LANDesk wanted to gather reliable customer data quickly. It needed a way to bring the needs of customers to its developers as part of the user-centered design commitment of LANDesk’s agile development process. LANDesk’s goal was to discover:
InContext’s data collection process included the LANDesk team, which went along on field interviews to observe server managers in the workplace and to see the tools and techniques they used. The team also participated in interpretive sessions, lending its expertise to the data analysis and getting a first-hand look at emerging data.
By looking at different users performing a variety of tasks, the LANDesk team was able to understand the needs across the whole server life cycle. The InContext team organized this information and delivered a market characterization, detailed design recommendations and next steps.
LANDesk’s implementation team uses an XP agile development process to develop LANDesk solutions. This meant the entire development cycle had to be completed within the short timeframe of just four weeks—from start to finish—before release planning and the product’s first XP iteration.
Based on its data, the InContext team developed a series of recommendations to help LANDesk extend its market share in the server management market. LANDesk’s Lisa Baker also took the data and developed personas to easily communicate the needs of the users to the LANDesk development team, helping focus the developers on creating value for the users. “Building personas with real contextual data brings the customer alive for development and marketing,” Lisa commented. Feature recommendations from the InContext team fit in the agile development timeframe, allowing LANDesk to glean immediate direction for implementation and then develop a server management solution that provides immediate value to users. InContext’s recommendations focused on:
The features introduced through this process were well received in the market.
The market response to the resulting product has been excellent. In March 2005, eWeek Labs Technical Director Cameron Sturdevant wrote of LANDesk Server Manager, “The sensible combination of useful tools should ease many system management chores without adding a lot of training time.”
“Integrating contextual data with our agile development process means we are not just getting customer feedback on the work completed in an iteration, but that we’re using the customer need to drive priorities at the planning stage when we create our stories and iterations,” explained Lisa.
By observing real-world users at work and talking to them about their needs, the InContext team discovered that users’ most-pressing priorities weren’t all addressed by LANDesk’s current solution. Users top concerns included: