Innovating Enterprise Soft Skills Training with Volumetric Videos

Companies need to continually train and upskill their workforce for better performance and results.

Many of them use a gamut of upgraded tools and a mash-up of training styles to make their employee training sessions productive and engaging. People learn best when they can view and relate to the shared material or the trainer. This promotes student-focused and process-oriented learning.

Each training method has its place, but with technology rapidly changing the business landscape, it is vital to leverage interactive environments, monitor real-time teamwork, and improve employees' learning flexibility.

A technology like volumetric video or virtual reality simulations allows for all of the above requirements, making it a big runner in the mixed-reality experience space.

In the current pandemic situation, experiencing something in 3D from multiple viewpoints, where a real-life physical movement improves knowledge retention, is an excellent value-addition.  Volumetric videos provide a virtual presence, where a person feels like they're actually in an environment or situation. This makes the experience real though the events are virtual.

WHAT IS A VOLUMETRIC VIDEO?

Volumetric video is a technique implemented to capture moving images of real people and objects viewed from different angles. Unlike any regular video, it allows users to move naturally around the subject: to lean in, move away or sideways, etc. (known as "six degrees of freedom").

This creates a sharp sense of presence in the virtual environment. When an employee is virtually present with the subject, real-life natural interaction movements can be recreated, thus enhancing the immersion tremendously.

Since a volumetric video records a person in their actual dimensions and shape, they can be viewed from each of those angles as if they are present. This makes trainer interactions natural and credible for learners.

The information fed to 3D models is captured from different viewpoints around a person or an object, fused, and transformed into a consistent, natural, and dynamic 3D representation. Volumetric video implements a motion-sensing technique, which analyzes the images of 2D or 3D objects in depth and scans directly through 360-degree cameras.

Why volumetric video?

It is the only immersive experience that duplicates 100% of human movements and emotions in 3D. Furthermore, a volumetric video is way more efficient than animating a moving person. Where a few seconds of high-quality animation could take up to a week of work, one-minute volumetric video production renders in 10 hours. This, of course, leads to saving money along with time.

Volumetric video captures the scene from multiple viewpoints. This information creates a depth map of the space that could be reused to enhance training.

When paired with positional tracking systems, a volumetric video enables viewers to navigate new worlds independently.

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Volumetric Video and Soft Skills Training

The Need to Rethink Soft Skills Training Delivery

As new workforce trends take hold, many organizations are scrambling to fill vacancies and anticipate workforce gaps. Communication, adaptability, collaboration, persuasion, creativity, and time-management are becoming the main currency.

Much like money for sustenance, however, the currency of skills is often broken down into two units of measure—hard skills relating to technical expertise and soft skills for more interpersonal or “human” skills.

This thinking line could guide some organizations to place too much value on hard skills over soft skills, only by merit of connotation.

“Soft” in this context may infer something less than or unimportant, whereas “hard” might appear more tangible and, thus, more valuable. This potential conclusion could lead to diminished results for businesses.

Businesses should consider imparting both on-the-job training and soft skills training to avoid diminishing the value of an employee’s contribution to the organization. With volumetric video, observable human attributes can be exercised to adapt our technical and functional skills across multiple contexts.

The Benefits of Volumetric Video for Soft Skills Training

Democratizes Learning

Volumetric videos remove physical boundaries and give trainees equal view access and immersive experience for the content being delivered. The trainee can navigate through a maze of volumetric videos of trainer interactions and 3D models of course content or human interaction for a near-real experience.

Better Knowledge Retention

Volumetric videos improve trainee engagement, which aids in better knowledge retention. Since trainees are more focused, they get better prepared for real-world situations.

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Provides Increased Flexibility

When with extended reality (XR) training software, volumetric video allows trainers to create immersive presentations (remotely). Immersive courses can be executed in real-time or pre-recorded sessions, making them a futuristic employee training tool.

Needs Minimal Setup

Minimal requirements like 3D cameras, software, and headsets are enough for implementing training sessions using volumetric video. The audience needs only compatible headsets.

Supports Scenario-based Learning

Instead of a trainer talking through a soft-skills lesson, employees can be immersed in a scenario that mimics a real-life situation. This includes reactions, practices, seeing, hearing, and walking around the scenario to better understand a session practically.

Merging with VR

VR training can be used with volumetric video to immerse the learner in interactions and provoke responses, rather than allowing merely passive observation, especially for interpersonal skills training. Speaking or just deciding what to say when looking at a person’s face is a more value-adding experience than selecting a menu response on a web page.

Simulation VR technology typically portrays fictitious people in the scenario and triggers natural conversational responses from employees. It depicts how the participants look, emote, speak, and move. Thus the effectiveness of the training can be improved by making this portrayal believable. If the VR is created using volumetric video, the scenarios are often more convincing than video or even simulated VR. Pre-recorded sessions may reduce the range of responses to the learners’ reactions but reduces the overall costs than simulated VR.

Using Immersive Technologies to Build Human Learning Capabilities

Immersive learning technology has shown significant benefits in helping people gain skills and learn through interactions and reactions in diverse virtual environments.

Whether it is communicating with distant clients about projects remotely or performing remote operations, training in the real world may be too expensive. At the same time, it may make sense to do it in a virtual world.

Today, as VR is becoming known more widely as “the ultimate empathy machine,” many organizations have also started to acknowledge its potential to develop human capabilities. Like physically risky scenarios, immersive learning for human capabilities can help workers practice difficult interpersonal situations without risking the potential emotional fallout that can be detrimental to both customer and workplace relationships.

For Example, when Best Western identified that its front-desk staff’s ability to resolve problems was critical to improving customer relationships, it realized the importance of its workers practicing customer service skills. This was crucial, especially when working with tired and frustrated travelers.

The company decided to try an avatar-based training simulation focusing on problem resolution. In the initial phase, Best Western offered front-desk personnel at 380 locations the opportunity to participate in two live-virtual simulations. In the sessions, staff could interact with characters that present challenges similar to those encountered in real life. Afterward, they discussed scenarios with managers to improve decision-making strategies in the future. The average cost was less than US$165 per hotel.

The results reported were promising; participating locations showed measurable gains in guest satisfaction than non-participating locations.

Vice president of operations Bruce Weinberg stated, “Hotels that received the training experienced the highest short-term gains in customer satisfaction that Best Western has ever measured in such a short period.”

Measurable improvements are emerging across a vast range of use cases for human capabilities, including;

  • De-escalation,
  • Public speaking,
  • Managing difficult conversations,
  • Improving workplace diversity and inclusion
  • Interviewing and
  • Sales communications

In these scenarios, learners seem to benefit from complete immersion into a virtual scene, without the distraction of phones or email. Their actions and behavior affect the outcome in real-time—at shallow risk to real-life relationships. The individual’s sense of physical presence, managing their emotional reaction to events in a dynamic environment, and the opportunity to practice can help learners better incorporate skills into their everyday lives.

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The Uncanny Valley Hypothesis

A field of theory and research revolving around the question is highlighted in the Uncanny Valley Hypothesis. How does high realism in anthropomorphic design influence human experience and behavior? The Uncanny Valley hypothesis posits that a very humanlike character or object (e.g., robot, prosthetic limb, Avatar) can evoke a negative (i.e., uncanny) effect.

Since empathy influences, human capability development, high-quality design, and effective technology implementation become incredibly important, perhaps even more important than technical skill training. In part, this may reflect on what is known as the "uncanny valley hypothesis." As a robot or Avatar's appearance seems more human, many onlookers' emotional responses become increasingly empathetic up to a point, then drop into a staggering revulsion.

In other words, participants start by empathizing with cartoonish figures. Still, as the robot or virtual model becomes more realistic but not real enough to be convincing, there is a feeling of discomfort. However, once it crosses that "valley," and the robot becomes more identical to a human being, the emotional response starts to become positive once again and reaches human-to-human empathy levels.

Creating successful immersive learning at scale - Cost and Quality

Compared to other media, immersive learning experiences may require a higher-quality design to achieve training goals.

Any bad implementations in volumetric content about sound, visuals, or the timing of events, can significantly alter outcomes and impact costs.

If the scenarios are simulated in real-time with computer graphics, they also need to be represented by digital humans. These "actors" are controlled by a combination of scripts performed by live humans, programmed responses, and AI. This requires considerable animation work that is cost-driven.

The exact point of cost-benefit achievement for an enterprise can be challenging to calculate because it depends on variables ranging from the training scenario complexities to the trainee's average hourly wage and how quickly the learners absorb the material.

Factors contributing to cost benefits, retention, confidence, learner satisfaction, and decision-making accuracy include reduced time to proficiency and decreased training time because learners grasp content much faster. Volumetric video allows you to spend less of each employee's time and get increased results in multiple dimensions.

These systems have become self-contained, portable, and simple to assemble in just a few minutes with advancements.

These newer and affordable systems often deliver higher-quality experiences, including a wider field of views that allow for an increased sense of realism. Additionally, the new hand tracking devices and haptics involve the sense of touch and take immersion to the next level. More modern hardware can also integrate biometric sensors for eye tracking, tone of voice measurement, heart rate, etc.

Wrapping up

The pandemic has fast-tracked the need for virtual training and communication for many companies. Volumetric video is one solution to overcome the pain-points of remote work.

Companies can record employees, projects, or scenarios with volumetric video, instead of digitally rebuilding them from scratch.

Immersive learning offers companies the potential to provide quality development opportunities in communication, management, customer service, and beyond. Adding biometric information into trainee feedback can deliver more personalized and actionable improvement areas.

Connect with one of our experts at Radiant today to learn more.

by Surya Prakash, Radiant Director | Digital Communication

All rights reserved. © 2020 Radiant Digital Solutions


Keeping User Engagement Top-Notch with Gamification

Building highly responsive designs has become more of a norm rather than a trending exercise today. Additionally, many other factors contribute to user experience like ease-of-use, appeal, discoverability, simplicity, and above all, the ability to drive emotions toward a product or service through design.

There's always scope to add a "fun" element to the UX and make it more enjoyable. Making designs immersive with AR and VR is a booming trend, while Gamification's technique makes the interaction more productive by adding game-like elements to the experience. It creates an environment of growth and accomplishment and a spirit of competition that drives the business mission.

Gamification is a potent tool for increasing user retention, promoting learning and growth, and producing excitement and interest in your user base. Thus, many enterprises reap this technique's benefits to motivate their employees to perform better and customers to stay engaged in their products and services.

Let's delve into the details of this exciting method in UX design and how it could benefit your organization.

What is Gamification?

Gamification At Work: What is Gamification? | Interaction Design Foundation

It employs game mechanics in non-game/productive activities or real-world environments, such as websites and mobile applications. Gamification designs emphasize human-focused motivation as opposed to a function-focused design. This enhances user engagement with an interface because of fun features such as leader boards, badges, jackpot points, etc., in an existing system.

Some companies let their employees or customers monetize the points won or avail perks based on what they’ve won. With Gamification, designers tap the intrinsic motivations of users, so they enjoy engaging more.

The Appeal of Gamification in UX Design

Gamification is fun because it appeals to these eight Core Drives that motivate us towards certain activities. UX designers have to factor in these drives while designing a Gamification-centric app or website.

The fundamental psychological principle behind Gamification is to provide positive reinforcement for each action taken. Many organizations are taking it seriously because:

  • Gamification creates immediacy or relevance for users in an application or website.
  • It incentivizes users to achieve goals and helps overcome negative associations with the system. Users end up completing tasks they would not have done otherwise since they are motivated by rewards.
  • Multiple techniques like gameplay, rules to goals mapping, countdowns, rewards for completing a certain percentage or level of tasks, etc., can be applied.
  • People become more accustomed to a design through interactions to solve challenges.
  • Gamification uses learning and knowledge sharing in a more fun way.
  • Social elements and integration with social media let users share their digital universe experiences.

Benefits of Gamification for UX Designers

  • They can increase user engagement for their designs while making it fun and interactive.
  • For a website that promotes learning, Gamification improves knowledge absorption and retention.
  • Gamification helps reveal specific player behavior and learning experiences as a feedback mechanism that improves the design features and performance in a testing environment.
  • They can improve the discoverability of a website's different features by using fun elements and driving curiosity.

Benefits of Gamification for Employees (through In-house Apps)

Employees Motivation

Gamification is used to create an environment of healthy competition that drives better performance in employees. Contests in a game will be considered fun and less impactful than a failure at work. It also improves team spirit among employees.

Cost Reduction

Many companies try to reduce staffing costs by training their existing employees with necessary skills (like programming or team management) through Gamification.

Team Building

A common goal with a shared vision in a gaming environment can bring people with different opinions and perspectives. This unison can raise their spirits to perform better as a team and enjoy the fruits of victory together.

Accelerate Productivity

Incentivizing efforts influence better productivity through performance. Rewards like pay bonuses or paid leaves or awards can keep the employee’s motivation engine running.

Reduce Stress

A fun UX design for a Gamification activity can reduce stress, which is essential for better performance and more significant employee outputs.

Fast Staff Training

Employees learn better and faster when the course is fun and has rewards in the end. They complete the training faster with better understanding when there is a reward associated with it.

Benefits of Gamification for Businesses

Key Principles of Gamification Design

Gamification is based on the following principles, and much of it is not in the regulations themselves but how they execute.

Language and useful information architecture are fundamental in making a user feel sure, not a simple checklist of concepts and mechanics.

Challenge Users

The primary task is to invite a user to participate in a challenging contest. The application should set a straightforward task (challenge) for the player with clear rules, conditions, and terms of fulfillment with the most significant transparency level. If they seem too complicated, users will quit immediately. Some tips include,

· Providing users with ideal and timely prompts and options to push themselves.

· Displaying visuals that promote a user’s urge to win and compete.

· Giving users opportunities to display their earnings to others, encouraging other users to improve performance and compete.

Support Falling Forward

It is important to encourage users to continue trying, playing, and participating in the Gamification system that you create with motivational cues and messages. This includes insistence by offering users the chance to play again (go back to your app) through push-notifications, reminders, or even alerts.

Encourage Consistency

Encourage users every time they fail, hinting that consistency is the key to winning. Regardless of winning or losing, consistent upliftment is essential to keep players excited and motivated to move ahead. Consistent and comfortable language and copy are critical to demonstrate that users are making progress.

Provide a Rewarding and Exciting Experience

The Gamification experience must be exciting and promising. Rewards provide a logical conclusion to the whole process. The desirability of the prize must evoke feelings of delight, enjoyment, and excitement.

Additionally, other UX design elements like color, animations, iconography, and customizations will evoke excitement and create a unique environment for players with specific achievements. This can be executed by including analytics that generates animations, attention-grabbing icons, and components that lift and move with interaction.

Personalization and Ownership

Personalized content and design evoke a sense of pride and ownership in users. Rolling out bespoke experiences to users based on their tastes, and one which they could personalize themselves is a vital aspect of Gamification design.

This complements all the other Gamification principles, and lets players take ownership of the application in the most comfortable way. Include a feature to allow a user to decide their avatars or profile pictures, customize their interface by changing colors or styles of onscreen elements, and earn awards and achievements for doing so.

Here are some of the hacks to use to make your app very interactive with Gamification.

  • Virtual money - Although this is only virtual, people are motivated to perform some tasks to gain it. It is the best tool for encouragement, if not a reward.
  • Push notifications can be used as reminders in an app or a challenge to give the player essential information about performance, timelines, competition, etc.
  • Status – This includes the status of the various player levels or performance levels. Users enjoy getting a new status, especially if they are competing for a goal.
  • Tips – For new players, tips help discover the workflow of the Gamification platform. They simplify the experience and navigation of a website/application.

Gamification Challenges & Tips for UX Designers

UX designers must balance “fun” and the subject matter tonality while considering the users’ preferences. The degree of Gamification won’t be the same for corporate and personal environments. Designers face some challenges while inserting Gamification into UX, which include:

Lack of Autonomy – Encourage voluntary user actions. Taking away the users’ control can only pull them away from using the app/website. It would be best if you don’t push players to adopt desired behaviors but insert subtle elements/prompts which guide them toward a particular experience while giving them control.

Missing Relevance – Users need to feel relevant to the brand’s objectives. Customizing your design’s content and tone to players fosters their loyalty. If there is no relevance, users would prefer another platform or step backing from using your platform.

Not Meeting Competence Levels– If users are not comfortable playing, they stop discovering your design since it becomes too overwhelming or confusing. Try to use easy to identify icons, language, and process flows for an average user caliber to boost engagement.

Lack of user curiosity – The element of human curiosity drives discoverability, especially for mobile app Gamification. The UX designer must plan each step to spark interest in the user to move ahead.

The role of gamification in creating user engagement — a UX case study | by  Riya Samuel | UX Collective

Too Many Features – Building a game or Gamification platform requires precise planning of its features. Overdoing the features or adding irrelevant ones would weigh down the fun while defeating incentivizing users to complete real-world tasks.

By understanding these four phases of a user’s Gamification journey, a UX designer can ideally plan the processes with the right mix of features.

Types of Interactive Game Mechanics for UX Improvement

Wrapping up

A successful UX design covers increased user engagement through pleasurable activity and satisfying the design's original purpose. Gamification is an experience you should “tailor” carefully into your design and not a feature you insert abruptly.

Radiant Digital can help you step up your Gamification plan for an optimized UX design.

Connect with our UX Gamification experts today! by Gabriel Manfredy, Radiant Digital
Principal UX Designer
All rights reserved. © 2020 Radiant Digital Solutions


Creating Accessible Computer-based Training in Storyline 360

In today’s environment, companies need to rely more and more on education and training programs delivered through a digital platform. The switch from face-to-face to virtual meetings, while not without associated difficulties, has proven to be an effective and, in some cases, a more inclusive way to provide information. From this experience, there is a growing understanding of the benefits of self-paced, non-instructor lead computer-based training (CBT). The CBTs can be standalone or part of a complete blended delivery course and cover any level of information from basic introductions to complex ideas. Regardless of complexity, the CBTs need to include functionality that allows an end-user to quickly access and learn the required information.

Today’s workforce is incredibly diverse. As more and more opportunities are available to a broader range of people, CBT training courses must reflect the accessibility needs of the user. Using web accessibility laws and guidelines, companies can develop CBTs that allow all of their employees to learn effectively.

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Web Accessibility

Most people use the internet daily and don’t need to worry if they will be able to get where they need to go and if they will be able to find the information they need. However, this is not the case for everybody. The goal of web accessibility is to allow anyone to navigate web pages and consume information easily.

Laws and Standards for Accessibility

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 508) is Federal law. It requires Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology (EIT) accessible to people with disabilities—Federal employees and the public. It includes accessibility standards that are incorporated into regulations that govern Federal procurement practices. Federal agencies that are not compliant can be held legally responsible.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), on the other hand, is a set of standards from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) that provides actionable guidelines to achieve web accessibility. While WCAG is not a regulatory body, the procedures are accepted worldwide as the standard for accessibility and are used by Section 508 to help determine compliance. WCAG is currently on version 2.1, which is an extension of version 2.0. These guidelines continue to evolve as new needs arise and as technology advances allowing additional accessibility capabilities.

Web Accessibility Promotes Inclusion

Compliance to Section 508 helps people with different disabilities, including:

  • Hearing impairments – deafness and hard of hearing
  • Vision impairments – low vision, color blindness, partial blindness, and total blindness
  • Speech impairments
  • Mobility impairments
  • Cognitive impairments
  • Seizure and Vestibular Disorders

Who else is helped by 508 compliant CBTs? Just about everyone. The required features and functionality for a compliant CBT allow users to:

  • Navigate without a mouse—maybe the mouse batteries died, and there is no trackpad.
  • Read audio content—maybe there are no speakers or headphones available or the environment is noisy.
  • Hear what content is on the screen—may be visual attention is split, or the screen is small or poor-quality.

Making compliant CBTs also helps people who may be taking a course that is not available in their native language or those with learning disabilities by allowing the user to select the best way to take in the information.

While Section 508 focuses on Federal and Federally-funded agencies, it is in any company’s best interest to remain cognizant of who these standards help and how.

CBT Authoring Tools and Compliance

Using CBT authoring tools to make robust and engaging courses is nothing new. However, many of these same tools already provide the functionality to make consistent, accessible, and usable CBTs. Storyline 360 enables designers to create a more accessible CBT with little additional effort quickly.

Storyline 360 already supports all applicable Revised Section 508 accessibility guidelines. Some of the features are automatic, while others require the designer to set parameters or enter the required information.

Designing with Compliance in Mind

According to Census.gov, nearly 20% of all Americans have some type of disability, half of whom are believed to have severe disabilities.

Keeping this in mind, designers need to analyze the learning objectives and make CBTs accessible to the broadest audience. For this, the designer needs to think about how users will:

  • Navigate/interact with the CBT - mouse, keyboard, voice activation, or maybe a combination
  • Receive/consume the information – through the audio and visual components on the slide, a screen reader, closed captioning, or others

Storyline 360 supports users:

  • 302.1 Without Vision
  • 302.2 With Limited Vision
  • 302.3 Without Perception of Color
  • 302.4 Without Hearing
  • 302.5 With Limited Hearing
  • 302.6 Without Speech
  • 302.7 With Limited Manipulation (drag-and-drop and Likert scale questions are not keyboard accessible)
  • 302.8 With Limited Reach and Strength
  • 302.9 With Limited Language, Cognitive, and Learning Abilities

It is essential to know what Storyline 360 does and what a designer still needs to design courses. Using the latest version and the accessible player, courses will automatically support multiple screen readers, provide a discoverable structure and hierarchy for learners using assistive technologies, and provide player controls that are logically grouped, organized, and labeled. The following table shows what Storyline 360 can do, and a few things the designer should do. The lists are not exhaustive.

User Storyline 360: The designer needs to:
Without vision or with limited vision Supports: Screen readers Audio descriptions keyboard navigation Set a logical tab order for people using only a keyboard to navigate. Apply custom alternate text for images and other non-text. Add keyboard shortcuts to one or all slides.
With limited vision Course player conforms to minimum contrast guidelines Set color contrast to minimum ratio or better increase initial font size.
Without the perception of color Provides robust authoring options to engage users without the need for color differentiation Create content understood by learners who don’t perceive color. Set color contrast to minimum ratio or better.
Without hearing or with limited hearing Supports: Closed captions transcript Provide visual alternatives for audio-dependent content. Change the accessibility focus color, as needed.
Without speech Does not require speech.
With limited manipulation Provides multiple compliant interactive features Use only keyboard-accessible features. Do not use drag-and-drop or Likert scale questions or provide keyboard accessible alternatives.
With limited reach and strength Courses can be navigated via mouse, keyboard, and mobile touchscreen gestures Create content that is suitable for learners with limited reach and strength.
With limited language, cognitive, and learning abilities Provides robust authoring options to engage users in multiple ways Create content that is easily accessible for learners with limited language, cognitive, and learning abilities.

It is also important for designers to avoid using timed content or tests. If timed content is necessary, there should be a way for a user using assistive technology to extend the time or stop it to allow sufficient time.

Testing to Verify Accessibility

Once the course is built, it needs to be tested to verify all of the features work as expected. There are three primary ways to test and validate conformance to Section 508 accessibility standards:

  • Automated – High-volume 508 conformance testing tools automatically scan and test electronic content;
  • Manual – Manual testing uses a documented, consistent, repeatable process;
  • Hybrid – A combination of automated and manual testing.

Manual tests can be created using the Section 508 ICT Testing Baseline as a starting point. The 24 baseline tests establish the minimum tests and evaluation guidelines that determine whether Web content meets Section 508 requirements. The ICT Testing Baseline is not intended to be a test process itself.

The Trusted Tester: Section 508 Conformance Test Process For Web from the Department of Homeland Security uses the ICT Testing Baseline, but groups tests together and puts them in a logical, practical order.

When testing manually, there are a few tools that can come in handy. Some free applications are listed in the following table, but others can be purchased.

Tool/Software Description
ANDI (Accessible Name & Description Inspector) ANDI (Accessible Name & Description Inspector) is a free tool to test websites for accessibility. It is a "favelet" or "bookmarklet" that will: Provide automated detection of accessibility issues. Reveal what a screen reader should say for interactive elements (the accessible name computation). Give practical suggestions to improve accessibility and check 508 compliance.
Color Contrast Analyzer CCA 2.5 for Windows CCA 2.4 for macOS The Color Contrast Analyzer (CCA) is a free, open-source tool that displays the contrast ratio for two selected colors—developed by Steve Faulkner and the Paciello Group.
NVDA Screen reader NonVisual Desktop Access (NVDA) is a free and open-source screen reader for the Microsoft Windows operating system.
Screen reader Focus Highlight An add-on focus highlight for NVDA. By drawing a colored rectangle, this add-on enables partially sighted users, sighted educators, or developers to track the NVDA navigator object's location and the focused object/control.
Accessibility Insights Accessibility Insights is available for Web, Windows, and Android and helps developers find and fix accessibility issues.

Using the baseline processes and available tools, perform the compliance tests by imagining how different users will go through the course.

  • Turn off the sound and use the closed captions, transcripts, and other features for hearing impairments.
  • Use descriptive audio and a screen reader to move through the course.
  • Navigate the course using just a keyboard.
  • Check for flashing screens, timed components, and interactions that cannot be completed.

The CBT is compliant when all of the testing criteria have been confirmed.

Conclusion

Storyline 360 continues to improve their accessibility options as end-user needs change giving designers access to the latest compliance options. Radiant can assist you with developing or testing 508 and WCAG compliant eLearning and other learning applications. Let us help you better reach all of your learners.

by Emily O'Neill, Radiant Digital
Project Consultant

All rights reserved. © 2020 Radiant Digital Solutions


The Power of Product Ownership

As more organizations dip their toes into the ‘agile pool’, it’s important to continuously analyze and assess the customer’s needs to maintain a competitive or market advantage.

In organizations that still rely on more traditional approaches for project and program delivery, this should be happening already. Business analysts (or comparable) are typically assigned to assess and document many functional requirements from customers before working with technical subject matter experts to translate. While useful, this approach doesn’t enable agility and impedes an organization’s ability to identify and respond to changing customer and market needs.

In some cases, it’s also possible that organizations stand up ‘customer experience’ teams who, in part, dedicate their time to better understanding a customer’s journey to identify new, better, or more desirable products and services. This, too, can be effective, but depending on the timing, frequency, and level of expertise involved, it’s possible that data captured may not articulate the real-time and nuanced perspectives of the actual customer.

In these cases, to empower and enable a better understanding of what a customer truly wants and expects, there is one role in ruling them all—the Product Owner.

What exactly is a Product Owner?

As the name implies, the Product Owner represents the product vision and voice of the customer. In essence, they “own” the customer’s requirements.

While Product Owners can be anyone from anywhere, the most successful Product Owners have a clear understanding of what customers want and expect. Product Owner roles typically align with business-facing departments like Marketing, as they position to identify and articulate the customer’s point of view.

From a more tactical perspective, the Product Owner is responsible for translating the needs, wants, and desires of target customers into user stories that prioritize and shared with the development teams responsible for bringing target capabilities and products to life.

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These user stories are then refined and provided to Scrum teams who trace the functionality and translate into technical requirements to meet the criteria. A Product Owner’s value shines when we further define acceptance criteria, or a “definition of done”, to ultimately ensure that the software and delivery teams truly grasp and deliver the right value at the right time.

In traditional Scrum environments, the Product Owner is one of the primary trinity roles that help ensure that teams are clear on what the customer expects. By partnering with the Scrum Master, mature teams can help define requirements and translate them into consistent value delivered to the customer. By collaborating with Solution or Technical Leads, Product Owners help ensure that they are aligned on the big picture and tuned in to the right offerings for the customers and markets they represent.

The Value of Product Ownership

Organizations that support fully dedicated Product Owners stand to benefit the most, but even part-time Product Owners can help organizations maintain a critical link to customer needs and expectations. Product Owners have a direct line to the downstream users and consumers who benefit from the software or capabilities develop, and they can maintain a laser focus on sourcing and communicating this business value to the supporting teams. This provides an immediate boost to backend software and IT teams because they can trust the requirements; they give and focus on the technical solution. In turn, Product Owners can help clarify what to expect when functional capabilities or desired outcomes are not exact.

Additionally, while IT shops worldwide continue to evolve, it is scarce to have software developers that have a deep understanding of the house's business side. While IT shops excel at developing the code behind the scenes to make things happen, we must create and craft products and experiences innately and intrinsically in line with the customers’ wants and desires.

So, What Makes a Good Product Owner?

Like any role, Product Owners can draw significantly on their personal experience and expertise to live into the role. But in general, some essential characteristics will help ensure success, especially for folks that are new to the role:

Be Empathetic - Just Listen!

Successful Product Owners embrace the role by understanding the needs of the customers or market segments they represent. It’s not uncommon for Product Owners to actively participate in customer discovery activities, user experience workshops, and other customer-focused exercises to walk in the shoes of their customers. This helps build a stake in the game and ensure they truly understand their customer’s perspectives.

Own the Vision (and the Backlog)

For several reasons, software and delivery teams can become confused about what is desired or expected. This is the Product Owner’s time to shine; By concentrating on the business value opportunities and staying plugged into the organization’s strategic drivers, Product Owners formulate the vision for realizing the business value and translate that vision into achievable outcomes. Delivery teams benefit by having an exact, prioritized list of requirements that encompasses the value target.

Sponsor and Accept

While the Scrum Master protects and supports the team, the Product Owner protects and supports the business value. When delivery teams are ready to demo working software, code, or solutions, it is the Product Owner’s responsibility to accept their work if it meets the customer’s requirements. If target outcomes or deliverables don’t meet, the Product Owner helps steer the delivery teams and provide feedback to get them back on track for the next iteration.

Risk vs. Reward

Organizations that do not have dedicated Product Owners risk inconsistent value delivery. Inconsistency can not only impact an organization’s bottom line but the happiness of its customers as well.

While it’s possible for some backend support teams to function without having dedicated Product Ownership, Scrum teams and organizations may lose focus on the real value proposition when delivering software or deploying solutions. Additionally, while organizations can achieve some level of success without formally observing the role, Product Owners are critical to a business's success and organizational agility. Without dedicated Product Owners owning the product visions and representing the customer’s ever-changing needs, fully realizing the benefits of business agility stifle.

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Organizations that commit to dedicated Product Owners are drawing a line in the sand. For the most valuable software, services, and capabilities to be delivered, Product Owners must represent and understand the customer’s needs. By maintaining a pulse on what customers value the most, organizations help ensure that they are creating products and experiences that customers want, trickling down into more significant revenue, market penetration, and customer satisfaction.

Is your organization tapping into the Power of Product Ownership? Radiant Digital has personnel and expertise to help your organization deliver great products and customer experiences. For help scaling and maturing your product delivery pipeline, contact Radiant Digital at [info@radiant.digital].

by Frank Cannistra, Radiant Digital

All rights reserved. © 2020 Radiant Digital Solutions


Doing Agile: Scrum & Kanban

When we talk about workplace agility, we typically mean one of two things—being agile and doing agile.

Being agile is all about your mindset, focusing on collaboration, being open and receptive to change, and enabling a more nimble and responsive way of working. On the other hand, doing agile is all about making it stick via industry-hardened tools, techniques, and frameworks. Simultaneously, organizations can adopt dozens of approaches to deliver value in a more agile fashion; two of the more widely adopted methods for providing software or products include Scrum or Kanban. But what exactly are they, and what are the benefits?

Scrum and Kanban: What's the Difference?

Scrum is an iterative approach for software delivery that focuses on identifying, planning, and prioritizing work. Kanban, traditionally derived from lean manufacturing processes, is a method for delivering something of value "just-in-time" with a focus on reducing and eliminating wait time in your processes.

Both Scrum and Kanban are widely adopted approaches for delivering value. While each method has its benefits and disadvantages, both Scrum and Kanban are flexible and lightweight enough that teams can typically pick one or the other and realize a similar path to successful value delivery.

In agile coaching circles, Kanban is sometimes the better approach to get people introduced to being (and thinking more agile). Because it can retrofit nicely into your existing workflow, it doesn't carry all the 'fluff' associated with more formally defined practices. Kanban uses a series of workflow columns and fundamental metrics to ensure consistent workflow and monitors against specific thresholds.

For example, by splitting workflow states into separate "Doing" vs. "Done" sub-states, team members can confidently pick up assignments when ready instead of waiting for assigned work. Additionally, having a visualized workflow ensures appropriate quality measures are followed before deploying.

The Kanban Board

On the other hand, for organizations with more mature project or program management capabilities, or for organizations that are working to drive more consistency and predictability, Scrum can be an excellent jumping-on point for teams making the shift to agile.

Sprints (also commonly known as iterations or timeboxes) are a vital component of Scrum. Sprints are short intervals, usually lasting two weeks, where the team focuses on showing incremental value. At the end of each sprint, teams inspect what was completed and adapt for the next sprint accordingly.

Additionally, Scrum includes several ceremonies and artifacts, such as sprint planning and the product backlog, that shifts the emphasis to better understanding (and honoring) work deliverable commitments. Once a sprint is completed, teams can meet during a retrospective to discuss ways they can improve. Teams that incorporate these tools and techniques will benefit from more frequent feedback loops and identify opportunities to course correct faster while also enhancing overall transparency and collaboration.

Typical Scrum Setup

However, picking the right fit isn't as easy as it seems. Each team has nuanced and unique ways of working and pressures and expectations from outside forces, so several factors should be considered when implementing either Kanban or Scrum. Things like estimated time to complete, work planning, response time, and even having the ability to identify bottlenecks, should all be assessed to help drive the right decision.

For example, if the work scope is well known and clearly defined, Scrum helps teams effectively plan and commit to what will (or should) be delivered in a given timeframe. Because Scrum operates on an iterative basis, it is also a promising approach for providing team members with opportunities to frequently check-in on progress, make any tweaks or improvements, and accept any new or changing requirements without significantly impacting their work plan. One of the primary benefits of Scrum is that teams can work on much shorter increments and show value more quickly compared to more traditional waterfall approaches, which can take weeks or even months to provide opportunities for a check-in.

Therefore, we observe that one of the main benefits of following Scrum is predictability. By standing up Scrum teams and supporting constructs, teams and customers alike can benefit from having a repeatable cadence.

Kanban can be an excellent alternative for organizations that are new to agile transformation or in cases where work is not predictable or where ad hoc processes are the norm.

Kanban allows teams to focus on visualizing and optimizing their process or flow, emphasizing throughput. Kanban is most suitable for support teams or support processes where service level agreements (SLA) or completion times are vital drivers. Kanban greatly benefits from teams and processes with generalized expertise and an innate opportunity to work when the need arises.

However, for either Scrum or Kanban to be successful, there are some key factors to keep in mind:

Dedication

How dedicated are team members? Are they supporting a single body of work, or are they asked to support multiple work efforts? Starting with this question can sometimes help in picking the best path forward. Simply put, it's essential to have dedicated team members and business engagement for Scrum to shine. Scrum requires a high level of participation and commitment to ensure that the right value is delivered at the right time. When team members are split between different initiatives or in a situation where there is little collaboration from the house's business side (usually in the form of a dedicated Product or Business Owner), it's challenging for team members to honor commitments establish a good rhythm. In cases where team members are not entirely dedicated, Kanban could be the right solution because it visualizes constraints and empowers team members to pick up work items as they are ready.

Work Scheduling & Prioritization

Having the ability to schedule and prioritize work enhances organizational transparency. However, it can be difficult to schedule and prioritize work that comes in more frequently.

While Scrum excels in cases where upfront planning happens for big-bang deliverables, Kanban could be a better fit for support-type processes that heavily involve ad hoc requests like support tickets. Teams and stakeholders must align with how work is delivered and at what frequency to help mitigate potential risks associated with timeliness and ensure customer satisfaction.

Monitoring

Both Scrum and Kanban provide opportunities to optimize and improve. We can reference the Sprint Burndown or Sprint Velocity to monitor potential issues and course correct for the next iteration in Scrum. We can observe Cumulative Flow and Cycle Time metrics in Kanban to ensure consistent throughput with little to no wait periods. In either case, it's crucial to track progress and identify ways for continuous improvement to enable agility.

So, Which One Should I Pick?

In practical application, both Scrum and Kanban can help your team deliver value in a timely fashion. While each approach is unique, both Scrum and Kanban provide several benefits and advantages that can increase throughput, transparency, and consistent work delivery when implemented and practiced correctly. Not sure which one is the best fit? In the true spirit of agility, it's essential to experiment and find the best path forward based on your unique needs and environment.

Scrum and Kanban are important components of doing agile, but agile transformation efforts can be complex, especially at scale. Radiant Digital has personnel and expertise to make doing agile a daily thing. For help with your organization or client’s agile transformation, contact Radiant Digital [info@radiant.digital].

by Frank Cannistra, Radiant Digital

All rights reserved. © 2020 Radiant Digital Solutions