Have you heard the latest buzz from our DigiLab Hackathon winners?

The innovative LiveHive project was crowned winner of the Sopra Steria UK “Hack the Thing” competition which took place last month.

Sopra Steria DigiLab hosts quarterly Hackathons with a specific challenge, the most recent named – Hack the Thing. Whilst the aim of the hack was sensor and IoT focused, the solution had to address a known sustainability issue. The LiveHive team chose to focus their efforts on monitoring and improving honey bee health, husbandry and supporting new beekeepers.

A Sustainable Solution 

Bees play an important role in sustainability within agriculture. Their pollinating services are worth around £600 million a year in the UK in boosting yields and the quality of seeds and fruits[1]. The UK had approximately 100,000 beekeepers in 1943 however this number had dropped to 44,000 by 2010[2]. Fortunately, in recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in beekeeping which has highlighted a need for a product that allows beekeepers to explore and extend their knowledge and capabilities through the use of modern, accessible technology.

LiveHive allows beekeepers to view important information about the state of their hives and receive alerts all on their smartphone or mobile device. The social and sharing side of the LiveHive is designed to engage and support new beekeepers and give them a platform for more meaningful help from their mentors. The product also allows data to be recorded and analysed aiding national/international research and furthering education on the subject.

The LiveHive Model

The LiveHive Solution integrates three services – hive monitoring, hive inspection and a beekeeping forum offering access to integrated data and enabling the exchange of data.

“As a novice beekeeper I’ve observed firsthand how complicated it is to look after a colony of bees. When asking my mentor questions I find myself having to reiterate the details of the particular hive and history of the colony being discussed. The mentoring would be much more effective and valuable if they had access to the background and context of the hives scenario.”

LiveHive integrates the following components:

  • Technology Sensors: to monitor conditions such as temperature and humidity in a bee hive, transmitting the data to Azure cloud for reporting.
  • Human Sensors: a Smartphone app that enables the beekeeper to record inspections and receive alerts.
  • Sharing Platform: to allow the novice beekeeper to share information with their mentors and connect to a forum where beekeepers exchange knowledge, ideas and experience. They can also share the specific colony history to help members to understand the context of any question.

How does it actually work?

A Raspberry Pi measures temperature, humidity and light levels in the hive transmits measurements to Microsoft Azure cloud through its IoT Hub.

Sustainable Innovation

On a larger scale, the data behind the hive sensor information and beekeepers inspection records creates a large, unique source of primary beekeeping data. This aids research and education into the effects of beekeeping practice on yields and bee health presenting opportunities to collaborate with research facilities and institutions.

The LiveHive roadmap plans to also put beekeepers in touch with the local community through the website allowing members of the public to report swarms, offer apiary sites and even find out who may be offering local honey!

What’s next? 

The team have already created a buzz with fellow bee projects and beekeepers within Sopra Steria by forming the Sopra Steria International Beekeepers Association which will be the beta test group for LiveHive. Further opportunities will also be explored with the service design principle being applied to other species which could aid in Government inspection. The team are also looking at methods to collaborate with Government directorates in Scotland.

It’s just the start for this lot of busy bees but a great example of some of the innovation created in Sopra Steria’s DigiLab!

[1] Mirror, 2016. Why are bee numbers dropping so dramatically in the UK?  

[2] Sustain, 2010. UK bee keeping in decline

Everything is connected. Don’t innovate in isolation

…These are the words Alberta Soranzo left the audience with as she drew the final keynote speech of this year’s UX Scotland conference to a close.

Alberta, who was recently appointed Director of End-to-End Service Design at Lloyds Banking Group, strives to make a real impact on the financial outcomes of people by taking a look at both the big picture as well as focusing on the very small things, which she believes ‘matter a lot’.

Alberta stressed the importance of nurturing diverse talent and stated that it is vital to foster a culture of continuous learning within a design team. This is something that resonated with me as a culture we are striving to cultivate here at Sopra Steria — through hiring a diverse range of people from a whole range of different backgrounds and with differing areas of expertise. However, most importantly, each of these individuals share a desire to learn and continually improve. This allows the design team to avoid the previously mentioned isolated innovation which Alberta warned about and work as a team to grow and develop.

Those who attended UX Scotland may well have met the various members of the Sopra Steria team who were there – either during the various workshops and seminars on offer or at our stand in the foyer. Some may even have entered our interactive competition which invited people to ‘step into out customers shoes’. Through sponsoring the stand we were afforded the chance to speak to a whole host of interesting people during our time at the conference, including a couple of people who have since interviewed for and accepted roles within the Service Design team at Sopra Steria.

Over the course of the three day conference we got the chance to experience a number of great talks by a range of different speakers. We were given the opportunity to hear from leading industry experts such as Jared Spool and Dana Chisnell. We were also able to take part in the various workshops on offer which allowed us to develop our existing skills as well as learning new ones.

With many of the talks and workshops occurring at the same time, there were understandably frustrating moments where we were unable to attend all the talks that we would have liked to. Thankfully, with so many members of the team present at the conference, we were able to minimise the effects of timetable clashes by spreading ourselves across the events which occurred at the same time. By taking notes during each session, team members were able to report back and share their knowledge with the team who were unable to attend.

Our Service Design team listening to Jared Spool’s keynote speech
Our Service Design team listening to Jared Spool’s keynote speech

 

This notion of shared knowledge strikes right to the core of what Alberta Soranzo was talking about during her Keynote speech. By avoiding innovating in isolation, and looking at development at a wider level, it allows the team to grow and develop their skills at a greater rate.

By allowing everyone to benefit from the knowledge gained at events like this, we help cultivate the culture of continuous learning and as the old adage goes, allow the team to become more than the sum of its parts.

What do you think? Do leave a reply below or contact me by email.

The value of consistency in design

At Sopra Steria, the core of my role is to make everything that’s designed more consistent.

All our outputs are designed in some way, whether it’s research, documentation, bids, UI designs, diagrams, presentations or social media. Everything that’s seen by other people is part of our brand, all holding a consistent type of messaging (written or otherwise). This is especially important to consider when we are presenting to a large audience, within key sales or when we’re working with our client’s brands.

Why is design consistency important?

Recently I attended UX Scotland, where I enjoyed a talk by Andrew Purnell, a designer from the London and Glasgow based agency Snook. He shared my view that often on projects, following a consistent brand can be forgotten, with information and styles that do not look or sound like they come from the same company. This can lead to a confusing journey for whoever happens to be using the service, as screens that look and behave differently are not easy to use and do not feel connected.

This can also apply to other media or documentation. Think of two pitches that are from similar companies with a similar approach. One is written by several different authors all with a different style, and with diagrams scanned from several external sources. The other has been designed to have any image or diagram with the same branding, for the messaging to sound consistent though the authors are different. Which is more likely to hit the mark?

Design consistency reduces this confusion and creates a feeling of familiarity, providing reassurance and building trust.

Designing a consistent service

When we’re working on projects, we can think about the wide range of outputs that will come into contact with people as they use the site or system. Service design considers customer journeys from the first to the last point of contact, and takes into account all touchpoints that they may interact with, such as websites, call centres, emails, letters, social media or downloads. Will the service look and feel the same on the homepage, sign-up or email they receive?

Designing systematically

One way to increase consistency throughout each output is to implement a Design System that covers the guidelines for as many of the areas that people will see as possible, combining branding, content strategy, marketing and digital design. For a company, they can provide consistency across an entire range of touchpoints including branding, blog posts, Twitter messaging, business cards, iPhone apps, websites and email signatures. They can also include all the specific detail that makes up the site or system, such as tone of voice, imagery, colour palettes, type styles and (coded) component parts.

“Be consistent, not uniform” – Gov.uk design principles

As well as including everything that makes up the product or service, Design Systems are adaptable and easy to change, which makes them very effective across teams, and throughout a project lifecycle. They can be constantly updated and linked to the latest version of each output, so the project and ultimately the customers are always kept up to date.

To find out how we can help you to design your service consistently, please leave a reply below, or contact me by email.

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Some excellent examples of design systems:

IBM’s Carbon Design System – http://carbondesignsystem.com/

Atlassian’s Design System – https://atlassian.design/

Artificial Intelligence: The new entertainment experience?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) can radically transform how we interact with a range of services, with Amazon’s Alexa being a notable example growing rapidly in popularity. But in what ways could AI disrupt how we use and consume entertainment? Here are some ideas…

Dynamic film narrative

An AI can use Machine Learning to find hidden insights in a data set to identify remedial action. This capability could be used to enable a film viewer to directly interact with a film’s narrative – pausing the action any time to tell the AI (or even the film’s characters themselves?) how they think and feel about the story. Sentiment that an AI can then analyse in the cloud to learn what an audience wants next that’s fed back to the content producer – greater plot exposition, more of their favourite characters or action. AI-driven blockbuster entertainment that never flops!

Game voice user interface

Natural Language Processing (NLP) enables an AI to understand and respond to spoken and written commands. In terms of a console gaming experience, NLP could transform such experiences. Rather than using a controller to direct and interact with non-player characters within a game, the player could talk to them directly, naturally – a new level of gameplay design that creates truly immersive experiences.

Personalised content maker

AI’s ability to analyse massive amounts of data from potentially any source is enabling deeper, richer forms of Personalisation. Could an AI use this capability to create brand new content (stories, images, even films or music) to an individual’s specific tastes and mood? On demand entertainment that always delights, never gets boring or ends – the perfect TV channel you won’t want to switch off!

If you would like more information about how artificial intelligence can benefit your retail business, leave a reply below or contact me by email.

2020: The Digital Employee Experience

As organisations adopt new ways of working and technology to increase their competitiveness, the employee experience – the interaction between an organisation and its people – is radically changing. So what might the employee experience be like in 2020? Here are some ideas…

Agile loyalty: The ability of an organisation to respond effectively to rapidly changing market conditions is a key source of advantage in today’s global economy. For example the sharing platforms created by digital disruptors like Airbnb or Uber have helped lower supplier costs and increased customer choice.

Arguably this sharing platform capability could be developed further to create other forms of competitive advantage such as enabling collaborative or even competing organisations to share their human resources on-demand. In 2020 an employee may be expected and supported by their parent organisation to work in different areas of the same sector as a form of short-term resource exchange that delivers mutual benefit for all participating organisations.

Traditional and digital integration: In B2C markets today there is a strong focus on integrating the traditional and digital experience of a brand to create seamless, insightful customer offerings anywhere, anytime. The adoption of Bluetooth beacons in stores to personalise the physical shopping experience as a complement to digital channels is an example of this omnichannel approach.

For such integration to be commercially successful the employee experience needs to blend offline and online work tools together effectively. The use of smart devices like tablets by shop floor employees to access stock information instantly to support the sales process demonstrates the positive impact of such change. Yet as digital technologies mature, such integration is likely to accelerate further – for example van manufacturers are now prototyping drone-equipped delivery vehicles. In 2020, an employee may need to have the skills to work successfully with a range of old and new technologies integrated together for customer benefit.  

The trust economy: The digital employee experience is fundamentally changing the intrinsic relationship – the bond or trust – between an organisation and its employees. Driven by disruptive factors such as the globalisation of the labour market and proliferation of social media, the need to have aligned cultural values between these stakeholders is critical to realising the advantages of employee self empowerment and agility.  

Today, many organisations are making the public move from a corporate social responsibility approach to the combined goals of social, environment and economic sustainability – a shared set of values with their employees. In 2020, such trust may be essential to the employee experience with an organisation communicating daily updates to its people about its performance against its sustainability goals to help intrinsically motivate their performance.

If you would like more information about how digital employee experience design can benefit your organisation please contact the Sopra Steria Digital Practice.

Gamification for business

­ “Employees’ engagement has evolved from money oriented approaches (pay-check, bonus, promotion) to a complex and diverse approach based on intrinsic motivational theory (mastery, autonomy, purpose)”

A current trend on supporting user engagement is gamification. Gamification is a concept of using game mechanics to non-game environments to create an engagement process to allow users to obtain higher perceived value of service use, such as social interaction or productivity of actions.

The game mechanics are closely related to game design addressing the human motivators of socializing, learning, mastery, competition, achievement and status. Gamification, deriving from game design, has the same underlying goal:

Generate positive experiences for the players/users engaged in an activity where interactive play is also referred to as “gameplay” focuses on the process of use, rather on the results of the process

The psychological aspects of gaming, i.e the user experience (UX) and the game mechanics are the tools for structuring and providing the gameplay, and comprise of rules, defined behaviour and user actions.

At present, the maximum impact of gamification has been on education and health environments. However, the gamification strategy is a concept emerging in business processes, and in particular in internal management of employees.

Gamification, following the structure of the gameplay (rules, defined behavior and user actions), can influence employees’ behaviour due to its use of motivational drivers of reinforcements and emotions:

  • Both positive and negative reinforcements encourage repetition of behaviours: behaviour leading to a satisfying outcome is likely to be repeated, while behaviour leading to an unsatisfying outcome is less likely to be sustained
  • Emotions effect users’ behaviour on whether they want to continue the activity or not. A mix of emotions is important for the user’s engagement. You need to have both positive emotions such as excitement, amusement, personal triumph etc. and negative emotions such as disappointment not achieving a reward to create a state of engagement

Successful gamification involves repetition of behaviours: by providing rewards and emotional responses for users following particular behaviours, then that can become an automatic user process or habit.

For example, I was recently asked by a client in the automotive industry to explain where and how these concepts could be applied in a scenario of motivating dealers to follow procedure.

In this context, the gamified business process can be utilised in influencing the desired behaviour – dealers to follow the same rules and procedures (business goal) and be rewarded for their effort to do so (repetitive behaviour).

The simplest game mechanics used here could be the ones relevant to competition and rewards which can take the shape of recognition status in a company’s dealer’s leader-board (emotional response on the high status among peers) and extend to dealers understand business processes as a result.

All organisations need to motivate and engage their employees – performance, teams’ collaboration and customer service are dependent on employee’s engagement.

In the example of automotive industry and the dealers’ network, the business depends on whether or not each dealer is mentally and emotionally focused on the company’s goal of following procedure, that goal is fundamental for the business success. Gamification can be an approach on achieving this. Taking lessons from the game domain, an effective gamified experience can motivate the users behaviour based on the desired business rules and goals, while increase users’ engagement participating in that experience.

Is it time for a game?

Leave a reply below or contact me by email.

Achieving consistency with style guides

Recently, I worked on a project where the client was looking to set up a style guide. In this case, they hadn’t yet set up their own branding beyond a logo, so it was a way to begin to explore typography, colour palettes and creating some elements they could carry forward to define their digital guidelines.

This took the form of a PDF with notes for developers, though could also have been developed into an online style guide, linked closely to a pattern library of elements that are common throughout their digital applications.

Defining styles creates consistency within the brand. When style guides are lacking, the application may end up combining a patchwork of styles. If several applications for the same company all have a very different look and feel, it creates confusion for the user, a lack of trust and identity in the brand and an impression of an incomplete or inconsidered final product.

Who are they for?

In terms of our practical applications, those scoping at the start of the project should be aware of the overall brand values. Style guides can be set up referencing existing brand guidelines, and used by UX and visual designers to define the look and feel of the application and developers to ensure elements are correctly fitting to the overall brand. The client can be reminded at any stage of how their values have been considered.

What can be included?

Style guides can begin in a Lean way – a pared down version with the minimum required. Some elements could include:

Logo use – application of the logo throughout different situations. Considerations may be the size, colour or position.
Tone of Voice – personality of the content. How is the copy written? Will it have a naturalistic language, or be full of specific technical speech?
Typography – the primary (or secondary) typefaces. This can be listed in terms of headings, body or other styles.
Colour palette – RGB/hex values showing primary and secondary palettes. Colours that are used throughout a system.
Imagery – photography or illustration style. This could be anything from dramatic black and white photography to complex vector background illustrations. All imagery should fit with the tone of voice.
Iconography – style and application of icons. These may be from an existing set, or specific to the product/system.
Animation – styles for the animations of different elements. For example, the way menus open/close on click, or hover effects on buttons appear. This should fit with the tone of voice, be it subtle transitions or playful background animations.

Similarly, pattern libraries, which define elements with snippets of code, can be set up to run in tandem with the style guide. A good example is Lightning Design’s system or the excellent guidance provided by GDS.

GDS Design Principles

When to use them

Style guides are best implemented early on, to reduce the amount of time required to make changes much later in the project. They don’t end, but rather organically grow, as the project expands. Keeping the style guide (and pattern library) up to date throughout the project gives consistency and consideration to the final product.

See also:

Excellent examples

Do you have any experiences of creating style guides? Leave a reply below or contact me by email.