October 29, 2019

How Data Might Blow Up Your Project Plan, and Why That’s Actually a Good Thing

By James MacAvoy, October 29, 2019

Data. It’s a word that strikes fear and excitement in the hearts of all project managers, scrum masters, and project teams alike. 

We know we want it, but we’re not 100% sure what to do once we get it. 

“Now what.”

We request, remind, chase down, test for, and eventually receive this precious data - only to have these familiar questions raised:

  • Where do we fit this into our project life-cycle?
  • How do I make this data actionable?
  • Who ate my clearly labeled chicken salad sandwich in the office refrigerator?  (I know it was you, Jeff)

Although answering these questions is an important step, at the core we have to dig into why we have to ask these questions in the first place. 

1 / Fear of Data

The primary issue we have to deal with when it pertains to data is fear. 

At its root the inherent nature of data can force us to rethink our direction, disprove our hypothesis, or cause us to realize that we’re trying to solve the wrong problem. 

Any of these results can force a major shift in your project direction. For project managers in particular, who typically hate seeing their project plans flushed down the toilet, at first glance data can feel like a problem.

Data does present a problem also familiar to project management regarding the implications of data in the project and how do we mitigate potential issues.  The reality is, those questions are much easier to answer than potentially developing a product that is completely useless to the user.

As Shayna Stewart asks in her articleDoes the consumer find value in my product?”, data — no matter how scary it might be — allows us to answer that question before our product potentially falls flat with that consumer.  

2 / Project Management Life-Cycle

The standard project management life-cycle typically consists of:

Initiation, Planning, Execution, Performance Monitoring, and Closure. 

In a typical digital project, if we incorporate data at all then it is usually within the planning phase. Then, often to a lesser extent, the performance monitoring phase and even worse, usually with a brand new team with no historical knowledge.

To effectively deliver a consumer-centric product that adds value to our users we need to incorporate the use of data throughout the project life cycle.

This means that we need to continuously be reviewing our direction against any learned insights as well as continue testing to validate our hypothesis and the decisions we are making through the project.

Additionally, the considerations we make while running a project will need to be reconsidered. 

As Project Managers, it is ingrained in us to deliver a project that meets all scope requirements, on-time, and at/under budget. 

We’ve all seen the project management triangle of constraints - and likely seen the illustrations of how when one of those constraints is affected the overall quality of that project is in jeopardy. 

3 / Value Delivered

What is typically not considered in the triangle of constraints is an incomplete picture of project quality: in addition to these constraints we should be considering value.

We have all delivered a project over budget, or later than planned. All of those situations are never fun, but the far worse situation is delivering a product that the consumer finds no value in. If we do that, then it really doesn’t matter if it's over budget or late because it’s already a failure.  

A reasonable argument might be that the value is already factored into quality, which in a sense is true. But all too often the project lead’s focus on quality is based on requirements or at the very least a project brief. Without the necessary data those requirements could be wrong. 

In this scenario how we calculate quality is just one part of what we need to factor. When we consider the overarching value to the customer, our definition of quality could actively change, as it should.

But There Is Hope…

Much of what we have discussed above revolves around being comfortable with fear and uncertainty.

We have to know and understand that the more information that data provides, the more that it could change our best laid plans. 

Additionally, the more we incorporate data into the traditional project management methodology and process the more likely we are to see those fears come to fruition.  

However, as project leads there are ways that we can avoid the potential pitfalls described above.  If we incorporate data into every phase of the project management life-cycle, and plan for the potential disruption that this new information may cause, we are far less likely to be surprised when this disruption happens.  

“What do you mean we need to revisit the problem statement?”

We know there will always be changes to a project, but as long as we do not ignore all the information we could have, no matter how scary, we can get in front of that risk and minimize what causes this fear in the first place. 

Training ourselves to understand that change is good, disruption is good, and ultimately adding value to our consumer’s lives is best.

October 16, 2019

Briefing with Customer Experience: How Marketers Can Optimize the Way They Brief Agencies

By Melati Belot, Director of Client Engagement, YML

Customer Experience is today’s strongest proof point or expression of a brand.

That’s exactly why we believe there needs to be a fundamental change in the way agencies are briefed on the brand itself. By integrating the core components of CX into your briefings you are able to provide a consistent experience that underscores the brand promise in each touchpoint and should ultimately increase customer satisfaction.

To be clear, we’re not recommending adding more content to your current briefs.

A powerful brief is concise and compelling.

Leveraging CX as the crux of the content isn’t about adding layers. Rather it’s about applying a lens that will distill and clarify customer-centric messaging.

It all starts with VMP — a Vision, Mission and Purpose that is core to the brand’s DNA. One of my favorite explanations of the differences between the three is an article by Dan Carlton, Founder of the Paragraph Project.

  • Vision — category-centric i.e. how the company performs / acts relative to others.
  • Mission — company-centric i.e. what the company does and how it does it.
  • Purpose — customer-centric i.e. who they serve & why they do what they do.

And, there are several tools and resources to help ground each:

  • Vision — Industry / Market Analysis, Trends, Competitor Audit and Analysis
  • Mission — Company Objectives and KPIs, Service Blueprint and/or Product Strategy
  • Purpose — Customer Segmentation and Research, Personas, Customer Journey Maps

To best tell the story of what a brand can mean to a customer we need to flip the typical order of the VMP (Vision → Mission → Purpose) on its head and instead lead with Purpose (“why”) to then inform the Vision (“how”) and then the Mission (“what”). When reframed in this format the ethos is not wholly dissimilar from Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle TED Talk.

The Purpose is customer-centric and clearly articulates the reason “why” the brand exists and what the brand promises to the customer (i.e. CX). It is fueled by a clear understanding of who the customer is, what they value, and where your company is or is not delivering along their journey.

Delta is perhaps one of the best-in-class examples of a brand that preaches customer-centricity at its core.

In a Wall Street Journal article, Delta CMO, Tim Mapes, said:

“A brand isn’t what a communications program says it is…A brand is what customers experience. For a service business like ours, that experience is defined by our 80,000 employees and their efforts to connect with our customers on a human level.”

Mapes elaborates:

“In an increasingly polarized world, there’s an opportunity for an entity like Delta — a service business that has international reach in over 60 countries — to pursue a more noble purpose. Yes, we’re a transportation provider, and yes, we fly people from point A to point B. But our deeper brand promise — our noble purpose — is to connect people all over the world to each other…We listen to what customers are telling us, we respond with products and services based on that input, and then we listen again and ask, ‘Did we get it right?’ It’s an ongoing process, and our tagline, “Keep Climbing,” reflects that. It’s the Japanese philosophy of Kaizen — continuous improvement at every level and in every corner of the organization.”

Delta has delivered just that.

By focusing on customer experience in the digital space, including replacing ID checks at touch points with fingerprint scanning, automating check-in, tracking bags in real time, and redesigning gate and boarding experiences, Delta has made the travel experience as seamless as possible.

The “never stop improving” mentality can be seen outside of the digital space in a variety of messaging manners across print ads, OOH, and even in their latest TV spot, encouraging all fliers to recognize our shared humanity (i.e. elevating your perspective above the petty differences that can cause us to feel far apart). In fact, Delta was recognized for the second year in a row as North America’s best airline by Business Traveller.

By starting with the ‘Purpose’ and using that as the foundation for all communications, you’re providing confidence, consistency, and clarity. You have the opportunity to address pain points and message the key values you know you can deliver upon (and subsequently measure), thereby providing a satisfying experience.

And, while the output will (and absolutely should) differ based on each agency’s area of expertise, the heart & soul of the brand — i.e. it’s promise to the customer — should pull through.

In fact, a recent Business Insider article headline puts a finer point on the impact that CX and a clear purpose can have on a brand: “Delta’s focus on passenger experience and loyalty has its profits and its stock soaring.” That’s the power of putting The CX Multiplier to work.

👉Want more CX ammo? Read 6 KPIs That Will Convince the C-Suite to Obsess over Customer Satisfaction.

About the author

Serving as Director of Client Engagement, Melati’s focus is on driving thought-leadership, strategic planning and creative excellence for our partners. With experience spanning brand and product development, digital, broadcast, social media and influencer marketing, Melati believes that the key to unlocking customer connection, loyalty, and advocacy is day-to-day interactions and customer-centric experiences.

October 14, 2019

Getting to Know: Marcela Lay, VP of Client Engagement

Discover Marcela, our VP of Client Engagement and Head of our Atlanta office.

Read more

October 8, 2019

Don’t touch the coffee! The value of paying attention to people’s micro-experience when dealing with change.

Change is a trying time for everyone. Leadership can facilitate it by understanding the micro and macro employee experience.

Read more

October 7, 2019

“The CX Multiplier”: How To Get Exponential Returns On Your Marketing Spend

By Melati Belot & Shayna Stewart, October 7th

The CX Multiplier is a tool to help brand and marketing professionals make the case for CX and drive exponential returns on their marketing spend.

See how it works 👇

Take a moment and think about a few of your favorite brands 🤔

Okay, now, why are those the ones that popped into your mind?

It’s likely they made the cut based on a first-hand experience with the brand or perhaps even an emotional reaction you had to that experience.

Yes, brands can cause an emotional reaction outside of tear-jerking or laughter-provoking Super Bowl spots. Those emotions can range from relief and a feeling of being understood to frustration and even abandonment.

(hello, broken [brand] promises)

Beyond getting over that first emotional brand hurdle, what makes a good brand experience?

Do what you say you will do. Be the brand you say you are. Or, in other words: cut the B.S.

Today’s thriving brands live up to their external persona by backing it up via the service and technology experience. It’s an unmistakable attention to detail, such as personalized or customized attention, making things easier on customers, acting with empathy, and responding to a situation on a customer’s terms.

Case in point, Nordstrom may serve as one of the best examples of a customer-centric brand that has empowered it’s customer experiences with technology to create value-adding services (sometimes even creating a “want” that customers didn’t even know they had).

Buying via Text

Nordstrom shoppers can receive tailored purchase recommendations via text or Messenger. Their TextStyle allows a sales representative to text you a product photo and/or description of a product. All you have to do is respond with “buy” and a unique code and it’s all yours.

Source: What Does This Nordstrom Shopping Experiment Have to Do With Facebook?

Reserve & Try

Select and reserve your desired items online and within two hours you’ll be notified via text that your potential purchases are ready to be tried on at the nearest Nordstrom. No purchase remorse, here.

Curbside Pickup

Buy online and bypass annoying shipping delays. Simply text the store when you’re close by and have your new purchase delivered right to you.

Talk about convenience and knowing your audience.

A fast and reliable experience thanks to a PWA

Nordstrom rebuilt their mobile site as a React Progressive Web App for their 20 million+ monthly visitors to deliver a faster, more reliable and more engaging experience.

By the way, Nordstrom is not the only company that uses a PWA. Take Walmart, for example:

Source: Why Progressive Web Apps Are The Future of Mobile Web (2019 Research)

These services now define the Nordstrom difference and even made their way into one of the most critical customer communications, holiday TV campaigns.

All of these seemingly minor touch points are additive and create the overall customer impression of a brand. Therefore, especially in today’s digital-centric world, customer experience (CX) has become synonymous with a brand.

As a marketing or brand professional, it may be hard for you to internally make the case for better CX because at face value it may seem outside the swim lanes of your typical responsibilities.

Marketing and advertising are historically the best ways to broadcast your brand to the masses, and remain vital today.

However, YML’s array of experience with brands ranging from retail to fintech, auto and even healthcare proves how powerful insights that could improve pain points and key moments are often lost in translation or disjointed from the reality of the experience, resulting in decreased efficiency and impact of dollars spent.

Therefore, CX becomes both everyone’s responsibility and more importantly — opportunity:

That’s why we are introducing the CX Multiplier to help you demonstrate how CX elevates your brand and makes marketing more efficient.

What is it?

The CX Multiplier is a simple way to think about return on CX initiatives that relates back into marketing and business KPIs. It measures the impact of the improvement of product retention on marketing and business KPIs.

There’s two phases where the multiplier happens:

  1. Improvement of Business Metrics
  2. Increased Competitive Marketing

1/ Improvement of Business Metrics

As digital product strategies improve retention, they in turn improve two important business metrics:

Customer Lifetime Value

Needless to say the more times someone comes back, the more possibilities there are for monetary touch points.

Source: Why Lifetime Value is the Most Important Metric in eCommerce

In addition, better digital products elicit more trust from people and therefore open the opportunity for the brand to widen the net of products the person buys from the brand.

Both of which increase customer lifetime value.

Payback Periods

If the product’s retention is improved, payback periods are lessened. Which means you make the money you have invested in acquiring new users back faster.

A quick example of this:

You spend $100 acquiring 10 new users. Of those new users only 2 buy your $10 product in the first visit ($10*2=$20 in sales total). Those same two visitors are retained and come back every month to buy again. In this case, the payback period is 5 months ($20*5 months=$100). Let’s say your product doubles retention and you have 4 people who buy your product to amount to $40 in sales and they also come back every month. You will receive your payback in 3 months (plus some!). The money acquired at a faster rate means access to more money sooner to reinvest.

2/ Increased Marketing Competitive Edge

As these two business metrics improve, these marketing metrics will improve:

Customer Acquisition Cost

Because returns are higher from the uplift in business metrics, the team now has the ability to increase the cost for acquiring new users, in other words, increase marketing spend.

Source: Calculate CAC for Sustainable Growth

If you are making more money from acquiring a new user, you now have more money to spend on acquiring the next. With the value of the customer increased, you can bet marketing spend can be increased.

This allows marketing teams to spend more in competitive environments and even branch out into emerging platforms.

A More Efficient Reach

As your user base increases due to more retention, the reach of your retargeting and email campaigns will be improved. This is the marketers main goal — expand reach efficiently.

In this light, you can think of your digital product as driving a whole new marketing audience, instead of trying to seek out new audiences from 3rd party vendors.

Secondly, as you have more customers, you have more people that are inviting or talking about the product helping to convert new users into your product for free!

The key to making this a success is that the digital product and services must back up the marketing, otherwise the new user base won’t have nice things to say. When your acquiring users for free or a through a small incentive such as a discount, that means higher business metrics and more opportunity to increase CAC once again.

CX Product & Service Improvements > More People Retained > Earnings for Business > Marketing Increases > More Acquisition

All of these improved metrics are underpinned by an improvement of your customer-centric product strategy. This often times is missed when your teams are siloed or you have disconnected data sets.

How can you implement a CX Multiplier Strategy?

They key to unlocking the CX Multiplier is embracing holistic adoption of a people-centric culture.

The organization needs to align on a unified data strategy that can measure the CX impact and then each department and partner should be briefed either on improving or communicating the brand promise through CX.

About the authors

Melati Belot, Director of Client Engagement

Serving as Director of Client Engagement, Melati’s focus is on driving thought-leadership, strategic planning and creative excellence for our partners. With experience spanning brand and product development, digital, broadcast, social media and influencer marketing, Melati believes that the key to unlocking customer connection, loyalty, and advocacy is day-to-day interactions and customer-centric experiences.

Shayna Stewart, Product Manager

Shayna is passionate about consumer-centric product strategy and design and an advocate for consumer-centric data strategies to match.

September 30, 2019

Why Truly Multidisciplinary Teams Can Lead to Building Better Products

By Adam Talcott, September 30th

Imagine yourself as a software architect or tech lead, and a project manager brings you in to a new software project.

She describes the client and the problem they want to solve, and it definitely seems to be an interesting project. It’s for an exciting brand in a very interesting space, and it would likely leverage some exciting technology.

You’re looking forward to being part of the team which will bring it to life.

Cool!” you tell the PM. “Let’s get started. When’s the kick-off meeting? It will be great to meet with strategy, design and the client to start talking about what we want to do here.

Well,” she replies. “That’s already happened. We kicked things off six weeks ago. We’ve already identified what the product needs to do. We have some designs we’ve been testing with users, and we’re just about ready to hand the finished designs over to your engineering team so we can deliver an MVP in two months.

You’re incredulous, but you’ve unfortunately seen this before. You sigh. “Okay. Tell me more about what this does and then show me the designs.

The PM fills you in on more details, and the solution sounds good to you. But they’re talking about leveraging some immature technologies that you haven’t found to be quite yet ready for primetime.

The designs look good, but there are some interactions which aren’t the easiest to pull off on the targeted platform, and you’ll have to collaborate with the designers.

Also, there is that one screen which seems to need a lot of data. These issues will have to be addressed, and that’s going to mean more design time, more back and forth with the client and therefore an unhappy client (“Why didn’t you plan for these things earlier?”). You see missed deadlines and unfulfilled promises ahead.

Couldn’t we have avoided this?

Fortunately, the answer is yes, but more often than not we don’t do what’s necessary and technology projects end up in this situation.

Creating a product is a team effort, and every discipline has a role to play, some of which are overlapping to some extent, but you need to have every discipline represented in the room throughout the process to develop a robust solution on time and on budget.

Every discipline needs a seat at the table.

Photo by Thomas Drouault on Unsplash

The example above is written from the perspective of a software architect or a tech lead, but a similar story could have been written from the perspective of a creative director or a lead designer. Imagine a project in which designers don’t have an opportunity to review the finished product and provide feedback to make sure it works as well as it should:

What do I hear the designers out there saying? That also happens more often than you would like? How did I know you would say that?

So every discipline needs a seat at the table, even before or after that discipline’s primary phase is underway.

Consider the following diagram which shows how a team’s involvement varies over time depending upon the process’ current phase (note that project managers are not included here as they are, by definition, already included throughout these phases of the project lifecycle):

In a sense, one can compare the approach outlined here with the practices associated with DevOps.

Just as DevOps is focusing on better collaboration between disciplines (software development and operations), the inclusion of multidisciplinary teams across the entire product-development timeline is intended to improve collaboration across the disciplines of strategy, design and engineering and improve project outcomes.

Source: DevOps is a culture, not a role! by Irma Kornilova

Most teams have at least one team member on the project throughout each phase, with the number of team members varying over time, and obviously peaking when their phase is the primary one.

The number of strategists is highest during the strategy phase, the number of designers is highest during the design phase and the number of engineers is highest during the development phase, of course, but there are representatives from each discipline present and involved throughout.

Designers are still involved after the “design” phase is done, just as engineers are involved before “development” officially kicks off.

What is such a truly multidisciplinary team able to achieve?

Photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash

Engineers

When engineering has a seat at the table from even the earliest, business-development-focused stages, the entire process can be grounded and inspired by what technology can do.

Other team members may have an understanding of the technologies in question, but members of the engineering team will bring a different level of understanding, particularly if they have previously built something with the same or related technology.

Designers

When designers are actively engaged during the development phase of a project, they can help to ensure that the designs delivered by the engineering team are what were intended and that any necessary tradeoffs are approached in the best possible way.

It’s obviously also engineering’s responsibility to deliver the required design and user experience, just as it’s the responsibility of the design and strategy teams to understand technology sufficiently well to have a broad sense of capabilities, but it is the design team’s responsibility to ensure that the final product delivers the experience they intended.

Everyone is invested in making this product the best it can be.

In this way, all disciplines are committed to collaborating with each other to maximize their contributions and help the product have the greatest impact. Everyone is invested in making this product the best it can be.

Furthermore, each discipline becomes more skilled with the other disciplines, upleveling the capabilities of the entire team. They’re by no means experts, but other disciplines are less of a mystery.

For example, hearing an engineer ask about error states may prompt a designer to think about error conditions earlier on in the design process and develop a more modular approach to design which makes it easier to incorporate loading, error and empty responses. In addition, hearing a designer question the spacing between elements or the fluidity of an animation will prompt a developer to spend more time on making sure these nuances are as accurate and as solidly built as they should be.

It also helps us communicate better with each other as we have more practice speaking with individuals who approach problems from a different perspective or have a different skill set.

As the old adage goes, before you judge someone else, be sure to walk a mile in their shoes.

What better way to have empathy for what others are facing than to be confronted with the problems they have to solve and the language they use to talk about and solve those problems?

But what do other voices have to say on this topic?

In an effort to practice what I preach, I asked representatives from several other disciplines at YML to contribute to this article and share their thoughts on the benefits of multidisciplinary teams.

Marcela Lay, Head of YML’s Atlanta Office and VP, Client Strategy:

“When we include all disciplines to collaborate from day one, we ensure coverage on different vantage points on the challenges we are trying to solve for our clients.

It also provides visibility into various positive and negative ways in which decisions impact each discipline, enabling the right collaboration when defining the best solution.”

Ryan Spencer, Creative Director in YML’s Redwood City:

“Often times developers are seen as the ‘magicians’ who are responsible for turning design tasks or solutions into code. In my experience I’ve found that this perception to be misleading and not an accurate representation of their actual skills.

Developers can be the most creative people in the room, because solving problems in creative ways is what they’re driven to do — it is their passion. And problems always have constraints, whether it’s time, budget, or resources.

Developers are first and foremost problem solvers who are the best at breaking down and solving problems under a set of constraints.

They also provide a different perspective on solving the problem better or faster.

An example might be ‘What if this API takes a few seconds to display information? Can we instead load the info in a different way?’ For this reason, it’s incredibly important to create a robust design and developer QA process where the two disciplines work together to push and perfect the final product.

The goal is to make sure the product doesn’t just look perfect, but also feels fluid given real-world data and constraints.”

Stephanie Wiseman, VP of Business Development at YML :

“We constantly remind ourselves that good ideas can come from anywhere. Interns, junior designers or our culture team.

Having every discipline — especially technology and engineering — involved from day one ensures that we’re pulling from our collective experience and creating truly innovative and customer-centric solutions.”

Patricia Alonzo, Senior Resourcing Manager at YML:

“Having a representative from each discipline as projects kickoff is integral to catching potential issues early in the process. Especially as it pertains to resourcing.

While something might have sounded feasible during the project estimation phase, it’s during kickoff exercises when the team may realize that the staffing plan isn’t quite right.

Getting ahead of this allows for enough runway to add the right resources to the project.”

The benefits of a multidisciplinary team are clear, but this doesn’t mean we can take a shortcut and keep our teams maximally staffed throughout their lifecycle. That’s a waste of resources and typically just not possible given the amount of work we ask our team members to complete.

Furthermore, given that communication is one of the more complicated things we do in our daily work, we want the team to be small and nimble in order to reduce the complexity of communication.

As a result, the representation from each discipline will inherently vary over time.

In conclusion

So now you know how we like to approach the projects on which we partner with clients here at YML.

It’s not always easy to get this approach right, and there will be some growing pains as you start to adopt this approach, but when it works, the results are worth the effort.

I like to think of such a truly multidisciplinary team as a choir accompanied by an orchestra: there’s nothing as amazing as having all those instruments and voices playing and singing together, supporting each other and making the whole sound better than the sum of its individual parts.

About the Author

Adam Talcott has more than 20 years of experience developing digital technologies ranging from microprocessors to mobile apps.

He is focused on bringing great customer experiences to life and partners with clients to see projects from inception to deployment through strategy, design, and development.

He has worked closely with such clients as Universal Music Group, PayPal, State Farm, and Dell EMC.

September 25, 2019

The Opportunity is Now: Creating the Next Generation of Electronic Health Records

By Jason Rzutkiewicz, September 25th

In the 1970s, the federal government “began using EHR … with the Department of Veteran Affairs’ implementation”. At that time (1975) physicians spent on average 60 minutes with every new patient that visited their office.

Today, physicians spend a mere 12 minutes with those patients.

And yet healthcare as a percentage of GDP has exploded (from 8% to 18%)!

How did we get here?

For starters, EHR was not designed with the patient or the sician in mind. In hindsight its primary purpose was to support billing and administration. It is often referred to as the intruder in the room as patients and physicians interact. Physicians are often now forced to be more focused on screen time than patient time.

Source: Is Your Doctor Getting Too Much Screen Time?

This starts to speak to the cumbersomeness of these systems. Training new physicians to use EHR is a 20hr + experience.

As Eric Topol shares in his recent book Deep Medicine, 80% of new notes in EHR systems are copied and pasted from a previous entry. The electronic health record has turned physicians into data entry technicians with more time spent tending to the keyboard than the patient.

Clearly physicians see limited value but are forced to adhere creating a “lose-lose” situation.

Physicians were passive while major new changes took hold in the business of healthcare like EHR (along with managed care, HMO’s and others). They know full well that their ability to listen and engage have been severely compromised.

In hindsight they missed an opportunity to be better advocates for themselves and their patients.

So where are we today?

Source: The next generation of EHRs will be fundamentally different

There is tremendous pressure on physicians time. This is leading to burnout and depression (doubling the risk of patient safety). “Shallow medicine” is taking hold. The path of least resistance is often being chosen which is leading to over diagnosis of conditions, procedures and surgeries.

The implications are vast, including driving inflated healthcare costs and even playing a role in the opioid crisis the nation is facing today.

But the role of EHR today is more important than ever. It is positioned to play a critical role in enabling AI to drive better health outcomes for all. But that depends in large part on meaningful physician adoption and engagement.

Otherwise garbage in, garbage out will compound the problems we’ve faced over the last 40+ years.

The next generation of EHR

Source: Hospitals Utilize Artificial Intelligence to Treat Patients

How do we create the next generation of EHR?

One that starts with the patient, the physician and their needs — to truly connect with each other — at the core.

And for physicians, how do we ensure that as we move towards a world of AI assisted care that they don’t make the same mistakes as they did with EHR?

The opportunity is now to ensure that the productivity gains from AI are reinvested into more time with patients rather than more schedule slots on the calendar.

About the Author

Jason Rzutkiewicz is the Client Engagement leader at YML, playing a vital role in helping brands navigate the complex digital landscape of mobile, social, search, and data and bridging them with physical spaces to create seamless experiences.

September 23, 2019

Getting to Know Edward Cessna, Senior Director of Engineering at YML

Published on September 23, 2019

Who are you, and what do you do?

Hi, I’m Edward, an introverted minimalist who loves taming complexity and solving problems.

As a Senior Director of Engineering at YML, I lead and mentor engineering teams who thrive on solving problems and creating software solutions.

Semi-officially, I have been bestowed with the title of Chief Cheesecake Officer. This honor is solely due to a devoted following by YML’s staff and some clients for my White Chocolate Cheesecake.

Where are you from?

I grew up in Aiea, a small town on the island of Oahu.

As a child growing up in Hawaii, I took for granted its rich and unique cultural diversity. From the Pidgin English language spoken amongst my friends (“Eh, pau hana! Going go home?”) to hitting the manapua trucks after school, or enjoying the tropical outdoors, it was uniquely Hawaii, and it was home. Now, as an adult, I appreciate and treasure the cultural diversity of my upbringing; I am a better person because of this diversity.

Tell us a little about your background.

I caught the programming bug in high school when my physics teacher taught us FORTRAN at the local sugar mill using an IBM minicomputer and punchcards. Yes, this was before the Internet, the introduction of the IBM PC, and hitting up Stackoverflow for answers to programming challenges. It was a fantastic time to begin a career in the software industry.

Since college, I’ve reinvented myself several times as technologies changed and my interest matured. One constant throughout most of my career was the systems I worked were large, complex, and mission or life-critical systems. These systems ranged from realtime flight-control software to embedded cryptographic software. Software that had to work correctly or people could get hurt; this work taught me the definition of quality and the value of a software development process.

I joined the first wave of mobile developers when Apple released the first iOS SDK in March 2008. This platform allowed me to lead and participate in a team that developed the first clinical-research mobile applications that have impacted thousands of people. The effort also allowed me to become a first-time author with the publication of the first book on ResearchKit.

Why did you choose to come to Y Media Labs?

I’ve been an early adopter of technologies since college.

When I first interviewed at YML, I discovered the founders were also early technology adopters and that we were aligned with my goals. I’ve stayed at YML for over five years because of the people. I have a great team that I like and respect.

An added benefit: the crazy ones make the job more enjoyable and rewarding.

What about this industry are you most passionate about?

I am passionate about software, teams, and what it takes to produce high-quality and secure software systems.

Successfully engineering and delivering a software solution while satisfying programmatic constraints requires a team that has a wide range of technical skills as well as a refined set of soft skills. Developing teams with this set of skills have been and continues to be very rewarding.

What are some other companies you admire?

I admire companies who put their corporate reputation behind issues of humanity and challenge established norms.

One of the first company that comes to mind is Virta Health. They are successfully challenging the conventional wisdom of diabetes prevention and achieving incredible reversal/remission results for a disease that is pandemic.

Apple is another company that I admire. Their belief that privacy is a fundamental human right resonates with me, given that I have a software-security background. Even though Apple is far from perfect, their privacy stances keep me as a customer.

What are your favorite spots to eat?

My favorite spot to eat a meal is my home. Not because the food is spectacularly good but because I can control the quality of the ingredients that go into my meals. Frequently, my best meals are simply those comprising a few quality ingredients with minimum effort. Some of the best examples of this are Caprese salad and Affogato. Both are dead simple to assemble and delicious if the ingredients are fresh and high quality.

When I’m lazy (a little too often) and want a break from cooking, I tend to go to restaurants close to my home. Here are some of my favorite:

My all-time favorite place, but not in the bay area: Helena’s Hawaiian Food. Helena’s is frequently my first stop after landing at Honolulu International Airport.

How do you spend your spare time?

I thoroughly enjoy spending time with my family, cooking, reading, and learning about new technology and health information.

My preferences for cooking or baking a dish is to make is anything and everything from Stella Parks.

My interest in health, however, creates an internal conflict that I wrestle with more often than I care to admit. Occasionally, I lose the dessert-health match, and I surprise my family or coworkers with a little treat. (I, of course, eat none of the treat. Nod, nod, wink, wink.)

September 12, 2019

Why Consumer-Centric Strategies Need the Right Datasets

By Shayna Stewart | September 12th

You deserve a big pat on the back if you have successfully shifted your Product and Executive teams to a consumer experience driven mindset — one that prioritizes empathy for the consumer in the product experience.

However, after all that work educating teams and setting up new processes, your Product and Analytics teams are likely experiencing a little bit of friction.

The growing pains occur because the datasets are not evolving as the questions are evolving from business-centric to consumer-centric:

  1. Analytics teams get stuck operating only within the business analytics and marketing analytics paradigms.
  2. Consequently, they have a tough time getting into product and consumer-centric analytics paradigms.

Obsessing over customer satisfaction is a good thing — and a proven game changer for brands across the spectrum.

Often, teams that switch to the consumer experience mindset, accidentally mistake business or marketing data for product data, so you’ll need to stop focusing on quantitative behavioral data.

Here’s how.

Consumer-centricity is tough on data structures

This mostly has to do with when the way data structures were built:

Data structures are a function of the questions you ask.

Historically, the business data sets are the oldest. They were built to answer questions like, “How much money am I making and how many paying customers do I have?

Marketing data sets were introduced to answer questions revolving around campaign performing, reach and impact.

Most companies stopped building data structures beyond those two. Now, brands across the spectrum are struggling through an obsolete system attempting to answer key questions for both marketing and business development teams.

You might be wondering:

How it is possible that we are lacking data sets in a day in an age where the amount of data is increasing exponentially by the second?

Another great question! 🧐

The reality is that data needs a particular structure to answer specific questions. Typically the data is being captured in an unstructured way, and then needs to re-structured to answer critical product and consumer-centric questions.

Evolving Your Data Set

Building these data sets is a cross-functional team sport. It’s a sport because it requires coaching, practice and can create a bit of rivalry across the teams to create a great dataset.

Step 1

👉 Have a clear and concise consumer-centric strategy.

Consumer-centric strategies need to have a consumer journey that is informed by consumer feedback and consumer need based states as the user moves through the consumer journey. Once this is done, make sure that everyone is aware and agrees with this strategy.

The consumer-centric analytics will fail if people start to waver on how much they agree with the strategy, as analytics is meant to provide feedback on how well the strategy is performing.

If people start to disagree with the strategy or follow a different strategy, then the consumer-centric analytics framework will not provide information on how well the strategy is performing.

Step 2

👉 Build your KPI structure from the ground up, starting with consumer-centric KPIs first.

Your consumer-centric KPIs should be descriptive of your consumer’s need based states you identified as a strategic play in your consumer journey research. They also should be predictive of your business and marketing KPIs.

Step 3

👉 Identify the differences between the business, marketing, product and consumer-centric questions.

We recommend that an analytics team member categorize the questions that they get asked on a regular basis. Even further, start to categorize which teams are asking what questions.

This will help set up your data democratization strategy later on. Not everyone is interested in receiving answers to all categories of questions. For a refresher of the different types of analytics, check out this article.

Step 4

👉 Select the right tools and/or update your implementations to ensure all questions are answered.

The consumer-centric questions will always be the hardest to answer as they require the most complex data capabilities to answer. Therefore, your requirements should be led by the consumer-centric analysis requirements and then work backward to ensure your tools can answer the easier three.

In conclusion

There are some key requirements that everyone must have in place to truly have a consumer-centric data set:

  1. Access to data that is summarized around users, not around visits or pages.
  2. A strategy to link user data across platforms, meaning an identity resolution system
  3. A plan and commitment to build cohorts of users and develop for customized marketing and product experiences based on those cohorts

Shayna is a Product Manager who is passionate about consumer-centric product strategy, design and an advocate for consumer-directed data strategies to match.

August 27, 2019

Getting to Know Weston Hanners, YML Engineering Manager in Indianapolis

Published on August 27, 2019

Who are you, and what do you do?

My first name is Lionel, but I prefer to be called by my middle name — Weston. I am an Engineering Manager for our excellent Indianapolis Team.

My speciality is in iOS development, but in my free time occasionally dabble in web technologies, server administration and when I am feeling it, I blog at Alloc-init.

Where are you from?

Born and raised in Southern Indiana, I grew up in a mostly rural town called Bedford, its claim to fame is that the limestone for the Empire State Building came from a nearby quarry.

I recently moved near Indianapolis to be closer to the office. Aside from a year I lived in Georgia when I was a kid, I have lived in Indiana my whole life.

Tell us a little about your background.

I started learning programming in high school, mostly Visual Basic. I was a member of our BPA (Business Professionals of America) chapter and even won a couple of awards in regional software engineering competitions.

After high school, I did a couple semesters at IVY Tech, but ended up dropping out due to money troubles. After Apple released the iPhone SDK in 2008, I decided to try to get back into programming so I saved up to buy a MacBook Pro, an iPod Touch and a programming book. I spent the next couple years self-teaching myself iOS development while I worked days in tech support at a local ISP, and in 2012 I entered the professional software engineering world.

I came to YML in 2014.

Why did you choose to come to Y Media Labs?

Before I worked at YML, the place I worked was very corporate and I wasn’t a fan of the project variety or the corporate politics. When it came to YML, I won’t deny that the idea of working for a Silicon Valley company with an impressive portfolio wasn’t also a factor.

I felt like YML also opened up my growth options.

What about this industry are you most passionate about?

When I am not programming, I do most of my computing on my iPad Pro. I think it is amazing that this 11” device can do so much and I am very interested in finding ways to do more and more on it. My friends actually think I am a bit nuts that I try to do things that most people would think of as a “computer” only task on it.

iPadOS is coming in September and it will even further expand what it can do, I am so excited! (Fun Fact: I actually am writing this on my iPad)

What are some other companies you admire?

I suppose Apple is the obvious choice here. I don’t think they are perfect, but I typically align with their decisions (especially when it comes to privacy and security).

Nintendo is another one, I love how they refuse to follow the typical Triple-A gaming pattern. Their games might not have the “best graphics,” but when it comes to pure fun they easily win against any other major game developer.

What are you favorite spots to eat in Indianapolis?

My favorite things to eat are burgers. And I have two favorite places in Indy: Between the Bun and Punch Burger. I love places that add unusual toppings to their burgers.

How do you spend your spare time?

I am an input nerd. Ever since I taught myself iOS development, I have been binging on educational YouTube videos. My favorite topics are Engineering and Design.

While I cannot draw to save my life, I have gotten pretty good at recognizing good design and this has really helped the work I do at YML. I also want to give a quick shoutout to the amazing channel Crash Course, where I’ve found a new passion in world history.

I also play a ton of video games. My current favorite gaming system is the Nintendo Switch and the rapid growth of my game library has probably annoyed my wife a bit. (If she is reading this, sorry honey!)

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