About wareFX

My story

To understand the core value of the services I offer, you really need to understand my personality. It is what has guided the path through my career. I am a common sense kind of guy and I’ve applied that in everything I’ve done. Whether that is envisioning the use of emerging technologies or developing process efficiencies and work cultures, I’m always relying on common sense.

I remember early on in my career, a coworker and peer in university told me: “You mean that I’ve been here longer than you, I’m smarter than you(he had a better gpa) and you are my boss?”. I quickly replied: I guess they don’t teach common sense in university. It was all said in fun as I had a good friendship with him throughout university and as a coworker. From that point in my life I kept reminding myself that common sense is not so common and it is a strength.

All this to say that starting up wareFX was common sense for me. I could offer my talent, experience and services to multiple clients allowing me to focus deep on my strengths. It enabled me to create space that is wider than a single business.

The following is how I got here.

High Tech Beginings

Over the past 20 years, I’ve spent the bulk of my career in technology companies that make or break payroll on the technology they develop. Early in my tech career, I was fortunate to be part of a R&D team that transformed a complex financial planning desktop application into a web-based solution with offline desktop like capabilities. We lived on the edge of technology from the hardware we used to develop the products to building our own web frameworks because the industry wasn’t mature enough. Personally, I designed a jquery like object oriented javascript library that I called O before jquery even existed. It had support for AJAX before the terminology was even coined in the industry. The company experienced significant growth and the rest is history with the eventual private sale of the company in 2011.

During that time, I really became passionate about the human interaction with digital products. It frustrated me to build such incredibly complex systems and then watch the clients we targeted struggle to use the product due to a poor design. The statement a feature that cannot be found doesn’t exist really hit home with me. What a waste of incredible tech talent and wonderful cutting-edge technology if the feature couldn’t be found by the majority of users without intensive training. In order to change this, I petitioned a proposal to institutionalize a usability process within the organization and the business embraced it. Our strategy was to get certified with Human Factors International and I would lead a Usability Team to institutionalize the process within our development culture.

Customer Experience

In 2006, I officially got certified as a Usability Analyst with Human Factors International and found it very enriching. I finally was able to make sense of what had been frustrating me in product designs. The certification equipped me with the knowledge to make sense of our product experience issues. I began the journey of weaving usability practices in design and development processes. We interacted with other UX professionals from some of the largest banks in the US as we were an important part of the sales process for large multi year deals.

Early in the institutionalization process, we wanted to show the value of a UX process to spark rapid adoption. We chose a new client assessment tool as our showcase project. We got involved with product managers and provided heuristic feedback early in the design process. A prototype of the showcase product was built and we took it on the road to validate the product with 20 end users. We carefully crafted scenarios and unbiased tasks for our users to try the new assessment tool. We recorded screens and their facial reactions using the new assessment tool while a team watched privately in a backroom. 

The results were incredible in value. There were many tense user moments of what we called deer in headlights. We saw them struggle finding items that we thought were obvious. It was so incredible to watch the first participant struggle and think to ourselves… they must be an exception in the pool of users. Then follow that up with another user that did almost a carbon copy path through your product. To our surprise, we braced ourselves to watch 17 out of 20 do the same thing. We learnt so much watching the videos again and again with the ability to pause and watch in slow motion. It was especially fun to raise the volume of the videos and confirm out loud… yep, they just swore under their breath 🙂.

The power of these observations truly helped us iterate through new and improved designs. Only 20 users were exposed to the initial design before we adapted and released a design that was much more friendly in experience. Unless you have some way to collect a dollar for every swear a user mumbles during the use of your product, it’s extremely worth the time to validate your designs with the users that will use your product!

Making complex solutions easy is not for the faint of heart. It involves transforming a corporate culture into one that has empathy for the end user. We had the passion, training and videos to make that cultural transformation.

Growth of Customer Centric Cultures

I’m a firm believer that most things we do in life we can find ways to sharpen both sides of the sword and bring value in multiple ways. While focusing on the customer experience of a product, I quickly realized that we could only grow the user experience of our product by a factor of my teams efforts. We were becoming a bottleneck in the process. It quickly became a passion of mine to take some of the knowledge and experience we had gained and begin to mentor that knowledge and process into the product development, software development and quality assurance roles. If we were going to succeed, the user experience process belonged in the culture of the product development teams.

I started by training over a hundred developers, product managers and quality assurance. I took an approach that mixed theory with examples of video observations of users using our products. There is nothing like learning from your mistakes. The power behind this approach was not only analyzing real users using the products they had designed and built, it was mixing in our human nature of empathy. Nothing breaks down pride barriers like watching a handful of users using the product you built and struggling to the point they begin to swear under their breath. Most of us can watch one, maybe two users, however by the third, we all start feeling terrible and want to get back to our desk and fix the issue.
I’ll never forget the time a software developer up after watching three different users struggling and said: That was my design and I coded it, can I go back to my desk to fix it?. Human empathy kicks in hard without fail. Empathy is truly the fuel to evolve a tech culture that values customer experience in the use of their products as much as their creative architecture and visual designs.

Market Research Insights

Two years in my career, I made myself a promise that I would never own and protect knowledge for job security. I decided that I would always equip the people I lead with my acquired skills to the point they could replace me. It was an example of a double edge sword. If I trained and mentored what I was good at, it allowed the company to grow capacity in what I did and it also created personal space to grow in other areas. While user experience remained a passion, I wanted to go deeper. I got the opportunity to continue to work in user experience, while developing products for the market research industry. I knew I had a lot to learn from the market research industry to strengthen my research abilities. After all, the market research industry seeks understanding through validation against actual and potential customers.

I got into a smaller Market Research Tech company that was building products using waterfall methodologies. I was brought in for user experience and I went straight for the shock that would transform their product development culture. I on-boarded right in the middle of the design phases of a large R&D project to create a platform that would house their entire suite of online market research products. In order to have impact on those designs in a short period of time, I knew I had to have a culture change across the entire team.

I ran a few user experience studies against existing products and leveraged the videos to train usability to the product development team as I had successfully done in the past. We had a huge opportunity to build user experience in a new platform and set the tone for all products coming into the platform in the future. We developed our user profiles, and built design standards that were implemented in the platform architecture. We focused on consistency of experience across all the products that would eventually come into the platform.

As part of this development undertaking, we needed to be faster at product development with little room for error. Common sense said it was much cheaper and easier to fail at the beginning of a project therefore we took out our papers and pencils and started to be a lot more intentional about low profile designs. We also put a lot of thought on how we can could work this into our software development processes. I would often see experts debating whether usability processes can work with agile development environment. Based on the requirement for design and validation iterations in user experience, my answer was often in the form of a question: How can user experience processes work without the iterative nature of agile software development methodologies? If we were going to go through a culture change in user experience, why not take a look at our software development processes and interweave user experience and agile development in that change.

Moving forward with an agile development methodology, I was adamant that we would use an Agile on Agile approach to our development processes. Meaning, we were going to add a continuous improvement model to our agile processes. Essentially, it’s what I coined Agile on Agile. In the first year, we worked hard to evolve and personalized our processes. It really became the only thing we were striving to never being Done. We were poised to continuously evolve. Once again I was excited to transfer my abilities to the team and create space where I could also have an impact on the overall business. When I first started, everyone in the company was pointing to the software team as a problem in the company and through results we turned into the team to be emulated by other departments for success. For example, the company mandated a corporate standup every week for every department to stand up to review what was done in the past week and what was planned for the following week. We had a corporate wall with all our department promises that kept our corporate progress transparent.

In a short period of time, this lead to my appointment as VP of Product Development. I had successfully transferred much of my ux and agile development to a point where I had created space to focus more on business development at the corporate level. During that time I had the opportunity to work with client executive teams working on deals that would adopt the integration of our products within their market research service offering.

During this time in the MR industry, I also had the unique opportunity to work with Jefferey Hayzlett who chaired our board for a few years. I learnt a lot from Jeff with regards to no nonsense common sense business practices. He’s an electric character that is filled with passion and experience at the c-suite level and as a celebrity figure. I would highly recommend reading any of his books. If we ever do business together, ask me about the time he threatened to fire me during an executive meeting using a dramatic Celebrity Apprentice approach. It’s a good one!

wareFX Today

These days, I’m focused on leveraging the experience and knowledge I have amassed over the past 20 years.  I consult with businesses like yours to gain insight on emerging technologies and provide trans-formative processes to fully achieve your technological vision. Common sense says, what good is it to envision emerging technologies and no lack the ability to deliver with speed, quality and a positive customer experience. If that is intriguing to you and your business, book your free consultation to discuss how you can emerge as a technological leader in your market space.

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