Starting to make sense of complexity — mapping out NCVO’s digital ecology
Last week I started off this series of blogs by talking about what set NCVO off on a challenging but hugely exciting new technology strategy. I described how we felt — always firefighting, putting sticking plasters on things but ignoring some big, complex issues that were stopping us from making a big enough impact for NCVO’s users. I also provided some context about the kind of organisation NCVO is.
In this post I want to share how we started to understand these big scary issues and how we started to get clarity about where we needed to be heading.
Mapping where we were — the technology
We wanted to understand how our users experienced our digital product portfolio, which is large and fragmented, having grown organically over time. But first we needed to understand what we had. Sounds simple, but I’m sure we’re not unique in having those moments when someone says ‘I found this website. It’s ours. Did we know about it?’
So, we started to map out a ‘digital ecology diagram’ to show our websites and how they integrated with business systems. We wanted to know what technologies they were on, where they were hosted, whether they had logins, or took payments, and what kinds of analytics we had set up. We wanted to understand how data flowed between systems.
This was our first attempt (which was put up above the printers so that everyone could see it).
It was striking (and a little scary) how much we didn’t know about how everything worked together. So it was definitely a useful exercise. And after much work and many versions, we eventually ended up with this neater and more accurate version.
Mapping where we were — stakeholder visions
At the same time I interviewed 13 of my colleagues at NCVO. Each of them had some stake in one of the digital products that we had — some were actively and enthusiastically developing product management skills. Others were less engaged. But each had important insight, and opinions and views that were important to understand. So, I set out to understand with them:
- What users could do through the product
- What we knew about user needs (and where that knowledge came from)
- How the product fit into NCVO’s theory of change (more below)
- Whether they had a vision for how they wanted the product to develop, and where this came from
After this, I mapped out how our products related to NCVO’s theory of change. The idea was to show which outcomes were supported by numerous products, and where there may be gaps.
This is what it looked like. (This is using NCVO’s internal excel version , there’s a nicer looking version with a narrative on our website).
It’s easy to see where a large number of products are working towards the same outcome, which sparked the question — how do users experience this breadth? Does it make sense? Are they finding their way to the thing(s) that will best meet their needs?
The next step was to clarify what we wanted to learn, and what assumptions we wanted to test, when talking to users. In my next post I’ll share how we did this.