066 - How Alison Magyari Used Design Thinking to Transform Eaton’s Business Analytics Approach to Creating Data Products


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Earlier this year, the always informative Women in Analytics Conference took place online. I didn’t go — but a blog post about one of the conference’s presentations on the International Institute of Analytics’ website caught my attention.

The post highlighted key points from a talk called Design Thinking in Analytics that was given at the conference by Alison Magyari, an IT Manager at Eaton. In her presentation, Alison explains the four design steps she utilizes when starting a new project — as well as what “design thinking” means to her.

Human-centered design is one of the main themes of Experiencing Data, so given Alison’s talk about tapping into the emotional state of customers to create better designed data products, I knew she would be a great guest. In this episode, Alison and I have a great discussion about building a “design thinking mindset” — as well as the importance of keeping the design process flexible.

In our chat, we covered:

  • How Alison employs design thinking in her role at Eaton to better understand the 'voice of the customer.' (0:28)
  • Same frustrations, no excitement, little use: The factors that led to Alison's pursuit of a design thinking mindset when building data products at Eaton. (3:35)
  • Alleviating the 'pain points' with design thinking: The importance of understanding how a data tool makes users feel. (10:24)
  • How Eaton's business analysts (and end users) take ownership of the design process — and the challenges Alison faced in building a team of business analysts committed to design thinking. (15:51)
  • 'It's not one size fits all': The benefits of keeping the design process flexible — and why curiosity and empathy are traits of successful designers. (21:06)
  • 'Pay me now or pay me later': How Alison dealt with pushback to spending more time and resources on design — and how she dealt with skepticism from business users. (24:09)

Resources and Links:

Quotes from Today’s Episode

“In IT, it’s really interesting how sometimes we get caught up in just looking at the technology for what it is, and we forget that the technology is there to serve our business partners.” - Alison (2:00)

“You can give people exactly what they asked for, but if you’re designing solutions and data-driven products with someone, and if they’re really for somebody else, you actually have to dig in to figure out the unarticulated needs. TAnd they may not know how to invite you in to do ask for that. They may not even know how they’re going to make a decision with data about something. So, you can say “sorry, ... You could say, “Well, you’re not prepared to talk to us yet,.” oOr, you can be part of helping them work it out. ‘decide,H how will you make a decision with this information? Let us be part of that problem-finding exercise with you, not just the solution part. Because you can fail if you just give people what they asked for, so it’s best to be part of the problem finding not just solving.” - Brian (8:42)

“During our design process, we noted down what the sentiment of our users was while they were using our data product. … Our users so appreciated when we would mirror back to them our observations about what they were feeling, and we were right about it. I mean, they were much more open to talking to us. They were much more open and they shared exactly what they were feeling.” - Alison (12:51)

“In our case, we did have the business analyst team really own the design process. Towards the end, we were the champions for it, but then our business users really took ownership, which I was proud of. They realized that if they didn’t embrace this, that they were going to have to deal with the same pain points for years to come. They didn’t want to deal with that, so they were really good partners in taking ownership at the end of the day.” - Alison (16:56)

“The way you learn how to do design is by doing it. … the second thing is that you don’t have to do, “All of it,” to get some value out of it. You could just do prototyping, you could do usability evaluation, you could do ‘what if’ analyses. You can do a little of one thing and probably get some value out of that fairly early, and it’s fairly safe. And then over time, you can learn other techniques. Eventually, you will have a library of techniques that you can apply. It’s a mindset, it’s really about changing the mind. It’s heads not hands, as I sometimes say: It’s not really about hands. It’s about how we think and approach problem-solving.” - Brian (20:16)

“I think everybody can do design, but I think the ones that have been incredibly successful at it have a natural curiosity. They don’t just stop with the first answer that they get. They want to know, “If I were doing this job, would I be satisfied with compiling a 50 column spreadsheet every single day in my life? Probably not. Its curiosity and empathy — if you have those traits, naturally, then design is just kind of a better fit.” - Alison (23:15)

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