(c)Tor Gunnar Berland, 2014. All rights reserved.

The importance of involving users

Design anthropologist Anna Kirah from Making Waves was invited as a guest speaker to Visma Developer Days, which is an internal two-day conference attended by over 500 Visma employees working with R&D (Research and Development). The topic for this year’s conference was customer engagement and the main purpose was to inspire, learn, and share experiences with each other on how to develop our products and services to delight our customers, now, and in the future.

Keynote – Involving users

Anna held a keynote speech regarding “Co-creation – A people-centered approach to the design and development of software”. Anna is an extremely talented and inspiring speaker who engaged the whole audience with stories from her life, as well as her work at e.g. Microsoft and Boeing. She stressed the importance of involving the people using the products in the design and development phase.

(c)Tor Gunnar Berland, 2014. All rights reserved.

“You need to observe, listen and understand people from their perspective and not your own! You have to collaborate with your potential customers” Anna Kirah
(c)Tor Gunnar Berland, 2014. All rights reserved.

I strongly agree with Anna on that meaning comes first and solution second. We need to know whom we make our products for and what problems these people encounter when working with our products. This will enable us to provide value in the solutions we supply to our customers. Visma’s User Experience team works with this daily, to understand the users of our products, and design meaningful and relevant solutions. This is something everyone in a development team needs to be working with continuously, because that is how we create meaningful, relevant and useful products.

Panel debate – There are only bad excuses for not involving the user

Besides the inspiring keynote speech, Anna also participated in a panel debate during the conference with the topic: “How can we improve the user involvement and user experience focus in our product development?”

The panel consisted of four panellists with different roles in Visma. Anna Kirah acted as a moderator in the panel, asking the tricky questions. The panel agreed on that there are no valid reasons to why we should not involve the users consistently in development; there are only bad excuses for not doing so. Another reached conclusion was that we need to get better at planning, and set aside time to perform user research from the beginning of a process and involve the whole team in this activity.

(c)Tor Gunnar Berland, 2014. All rights reserved.

The panel, starting from the left: Jostein Håvaldsrud, R&D Director; Mathias Vahlgren, Product owner; Anna Kirah, Design Anthropologist & Moderator; Camilla Johansson, User Experience Architect; Olav Gjervan, Team Manager.(c)Tor Gunnar Berland, 2014. All rights reserved.

Case study – Huge amounts of feedback

After the panel debate Anna presented the findings from a case study she had performed on one of Visma’s products. Anna had met with one person using a Visma product daily. She observed how this person worked using the product and asked follow-up questions to the problems that were encountered. With this, Anna showed that only by meeting one person for a couple of hours you can gather huge amounts of feedback. You also gain an understanding on what improvements that need to be made in the solution to support the user the best possible way.

Camilla Johansson work as a user experience architect at Visma Software’s International Product Unit. Been working at Visma for 6 years and has a passion for working with user centred development. Believe that conducting user observations and test as well as developing prototypes are the most rewarding and interesting parts of her work. M.Sc. in Interaction design, B.Sc. in Informatics.
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