A Better Mousetrap

By | Culture, Life at Daxko, Talent, Technology | No Comments

“We tend to run “FedEx” with a fairly open format where you can do whatever you want as long as you can somehow relate it to our products.”Atlassian

Last week, my company gave us an exciting opportunity: 5 days of work on a project related to our business.

Apparently, they’ve done something like this before, long before my time, so you’d have to ask some of the more tenured folks at Daxko about it.

I worked with the same folks who volunteered with me at the WebVisions Hackathon earlier this year and we kept in mind what my colleague Will said about that experience: “The short time box and no feature constraints necessitated a laser-sharp focus on one thing.”

So we noodled over several viable candidates and finally settled on building a better mousetrap – or, in this case, UsabLog.

A clarification on terminology from my UX colleague: “Logging” in this context doesn’t mean “system logging of events.” It means human capture of what the user said, what the user did in the app (e.g., where user clicked), and any additional comments to provide context. The point of logging is to provide us with a record of what went down so we have an accurate recollection for later analysis.

I had the good fortune to be a user of the original UsabLog application over the course of many usability sessions as a session logger, so I was rather familiar with its strengths and weaknesses. I was able to contribute some bug reports and feature suggestions for consideration during our lunchtime planning discussions, but my Scrum team’s UX designer was our team’s sponsor. She compiled an experiment plan that identified our purpose and detailed the problems we considered in the pre-existing Usablog and the opportunities we had to satisfy those needs.

Our usability sessions up to this point involved an interview led by the facilitator (i.e. UX designer) and logged by another team member (e.g. me) via the free, open source, web application Usablog, which then exported logs to CSV for use in a program such as Excel and which we in turn manually fed into a mindmap program such as FreeMind. While this process did work for us, the export and manual copy-paste was rather tedious and laborious, or as she put it “it would directly contribute to user research process efficiencies.” We knew there could be a better way.

Goals of the experiment:

  • Rapidly capture rich user feedback during research interviews and usability tests through logging of user events and comments
  • Organize logs from multiple sessions into one study for ease of access and visibility
  • Use log entries to synthesize findings
  • Quickly jump to a spot in the session’s video by clicking on the associated log entry

To read more on the UsabLog project and end result, visit my blog at http://blog.aclairefication.com/2012/03/the-status-is-not-quo/.

Innovation + Competition = Happy Engineers

By | Culture, Life at Daxko, Professional Development, Talent, Technology, Workplace | No Comments

You may have heard that we’re kicking off our first annual Daxko Lab Days this week. Wondering what that is? I asked the head organizer, Will S., for the full scoop…

WHO: All Daxko software engineers have the opportunity to pick one of nine different projects planned to work on. We estimate that almost everyone will participate.

WHAT: Daxko Lab Days is our first innovation competition. The goal is to get something completely finished in one week that can deliver value to our customers or our internal teams.

HOW: For the week of February 27 through March 2, Daxko software engineers will be taking a break from their day-to-day to work on a variety of innovative projects.

WHY: Lab Days are an example of our commitment to experimentation and innovation. A lot of times in the daily grind of our regular projects, it can be difficult to justify the risk of experimenting with new technology, or a different design pattern, or a completely different way of looking at a problem. Lab Days gives our team members a chance to take those risks in pursuit of doing something they are personally motivated to see get done.

Besides generating some great new features and internal tools, Lab Days has some soft benefits, too, for our team members…

  • It lets our team members flex their leadership muscles more. Each team is organized by a person with an idea— team leads haven’t been involved in deciding the teams or the ideas, so everything is grassroots-led.
  • Team members get to try on different hats. We’re all about career development at Daxko, and for many of our team members, that includes lateral moves into different disciplines. Lab Days gives people a chance to walk in the shoes of another discipline so that they can figure out if it really is somewhere they want to take their career. We might see designers coding, or testers designing, or developers serving as product managers for any given project.
  • People get to work with folks they don’t often work with. As a scrum development organization, we recognize and honor the value of keeping teams together— as people build a product together, they also build a team, and dismantling a team after every project would throw away all of that team dynamics growth. But there’s a downside— things can get stale and complacent. Sometimes you need to work with another set of personalities for a little bit just to shake things up and make you reconsider how you look at the world.
  • It’s just fun! We’re working hard to keep a lot of positive energy and buzz around Lab Days— not just in Engineering, but across the entire company. I’m really excited about what we’re doing. We know we’re going to learn a lot, and I’m sure that  our future Lab Days events will look a little different as we adapt to what we learn, but I expect that, over time, Lab Days will become one of those things that makes Daxko special.

Be sure to check back to see what happens. On Friday afternoon there will be a company-wide vote to determine who becomes our first Daxko Lab Days winner!

On your mark, get set, INNOVATE!

Daxko Lab Days

By | Culture, Life at Daxko, Talent, Technology | One Comment

At Daxko, we believe in doing our research and pride ourselves on knowing our customers and markets very well.  Of course, we also know our internal “customers” and their process/tool challenges very well.

In accumulating this knowledge, we have generated a million ideas of things we could do to capture the imagination of the market or dramatically increase the productivity of our internal teams.  Daxko Lab Days are about Daxko Product Development team members (any role) grabbing hold of an idea and unleashing their creative spirit to solve a particular market or internal problem.  In other words, click the pause button on market research, requirements gathering, roadmap development, etc. and instead have some unbridled execution of those ideas!

How does it work?  Daxko Lab Days sets aside one week each quarter for Product Development team members to work on whatever they want, an “experiment” if you will, so long as it is related to our products or internal tools/processes.  As with most things at Daxko, it’s a competition!  The winners get bragging rights and their picture in Daxko Lab Days lab coats posted on the Daxko Lab Days Champion Wall.

Why, you ask?  Here are the goals of our program…

  1. Unleash the creative powers of our team members to deliver some awesomeness to our market or internal teams, quickly.  After all, every team member has a long list of things they’re dying to deliver for our customers, either internal or external.
  2. Spike. Often, radical ideas don’t get traction because we don’t understand how they’d work or what benefit they’d provide.
  3. Have fun!

Stay tuned for details on Daxko Lab Days experiments and winners…