Here at Kaiser X Labs, we are lucky to start new projects very often, which allows us to continuously learn and grow. Working in the insurance world, one can imagine it’s not always easy, and projects can be challenging. We’ve put user research at the core of our work and, as mentioned in our previous article, we believe that the complexity of insurance processes can be resolved through experiences.
Our extremely dynamic and talented team is formed of different functions- researchers, designers (with different areas of focus, as such brand, UI, UX, system designers), researchers, developers, and data analysts, who need to work closely together in order to deliver a successful outcome.
Continue reading to learn how we set up for success here at Kaiser X Labs, right from the beginning of each project.
Start by setting a mission.
In general, projects don’t inspire, missions do. We suggest formulating an inspiring goal from the start. It should be clear enough so the team knows what they need to achieve and flexible enough so they can use their own expertise in choosing the best solution and how to achieve that goal.
In case a roadblock is hit, the team can make a decision more quickly, readapting plans as needed, to reach the same goal in a different way. A common goal is also important in an agile setting such as in Kaiser X Labs. It ensures that important elements, like research insights or data analytics, will lead the way no matter what the path, and helps to support the fundamentals of our work.
Define what success looks like.
We want to deliver the best to our clients. We are also talented and ambitious people, with high-quality standards who aim to reach the best version of ourselves and the products we work on. To organize this drive, we believe it is important to answer a few key questions right from the beginning. When does a team know that the work they have done is successful, that it is time to celebrate and take the learnings to our next projects? When does a team know that they need to reassess, regroup, and rethink their strategy? Along with a common mission we suggest defining KPI’s, proxy-metrics, and timelines to make sure they reflect that mission and bring clarity and guidance to the team goal.
Find your common language.
When working in an international team, it’s easy for things to get lost in translation or be interpreted differently, based on background and culture. But this is not the type of language we are referring to here.
Technical language, especially when combining IT and insurance, like in our case, is extremely important. Give the project a good start by making sure everyone can contribute to the discussion by explaining terms, methodologies, abbreviations. Document them inside the same space as the project documentation. This will also help in case new team members need to be onboarded after the project has already been started.
Check-in early and regularly.
Feedback and open communication is another thing we value. It has become even more important this year, when the current situation forced so many of us to work remotely and changed the way we interact, communicate and collaborate with our colleagues.
Scheduling sync meetings, both formal and informal (we enjoy our virtual coffee breaks and reading what is posted in our fun-and-curiosity Slack channel), will save time in the long run, prevent wasted work and misunderstandings; and equally important, give people a sense of belonging to the team. It pays off to schedule those meetings from the beginning, and see if you need them, rather than waiting until reaching a critical point in your project development.
Calculate for creative and thinking time.
Very often brilliant ideas come out of creative boredom. There are projects with strict deadlines, where time is of the essence. But, when possible, we make sure the team is not so busy with meetings, or organisational topics, that they have little or no time to actually think about the task at hand, to chat, to explore, or research. We enjoy our creative workshops. Our projects benefit greatly from them and they also serve as team-building mini-events, which is especially important during these times of social distancing.
Every product or feature we develop will be used by a person, no matter if we’re talking about internal or external users. So we go one step above user-centricity; human needs are at the centre of everything we do.
How does that person work/live? (depending on what type of tool we’re talking about).
Are they tech-savvy or not?
What other tools they employ for their work, or what other products do they use in their daily life?
We aim to offer an experience and make the user feel like an expert in the job they complete using the product, rather than focusing on the product itself. A product has little value without people using it. That is why we spend a lot of time doing user research throughout all phases of the development process, from beginning to end. Especially this year, when people’s lives have changed so drastically and so has consumer behaviour, we believe it is more important than ever to be in regular touch with the users of our products.
If you made it this far, we hope we have inspired you to apply some of these learnings to your own team. In our experience, spending some time at the beginning of a project to apply some of them (depending on factors such as the nature and the size of the project, the maturity of the team, and so on) pay off in the long run and increases the chances of delivering a successful project.
Written by Andreea Ion, Senior Product Owner, Kaiser X Labs. 2020
Editor Jenny Schminke, Communications Manager, Kaiser X Labs. 2020