Learn How To Create Systems That Work

Sometimes, even a well-oiled machine isn’t performing as well as we’d expect. All of the processes are identified and there are successful solutions for each factor in the design. All actions can take place within the program, so why isn’t it working?

One of the things many businesses overlook is the real-world usability of the process they’ve designed. Watch our video to understand how you can take a system and make it translate to the actual real-world conditions it’s been designed for.

Video Transcript:

Using Actor Analysis when Creating Systems that Work

Thinking from the customer’s perspective

We’re now starting to move to techniques that allow us to think from the customer’s perspective. We talked about failure of startups before, and building things that people want. There are lots of systems that work and do exactly what they were designed to do but people hate them, people don’t want to use them and that is the reason they fail. So getting empathy for what your customers are going to go through is really important. Let’s talk about some techniques for that.

The first one is you can perform what is called an actor analysis. Actors are the people who are going to use your system. I’ll give you an example as we work this through.

  • Who are the people who are going to use your system, actually name them.
  • What are the tasks they wish to do? Just jot them down, it doesn’t have to be lengthy. Just dot point, they want to do this, they want to do this.
  • What is the typical situation that they will be using this system in? I’ll give you some examples of where this can be critical, where I’ve seen people not understand the typical situation and really have no customer empathy.
  • What are their desires or feelings, what are their motivations? So where are they and how are they feeling about this?

Let’s work this through.

The good thing about an actor analysis is, if you follow this template, you can actually get a lot of details down pretty quickly. A lot of you have a system you are planning. If you did an actor analysis in forty-five minutes to an hour, you can actually plan a lot of this out pretty quickly. We do this in the vast majority of cases, we do this a lot. I like to do this on a white board with a client or you can just do this on a word processor.


So let’s look at the who. Aaron eats curry. Cassandra orders the curry, Sherev sells us the curry and Terry, our favourite developer, is the software manager who oversees menu changes and other things. He actually manages the system.


Let’s look at some of the tasks to do. Aaron wants to place an internal order, he wants to change an order, he wants to pay and he wants to pay off an IOU. That’s as simple as it is. For a lot of systems that work you can say, these are the people and this is what they want to do. They want to do this, they want to do this, this is not a hard analysis to do.

Cassandra wants to view all the internal orders, she wants to place a combined order with Sherev. She wants to tick off the payments and she wants to view the IOUs and collect the IOUs. So the actor analysis or the typical situation, this one is really important. I think people don’t think about this enough.


I was thinking about my wife when I put this up. My wife is a lawyer and a really smart operator. Her life is incredibly varied, and her use and engagement with technology is incredibly varied. So between the hours of about nine and two for the last week she has been writing contracts. She sits at work and we’ve been negotiating a certain deal and she is writing contracts and doing various negotiations. She is sitting in that context.

Then she goes to school to pick up our kids. In the school zone, she is still using technology but she is on the phone. She doesn’t play Candy Crush, but she is actually doing jobs. She is doing a bit of internet banking, she is chasing up things, she is doing a range of sending off quick emails but she is doing this in the context of the two seconds of opportunity that she’s got.

It hasn’t been true for a little while but there are certainly times in our life where past about nine o’clock at night, if we’re watching telly, because we typically watch one television show about nine o’clock at night, if she’s not particularly interested, she’ll surf the internet. That is her moment to chill. We’ve got relatives in China who can get us things at incredible prices. So if we’re going to buy something, she’ll buy something and send off emails. It’s her moment to relax and engage. Her interactions with software at those three stages in her life are totally different, they’re not even close.

Desires and feelings

I’ve probably over emphasised this a little bit. But I like to state it in a really strong way. What do people actually think when they’re using my system? Because some of the systems we use, people use them because the government says you have to do it. They would rather not do it. They would rather the whole thing didn’t exist. That’s not bad but you’ve got to know what the context of the people who are using it is.

I’m looking at Bruce here because he runs a business that deals with government compliance. He’s done some really smart work in that space. In his case, his clients are actually people on a building site looking at a phone. The worst thing in his world is if something goes wrong and everyone has a laugh at them, that is the context Bruce’s app is used in.

Cassandra hates it when petty cash is wrong, she’s got to go and tell her boss and her boss is a sociopath. I hope I’m not a sociopath. Think about the context that people use your app in.

Adapting a system to differing context

Let me give you an example. We’re working on a system called Tipsy. Tipsy is a really good platform. Tipsy is a system that they have invested significant amounts of money in. They’ve got studios in multiple places in the world to build out absolute world class training for people in the hospitality space. Their goal is effectively to be the dominant provider of very specific training for small and large players in the hospitality market.

When I first spoke with John, the owner of that business, he’d done his research. He came to us with an extensive wish list of things he wanted to do. He said, I want the best of this product, I want the best of this and the best of this. I could fault none of his ideas at a conceptual level.

The challenge

The challenge we faced was when we started to think about who the who was. When we started to think about this thing, we’ll make it on mobile, we’ll make it on desktop and mobile and we’ll think about both of those scenarios. When we dug into it, this is what we discovered. These are the tasks that a hospitality staff member needs to do. They need to register, they need to watch videos, they need to rate them. There are quite a number of things you can do with the app, I won’t go through it.

The context

But the context is it’s all mobile phone. It was hard. We had to consistently pull back, pull back. I can put an endless amount of things onto a mobile phone and make you an application that is horrible that nobody wants to know. To make something that is elegant and serves this market who are basically watching it on public transport, they’re watching it in their smoko at work; you’ve got to build something that is incredibly quick, easy to get into. The videos are really short and snappy. You can’t do a fifteen minute video. You’ve got to be doing three and four minutes and in some cases some of their best videos are one and two minute videos.

So knowing the context that people are ultimately going to be using this, 90% of the value can be extracted on a mobile phone, forced us to make a whole bunch of hard decisions about what we were going to prioritise. In the Tipsy case, there are a whole lot of people who use this to show their profile. There is a piece where you can build your profile. They want more than my job, it’s my craft, I want to show my capability.

Let me compare that to the HR manager. Tipsy they sell to the hospitality worker, they sell into these industries where they have thousands of staff. They also sell to the training and HR manager. That person is very different. They have a different set of needs. They want to enroll people, they want to promote the content, they want to review things. They are typically using it in a desktop computer in the office. I haven’t looked at it now but my understanding is we didn’t even build it to be a mobile based thing because it is a desktop job that they are trying to do.

What they’re all about, they live in a world where they want to train thousands of people in a hospitality environment and get some metrics around it. That is not an easy thing to do. So for them it’s really about proving that they are effectively delivering training. So those stats and the proof piece is really a big driver. So for us, pretty graphs and lots of numbers and the ability to give things to their management to say, look we’ve done all these good things is important.

Before we can be certain our program is working in the real world, we need to see how it is working with the actual people involved in the process. This means being able to observe where the process breaks down, whether there are less obvious processes that have not been identified and planned into the procedure and discovering what types of adjustment and training need to be handled to improve the entire process. Until we see the plan in action with the actual human resources that will be carrying things out, we can’t be sure we have created the best system. Bringing all of this data together is the ideal way to reveal a real plan that works.

Are you looking for help to make sure your program is designed for success? We’re looking forward to hearing from you, so contact us today.

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