Date: July 2018 - Ongoing
Role: Researcher, Workshop Facilitator
Methods: Interviews, Workshop Coordination and Facilitation, Survey, In-Field Observation
Background: Ticketmaster has roughly 1,200 clients in North America and Canada, which means rolling out new products takes time and effort. Our company is divided into various functional areas: client support, product, training, product marketing, and client development, among others. Historically client support owned all the relationships with clients and were in charge of rolling out new products.
Remember Presence? Well, Presence is our new access control system, and most of our clients are still on our legacy access control systems. Presence has been in the field for over 3 years now, and senior leadership wants Presence rolled out to remaining clients by end of 2020, which is a tall order. A Presence installation is a multi-faceted process, involving some backend set-up, network connectivity checks, new scanner hardware delivery, and more. In order to scale Presence effectively, we had to completely streamline the onboarding process for clients. I was asked to come in and help the organization research and identify areas of opportunity for streamlining the process and alleviating pain points in the rollout.
The current installation and onboarding process for Presence, our cornerstone product right now, is a long and laborious process, putting strain on the client support teams. How can we better streamline the process?
Which steps can we automate?
Which steps can we let the client do?
How can better empower and encourage clients to learn new systems on their own?
How do we scale this product to all clients by the end of 2020? What untapped areas of opportunity are there in the process?
Approach: Internal Stakeholder Interviews, In-Field Observation, Contextual Inquiry
Identifying Holds and Gaps
A few major feature gaps still existed with Presence when I started on this project, and they still exist today unfortunately.
At the start of this project, Presence was in just about 200 venues, with over 1,000 to go. Over half of those 1,000 were marked as “holds” because Presence could not support the use cases that were necessary for many clients. Clients who have events that span multiple events in a day or multiple events in a day (like a run of theater shows) were on hold until Presence could support those key use cases. Of course, the release of that functionality kept getting pushed back from Q3 of 2018 to Q3 of 2019. That functionality is still yet-to-be released. If anything, this project really illuminated how crucial user research in the beginning is to ensuring you can scale your product when it comes time!
Internal Stakeholder Interviews
I set out to interview over 10 key stakeholders in the Presence installation process within the organization.
The departments represented by my stakeholders included: Client Support, Field IT & Technology, and Project Management Organization (PMO), Client Development
In addition to interviewing many of the higher-up stakeholders in client support organization, I also reached out to client support specialists in different areas of the US (we have 13 areas overall). I was able to interview specialists in half of the areas. They are the ones most familiar with installing Presence in clients so hearing from them firsthand their experiences and where they see concerns and opportunities was very important for this project. I also interviewed 10 client development directors, who own and manage client accounts and contract renewals.
In addition to the interviews, I also went on-site to observe how client support specialists and the field technology teams were actually installing Presence in venues. The initial step is called a site survey, where field technologists go to each potential entry location of a venue and check the wireless network connectivity. Presence is a cloud-based system and thus, the scanners must be connected to wifi. They can scan and validate tickets offline, however that means they aren’t feeding live data back to the system.
As you can imagine, I discovered A LOT. Way too much detail to go into here, but the biggest takeaways were really the breakdowns in communication between teams, and hesitation by the client support teams to let clients take control of installing and learning a new product. The relationships between client support teams and their clients ran very deep and co-dependent, to say it succinctly. Client support specialists were going on-site multiple times through the Presence installation process, which is not a scalable process. We had to replace some of the hands-on work with better solutions, but also ensuring we put our clients and our employees first-and-foremost. Sometimes client development promised on-site support for many of the clients’ events, without discussing it with that area’s client support team at all, leading to friction between the teams. The educational team was never kept in the loop during the product development lifecycle so they were always late on providing educational assets to clients. What became apparent is that this was not just about scaling the Presence rollout. We had to change this paradigm at an organizational level.
Organizations get siloed, we know that, but what incremental steps could we make to really promote cross-collaboration? Another major takeaway is that our education team was never looped into the product development lifecycle even though it’s crucial for them to get ahead of any feature releases to develop educational materials like how-to videos and so forth for our clients’ use.
I wasn’t re-inventing the wheel here, but I was providing a safe space for everyone to voice their concerns and bringing them to the leadership team to discuss how to handle those concerns. I was also neatly pulling together all the issues I could see with not just rolling out Presence, but some issues that were organizational as well, such as siloed teams.
One of my key takeaways from all these interviews is there were too many offline conversations about what is going on and what needs to happen in the future to scale Presence. So, I recommended holding an in-person Presence Summit with representation from every team necessary for rolling a product out. We needed to get everyone together to discuss our challenges openly and begin working on solutions together. This idea for the Summit was supported by everyone I ran it by, and the leadership team set out on organizing this effort. I also regularly met with the senior leadership and other stakeholders to discuss all the concerns raised and solutions proposed. We were working through potential solutions and iterating on them consistently.
I laid out all the inhibitors to scale Presence; from product inhibitors to organizational inhibitors to venue inhibitors. Turns out, there were a lot! However, the organizational inhibitors far outweighed any other type of inhibitors.
After all the initial interviews, we did another round a couple months later of shorter, pre-Summit interviews to really understand what key stakeholders wanted to get out of the Summit. We wanted them to leave feeling empowered and ready to take on new tasks to make this a successful program. We were using this Presence rollout study as a case study for how we could potentially implement better go-to-market strategies in the organization as a whole.
I partnered with the internal coaching department and set out on this round of interviews. We used my previous research to inform the discussion guide on key concerns from every stakeholder, but we kept these conversations focused specifically on the Summit. We wanted to know what everyone’s goals of leaving the Summit were: concrete action items, better alignment with other teams, etc. We also used these interviews to inform the topics of the workshop.
During the Summit planning time, I also interviewed 12 client development directors. I noticed they had not been engaged in this process as much as client support, product, education, and other teams. However, they are the account owners for all clients and thus, are oftentimes the first step in selling clients on our new products.
The major takeaway was, as you would expect, that they want to be involved in master planning the rollout process to every client. They have insight into which clients are ready now and can be bumped up in the schedule, which clients might have some challenges, like a slow-performing wifi network, and need some extra attention. They were also very sensitive to seasons. Different types of clients have different seasons and they’re likely not going to install new hardware in the middle of their season as that’s too risky to them.
Summit & Workshop
After all this work of laying out the challenges that we faced, the 2-day Summit was meant to help people start working together to figure out potential solutions and leave with concrete action items to put those solutions in action. I presented some of the findings of the research at the Summit in Nov. of 2018 and discussed the key concerns that were brought up throughout all of my interviews. Working with the coaching and product management teams, we worked to affinity diagram the findings and pre-populate 6 different board groupings at the in-person workshop.
The Summit agenda consisted of:
Outlining the product features to come within the next year.
Presenting the Presence rollout schedule with all the venues targeted to every stakeholder involved, especially the representatives from client support and client development.
In-depth workshop entitled "“Challenges We Face and How to Approach Them” where we broke all 50 attendees up into 6 groups with representation from various departments.
Reading out the results of the workshop. Defining action items for the PMO organization to track.
Each department writing out new, updated charters outlining their new tasks, their timelines, and who they will work with to get these accomplished.
As a follow-up, every other week, the senior leadership set-up a remote call to check in with all stakeholders to provide charter updates. Communication barriers were being broken down in real-time.
Post-Summit Workshop Survey
After the Summit, we crafted a survey based on what people said they wanted to accomplish at the Summit and asked questions around that. The results showed that everyone felt more aligned with their fellow employees, felt like they came out of the Summit with a better vision, and more actionable items. We received a lot of feedback that we needed Summits more frequently.
The north star of this project from the get-go was to be able to ship the Presence system to clients who are in smaller venues and don’t have complicated set-ups and a lot of scanners they need to use. In order to start figuring out how to create this Easy Install framework, as we called it, we needed to break down the steps to installing Presence. I used the Jobs-To-Be-Done method to break-down which jobs had to be done in order to install Presence to delineate what jobs the clients could do (with relative ease), and what jobs any of our employees need to do. As it turns out, the clients can do most of the jobs required, with only minimal involvement of the client support teams to set the client up on the backend.
Due to the friction and hesitance we experienced from the client support organization, we had to take Easy Install from a concept to reality. Working closely with the educational team, we developed a set of PDF instructions to give to clients upon delivery of their Presence system. During the same time as the Presence Summit, we organized for a few new internal employees with not much experience with Presence to go through the instructions on setting up the system and give us feedback along the way to help iterate.
From there, the education team iterated on the instructions and we worked with client support to target a few low-complexity clients who might be willing to partner with us to test out setting up the system on their own. We found two such clients so far and the education team member working on the instructions went on-site to both clients to observe them setting up Presence firsthand and iterate. Now we’re in the process of educating the client development and client support teams about this new Easy Install process to help them
The north star is that we take the PDF instructions and put them on a website with a checklist for clients. That website is currently in development, but so far the instructions have been tested and we’ve gotten feedback directly from clients that “if I can set this up, anyone can.” The Easy Install process will impact hundreds of our clients, and significantly alleviate the strain and workload on our client support organization. It’s really a win-win.
I’ve also designed a survey that will be automatically sent out to Easy Install clients to really ask about their experience in setting up Presence on their own, and learning about any potential challenges they have.
Where We Are Today and Where We Are Going
As a result of this streamlining the onboarding process project, an entirely new team dedicated to bringing new products to market was formed. Their focus is on really identifying the scale of a rollout, engaging with various departments like client support and development to tweak and discuss the feasibility of the rollout and make adjustments, and start simplifying the product rollout process. In doing so, we can get our latest-and-greatest products out to our clients quicker and more efficiently. Also as a result, the education team was absorbed into the larger product organization to ensure they are involved in the product development lifecycle and rollout process.
The Summit was thankfully a hit, judging by feedback . We got a lot of great feedback that we need Summits for pretty much every effort in the company. Who knew bringing people together to work on solutions together and take away action items would be so revolutionary? Cross-collaboration sometimes falls through the cracks as organizations grow and change, but this project exemplifies that we really have to make an effort to bring people together. Now, we have summits for almost everything! We’ve had two Summits for SafeTix in the past 4 months and one Summit for just Easy Install recently. We’re having a Summit on an effort called Secure Identity (aka identifying real fans and weeding out bad actors) in June 2019. I’ve been called on to help with the efforts in those Summits and aligning stakeholders with what they want to get out of those Summits. Having such an impactful change in the organization has been incredibly rewarding.
This was really a high-level briefing of all the work and information we found out doing this, but I wanted to showcase this effort to demonstrate that research can help every facet of an organization. The product is first and foremost, but we have the ability to impact processes, break down silos, and connect people by being objective observers and listeners. In turn, we’ll build the best products and processes possible. This is one of the most unique, and most impactful efforts I’ve had the pleasure to work on so please feel free to ask me questions about it anytime! I’m passionate about this work!
The post-Summit survey was also a great way for the go-to-market and enterprise services teams to understand the impact the Summit had. For the upcoming Secure Identity Summit, we will be sending out a survey before the event and another survey after the event to compare the results in a more unbiased way.