Contextual Interviews

Note: This project was confidential, so I have omitted and changed some details.

Goal

A large technology company had recently created a new sales role and introduced a new Web application to support it. To plan and prioritize improvements, they needed to understand the challenges employees in the new role were facing, and how they were using the application and other tools.

Approach

  • Contextual interviews are ideally conducted in person, but since users were distributed around the world, I used webconferencing to interview 29 participants, in two types of subrole, including managers of each subrole.
  • To support the goal of understanding needs and current usage, I focused the interviews mostly on open-ended qualitative questions.
  • To ensure key contextual details were captured, I also asked a few specific questions (e.g. number and configuration of monitors).
  • I included a few quantitative rating scales to frame the qualitative feedback.

Results

The 29 contextual interviews yielded many insights into the nature and demands of the new sales role.

Example slide from Contextual Interviews study
Example slide from Contextual Interviews study

At a high level:

  • The tool was seen as valuable but needing a lot of improvement.
  • Certain types of information in the tool were especially highly valued.
  • Dashboards needed more relevant information, and to be customizable.
  • Data entry often felt burdensome, without enough value returned to users, and a past data loss event had seriously reduced many users’ trust in the tool.

One challenge, given the limited time available for each interview, was how much the users had to say about other tools they use. In response, I gently guided the conversations to focus enough on other tools to determine whether they affected use of the target tool and whether additional research about those tools would be warranted, while ensuring that this study provided enough detail about the target tool.

Impact

The company used the numerous valuable insights from this study to plan and prioritize improvements to the web application and other tools used in the new sales role, thereby increasing the effectiveness of their sales organization.