WST website

Agile Project Management post on WST website

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A total of 55 interviews were conducted by the project team. Once the interviews for a section of the community were complete, the project team came together to discuss the interviews and identify any common themes emerging. With the input from the project team gathered, two of us completed the analysis offline, bringing it back to the project team for validation and refinement. When all sections of the community were complete, a final analysis enabled the identification of the seven overarching themes presented in the final report – those themes being most likely to have the broadest impact across all sections of the UCD community. These themes were then overwhelmingly accepted by the UCD community through a broader consultation – the results of which you can also find on the Presidents Intranet.

 

Agile Project Management

 

Some of the challenges we faced led me to carefully consider my approach to project management:

  • Something that is both desirable and challenging about experience mapping is that you don’t know what you are going to get before you start.
  • I was expecting the project team to complete an experience mapping exercise with little/no experience.
  • We needed to make sure that whatever we produced was in a format that would be usable for later stages of Enabler 04.
  • We had a short timeframe to complete this work but still needed to manage the expectations of the project sponsor and the steering committee.

 

Agile project management is a good way of dealing with these challenges, We split the work into ‘sprints’ (iterations), delivering quick outputs for review and feedback, with each section of the community completed in a single sprint. We also split the project team into two ‘pods’ which meant we could complete two sprints at a time.

 

Taking this approach meant that at the end of each sprint we could:

  • Learn from the experience of doing the previous interviews, address any challenges or issues arising and share what we felt worked well – improving how we work in the next sprint.
  • Provide the sponsor and steering committee with insight into what is coming up so they have a sense of how to plan for the next stages of the project.
  • Test the format we provide the outputs in so that we could adapt in subsequent iterations if necessary.

 

If you are interested in using any of these techniques in your own work – or you already have and want to share your story – feel free to get in touch through agile@ucd.ie.

 

The project – from first meeting to final deliverable – ran from 25 January 2021 to 13 March, with the outputs being published through the President’s Bulletin and being used as a foundation for the work arising in digital transformation.  With the focus experience mapping and agile project management put on people, this was both a rich experience in working the team and a rich experience in working with our many colleagues and students across the campus.

 

Talk to us if you would like to know more about this approach.

 

Related links:

 

Enabler 04 on the President’s Intranet

Student Experience Mapping on Agile’s website

Student Experience Mapping post on WST website

Agile Project Management post on WST website

 

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