CEO at Econsultancy
24 November 2000 15:23pm
Someone pointed me in the direction of the interactionarchitect.com site and in particular the article there on "The battle of the disciplines in designing interactive systems". There are many articles there on usability issues which are very good and thought provoking.
The articles sets out saying:
"...interactive system design companies have started to sell the advantages of multidisciplinary development teams. They use metaphors suggesting a harmonious group of people with different backgrounds working together towards the common goal of making a great product.
The reality is that these multidisciplinary teams invest a lot of their time and energy in a non-productive battle for power and influence in project decisions, in disagreeing about procedures and methods, in misunderstanding each other's contribution, in working besides or even against each other, etc."
Ring any bells? I would imagine so. Fortunately the article does go on to suggest some ways to overcome the challenges which I would certainly agree with:
"The starting point to overcome the battle of the disciplines could be a Zen-like understanding that no discipline on its own can win the battle without losing the design war.
To create successful interactive systems we need creative design AND intelligent programming AND optimal usability AND sound business justification AND proper project management etc. One competence dominating the development process compromises reaching that goal. Even project managers can no longer fully control the process of developing interactive systems. They face a difficult transition from a controling and directive role to a coaching, facilitating and moderating role.
Here are some ideas that can help to create successful multidisciplinary teams:
- Create a multidisciplinary team at the definition stage of projects
- Create project teams that allow different disciplines to work together on a daily basis
- Focus on a common overall goal that is made explicit to the team
- Organize the development process around shared work products and milestones, e.g. use cases, object models, content architectures, target group definitions, domain models
- Select communicative team players with a multidisciplinary frame of mind, not blind experts "
The full article can be found at http://www.interactionarchitect.com/testimonies/testimony20000425shd.htm
Design Consultant at Freelance
25 November 2000 16:21pm
1. Great site - well done for this - esp the functionality of the forum and breadth of the white papers section - very useful indeed!
2. Responding to working within multi disciplinary teams - it's a tricky one!
There are various models of working - some collaborative, some linear, some involving individual skills sets collaborating with each other, from a centralised brief... - but the single most important issue is to set the overall project goals, and to ensure that the project manager acts as the link between all tasks.
In my experience (since moving on from pres.co!) is for all team members to be actively encouraged to participate as early as possible - ie. analysis and strategy stages by conducting competitive analysis etc...
The impetus and driving force of strategy should be the consultant, but effective feedback and briefing - including team workshops ensure that there is no subsequent team confusion and misunderstanding in the project further down the time line - saving time and money.
Also, when working with User Experience (usability later on) - provides a very focused 'customer centric' approach, whereby the the user's experience objectives are set, and provide the framework to move forward - to codify the overall 'brand experience'.
This is an excelent way of working, because not only does it overcome the age-old problem of 'designing for the client', also provides the whole project some very real tangible metrics from which to test and judge against as the project moves on.
To conclude (cutting a long story short), it does depend upon the focus of the agency and their ability to manage and drive a project within sometimes difficult terrain (ie. ugly clients). Some agencies are very much production orientated, or even technical integrators or others brand focussed.
Getting the right balance is difficult, but if we have and understand the user's objectives clearly, they should act as a strong guide to success.
Be interested in what other respondents feel about this and also how they attack difficult projects.
26 November 2000 17:30pm
Thanks for positive comments on the site. You ain't seen anything yet in terms of content and functionality that we'll be adding. This will include proper % accuracy search results ranking, browse options as well as straight keyword searches, e-mail alert functions (i.e. the site will tell you when something relevant is added) etc. etc. There'll also be a conferences calendar, details of e-business training courses and a whole lot of other things. It all takes time, but we'll get there...
I agree with all your points on project management (have you looked at the project managment forum on this site as well?). I think as the industry matures more standards and accepted ways of working will become apparent. In the meantime, one of the strongest weapons that can be employed in the defense of a proposed solution is hard, empirical data and a proven track record i.e. you can back up what you say with fact and proven experience. The industry is still comparatively young and is still very poor at being properly accountable (e.g. through more standardised web performance analytics). This means there is too much room for subjective opinion, which is why marketing directors still get away with imposing 500k Flash intro movies on their site visitors... ;)
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