Evantage sponsors the 2015 MIMA Summit

by Bret Busse

Evantage MIMA Summit 2015

The 14th annual Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association Summit was held this week.  This well planned, well executed, and sold out event featured an impressive lineup of speakers and keynotes that moved the mind and the heart.

Evantage has a long history with MIMA and the Summit. Our founder, Robin Carpenter, helped found MIMA in 1998 and served on the board until 2002. I met Robin at a MIMA event in 2000 and quickly joined her committee before joining the board in 2001.  I helped create the first Summit, and eventually served as MIMA President. Our Managing Partner, Kate McRoberts, served on the MIMA board for 4+ years, helping program events and the Summit during a time of exponential growth for MIMA.

MIMA was founded by a small group of people who knew that sharing their knowledge was the best way to help each other figure out how to do their jobs better. 17 years later, the association is a nationally-recognized leader and is fulfilling its mission to raise the level of talent in Minnesota, challenge the status quo and inspire innovation. We’re proud to be a part of it.

Congratulations to the current MIMA Board on a job well done.

The "So What": Telling Stories with Data


When we review a presentation before showing it to a client, someone often asks about the “so what.” Your findings seem reasonable, but so what? What do you want your audience to learn? What action should they take as a result?

If there are charts and graphs in the presentation, those also have to support the “so what.” You can’t just look at data and pick the optimal visualization. You’ll get better results if you first figure out the point you’re making, then design the graph as a supporting illustration.

The Storytelling with Data blog, written by Cole Nussbaumer, is not the only place to learn about good data visualization practices, but it has a more holistic view of communication than many. Yes, Cole talks about the pros and cons of bars, lines, and (shudder) pies, but she goes beyond that to discuss titles, labels, and other accompanying text, and how the shapes and the words come together to make meaning happen.

One of the reasons I like Cole’s blog is that she trades in small data. Her examples tend to feature manageable data sets that might inspire normal people to whip up a graph. So, when she announced a visualization challenge a couple of weeks ago the goal was not to inspire the kind of kinetic sculpture that big companies use to brand themselves as innovators. It was simply to improve upon a set of world population graphs published by The Economist.

While the challenge was to remake the visuals, the biggest problem with the original was the lack of a clear point. The text accompanying the graph was a laundry list of observations:

“The number of people will grow from 7.3 billion to 9.7 billion in 2050, 100m more than was estimated in the UN’s last report two years ago. More than half of this growth comes from Africa, where the population is set to double to 2.5 billion. Nigeria’s population will reach 413m, overtaking America as the world’s third most-populous country. Congo and Ethiopia will swell to more than 195m and 188m repectively, more than twice their current numbers. India will surpass China as the world’s most populous country in 2022, six years earlier than was previously forecast. China’s population will peak at 1.4 billion in 2028; India’s four decades later at 1.75 billion. Changes in fertility make long-term projections hard, but by 2100 the planet’s population will be rising past 11.2 billion. It will also be much older. The median age of 30 will rise to 36 in 2050 and 42 in 2100—the median age of Europeans today. A quarter of Europe’s people are already aged 60 or more; by 2050 deaths will outnumber births by 32m. The UN warns that only migration will prevent the region’s population from shrinking further.”

What I get from this is, there are going to be a lot more people. Okay. So what?

To me, the big story in the data was the massive projected growth of Africa, and the problems that it could spell for billions of people. Here’s what I made (click to embiggen):

swdChallenge

There were other interesting observations that could have been made, but I picked the story that seemed compelling to me and focused on that. The great thing, though, was that other people chose different points (for example, the shifting makeup of the world’s overall population, or how the projections fit with historical trends), and most of them improved on the original in some way. The variety of stories and approaches are on display on the round-up published yesterday, along with Cole’s critique.

Data can clarify, illustrate, and convince, but it doesn’t speak for itself. If you want it to support what you want to say, you have to figure out the “so what” first.

Working in Context with Axure 8

By Jeff Harrison

The Axure 8 beta dropped yesterday, and as always there’s a lot to take in. Some of the new features are pretty flashy: updated animation options mean you can finally flip and spin things—at the same time! There are tools for creating custom shapes, repeater updates, and lots of other improvements that will help you make fancier prototypes, if that’s your thing.

The changes I’m happiest to see are the ones that promise to improve the way I work in Axure by allowing me to work on things in their context, instead of having to switch to one mode where I’m editing in isolation, and then back to see the results of what I’ve done.

There are three examples of this that stick out at me right away.

Read More

You Still Have to Do the Work

By Jeff Harrison

Here’s a common exchange when I’m talking to a prospective client (let’s call him “Steve”) about an Axure workshop:

Me: Tell me a little bit about how you see your team using Axure.

Steve: We’re using all kinds of tools today. Some people are using Visio, some are using PowerPoint. The designers are using Photoshop and OmniGraffle. It’s all over the map. Everybody’s stuff looks different. We have decided to standardize on Axure, so the purpose of this training is to get people up to speed.

Me: Okay, that makes sense. Is there anything you know you want to focus on?

Steve: I’m extremely interested in the custom libraries that Axure has, so we can all be working with the same components. We spend too much time reinventing the wheel today. I definitely hope that these libraries are part of the training.

Me: Sure, I can cover that. What are you doing today to try to standardize components?

Steve: As I said, it’s all over the map. We have no standards.

Read More

Future-Proofing Your Prototypes

The folks at Axure (our go-to tool for rapid UI prototyping) just blogged a conversation with our own Jeff Harrison. Jeff has been using Axure for a long time and is no stranger to the headaches that can come with prototyping interactions. In this post he lays down some rules to manage that complexity, or even avoid it altogether, with the goal of making your life a lot easier when a client asks for just one “small” change.

Of course, all that happens while discussing the workings of a complex prototype that Jeff created as a demo for the Chicago Axure Users Meetup a while back, so consider yourself warned.

Welcome, Lynsey!

We are excited to announce that Lynsey Struthers has joined Evantage as a senior consultant. In a way, this seems like small news–Lynsey has been a friend of Evantage for years, expertly supporting us as a subcontractor on a number of UX engagements–but now that she has joined the fold it means we get the benefit of her user research experience and communication skills all the time! Prior to her stint as an independent contractor, Lynsey held digital strategy and interactive roles at The Lawlor Group and Haberman. Lynsey earned a BA from St. Olaf, where she holds degrees in Biology, Latin, and Secondary Education.

Allison O'Connor Speaks On Leading Healthcare Change

Allison O’Connor has been invited to speak at the 2015 Insignia Health Client Summit on Health Activation in Portland, Oregon. Her talk, “Leading Change in Dynamic Healthcare Organizations,” shares proven concepts, tools, and approaches for organizations implementing key initiatives. Allison will speak on the morning of May 6, followed by a client panel. Attendees include large and small provider groups and systems from around the country.

Allison leads strategic planning, operational improvement projects, and M&A project management for Evantage clients. She has worked with national provider and payor systems, regional health systems and critical access hospitals and clinics. In 2012, Allison was awarded the Top Women in Finance award by Finance & Commerce magazine.

Allison O’Connor Speaks On Leading Healthcare Change

Allison O’Connor has been invited to speak at the 2015 Insignia Health Client Summit on Health Activation in Portland, Oregon. Her talk, “Leading Change in Dynamic Healthcare Organizations,” shares proven concepts, tools, and approaches for organizations implementing key initiatives. Allison will speak on the morning of May 6, followed by a client panel. Attendees include large and small provider groups and systems from around the country.

Allison leads strategic planning, operational improvement projects, and M&A project management for Evantage clients. She has worked with national provider and payor systems, regional health systems and critical access hospitals and clinics. In 2012, Allison was awarded the Top Women in Finance award by Finance & Commerce magazine.

Remembering Robin

robin

This week our team came together to remember Robin Carpenter, who put as much energy into the people around her as she did into her own impressive career. The strong turnout from alumni, even on short notice, was particularly touching. Robin was a source of encouragement, actionable advice, and the occasional practical joke for dozens of consultants who have called Evantage home. As her remembrance in the Star Tribune said, “Robin was a gifted mentor to many, helping to inspire and propel leaders everywhere she went.”

A commemorative celebration will be held on Saturday, April 25, at the Woman’s Club of Minneapolis (410 Oak Grove St., 55403): visitation starting at 3:00, celebration at 4:00, social thereafter. Memorials preferred to one of Robin’s favorite non-profits: the Minnesota Opera, the University of Minnesota Veterinary Hospital, or the Golden Valley Humane Society.

Mourning Robin Carpenter

Today, we are mourning the unexpected and untimely loss of Robin J. Carpenter, a founder of Evantage Consulting and a partner, a leader, a colleague and a friend for everyone here and for many, many people outside our four walls.

Robin was a driving force behind Evantage since our inception in 1999 and shaped the organization that exists today.  Uncommonly smart, Robin pushed us all to do better for our clients and to always understand their needs and to put those at the forefront of every project.  Uncommonly kind, Robin pushed us all to be better people – to seek balance in our lives, to respect others and to always ask “How are you doing?”

Robin’s determined spirit and her desire to improve every day will always be felt at Evantage and we will honor her memory by continuing the work that she loved, pioneered and was so very proud of.

As details of a service or memorial become available we will post them here and on our Facebook page.

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