Why Top Tasks?
At first glance, it may seem strange that we chose this method, considering that we were working in a medium-sized startup with a product that has been around for about five years. Our product was neither bloated nor stagnant. In fact, it was the opposite, and its market is rapidly growing. However, our organization was at a stage where there was an increasing risk of our focusing on siloed, hyper-valued areas of the product.
Our small, centrally organized research and design team was charged with assessing the product holistically. We needed to figure out how to unify the product’s functionality around a common set of goals. We chose the Top Tasks method not to slice away old, unused portions of the product, but to focus a guiding light on our journey ahead.
How We Modified Top Tasks
Let’s look at how we adapted and applied this method within a fast-paced startup by modifying certain steps from the original approach. These modified steps appear in italics in the following list:
- stakeholder socialization—This is the process through which we conveyed the value of Top Tasks and got stakeholder buy-in, as well as the commitment of their time.
- stakeholder working sessions—We conducted three 60-minute sessions, during which we had stakeholders compile lists of key tasks.
- refinement of proposed tasks list—We asked stakeholders to review our proposed refinements of their task lists. These refinements included the following:
- task wording—We updated the proposed language describing the tasks to ensure that we had a list of distinct, highly explicit tasks.
- task grouping—We reviewed the list of tasks to identify parent-child relationships. Our goal was to achieve a consistent level of granularity that is representative of the majority of our customers’ tasks.
- survey design—We observed the standard Top Tasks approach, in which we asked customers to look at the entire task list, then choose their five top tasks.
- survey distribution—We conducted two surveys, as follows:
- primary customer survey—We distributed this survey by sending out an email message with a link to the survey to collect responses from the people in our distribution list.
- internal survey—We measured alignment between the top tasks of perceived and actual customers.
- data analysis—We conducted analyses to identify correlations between tasks and various customer segments, including the following:
- user persona
- career level
- internal stakeholder versus customer
We’ll expand on our explanations of these modifications in greater detail next.