EU-MACS Coordinator: Prof. Adriaan Perrels,
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Process prototype

- Author: Ines Vaittinen (ENoLL)

Prototyping and testing is crucial in reaching a successful and long-lasting end-solution for user adoption. Prototyping in the early stages of the process allows the researchers to further understand user needs, to test the direction in which the project is moving and to validate findings from previous activities. Prototypes are also crucial in testing assumptions: while forming opinions based on your experiences is easy, spotting and understanding whether those assumptions are valid is not. Prototypes are able to point out such assumptions.

Living Labs prototype and test in the form of pilots and field tests. First, small-scale pilot studies are performed in order to validate and improve the test in itself, ensuring that the larger scale trial – the field test – is tried and tested to run smoothly. Pilot testers therefore comment not only on the aspects of the project, product or service itself, they also comment on the way the test is run and how to improve certain aspects such as instructions, for example. After the test has been perfected through the pilots a large-scale field test can be deployed, including a wider set of testers focusing specifically on the subject at hand.

True to the nature of Living Labs, the process behind the suggested climate service was prototyped and tested in a stakeholder workshop. A pilot test was conducted based on the process that was created behind the climate service. In order to create a collaborative tool, allowing the creation of a knowledge base and shared tasks, the users of this service are partaking in a process. This process was simulated and run in the form of a workshop, allowing the participants to experience the different phases involved and to comment on their importance, suggest improvements and discard aspects deemed unnecessary.

In the context of the EU-MACS project, this workshop was the last activity in the series of Living Lab methodologies. This presented the basis for the process going forward: simulating the agile project development based on trials and testing, allowing participants to experience the process of creating prototypes and improving the process based on feedback. The session also included an introduction to the FALL methodology (guideline #5) providing a framework for the development of the climate service going forward.

Workshop methodology

Imagining the climate service journey – the steps through which the users of the service will go through when using the service developed, formed the basis for the pilot. The steps were divided into separate sessions simulating the activities that the users would be performing if they were using the service, allowing users to experience the process in the form of a workshop. Each step provided the necessary information required and tasked the participants to perform the activities in the process. The simulation involved a real-life challenge presented by the municipality of Helsinki, allowing the participants to work on an existing challenge while trying out the process.

At the end of the workshop, a feedback matrix was distributed indicating each part of the process and questions underneath each, requesting both positive and negative feedback on the phase, ideas and comments as well as feedback on the way that the pilot was conducted. The findings from the feedback form provided crucial information to the team about the phases that were found most useful and important by participants, and those which need further attention and improvement. This pilot study is to be followed up by other pilot studies as the process and study itself are still subject to improvement.

See the different phases of the prototype here, and read the feedback collected on the process & pilot here.

Willingness to pay

Additional to the pilot workshop, a willingness to pay analysis was performed. The aim of this analysis was to find out which parts of the service could be monetized in the form of a paid service. In order to investigate which services should be paid for, a freemium versus premium workshop was developed: instructing participants to consider each service one-by-one, discussing these, and placing them in either a ‘freemium’ (= free service) or ‘premium’ (= paid service) box. Through this analysis synergies could be find between the different groups, highlighting those services that were most obviously placed in the freemium or premium box, as well as identifying the borderline cases where differing views arose.
In order to guide the participants through the exercise, a number of criteria was set, instructing choices to be considered when allocating the services between the two options. See the considerations for selection here.