4 facets: perspective seeking in digital projects

Years ago I built a simple tool to help me think about digital projects, and I still use it today. It’s not a comprehensive framework for thinking about all things digital. But it can be a useful lens to mitigate your unique cognitive bias when planning, pitching, or managing a project.

In addition, it’s also a tool to enable perspective seeking, which is one of the most important personal skills that you can develop in life.

When to use

Any time you are creating a new digital project or feature, it’s good to consider all four facets of this tool. Reflect on each facet and imagine work products to be created or knowledge gaps to be filled. Use it to plan your project work or, as a leader, use it as a thinking test to ensure that your team is considering the most holistic view of a problem.

The tool

The tool is built of four facets. What’s important is ensuring appropriate balance between facets given the unique context of each project.

How to use

When I use this tool, I pretend to wear a different hat or persona to consider each facet. “What would a person who cares deeply about governance worry about on this project?” “How about a person who cares deeply about technology?” Intentionally taking the perspective of a different type of thinker can short circuit cognitive biases that might prevent you from seeing important problems.

I sometimes imagine that this tool is a round table and that there is a different person at each of four chairs with a different set of priorities. They are having a dialogue about a project and need to ensure that each has their concerns represented. For each person, what kind of work do they perform? What causes them pain? What do they see coming in the future?

Examples

Facet 1: Governance

Governance includes the systems that will ensure that this tool or feature will be appropriately managed over time and to ensure that the outcomes comply with rules and requirements that may be external to the project itself. A person for whom governance is important might ask questions about:

  1. Policy and legislation: are there any external or internal rules that impact this project such as privacy?
  2. Ownership and accountability: who is the owner of this project and what capability and capacity do they have to manage it?
  3. Brand compliance: what brand standards must this project comply with?
  4. Stakeholders: who are the people within this project and what decisions do they own?
  5. KPIs: are there any measurable targets that this project must aim for?

Facet 2: Content

Content is the interface of the web. In the cases where content is not the purpose of what you’re creating, it will likely be how you transmit that purpose to your end user. Treat content as a critical project material that needs to be crafted and managed. A person for whom content is important might ask questions about:

  1. Voice and tone: who is speaking and what personality does this project represent?
  2. Inventory: what content needs to exist for this project? What exists today?
  3. Lifecycle: what tools or systems will manage content and how should they be configured to ensure content stays useful and relevant?
  4. Editorial plan: who is going to write, edit, assemble, or create all content?
  5. Format: what kind of content are we creating (text, image, audio, video, illustration, etc) and what unique production/quality requirements does each bring?

Facet 3: Audience

Audience is who you are creating for. Like a great cook, your success is a reflection of the positive experiences of your audience. As soon as you take on a mediated experience like digital work (where you are delivering an experience via code and pixels and not directly) then you need to consider all the systems you must put in place in order to understand what that mediated experience will be since it won’t mirror your own. A person for whom audience is important might ask questions about:

  1. Personas: who are the users of this project and what are their needs?
  2. Analytics: how will we measure whether this project is meeting the users’ needs?
  3. Testing: how will we validate our assumptions?
  4. Context: is this a system or tool that changes based on who is using it?
  5. Reporting: what should we measure to continuously find missed opportunities or small mistakes?

Facet 4: Technology

Digital is your medium and as my fellow Edmontonian Marshall McLuhen said, the medium is the message. It’s difficult to overstate how entirely enfolded digital projects are in the tools, systems, and the very fact of the Web. A great technologist is more than just a strong coder, they think about possibilities, risks, and constraints. A person for whom technology is important might ask questions about:

  1. Security: what security or privacy issues exist for this project?
  2. Architecture: in what context does this project exist?
  3. Standards: what measurable, technical standards must this project comply with?
  4. Integrations: what dependencies and integrations exist?
  5. Features: what specific user stories need to be satisfied and how will we understand and validate them?

On perspective

Good news: perspective seeking is a superpower that you can cultivate and grow without any exposure to radioactive insects. By engaging in a practice of perspective seeking prior to each project, by sitting in each of these four seats, you can start to create a much more powerful and engaging practice whether you are a technologist, a creative, a project manager, or a sales person.

This tool isn’t intended to form a unified taxonomy of project activities. It’s not meant to be a project methodology. But it might be useful for you in deepening your thinking and becoming a stronger collaborator. If nothing else, the people you work with will be more receptive to you if you take the time to consider other perspectives prior to presenting your ideas.

What’s important is that you take time to pause and reflect on other perspectives. Hopefully this tool is helpful in your practice.