Circumstance Analysis = Decision-making

In my last post I discussed the concept of task analysis as it relates to my Innovation Design Model work. The model consists of six separate and distinct disciplines. In each post I will discuss how each discipline works within the scope of the Innovation Design Model. I have included discipline distinctions in my previous posts. Here they are again:

  • (Ta) Task analysis centers around what makes sense.
  • (Ca) Circumstance analysis centers around decision-making.
  • (Ga) Gamification analysis centers around user engagement.
  • (Ia) Information architecture centers around what [your product] looks like.
  • (Id) Interaction design centers around what [your product] feels like.
  • (Ua) Usability is concerned with what [your product] does.

Here I will discuss circumstance analysis, how it centers around decision-making, and how it works hand-in-hand with task analysis to bring product ideas to the table. First let’s look at the circumstance analysis definition. Circumstance analysis is concerned with understanding everything that may affect your product based on the current state of its value network; that is, all connections within the cost structure of your product.

Focusing on the last part of the definition, all connections within the cost structure, helps us organize and place analysis activities within this discipline:

(Vm) Vision & mission statements guide and create tactical simplicity. A vision statement places a flag in the horizon to guide you in a specific direction. A mission statement tells the team in charge of delivery what they will do. For example, do good is a vision statement whereas create computing devices is a mission statement.

(Le) Legal understanding of policies and regulations that will affect the product you’re creating will help you decide whether or not your product is feasible. For example, privacy polices may affect the way you communicate and sell to your customers.

(Po) Political situations may affect your product. Political change may affect your business environment thus creating unforeseen stresses upon your product. This is also an internal issue. A new CEO may also bring change to business culture and practice, which will affect your product.

(Hr) Human resources are your reason for existence. Without the right people your product cannot succeed. Here we’re looking at whether or not your existing set of employees have the skill-set to support the product. If not, you’ll need to find new employees, train existing ones, or shelf your product.

(Tc) Technology will make or break your product. Here we want to look at existing technologies to understand whether or not your product can succeed. We also want to look at the changes in technology that may change your circumstances.

(Ec) Economic circumstances focus on your product’s economic health. For example, tax rates may affect customer behavior, which may affect your bottom line. Internally, should you need to recall a product, you may find that absorbing the cost may be detrimental to your product’s economic health.

Every circumstance analysis activity definition presents us with possible change. If there is change and your product is affected, decisions need to be made. Hence, circumstance analysis = decision-making. Circumstance analysis can also be thought of as strategy. I use the term circumstance so we don’t loose sight of the fact that it’s the circumstance that causes decision-making.

In my last post task analysis I stated that as UX practitioners we “go back and forth from one discipline to another in the process of creation.” That can’t be overstated for circumstance analysis as it hovers above the creators making decisions that affect the product in all disciplines. That is especially true when we see how circumstance analysis works with task analysis.

Circumstance analysis works hand-in-hand with task analysis to create a realistic world around your product. All task analysis activity findings will need to be reviewed by circumstance analysis to make sure they support the vision and mission statements. And, if the task analysis findings bring new ideas to the product, the vision and mission statements may change to follow the new product idea. Other task analysis activities rely on more than just the vision and mission statements of circumstance analysis. For example, user stories will be reviewed by circumstance analysis to understand whether or not there is an issue with legal, technology, or economic circumstances.

There is a natural back-and-forth that occurs between task analysis and circumstance analysis. Task analysis brings ideas to the table based on research and circumstance analysis helps guide those ideas through the realities of current circumstances. Together they bring product ideas to the table that are more likely to succeed.

In my next post I will discuss gamification and how it serves to engage users. Thank you in advance for your participation and input in this work.