A giant mess, peeps to follow, and an “anatomy of a decision”


This post is from Brian's weekly mailing list.

As I write this, I'm heading off to London for another edition of O'Reilly's Strata conf. If you are headed there, you can catch my talk and mini-workshop on Wed, May. With the schedule this week, in lieu of writing a longer insight piece, I thought I would leave you with three goodies:

Article #1: 
Anatomy of a Decision
via Farnam St / Brain Food Blog
This breaks down healthy decision making processes, using the Marshall plan as an example of how using "multidisciplinary lenses" can lead to better decisions. In particular, I took note personally about how it talks about not necessarily using outcomes as the measurement of good decisions, since good decisions can produce bad outcomes. 

Article #2:
Hertz sues Accenture for $32M over bad website redesign 
via the UK Register. (Here's the lawsuit text). 

What a mess. Before I comment further, I'll say I haven't read or seen any retorts to this from Accenture, and there are usually two sides to these stories. My info is all secondhand. My big advice to you is:

  1. You shouldn't be buying any web/app/analytics design services by evaluating big, slick presentations as the method for choosing the vendor. You're just asking to be "sold to," and you're effectively putting your business at risk based on a "performance." Find an expert with a track record; find somebody who asks you the questions about the outcomes you seek, and how success will be measured on the business and customer side (not just on deliverables, code, and tech). Conversations should lead you to a decision on whether to work with a consultant, not presentations. You should also consider whether to build capability in house, or work with an expert. There are pros and cons to both, with good consultants–not vendors–being able to provide expertise, speed, and specialized knowledge/experience that can de-risk your project. Somebody joked on Twitter in reference to this article, "You can build a hell of a team with $32M!" That's also true! Ironically, deciding which route is best for you is yet another role that often falls to PMs in my experience (see #3). 
  2. Many buyers of design services (and engineering) focus heavily on outputs and assets, and not on outcomes. If this contract–and more importantly, their agreement in principle–was more focused on Accenture and Hertz working together on outcomes such as launching small improvements regularly, required feedback/learning loops built into the process, and business objectives/metrics by which they'd measure "good work," then this may not have happened. There is a place for deliverables/assets to be described, but I've seen too many projects focus too much on the "stuff" and not on whether "the stuff achieved any outcome." (I'm definitely not perfect: in my early days of consulting, I also spent way too much time discussing and trying to define deliverables and assets with clients which often ended up being irrelevant mid-project as our tactics to achieve the goals changed. No more!)
  3. Relinquishing your product management function to a consultant, or in this case, a vendor, for a length of time, is dangerous. This goes true for critical business apps and internal tools you may be developing that aren't necessarily revenue-generating services. (No offense to Accenture, but I see the big four much more as vendors than specialized consultants). Anyhow, in my role as a product design consultant for data products and analytics applications, I often am in situations where product management may not be the most experienced when it comes to making important decisions on the actual product, and so I am often assisting clients with PM as well as UX. While a consultant can help you make better decisions and improve your future temporarily, ultimately, you should not be outsourcing this capability for a length of time. You need to develop this skill in house since so many things "trickle down" from product decisions, and chances are, if you're doing it right, you are going to have ongoing product decisions. It's not a once-and-done kinda role.  

People I'm Enjoying on Twitter lately:

  • @jeggers (CEO of Naralogics, speaker, and early AI thought leader)
  • @johncutlefish (Product management and UX thinking @ Amplitude software; works in the analytics space - if you manage a PM/UX team, probably want to follow him)
  • While I am not following this person, since that would be weird, you can follow me via @rhythmspice if you like!

One Ask!
If you're enjoying my Experiencing Data podcast, I wrote a short article on how to leave a podcast review in iTunes or the Podcast app. Might you be able to help me out and leave a short review? Just takes 5 minutes and the article above shows how with screenshots. Your reviews really do help promote the visibility of the show. 

Yours,

Brian