Microsoft Meeting Facilitator

Transforming a group into a team.

This was a two-week project (Nov 2 - Nov 13, 2015) sponsored by Microsoft in the course “Rapid Design for Slow Change” at HCI/d, IUB. I teamed with Yangguang Li and Shuai Zhao to create an intelligent meeting facilitator that could help college students transform a group into a team.

Focus Definition & Research
I chose the user group and defined the design focus with the team. I generated research questions, formulated hypotheses, and then developed and executed the research plan.
Insights & Ideation
I uncovered insights from our research of college students and translated these insights into potential design opportunities, which helped to inform our final design.
Design Framing & Vision
I explored all potential design opportunities in user journeys, and then confirmed our design vision. I also defined the role technology would play in our design. This helped to evangelise ideas, gain alignment and drive decision making.
Decisions & Execution
I prioritised and expanded concepts that would best support our vision. I executed wireframes, prototypes, and the final presentation.
Leadership & Planning
I set the timeline and milestones of the project. I helped to keep everybody on the same page and not deviate from our design vision.
Supporting Students' Needs in 2020
How can an intelligent digital assistant support the needs of students in 2020?
This single question was the challenge that Microsoft gave us. They did not want to be too prescriptive, as they expected themes to emerge as we explore the question together. 
The design space was very broad, and we were asked to deliver both a research deck and design pitch deck in two weeks. Microsoft would like to see the details of our research work and how our research informed the final design. 
We need to move fast and keep calm.
True to the Subject and the People
Siri, Google Now, Facebook M, Alexa, Cortana and myriad other speech or text activated assistants have all started the conversation about what intelligence is and does in system design. Microsoft was looking for a creative approach to the question. 
So how intelligent the system could be? 
How far we could go in terms of 2020? 
Would people’s needs change in 2020? 
We need to look far and wide for inspiration. But keep it true to the subject, and the people it’s about.
Group Meetings of College Students
Based on the university environment we were in, we chose college students as our target group.  
We conducted quick secondary research to understand what problems college students were facing. And then we applied affinity diagramming to group our findings into several problem areas: online study, disconnection between academic and industry, study engagement, group study, and time management. 
Finally, we decided to focus on group meeting, a point which is focused enough for us to start designing.
Student Insights & Design Opportunities
We conducted observation, surveys, and interviews to have a better understanding of group meetings of college students. These are the key insights and the corresponding opportunities defined the direction of our final design.
Transforming a Group into a Team
After analyzing all the design opportunities, our vision was to create a system that could help college students transform a group into a team. 
A team differs from a group in five key ways: task orientation, purpose, interdependence, formal structure, and familiarity among members. We envisioned our system would focus on creating interdependency and formal structure.

Microsoft Meeting Facilitator

Transforming a group into a team by influencing and shaping students’ behaviors.

Experience Walkthrough

Agenda Setup
At the beginning of each meeting, the system will provide templates to guide the team set up a proper agenda for this meeting.

Students can manually add tasks and the system would suggest estimated time based on the team's previous performance.
Progress Tracking
A time progress bar will grow from the top of the agenda list. The system will keep track of the time and milestones (discoveries, insights, decisions) along the meeting.
Decision Clarification
During the meeting, the system will propose a vote if there is a long time arguing without arriving at any concrete result. Then it will record all the decisions.
Meeting Summary
A meeting summary would help the team reflect on their process, and clear about each other's tasks before next meeting.
How We Got There
We applied the “research learning spiral” to plan and conduct our user research. The spiral was created by Erin Sanders at Frog.
After decided to focus on group meetings of college students, we applied who, what, where, when, how and why thinking to brainstorm questions we were trying to answer. These framing questions helped us identify which gaps in knowledge we need to fill.
Then we prioritized and clustered the most important questions (based on our vision, the time frame and resources we could reach), and translated them into research objectives:
1. Discover how students deal with team dynamics.
2. Learn the way students manage group meetings.
3. Understand how to engage students in group meetings.
Based on the framing questions, we formulated ten hypotheses. Externalizing hypotheses helped us be aware of and minimize the influence of biases among the team. It also helped us select the right methods to fulfill our research objectives.
We conducted observation, surveys, and interviews to help us better understand the what, how, and why aspects of the design space.
The Role of Technology
To better direct our design, it was important for us to be clear about the roles that technology should play. We determined the technology we introduce should fulfill the following two roles to be successful integrated into students’ current work flow. 
Technology should facilitate human activities. It should help human make decisions not replace human making decisions. Technology could provide a clear path or guidance to help human better achieve their goals.
Technology should complement human abilities, and do things that human are not good at. In our design, technology can help make the implicit aspects of a meeting explicit.
What I Learned
Expansion & Contraction
Almost every design process involves the alternation of expansion and contraction.
At the beginning of a process, no matter it starts from a problem or an opportunity, we may need to expand to ask lots of questions, to do research, to explore the design space. Then we need to contract to define the vision and design core, a point where we can actually start designing.
While enriching our design with more and more concepts and features, we may need to get back to the design core and pain points, to test externally, to reflect, to make sure the design is not deviate from the original purpose.
The Importance of Principles and Framework
The principles mentioned in the role of technology and differences between group and team helped to create visibility into our decision-making process and galvanise the team to share in the vision. 
The five key characteristics of a team provided us a clear framework to generate lots of potential concepts. After we organised all the concepts, the principles helped us choose the most promising concepts and balance all the trade-offs.