June 12, 2018
How to solve a problem like an Accenture consultant
By: Luke Grange

The next Bootcamp will be held in Melbourne on the 15th to 18th July, 2019. Applications are now open, sign up here.

Accenture recently brought 60 graduates into our Melbourne office to participate in a 4-day Tech Bootcamp. This gives participants a real understanding of what it’s like to work at Accenture. It also helps Accenture gauge the level of each attendees’ competencies both technical and non-technical.

I was super excited as an Accenture employee to be selected to coach one of the teams which culminated with a presentation to a select group of judges at Accenture.

Here’s the problem we had to solve:
Our team had to come up with a new approach for Accenture to capture our staff skills for projects in an engaging and compelling way.

So, what is so different about the way our team approached this? Well, we used Design Thinking.

DAY 1:

Start off with meditation
Our team started with a short meditation to get us into the right mindset to deliver what will be the most effective solution. We began with a two-minute box breathing exercise: breath in to the count of 4, hold for the count of 4, breath out for the count of 4 and then hold for the count of 4. This is also sometimes called combat breathing. The trick being that when you hold the breath you don’t close the throat. We then settled our breath and focused on our own personal intent which we wanted to get out of the weeks bootcamp. After a couple of minutes of doing that we focused our intent for our team as a whole; “now fill yourself with a message of intent with what we should all achieve collectively as a team over the next 4 days."

A sense of respect – collaboration where we share our strengths and learn from others

A sense of trust – a safe space to say what it is we believe to be right

A sense of fun – be wholehearted and light

Now with calmer nerves and a sense of group we moved into Design Thinking as the approach for our problem solving.

Tech Bootcamp Day 1

Design thinking process steps - Step 1: How to kick it off
We started with an understanding of what the Design Thinking double diamond is. This is where we start with understanding what the problem is from a divergent perspective and then converge on the problem. Following this we diverge on solutions and then converge on a potential solution with prototyping as our main tool, with user feedback to iterate.

The day started with us getting to grips with right brain thinking by drawing pictures and understanding how our framed problem affected our Accenture people. We used a Stakeholder Map to achieve this process.

Step 2: Conduct interviews
Next they all headed out and began interviewing real staff who use the real Accenture skills system. Our team had heaps of fun doing the interviews and finding out just how Accenture ticks.

Step 3: Unravel the interviews
After an amazing lunch which was laid on in our plush office in Melbourne with good coffee of course we headed back in to our working area to unravel what we had found during the interviews. We used the Rose, Thorn, Bud Design Thinking thinking method to highlight what was positive in the current system as a rose statement, what was rather broken as a thorn and lastly what our interviews had uncovered as a way forward as buds. You will see all the different sticky notes with colours depicting the three.

Step 4: Map out a solution
We were now converging on the problem at hand and could move into the diverging solution approach. We finalised this by doing an Experience Diagram where we laid out all our interview findings and clustered them in swim-lanes aligned to People, Place and Things. We now had an overview of what it was we needed to get underway in solving.

Step 5: Let the solution begin
We begin the solution with what we call a Round Robin. This is where we each add the problem statement to a sheet of paper and then pass the paper on. The next person reads our problem statement and adds how they would solve this. We then hand the paper on yet again and each person gets to critique their solution with how it might just fail. Finally, after handing each paper on again we address the failure points with a way forward. This gives everyone a chance to fill out a whole approach to solving a problem statement and is a super collaborative approach. Next, we broke into two teams of 3 and each team immersed themselves in 3 of the completed Round Robins and discussed.

Step 6: Consolidate the solution
We then consolidate the solution based on the immersion exercise we had just completed. In order to do this each team of three had a chance to complete a Concept Poster. This is a large A3 piece of paper where we add a Concept Title at the top and have sections underneath for who it’s for, what problem it solves and a large illustration of how it will work. Each team got a chance to present their Poster and sell their concept to the other team. The team watching critiqued with Rose, Thorn, Bud as soon as the presentation was up. What a rich discussion was had by both teams and both posters were amazing.

Step 7: Recap on the day
Last but not least the whole team was able to Rose, Thorn, Bud their whole day's experience and help the coaches understand how we can improve for tomorrow's exciting and energetic day. Everyone had fun and we did some incredible work together.

DAY 2:

Bright eyed and bushy tailed our team was ready to hit the ground running on day two of the Bootcamp. We started the with a summary of day one and then got started.

Tech Bootcamp Day 2

Recap on the deliverables:
Back into action with an eye on the deliverables and the journey to get there. The team went back to the Concept Posters and extracted all the functionality and desired objects and put these on sticky notes. These notes were then put up on butcher's paper and clustered into themes. We need to understand all features of the potential solution at this stage as we diverge on the solution in the Double Diamond.

Prototype time:
We now had it all…all the wonderful ideas for a rough prototype which the team started to build. This is after we raided the stationary cabinet that is! We also spiced up our team with left over Easter bunny hats and ears and amped up the music a little with some 90’s hits. The team broke into two teams of 3 to do this exercise.

Test the prototype:
Now it was time to bring in real users to test the rough prototypes. The group decided to act in a professional manner with the testers and took of their fun hats and bunny ears. We invited a couple of consultants who were interested in improving our Accenture systems to participate. Our team did a Think Aloud test of the prototypes where the tester talks as they walk themselves through the rough prototype. After getting feedback from real users the team then regrouped as one to add or subtract from the functionality and desired objects and to get clarity on what worked and what didn’t. We are coming to the end of the divergent phase of the solutions at this point.

Time to converge on a solution:
Time to narrow down our options for this next phase of the project as we head down the black diamond slope and begin to converge on a solution. We use the Importance/Difficulty matrix to do this. The team put all the features and solution wants on a matrix with Importance from least to most along the X axis and difficulty to execute/ implement from least to most long the Y axis. They then got to work in moving the features around based on these two criteria. Once this all settled down we split the whole matrix into three project phases with the first phase (1) being what we will attempt to build for the end of this project. The rest of the features are still important but relegated to future roadmap phases.

Divide the team based on skillset:
We now reached a tough watershed moment in the team’s life. Not everyone in the team is technical which was a bit of an elephant in the room all along. As such we split the team into 3 people who would focus on the technical build and the other 3 who would focus on the vehicle to deliver the final presentation depicting the journey of the project and the future roadmap. JD, who was also a coach together with me, came up with a great idea to use Salesforce’s Visual WorkFlow which is a GUI interface and be easiest for our team to learn in the time we had left.

It was crucial now to revisit phase 1 in the Importance Matrix to understand what is actually possible to build on Visual WorkFlow. The team then designed the process flow map which would form the basis for the final non-technical prototype to be tested with real users.

End the day with team building activity:
With never enough hours in the day sadly we were not able to build the second prototype on day two. The team broke early to do mini golf team building after a super tour of the Melbourne office. We did end up with a wonderful process map which should have enough functionality to wow the judges we hope. Go Team!

(Recap on the problem we’re solving – in case you missed it!)
Our Bootcamp graduate team are building a system to capture Accenture consultant’s skills and their inclination to use those skills in order to be placed on the most suitable projects at Accenture. We are taking a human centred approach to deliver this.

DAY 3:

Day 3 arrived which is the last full day before the team gets to present to the judges on day 4.

Tech Bootcamp Day 3

Mistakes identified and solved
During our day 3 reflection discussion the team realised they had misunderstood how the Talent Fulfilment Specialist (TFS) fitted into the process. They asked me to try and line up a real TFS to interview, which I did. At 1:30 they interviewed the TFS and took her through the latest prototype. This certainly shifted the game and a whole new layer of perspective needed to be added to the design.

Coaching: Salesforce and Lean Startup principals
JD (my fellow coach) then took the 3 technical team members under his wing and coached them on SalesForce and how to build the solution with technology guided by the process map from day 2. The 3 who had selected to be the creative team started to build the refined second prototype.

While the technical team built the Minimum Viable Product in Salesforce the creative team derived the hypothesis/assumptions they felt needed to be validated when phase 1 was released. They also determined what success for phase 1 would look like and determined what needed to be measured in order to validate or invalidate the hypothesis. I had coached them on Lean Startup principals which gave a degree of scientific approach to a situation of uncertainty which is what we were dealing with.

Testing final prototype – improvements made!
After lunch the creative team completed their final paper prototype which had some super improvements based on the TFS’s feedback. A final ‘Think Aloud Testing’ session was held with an Accenture consultant being a real user. We mapped what this user said to our Journey Map which had been built with the testing of our previous prototypes. We saw that the sentiment had improved along the journey as we moved from current to rough to final paper prototype. This was great news! We had improved the system, and this had been validated by real users. Our creative group of 3 then passed their findings on to the technical group as quickly as possible to add value to the Salesforce deliverable.

Presentation preparation begins:
The creative team then started to work on the presentation. They used heaps of photos and diagrams without lots of words to make the presentation as enticing as possible.

What a super effort from all the team as they move into the final day.

DAY 4:

The final day was here, and I could literally smell the tension between the teams as they prepare for their presentation to the judges that afternoon. The technical group and the creative group in our team separated to prepare their pieces for the presentation puzzle which needed to be pieced together.

Tech Bootcamp Day 4

Last minute hiccups
Syed who was given the responsibility of creating a digital copy of the Importance/Difficulty Matrix for the presentation had his computer die on him the evening before so couldn’t complete it. The group decided he should redo it in a manual way and then take a photo of that for the presentation instead. There just wasn’t time to waste on creating it digitally again.

The final result of his new output looked a lot better, but would it be ready in time for the dry run at noon!

Design Thinking in action
The tech team cracked on with doing the Minimum Viable Product in Salesforce. The intention being that they have a real user from Accenture demonstrate live his journey using the tool for the very first time up on stage in front of the judges. Talk about a brave new approach! Following the real user stepping through the system the team as a whole would demonstrate Design Thinking in action on stage by using ‘Visualise the Vote’ in order to make a quick collaborative decision as to Pivot or Persevere on the Build based on their hypothesis being validated or invalidated by the real user’s experience. ‘Visualise the Vote’ is a good way to get everyone’s input, giving each person the opportunity to indicate preferences and opinions. Participants each get a couple of stickers to vote with and when the vote takes place they walk up to their chosen preference and put a sticker on it. On stage our team would use a show of hands to visualise the vote.

Crunch time!
The time pressure was at its height and the team were trying to pull all the most valuable points together to address the judging criteria as best they could.

They finalised the verbiage and presentation after quite a few iterations in the morning. I had to make sure that the team articulated any jargon in the presentation. Jargon is often something we include in presentations and it often confusing and leaves the audience behind.

We also finalised the SalesForce technical presentation and made sure we had covered off all the process map flow and functionality. As I said earlier, we would have a real user testing this up on stage live getting his hands on the App for the first time. We hoped this was something unique to our team’s approach.

Tools down! Time to present
We were prepared - well as prepared as we would ever be.

Peter Vakkas (Accenture Technology Lead, ANZ) kicked off his presentation to the whole Bootcamp to inspire them which was great. This would be followed by the team presentations.

All the presentations were so professional and you could see all the work and late nights which had gone into the preparation of each. The judges would be having a hard time choosing which presentation would win the prize.

Our team presented last and it was 6pm on Friday which is a very hard slot to engage an audience in. We were hoping the name of our project would wake a few people up; “Skills Tinder”.

The team presented exceptionally well and covered off all the main points such as the Design Thinking interview process with real users which no other group had embarked on.

We highlighted our intuition we had to split into two groups in our team to get the technical prototype done at the same time as the final creative design.

Our real user did a super job of stepping through the Salesforce App and infused his piece with a little standup comedy which lit the crowd up. After he stepped through the technical prototype our team then did a live ‘visualise the vote’ where one of our team asked the rest of the team to vote on whether the demo had been successful enough to persevere to stage 2 or should the team pivot and build another MVP to test. The team voted to pivot. They had slides prepared for both eventualities.

The results:
As I said earlier, it was a really hard time slot to fill between a group of 60 or so graduates and drinks time on a Friday. I’m trying to find a soft way of saying we didn’t win but taking the whole week into account we certainly won in so many ways. The team were so committed, collaborative and engaged and I was really proud, as I know JD was as well, as was Mohit (our 3rd coach). It was a pleasure working with such dedicated grads and such intelligent coaches. Peter Vakkas handed out the prizes to the two teams who the judges felt drew in their presentation and ideation challenges.

Then it was Friday drinks. What an awesome week!

The next Bootcamp will be held in Melbourne on the 15th to 18th July, 2019. Applications are now open, sign up here.

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