Remote Collaboration on Research and Building Journey Maps


Matt and Matthew finished a big project and talk about the approach they took along the way. A bit of a case study where names were removed to protect … well, us against NDA stuffs.


Matthew: We just have to be very careful about not saying, well, you know what, if we do say it, we can always, you know, we just bleep it out.

Matt: True. I think we should avoid saying or .

Matthew: Oh, absolutely.

Matt: All right, hey Matthew.

Matthew: Oh hey, didn't see you there. Yeah, okay, we're... 

Matt: Take two!

Matthew: Take two for season two, right?

Matt: I was gonna say, welcome to season two.

Matthew: Welcome--

Matt: Welcome to season two.

Matthew: I see what you're doing.

Matt: Alright, take three.

Matthew: Take three. No, no, no, no take three.

Matt: Gonna have to wait for season three. 

Matthew: That's a wrap on season two, everybody.

Matt: Good season everyone, good season.

Matthew: Okay, okay. Ah, terrible. Well, we are back. It is season two, welcome back everybody.

Matt: Yep, it's great to be back and to have all of our viewer watching us.

Matthew: All of our viewer, hello viewer.

Matt: Hello.

Matthew: I mean, we assume that's how the internet works, that only one person can view us at a time.

Matt: Right. Omni-channel, they call that?

Matthew: Right, omni. Yeah, it's everywhere but just one. So we are on season two, as you saw with our awesome new intro.

Matt: That was, by the way, that was impressive.

Matthew: Thank you, thank you.

Matt: I knew it was gonna be better than last season. I did not expect it to be that much better.

Matthew: But I have to step it up, you know? To be fair, I haven't made it yet, but. 

Matt: But I know, when you finish it--

Matthew: Future me is going to do a fantastic job, yeah.

Matt: It's gonna be great. Kudos to you.

Matthew: Thanks.

Matt: If I were wearing a hat, I would take it off.

Matthew: But you know, we can't do it all alone. And sometimes, we have to collaborate on things. Like, we're collaborating on the show, but uh, just go with my segue, and Sorry.

Matt: I told you not to use that word! Oh Lordy. Yes, we do often work together, not just on YouTube channels.

Matthew: That's right, we also do it for things we get paid for.

Matt: Right.

Matthew: And we finished one recently. A big one.

Matt: Right, and it's interesting because the work we were doing, we don't, it's work that's not typically done remotely, for one.

Matthew: Right, right.

Matt: A lot of times, it's work that's done in the same co-location. So that alone presented some interesting challenges, but beyond that, it was just a really interesting large project, and I think it would be great to kinda talk through it, explain how we attacked it, and whether or not it was successful. Dun dun dun.

Matthew: Yeah, we should start with some background for this, so people understand what we're talking about.

Matt: Yeah, what was the project about?

Matthew: So we did, we were brought on, we did some work through another agency, we were brought on to, I think the initial ask was to produce a journey map. And did that with some flavoring of a service blueprint as well.

Matt: And if I may just clarify, a current state journey map.

Matthew: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely.

Matt: That was a very specific part of the project.

Matthew: Of course, one of the fun parts of that was, they were doing a lot of reorganization, a lot of upcoming changes, so mapping out the current state while they were going through all these changes was challenging to talk about because it was, well, when this comes in in a couple months. So for them, the current state was also future state. As is typical with our work, there are NDAs involved. We're going to talk around those.

Matt: And we were specifically-

Matthew: Not even to be coy about that, it's just, you know, we can't talk about that, you know?

Matt: Oh yeah, yeah.

Matthew: You know.

Matt: Respect the NDA.

Matthew: Absolutely.

Matt: And the piece of the organization, it's a huge, huge organization with hundreds of employees. Maybe thousands of employees. And the specific slice of the organization was in their telephone support, not just telephone, but other channels as well. And not even their global support, but a very thin slice of even their support organization. So just give you an idea of scope and how we're tryin' to whittle it down to a manageable research activity. It's a huge, huge, huge organization, and they asked us to look at a very, very narrow slice of it and evaluate, yeah, the current state. Because part of the reasoning for the project from the client's perspective is they are so big, they don't even know all their current processes. And that was kinda how this evolved. It started out being a fairly, a larger project and was de-scoped considerably. But in the end, the problem was they don't even know what they're doing themselves. They don't have it documented across the organization. They don't have a clear vision about what other pieces of that journey look like, and they wanted an outside company to come in and understand it for them and explain it to them, like, here's what you're doing.

Matthew: Yeah, I think in the interviews it became clear that everyone really understood their piece, but then, you know, to your point, how do all those pieces then fit together was the charge of why we were there. We only had a few weeks to complete the project, so taking on the entire customer support, you know, there was just no way we were gonna be able to do all of that in just a couple weeks.

Matt: As it was, the narrow slice we took, we barely got done at the time we had allotted.

Matthew: Right, because we could have done a lot more. And I think in a lot of ways, we ended up doing a lot more than the scope necessarily called for, but it was the right work to do. And we'll get to that, but.

Matt: Yeah, there were definitely some additional opportunities that we uncovered beyond the scope that we were allotted that we would love to go back and do more in it.

Matthew: Probably good to talk about some of the constraints that we were working with. One was just a time crunch. Two, we were doing this all remotely.

Matt: Not just you and I being remotely, but the client was remote, our intermediary client was also based in another state, and then the research was happening all remote as well.

Matthew: Right, yeah. We had calls with people on mountain time and India time, so people were all over the place. So that was, I don't wanna say, like, a challenge challenge but certainly a constraint that we had to deal with. So, constraints obviously. And we were going to interview 19 people, and the goal was to get that view across the organization within that slice that we had defined, and we were looking for that current state, but that extra ask was also, you know, where are the places were can find efficiency, where we can find opportunities to automate.

Matt: The organization itself is going through some changes with software, with process. So as researchers, that presented a challenge to, for us to keep in mind, right, what's current state, what's near-term future state, and as we talk to people, make sure we're understanding which state they're talking to. 'Cause some have already been exposed to the new future, some haven't.

Matthew: Yeah. And my favorite ask was don't make it pretty. 

Matt: Right, right.

Matthew: Like, whatever you deliver us, don't make it look too good, which in a lot of ways, I felt like, really showed a level of maturity from the people who were the primary stakeholders of the project. You know, having that understanding where we wanna map out something that we know is going to change, and if it's too pretty, it's gonna become too precious, and you're gonna put too much work into it, and just make it something that's understandable and readable.

Matt: And to their credit also, it reduced the cost, because we would've likely had to hire a third person focused on the visuals.

Matthew: So the process itself of doing the interviews. We talked about the time zone tracking, which was not overly challenging, but a little bit challenging, especially getting up at four a.m. for an interview and trying to be on.

Matt: Well, and the fact that we were all in multiple time zones, you, me, the stakeholders. Keeping us on the same, in sync with the time zone. And fortunately, we had a tool that we're using, Airtable, to track our interviews. And Airtable did a good job of localizing the time zone to whoever's looking at it.

Matthew: And not a sponsor.

Matt: Not a sponsor at all.

Matthew: Although, you know, call me. Airtable ended up being a really great tool to keep track of who we were talking to, when we were talking to them, the stages at which we had talked to them, uploading all the artifacts.

Matt: And we even used it to keep track of which one of us was gonna be leading the interviews, because we both tried to be on as many as we could, but again, because of the time zones, because of other factors, sometimes just one of us was on those calls. And so, we had to identify for each call who would be the lead interviewer. That was in Airtable as well, to keep us organized as we went through this. 'Cause we did these 19 interviews over the course of 10 business days? Something like that? Something like that. 

Matthew: Yeah. What I think is maybe a little not as typical but what I felt really worked was our point of contact for the client, they had access to the Airtable as well. So we were relying on them to help us with the scheduling and to help us figure out who we should be talking to, because they know their people. So we were all in that Airtable, and it was something that was client-facing. I think that was really helpful, so they knew what was going on the whole time as well.

Matt: It provided transparency as well as collaboration. That's what we're going on. So at any point, they could see who had been interviewed, you know, when that interview, did that interview take place, did it have to be rescheduled, like, all of that stuff was happening in Airtable. And they were part of it, which helped a lot to make it easier for us to communicate. We didn't have to communicate as often, right? Because he knew, he could see what was goin' on.

Matthew: Right. And we had weekly check-ins, but those weekly check-ins, they didn't, we did them.

Matt: Right.

MAtthew: But they didn't last very long.

Matt: They were very brief.

Matthew: They were very brief. And you know, we'll get to that in a bit, but that's kinda why we wanna talk about this, is this is a very highly collaborative project, and it led to a little disappointment in my heart at the end. But we'll get to that. So one of the things that we really relied on with these interviews is we obviously recorded all of our conversations that we had with the people we were interviewing. And then we used the, since we're talking tools a bit, we used to get transcripts of every conversation.

Matt: Yeah. Not a plug, but again, by any stretch, but it was a great tool to use because, not just accuracy, but also speed and cost. The interviews were about an hour each, I can't remember. I think they were 60 minutes each.

Matthew: Yeah, I think they ranged from, like, 45 to an hour and 15, in that range.

Matt: And they were able to turn around the transcripts in sometimes 12 hours or less, which kept us moving, again, 'cause we were on this very tight timeline, and we did not wanna go back and listen to the recordings ourselves. If only one of us could have been on the call, the other person, obviously had no way of knowing what happened, and it's a lot quicker to just breeze through the transcript than to listen to the recording. So those became a critical tool as we analyzed the interviews.

Matthew: Worth the money.

Matt: Absolute worth the money.

- I mean, I don't wanna say only, but it was only $1 a minute to get the transcripts done, and I think we ended up, seven, I think it was $709 was the expense for all the transcripts. And--

Matt: Totally worth it.

Matthew: Totally worth it. It's not even a question.

Matt: Yeah, it saved us hours reading interviews and note-taking, and, you know, and again, when you're talking about pulling out quotes, the transcripts, it's there. You just copy-paste it into whatever quote repository you're looking at. You don't have to actually sit there and type it, rewind it, type it to make sure you're getting it correct.

Matthew: Which we used Airtable for as well.

Matt: That's right. So Airtable was not just our interview repository but also our data collection repository.

Matthew: Right. There were a couple of reasons why we chose that over somethin' like Excel or Google Sheets. I'm pretty sure that stuff that we did in Airtable we could have done in Google Sheets, but it would have taken more work.

Matt: Yeah. I mean, obviously Airtable's a web-based product so we were able to collaborate real-time, which Google Sheets could have done or could do. But yeah, there was a sort of level of complexity to what we were doing that Sheets might have been able to support but we didn't know how to do it.

Matthew: Right, and Airtable made it pretty easy to just take care of it. Where we went beyond what we needed to do is how many passes of the data that we did. So in a way, the first pass was the interview itself. The second pass was, we would pull up the transcript of each interview together, live, and go through, and then, but we'd get on a call like we're doin' right now and we would take out the things that we thought were interesting or salient commentary on the process that we were trying to map, and we would put that in the Airtable. And we would go through and, you know, do the first participant's transcript, and we'd get done. And then we'd go through that again together, this time a little more conversational, and pulling out the duplicates, saying, is this really important, is this more important than this, tidying up that first pass on the raw data.

Matt: And each one of those nuggets was tied to the person that said it, the category of what it, you know, we organically created a list of categories for all of these things. And so, each one was then tagged to those categories as well.

Matthew: Right, yeah. Once we had gone through all the transcripts, we categorized things and let the data tell us what the categories should be.

Matt: So we ended up with--

Matthew: We didn't have any sense of, like, what things should be.

Matt: How many data points did we end up with? 180?

Matthew: Six, oh yeah, it did get up close to 180. It was like, 179. I think we were just shy of 180 or somethin' like that.

Matt:  So 180, and then we had seven categories? I forget. Seven or eight categories.

Matthew: Seven or eight categories, yeah.

Matt: So you kinda get a sense for the numbers that we're talking about. Not thousands, but definitely enough that going through 180 items seven times was not quick or easy.

Matthew: Right. 'Cause then we had to go through and summarize that because all the summaries would then be used as data points on the map. And all the items on the list, I don't think any of them were only one category of a thing.

Matt: Right.

Matthew: Except for maybe, like, the quotes where we just wanted to pull what someone said as a quote and put it on the deliverable.

Matt: So just to paint a picture of the data flow, we went from the interviews into the Airtable sheet, or whatever you wanna call the table, and then each of those 180 data points then went into the journey map and were plotted to moments along the journey that emerged. And so yeah, each one of those data points was somewhere on that journey map. And we ended up making two journey maps from different perspectives of the different users. So we talked to agents, so we did a journey map from their perspective, and a journey map from a customer's perspective, just to show the balance, even though we didn't get to talk to customers, which was another issue.

Matthew: We gathered the data that we heard from the people that we talked with who were internal about their perspective on the customer. Again, this has to do with, like, the scope and the timing of the project. Not that they, they knew that talking to customers is the logical and appropriate next step, it's just, for this project we just talked with internal.

Matt: But we felt like we were already hearing things, even though they didn't ask for that perspective, we felt that it was our job, our duty to at least detail and document it out. So we ended up making an extra journey map in a way. Just 'cause we felt it was right. And we had the data, so why not?

Matthew: You know, the other thing that we talked about while we were building these deliverables, because we were gonna turn over the Airtable as well, is the idea that these documents get shared internally after the project is over, we want that person, if they only ever see the map but don't see the Airtable, that there's traceability between the two. So I would say, for the most part, you could just look at the map and understand what the journey is, what the pain points are, and how those pain, what categories do those pain points hit. But if someone just looked at the Airtable, they could get the same sense. Maybe not the nice visual aspect to it, obviously, but all the data, you know, is traceable between the two documents. And I think that that's, again, something where we went a bit beyond what we needed to do because we knew that working with such a large organization, you need documents to be able to stand on their own as much as possible.

Matt: And I feel like that falls into the category of, the client wouldn't have even known to ask for that, because they just wanted a journey map. They didn't even know or expect to get the Airtable, like, the actual raw data. But the fact that we're delivering it, we saw that the need, or the future need to be able to tie those together. 'Cause again, the journey map had summaries, the Airtable had the summaries plus the actual data from the transcripts. So as you said, they could always back into it. And the one thing we ended up taking out of the Airtable were the interviewees who said, who gave us the data, because we wanted to protect their anonymity, so we actually ended up stripping out that attribute.

Matthew: Which is a promise that we make to all of our participants, whether they're internal employees or they're external customers, is we're not going to name you.

Matt: We won't name names.

Matthew: We've seen in the past, when, where people wanna reach out to the customer and explain to them what they really should've been doing, and that's not how this is supposed to work, so.

Matt: Right, right. So after we got the journey map done, in a good place, at least from our perspective, we had another ask from the client, and that was to do some collaborative workshops with the folks that we interviewed.

Matthew: Well initially, it was just the workshop.

Matt: Right, exactly. That was what I was gonna say. Yeah, yeah.

Matthew: Please continue, please continue.

Matt: Oh no, well. So originally, they asked us to do a workshop at a, neutral territory,cAt a location within the US that everyone was gonna travel to. And we were gonna do an on-site, two day workshop, I believe that Matthew and I would facilitate. And as we got closer and closer to the day, so we had a date, a week that we had identified in the schedule to do this based on other external factors. And as we got closer and closer to that date, the client decided, due to cost, due to scheduling, that it just wasn't feasible to get everyone into one room. So we agreed that we would do them remotely. So it was gonna be about 20 people. You know, all of the interviewees.

Matthew: I will say, I will say, they were like, well, we can do it remotely, and admittedly, I was, my first thought was, I dunno how we're gonna do 20 people on a call like this and have it be valuable and meaningful. And keep their attention.

Matt: For two days.

Matthew: Right, right.

Matt: So we--

Matthew: We didn't do that.

Matt: We did not do that. We thought about it ourselves and said, how can we make this a useful exercise, and we changed the focus a bit. And I think it turned out really well. So instead of it being kind of a collaborative workshop where we do lots of activities of sketching and ideation, we flipped it a little bit so it became more of a review of what we have learned, so we basically focused on the journey map, and we walked everyone through. So lemme back up a little bit. So we broke it up, instead of 20 people in one workshop, we took the 20 people and broke it up into five small workshops with four people each, and we focused on the journey map by taking the groups through what we had done, help us identify gaps, things we might've misheard, things we didn't even know what to ask for during our initial interviews, basically correct us. We kinda set that expectation of, we know this is not 100% right. We're looking for you to help us flesh this out more and improve it. All in all, it went really well. Engagement was really high. People got excited about it, they felt like they were part of the process. It didn't turn into a presentation where we were just reading things to people, though there was a presentation portion of the workshop. But it kept them involved and engaged, and it helped us understand the data a little bit more, and like I said, identify some gaps and fill in some spaces that we didn't know what else to put in.

Matthew: One of the things that surprised me a little bit but shouldn't have, looking back on it, is as we went further along and did more workshops, you know, we got to the fourth workshop and the fifth workshop, there wasn't as much feedback because the first three workshops found a lot of the places where we had the gaps, where we had, you know, oh, these two things are, this comes before this, not after, where they'd fix a lot of that, so it was really more validated. Not that they didn't contribute and help us make it better. It got, I think because, if we had done one event with 20 people all online, probably 15 of them wouldn't have said anything or would have said very little because that's just how group communication works. And then you would have had a few people drivin' the conversation, and I don't think that would have gotten as refined as we did by taking the... You gotta be kidding me.

Matt: Always mute your phone.

Matthew: No, that was, that came through my computer.

Matt: Oh, it was your computer, I couldn't tell.

Matthew: Anyway, talking about that collaborative approach, iterative approach, I think got us to a more refined, more accurate map than if we had done one workshop with 20 people.

Matt: 'Cause we had, I think one of the workshops only had one or two people, or like, one person for a portion of it 'cause people had to come and go, so you know those people were participating.

Matthew: Right, right, yeah.

Matt: Yeah, whether they wanted to or not, we had 'em on the spotlight. Yeah, and I agree. It helped us gain our confidence over the week, and it was validating once we got to the end of the week and we weren't getting so much feedback. It's like, okay, we must have this pretty buttoned-up, people don't have much to add to it.

Matthew: Yeah, and then the other ask, of course, that we were having of everybody during these workshops is, one of the questions, as I said earlier is, how can we make this more efficient? So again, you know, we're trying to be current state, but as you're there, if you, you know, you see something that can be improved, why not talk about it? And so, that's one of the things that we did in all of these workshops is we co-created principles that their internal team could then use to determine, when they're looking at this, if we're looking for areas of efficiency or automation, what principles should we follow to determine if it should be automated, and if it should be automated, to what extent and how. So we had, we still had more classic workshop things for participants to do, so it wasn't solely just, you know, react to this map that we have up on the screen here, and let's move some boxes around, but people were contributing to the content that would ultimately be delivered. Jumping forward to the final readout that we did and why there was sort of a little disappointment at the end for me. Because all those people, what did we have on the final call? 25 people?

Matt: Right, we had some additional people on the final readout. All the participants plus another five or six people, plus some other, yeah, stakeholders, and...

Matthew: You know, we walked through everything we did, sort of what we're doing on this on the show right now, but with a slide deck. And less Google phone calls interrupting what you're doing.

Matt: And a little more detail, but yes.

Matthew: A little more detail, obviously. But we got to the end, and there were really, essentially no questions, no gasps.

Matt: No ah-ha's, no applause.

Matthew: It was like, yay!

Matt: And yeah, that's a result of being super collaborative 'cause everyone was part of the process. When we did our first workshops, we heard, I think, more surprises of like, oh, this is really interesting or this is really cool. And yeah, but the sparkle was off, or whatever the phrase is by the time we got to that last, everyone had seen, except for those five or so people, everyone had seen what we were presenting.

Matthew:  And helped to make it.

Matt: And helped to make it. They were part of it. So there was no accolades, no pats on the back. I mean, there were pats, they did appreciate the work.

Matthew: Yeah, oh, for sure.

Matt: It was fairly anticlimactic.

Matthew: Right, right. And that's how it should be. But there's still a little part of me that was like, oh, no one cheered.

Matt: Right. When we entered that final call, it was like, felt a little, a little awkward.

Matthew: Is that it, are we done?

Matt: Right, right. Like, no more questions? You guys got it? Okay, see you later.

Matt: A very nice note. Yeah, they did send us a nice note, appreciative of all the work that we did. Yeah, so it was a final, kinda ending with a thud. But not because it wasn't good work, but because there were just, no surprises to it.

Matthew: Yeah. I would say, almost, we could have not done the final readout and just handed, it was totally better that we did it that way, because I think it did a final contextualizing for everybody as a group of what we were handing over to them. But yeah, it was anticlimactic. Again, which is good.

Matt: Right. And overall, a really good and satisfying project for us because of, you know, obviously working together is always fun with the two of us, but the project itself went relatively smoothly, very smoothly with, you know, a few road bumps along the way. But client was very happy, we were very happy, our intermediary contact was very happy. Everyone was very happy.

Matthew: Very, very.

Matt: Happy all around. And it was a different type of project, not so much for Matthew and I, 'cause we do work together like this often, but for the clients. They don't typically work this way. So I think for them, it was a bit of a proving ground because they all like to work in person to show that this type of work can be done remotely and collaboratively and successfully. That, to me, was as much of a win as the actual data portion of it, was showing that the process can work.

Matthew: One of the asks from our, the agency that brought us in to do the work was, you know, do as much as you can to teach along the way the client because they may wanna pick up some of this work and do it themselves, and we wanna give them good habits. That was part of the reason that we were being so highly collaborative is that, you know, not only were we doing the work with the people, but we were also talking with them about our approach and why we're choosing these things. Our primary contact at the client has access to this Airtable, and you know, we walked them through how we put this together and why it's this way, and now they have some, you know, a little insight into how to potentially do the work on their own. Or bring us back. We miss you.

Matt: That's right. So, good project.

Matthew: Yeah. And I just, I'm, I dunno. I tend to not get overly excited about these things, but I'm very pleased with the way we decided to do the project. Part of it was, you know, we had the constraints that we talked about at the beginning of the show, but within those constraints, I think we delivered something that was really gonna be helpful to them, and something of value. Again, it goes back to that, we didn't want to do a workshop with 20 people because there wouldn't be a value out of it as much as splitting it up into five workshops with four people each. High five.

Matt: High five, good job. See you next time, and don't forget to subscribe.

Matthew: Right, don't forget to subscribe. And share, and like, and--

Matt: That's right.

Matthew: Please validate us.

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