6 rules for onsite research that will enhance your digital product

BA's role on a project

You know this feeling of excitement, when you find out that there is an upcoming trip at your company and you’re going on it? At Selecto, we love hearing this type of news, going out there and getting to know our clients on spot. Onsites are not only one of the finest methods to better understand the needs of the local end-users, but also a great way to gather more practical insight about the business we work with. 

Going on the trip is only half of the job, the rest is in the skill and expertise of the team conducting the onsite research. To find out Selecto’s special way of looking into client’s business, check out our latest story below about our trip to Sweden and find out 6 non-negotiable rules for better in-person interaction.

01. Understand when the client needs an onsite 

Not every project needs an onsite research, and not every onsite will bring value to business” is a rule our team lives by. Thanks to digitalization, some projects may now be done fully online, allowing product owners or target audiences to be contacted in seconds, no matter where they are. But if we see an urgent need to go on the spot, we will recommend to the client that they explore this option in early stages: for more insight and, as a result, less budget spending, better UX and great final product.

To determine if we have to do an on spot analysis of business activities, we take many aspects into consideration: information availability, product characteristics, target audiences, and many more. This time the need was clear, as two of our business analysts traveled to work with a leading Swedish network of clinics specializing in skincare. Selecto team cooperated with the client to create a convenient admin system.

We already knew the client, but the new product was intended for the clinic personnel, which we lacked practical knowledge about. Of course, business owners could tell us all the information about the desirable admin system online, but the devil is in the details, and without seeing end-users in action it would be nearly impossible to create the product logic that suits them best.

Moreover, skin-care procedures that staff perform naturally happen offline, so while delivering the admin system flows, we had to consider the workflow elements with great precision. Well, it didn’t take long for us to click: end-users work offline, the company provides offline services, we have to do offline research as well!

02. Do your prep  

We always conduct previous research on the company and industry prior to the trip to be on the similar level of knowledge with the business owners. After all, wasting the precious onsite time on basic questions will do no good for the final result.

Before setting off to Sweden, we also talked to the designer on the project about his concerns, to soon incorporate the points mentioned into the onsite agenda. If the project is of a larger scale, we recommend expanding the team to include everyone who can contribute to the project: designers, PMs, BAs, developers and QAs. 

One of the most important tips is to always stay in touch with the part of the team that didn't go on an onsite and think about what they will do, while you’re conducting the research. Keep in mind that they shouldn’t be working on the parts of the product that can be directly affected by your onsite conclusions, as it might result in a waste of their efforts.


03. Understand the goals

When it comes to onsites, finding goals in the process is a major no for our team. The first step in making your business trip findings viable and structured is having a clear vision of your final outcomes.

At Selecto, we use this practice: business trip team meets up and brainstorms a thorough plan with goals and activities a few weeks prior to departure, while sharing the trip outline with the client. This way, everyone knows what to expect and clearly sees how the field study should turn out.

It’s crucial to use the privilege of being offline and make sure final goals will benefit the end-product. Ideally, the results of your onsite study should resolve all the project's blockers. Don’t just research something for the sake of researching it, do it with a purpose and always ask yourself “Why?”. 

As the underlying theme of our field trip to Sweden was to get to know the staff of the clinic better, we also defined more comprehensive goals, such as:

  • better understand business processes and their context
  • identify hidden needs and opportunities
  • test prototypes in a real natural environment
  • align on structure and interconnections between problems, diagnosis, and services

With the goals set in mind, remember: deliverables are what we’re here for. As a final output, we must obtain tangible results and data, and only then the research will make an impact on the overall project.

04. Set a clear timeline and agenda, but stay flexible

The duration of the onsite should be correlating with the scale of the project, while encompassing enough time to conduct all the necessary activities in-person. It’s important to make the agenda that covers all the goals and outcomes, but also make sure to avoid the possibility of an onsite team burnout.

For us, the more detailed your plan, the easier it will be to adjust as we go. Of course, there must be some wiggle room: mishaps do happen, but remember – running out of time is your worst enemy. If the set agenda is rushed or you consistently fail to meet activities deadlines, both the client and you will be stressed, resulting in poor outcomes.

During our field trip to Sweden, we prioritized the most effort-consuming activities, but didn’t overwhelm the staff on the first day. When we arrived, we wanted to establish a “relax, take it easy” atmosphere, so that the personnel would feel open and comfortable. From our experience, the best way to do this is to arrange a joint lunch or engage in more informal communication with staff.

05. Use the most suitable techniques (and note everything!)

When it comes to an onsite trip, there are numerous techniques to employ, but in order to choose the right ones, we always first grasp the project blockers and final goals.

In the case of our onsite trip to Sweden, the major blocker was not having direct access to the end-user and not seeing their day-to-day workflow. This way, we couldn’t observe their reactions, how they interact with the product and hear on spot feedback. To fix it, we used the following in-person techniques:

  • Affinity mapping workshop: we defined goals and objectives of the company, diagnosed current issues and concerns, defined tasks and timeline for each target strategically.
  • Job shadowing technique: we observed the natural flow of specialists’ day-to-day routine and their tasks. We better understood the nuances of skin-care procedures and the flow of their day, from how they greet customers to how they log tasks in.
  • Usability testing: we got behavioural and verbal feedback about the admin system interface from the staff, which tried out a prototype. Testing early on in the process helped us validate existing concepts and we actually spotted one flow that didn’t align with staff expectations to be fixed afterwards.
  • Customer interviews: we built empathy with the end-user and comprehended their struggles and wishes for the future functionality better.

Don’t forget to think about the way of recording and processing the acquired data, ask for permission to take pictures and videos, and, of course, think about booking personnel’s time before going on the onsite. During your activities, the last thing you want to think about is little technical details, such as stationary, whiteboards or post-it notes, so make sure you have everything beforehand.

06. Draw conclusions and validate assumptions

Give yourself time to present a polished business trip report to the client: you can always send deliverables post-onsite. Our approach is to set an estimated time for the processing of the research outcomes, keeping the client updated on the analysis progress.

Evaluate the changes, how the results of the research have affected the project: maybe you need to reassess or change the roadmap. Don’t forget to share valuable insights with the entire team: make an event or a presentation.

During the Swedish onsite we gathered valuable insights, examined and structured the background of the client’s business, saving time and budget.

So, once again this trip proved that assumption validated during a short time of period in-person, might yield greater advantages than weeks of mechanical work. With the field study we discovered more insight firsthand and bonded more with the client, building trust and deeper understanding of the context for better future results.

Stay tuned for more!

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