Deltek's UX Team Uses Design Principles to Drive Collaboration Success
By Lisa Rabideau, Senior Director of User Experience at Deltek
Design thinking is an innovative approach to problem-solving that requires a deep understanding of user needs, coupled with the ever-changing technology landscape to deliver requirements that drive business value. The skills and techniques in the design thinking framework have long been part of a designer’s toolkit and commonly applied to product design, however, individuals like Tim Brown, Executive Chair of IDEO and design thinking thought leader, have helped take the concept of design thinking mainstream. Design thinking is not just for designers or for solving product problems.
As a team of designers who create the Deltek Product User Experience, or UX, we also have to focus on the best possible experience of collaborating remotely to enable us to do our work. Deltek’s UX team has been a virtual team since day one; in fact, some members of our team have never met each other in person. The team is made up of UX professionals from three countries and four-time zones who bring the individual to the center of Collaboration experience through cultivating empathy, building trust, and leveraging technology.
Empathize to Connect Personally as Individuals
Building a strong remote design culture is not always easy, but it’s important and at the heart of what we do. Like Mike Robbins, an authenticity and appreciation thought-leader Deltek frequently works with – we believe authenticity drives engagement, empathy, and trust needed to collaborate. Some of the ways we do this are by having conversations within our Deltek Collaboration Team Space, a site that enables team members to post and retrieve files, share information and carry out group activities. Dedicated not only work projects but also to getting to know each other through discussions such as Weekly Show & Tell, or MW5Q a quick mid-week break where we answer five random questions about ourselves. These interactions give insight into each other’s worlds and what we’re passionate about outside of work. In addition, we have regular video team calls, including a Friday Catch-up to shout out a highlight from the work week and share weekend plans.
Build Trust by Defining Team Culture
As our UX team began to interact with more products, we felt it was time to reflect and align on a common Deltek design philosophy. So we went through an exercise where everyone collaborated on a shared mind map, adding what we each believed are key criteria for the team to be successful at Deltek. When the team met to review the compiled data on the mind map, it became clear, the emerging themes would become our design principles.
These design principles create a like-minded philosophy across our team for how we approach problem-solving and product design.
- User data drives decisions. We seek to know who our user is by understanding who they are, how the product fits into their day and the emotional impact of performing the product’s tasks. User research and data drive our decisions.
- Keep the product simple & familiar. We strive to maintain consistency both stylistically and in terms of how users interact with the product. The product should be learnable and memorable whether the user is new or old, while seamlessly integrating new technology to provide value to the business
- The path to success is clear. Guidance, feedback, and error recovery should help the user feel in control. The product gives the user a clear path through efficient and delightful interactions, focusing on what matters most to the task at hand with confidence.
As another team exercise, to help define our culture and values, each of us read The Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencioni. We discussed how his story of being hungry, humble, and people smart reflects how we want to be perceived as individuals within the UX team, and the type of team members we wish to surround ourselves with. The highlights from our dialogue were captured in our Collaboration space for easy reference.
Leveraging Technology to Tame the Chaos
Transparency, technology, and strong communication skills help us remain productive, creative, and collaborative as a remote design team.
We use Deltek Collaboration for all project work which gives team members the ability to see how other team members are progressing, understand when someone needs something and provides visibility into the decisions that are being made and the reasoning behind them. When you leverage a collaboration platform, onboarding a new team member or covering for someone while out of the office, the transition becomes instantaneous with one main source of truth. Sharing information in a centralized place sets up teams for success and allows all to remain connected.
Another way we nurture our relationships, collaboration and growth as a remote team are in our team meetings. Video cameras help when learning when to speak up (or not!) by observing each other’s body language. Meeting leaders are rotated around the team each week, who drives the agenda and sometimes discussion. Rotating leaders gives each member a shared ownership for making this a productive meeting. Video conferencing is a fantastic way to keep everyone engaged and not multi-tasking while we are discussing topics anywhere from design challenges to team goals, or process improvements to fun UX themed topics to get the creative juices flowing.
Being a user experience team, one of the main focuses of our discipline is to not only talk with users for research but test prototypes and conduct contextual interviews, all from our home offices. Thankfully, many tools exist that help facilitates these various needs. Today, we can conduct remote usability testing, map out user flows on a shared virtual whiteboard and make updates on the fly with stakeholders in the design app with us.
There are no chance encounters with a remote team like there would be in an office. With frequent, regular contact as a UX team, as well as across the broader product teams, we rely on the strength of our relationships, team values, and tools like Deltek Collaboration to tame the chaos and drive our success.
Enhance your team’s connectivity with Deltek Collaboration to bring internal and external teams together quickly to track decisions, share ideas and participate in conversations from anywhere.
About the Author
As Senior Director of User Experience, Lisa Rabideau leads the Deltek Global User Experience team. Lisa has 20 years of experience balancing user needs with business goals to solve problems and drive solutions built for project focused businesses. Connect with Lisa on LinkedIn.
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