Tag Archives: solution anthropology

Is Anyone Doing Solution Anthropology?

I was chatting with a good friend recently who said “Solution Anthropology sounds really cool, but is anyone actually doing it?” I can say with certainty that yes they are and I see the demand growing.

In recent weeks I have spent quite a bit of time with a number of different companies in the US and Europe talking about their product (especially software) development processes. As part of these discussions the topic of Solution Anthropology came up. These companies are already trying to do some work in that domain and are looking for more information. These companies are in a variety of sectors. The ones I have been talking with recently are in manufacturing, insurance, banking, and product development.

One of the companies trained about 35 people in Solution Anthropology a couple of months ago and they have a large waiting list of people who did not get into that training. They wanted to know if I could provide training for more of their people. Of course I said yes! (At this time I am one of the two companies I know of that offer training in Solution Anthropology. Our courses are consistent with each other so this client will be working with both of us to get everyone trained.) Much of the work will be using Solution Anthropology to examine their own company to see how they can provide a better work experience for their employees. This is especially important in areas where they are seeing high turnover.

An award winning mobile app design team at another company has asked me about Solution Anthropology training and follow up coaching because they think they can be even better. Their company is happy to do this because the quality of their apps has let them get a lot of customers from competitors in their market. Creating apps that delight the users is really important in markets where the products are very similar and there are a lot of choices for the consumer.

Another company is considering training 20 people in Europe because they see Solution Anthropology as a way to get better-described work packages for the implementation teams that are scattered around the world. The only thing delaying it is they want to hire locally, but the only companies offering training in Solution Anthropology at this time are in the US.

I also have been contacted by a couple of startups who are trying to apply Lean Startup principles. They see Solution Anthropology as the set of skills they can use to closely interact with their customers and quickly grow their business.

These are just a few recent examples. I have not yet found a company that told me Solution Anthropology was of no use to them. Most companies have people with a lot of the skill sets they need, but it had not occurred to anyone to blend those practices to focus on the user in their native environment.

I discovered on my trip that a lot of people have been downloading my pdf “Solution Anthropology Explained” and passing it around inside their companies. And I got some great feedback on it, so I know they actually read it!

If you have not read it yet, you can get it here SolutionAnthropologyExplained.pdf


Why is Software so Awful to Use? A Case Study and Call to Action.

Why are apps, websites, software, and other products still not very nice to use? We’ve spent more than a decade as an industry focusing on user experience, and yet I consistently find myself frustrated with the miserable experiences I have doing the simplest things on websites, in apps, in other software, and using a variety of consumer products.

I just went through a miserable experience trying to update an airline reservation. I won’t mention which airline because despite their really awful website (let me fix it, please, please, please) I love the company and in real life (not the web) my interactions with them are superior. Bear with me as I describe my experience (or see my conclusion at the bottom).

I found my reservation easily enough and found the button to change just one leg. That was nice. I wouldn’t have to worry about accidentally changing the other leg. On clicking the button, I expected to see details about that leg, but instead I got a choice of four buttons: change cities, change dates, change times, change seats. Ummm, I’m changing all of them. So what should I pick? I choose change cities and assume the rest will be changeable as well (this turned out to be a correct assumption).

I see my current flight information across the top. That is nice. It verifies what I am changing. It turns out having that information was REALLY IMPORTANT. There are 3 radio buttons: round trip, one-way, multi-city. Round trip is already selected. Wait, I’m changing only one-way. Why is round trip selected? The whole trip is round trip, but I’m only changing one part. What to choose? I left it alone because surely they would have defaulted to the right choice. Being skeptical I scrolled down the page and saw they wanted me to select travel in two directions. So they didn’t default to the right choice. I scroll back to the top and select the one-way radio button.

I had to wait for the page to refresh. When it refreshed the page now showed select a date. Wait, I haven’t changed my city yet! I scroll back to the top to pick a city. The departure city is fine, I select the destination. The screen refreshes back to select a flight and the departure city is not the one I selected. What? I did not change the departure city and I have yet to select the date. Scroll back to the top and select the correct departure city. Which changed the destination too, so I had to reselect that.

Wait for the screen to refresh. Again. It refreshes at select a flight. Thankfully it now has the right cities, but I have not yet selected a date. Scroll back up to select a date. The screen refreshes back to select a flight, but the date has not changed. Scroll back up and see that the correct date is selected. Re-clicking it does nothing, so I select a different date. The screen refreshes at select a flight and it does have the date I just selected (which is not the date I actually want). I scroll back up and select the date I really want. The screen refreshes again at the point to select a flight.

At least now I have the right type of flight (one-way), the right cities, and the right date. Now I select a flight. I get a banner saying the change is being processed, then a message that said something went wrong, try again, or call us.

I just wanted to cry from frustration at that point.

This whole process took me far longer to do than it took you to read about it, and they are asking me to start over. They even provided a helpful start over button!

Sadly, my experience that day was far from unique. That is crazy. We humans should not have to work so hard to do simple things with a computer.

I want to do something to make things better. This is what gets me so excited about Solution Anthropology.

Solution Anthropology blends practices from Business Analysis, User Experience, Solution Design, and Anthropology for the purpose of creating solutions that delight the users. It is a user advocacy role and a terrific way for Business Analysts to grow their knowledge in a way that expands career opportunities. Solution Anthropologists work in companies of all sizes from major corporations to startups and work on solutions in areas such as software, business process improvement, branding and imaging, mobile, and product development.

I am working with my clients to incorporate Solution Anthropology practices into their projects, whether Agile, Waterfall, or other. Everyone is happier when we do. And maybe someday I’ll get my favorite airline to apply Solution Anthropology to their website!