A Creative Break for the Workaholics

Author: Suganthi P

One fine morning, an interesting mail dropped in my inbox with ‘H5! With DT (Design Team)’ in the subject line.  It was planned to be a causal meeting on one particular day with the DT and the Front-end Team. The purpose of the meeting was to know about everyone and their interests, hobbies, experiences etc. This ‘Get to Know Each Other’ session magically turned into an ‘Out-of-the-Box Learning’ session.

The first learning session was held on March 20th, 4 PM at Ameex office. Every circle needs a starting point; so this started with a session on ‘Paper Quilling’, which was led by me. A brief introduction on how to use the paper strips and glue was sufficient to let the creative juices flow. As I waited anxiously to see the results, the team got engrossed for all of 3 hours with mere strips of paper and glue. Finally, the moment of truth left me feeling nothing short of euphoric. I was really excited to see the pretty little items the teams’ creativity had produced–Snow-slider with awesome words, Bird, Bee key-chain, flower and more.

Creative Minds at Work
Creative Minds at Work

Team’s Feedback: At end of the event, I was excited by my team members’ review as they mentioned that they were really pulled out from their work and had a wonderful experience because of their interest in that activity. It was really inspiring for all of us and also paved way to my next level.

My Experience: Knowledge is at its best when it is shared with others! It brought me happiness and joy to see that just a hobby of mine had multiplied and spread to my team.

Lesson: To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong. We have no idea what we are capable of. Everyone has talent!What is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark places where its leads.

So we created a platform for everyone to experience their creative side and planned an activity for each month. These sessions are open to all and we would encourage everyone to join in. There is no restriction on who you are, what you know, what you are going to share. Just come and be yourself!

Naming the group: After a fiery discussion we came up with a name that sounds like NON CREATIVE (read: Naan Creative)!

The First Naan Creative Team

I hope everyone found this activity interesting. Thank you for joining in.

 Crossroads: For a Stronger Connection with Our Users

Why Crossroads?

Have you ever tried to understand how people perceive you? Do they understand just the way you want them to or do you need to put in more effort to get them to follow you?

Living is an art, a skill, a technique. You need to learn and practice it as you would a game or a musical instrument” – SWAMI PARTHASARTHY

Understanding something is also a technique. When we bring out a product, there is so much thought that goes into it, the design, the look and the feel. There are so many more unknown factors that we need to understand while creating a product that is used by a large and diverse group of people.

Report Bee, currently serves 132 schools, with over 5000 teachers using the software. Today, we can proudly say that on an average we have 600 users logging in daily to use our software. Our software has an array of products created to help teachers maintain their data about students better.  As of today, teachers can use the following features:

  • Records– to input all of students’ performance data
  • Insights– to analyse and compare results at all levels in an instant
  • Registries– to view consolidated results in one sheet
  • Report Cards– to generate personalised insightful reports for each student
  • Attendance– to easily manage daily attendance
  • Health Card– to be proactive about students’ health
  • Waggle, SMS– to communicate efficiently with parents
  • Parent Portal– where parents can view insights of their wards

Report Bee works with the vision to help the teachers record data easily by creating different features. As the days go by, we keep creating more and more features in the belief that they are going to be extremely useful for the teachers. Beliefs can sometimes be divorced from reality, especially with inadequate communication.

So, one day, we stopped and questioned our own assumptions:

  • Are the features really as useful as we deem them to be?
  • Are the teachers using them just the way we imagine or…?
  • Do we need to improve the feature and how?

In essence, we thought it was time to try and understand what the users really wanted in comparison to what we were offering them, and bridge any gaps that existed in effective usage of the software in its entirety.  We were convinced that it was time to see how the existing features were being used before creating new ones. It is one thing to create a feature, but having teachers not using them is the worst that could happen to us!

The Memorable Journey

Forming the Team: With this thought in mind, we formed a team to unearth the truth, calling the project CROSSROADS. The team from Report Bee was assisted by Wankai to conduct this user experience study. Wankai is an innovation-consulting firm that helps organizations and companies strive towards newer possibilities in their arena. They helped Report Bee to structure the entire process and implement the project. Thanks guys! The learning for us has been immense! 🙂 The final core Team of Crossroads included Jack, Jayashree, Karthik, Sharanya (from Report Bee) and Brijesh and Varun (from Wankai).

Crossroads Team all Set for Interviews!
Crossroads Team all Set for Interviews!

 

Visiting Schools for Interviews: The team then started the Crossroads journey. With a process in place, we visited 14 of Report Bee schools and interviewed the key stakeholders –Principals, teachers, students, parents, extended families. For each of the stakeholders, we had a list of exhaustive questions created by the team under Wankai’s guidance. For example, if the respondent was a parent, in all likelihood, he/she would have received the Report Bee report cards generated by the school. So, they were questioned about how well they understood their child’s reports.    Similarly, if the respondent were a teacher or a Principal, questions were based on the usage of the product besides understanding the Report Bee report cards.

An interview in progress with a Principal
An interview in progress with a Principal

 

We also, interviewed other educational stakeholders to understand their perceptions of our product.

All in all, we conducted close to 70 interviews spread over a span of 2 months. Phew! It was a marathon run for the Crossroads Team but travelling is always fun when done in a group! And the Crossroads Team enjoyed it even more as it was heartening to get real feedback on the product. Of course, all our travels included a day of sight-seeing! 🙂

Crossroads Team sight-seeing :)
Crossroads Team Sight-seeing 🙂

Making Sense and Incorporation of the Feedback: When all the interviews were completed, the Team (under Wankai’s assistance and guidance) rigorously and patiently went through all the interviews to make sense of each of the feedback to gather and compile the information. It was nice to see a coherent picture emerge out of this exhaustive process. Further, suggestions and domain expertise were used to improvise the product with further enhancements to reach the need of the educational stakeholders.

Crossroads Team Compiling Feedback and Discussing Findings
Crossroads Team Compiling Feedback and Discussing Findings

Wrap up with Surprises: The Crossroads findings were finally presented to the entire Team at Report Bee in a grand ceremony, marking it a significant day in the journey of Report Bee. What could be more important to us than introspecting our product and aiming to give the best quality to our users? 🙂 The whole Team had a fun day-out to absorb and discuss the findings. Facing reality sometimes can be hard, but when taken in the right way, it can lead to more positive solutions. This is exactly what happened to us at Report Bee.

Fun and Final Presentation to Report Bee Team at a Beach House ;)
Fun and Final Presentation to Report Bee Team at a Beach House 😉

We thank all the schools and teachers for having given us their valuable feedback. Today, thanks to Crossroads, we have become bigger and better in serving our teachers, understanding their needs and continuously learning in process! We will definitely be back for a bigger learning next year!