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On this blog we will cover stories from all around the Exact ecosystem.

Posts Tagged ‘co-creation’

Involving entrepreneurs in our development process

Written by Lucie van Velze on . Posted in Exact Online

Over the last few months we’ve been focusing more on getting to know our customers and understanding what’s going on in their business. Having a good appreciation of their challenges is the key to developing solutions that can really help them.

Just last week we gave a workshop session with a group of people from the professional services sector. Given the positive feedback we received, I’m going to share a little bit more on the process.

The first and most important step was to gather the group of participants together, focusing particularly on entrepreneurs. After creating a list of interesting companies, I, among others, started calling them up to see if they would be interested in joining. The first and biggest challenge was to speak to the right person. After I’d introduced myself, many of the companies assumed I was trying to sell them something. As such they were reluctant to put the call through to the busy people we wanted to speak with, feeling that a conversation would be of little interest. A real pity!

If we did manage to get through to a decision-maker, they had to be interested and open-minded enough to see the possibilities joining our interactive workshop could offer. After a lot of effort explaining that there was really no hidden agenda, we did eventually manage to bring together a diverse group of enthusiastic and creative people.

The slogan was: Help us help you better! The concept was to inspire people to talk about their businesses, their challenges and their bottlenecks. Most importantly, the workshop was there not just for us, but for the participants as well. A meeting with interesting people from a range of different companies – all facing similar issues – could serve as a breeding ground for bright new ideas and a sharing of knowledge and experience from which everyone could benefit. People explained and discussed their difficulties with each other, gaining insights and discovering approaches they would not have found alone.

Just as we’d hoped, the workshop turned out to be interesting for all of us. The comments below are just some of the impressions the people who took part shared with us:

  • “How interesting to meet people from other businesses, when you’re so busy you often forget to make time for it!”
  • “How did you manage to gather such an interesting group of people?”
  • ‘‘What an interesting process – I can’t wait to find out what you do with the results!’’
  • “Well organized event – I’d love to take part again in any future research or usability testing.’’

The participants were certainly all pleasantly surprised by what a useful exercise it had been – a long way from the sales presentation many of the people we spoke to suspected it would be. If you think that taking part in such a session could help you – please do let us know. It would be great to have you involved in our future activities!

Co-creating solutions with users – our first freelancer workshop

Written by Toine Hurkmans on . Posted in Exact Online

Collaboration with users during the research and design of new solutions at Exact has just taken a new step. Our first workshops with Dutch freelancers has highlighted again how important listening to customers is – an essential step in translating user requirements into solutions that genuinely meet their needs.

The last month Exact invited two groups of freelancers for a workshop. Most were quite surprised when they found out what we wanted them to do. The aim? For them to talk to each other about freelancing, and for us to listen – not for us to bombard them with questions and do all the talking. Furthermore, the workshop wasn’t about software. In fact, it wasn’t even about bookkeeping. It was just about being a freelancer.

So why are we suddenly so interested in freelancers? Why has ‘the user’ in general become so important? Well, to create effective solutions for certain groups or types of users, one needs to understand them. And understanding a user is something different than understanding the job they do or the tasks they need to carry out every day. Of course we’ve talked to users in the past, but mostly concerning their business activities or the applications they use. However, really understanding the user can only be achieved by listening to and observing them carefully.

In line with this we invited some freelancers to tell each other about what they like and/or dislike in their professional environments, how they manage their working and private life balance, and perhaps most importantly, what brings a smile to their face. We just sat, listened and tried hard to absorb the information they were offering us.

The freelancers in these first two workshops have already given us a great deal that we can use in designing and developing solutions for them. It’s not just about the struggle to get their administration done and send in their VAT return, but also about how they manage their customer relationships and find new jobs using their personal networks. I really appreciate their openness and willingness to share this information.

It was also pleasantly surprising to learn how willing the participants are to contribute further along in the design and developing process. It tells us that users are willing not only to tell us about their needs, but really want to be involved in collaboration throughout the whole process. In the world of industrial design this is often referred to as co-creation or co-design. Industrial designers refer to product development in such close proximity to the customer user centric designs – essential for them in developing successful innovation. It is only fair to say that as software designers, we can and will also learn a lot from their approach.

We have already planned another workshop for September, which I have to say I’m really looking forward to it. For those of you who are interested, I’m sorry to tell you that all the seats are already booked. But please do keep your eye out for more initiatives to come concerning user collaboration – we’d love for you to be part of our research and help us in designing solutions that make a difference. In the meanwhile I will certainly keep you posted on our progress and share the results with you as they unfold. 

The author of this blog post is principal research engineer at Exact, focusing on researching business services offered through Software as a Service.