In June 2021, Nina completed our Product Management Project with Uniting. On this project Nina embarked on a 9 week journey to learn the fundamentals of the Product Management framework while working on a live client project.
In September 2020, the Harris Uniting Community Centre partnered with members of the local community to launch Chex, a new initiative conceived to address the economic uncertainty brought on by COVID – from both individual and local business perspectives. Chex is loosely modelled on a community currency model, in which participants obtain physical plastic cards representing $10 from the Harris Community Centre and then redeem these in selected local businesses for goods and services. The local businesses are reimbursed on a weekly to fortnightly basis by Chex team members and cards are then returned to circulation. As a student working on this product, I felt very passionate about Chex as it’s key aim was to help others live a meaningful and better life!
The Chex program is funded primarily through grants and government funding, with aspirations to increase the revenue brought in through sponsorships, donations, and community circulation. The program is managed by between 8 and 15 volunteers, with only one paid Harris Centre employee. The current process of managing Chex is highly manual, labour intensive and reliant on conditional funding and unstable resourcing. To support the program’s rapid growth, the Chex team engaged the Harness Product Management group to propose a way forward that will ensure the Chex program is accessible to all who seek assistance, streamline manual processes involved in the management of the Chex program, and assist the Chex program to create social impact in the local community.
The Harness Product Management team was very welcoming, collaborative and supportive. Because this course is an Upskiller, aimed at those with relevant transferable skills and experience, it meant that there were lots of interesting and insightful perspectives.
It was exciting to meet our business stakeholders for the first time and hear their challenges. Because the Chex program operates to support those requiring emergency relief, it made delivery of this project very rewarding to know our recommendations will be helping people in the community who most need support. From a practical perspective, applying product management theory to a real client problem was much more meaningful than reviewing theoretical case studies.
The research phase was quite intense. I interviewed multiple stakeholders from across the Chex program and partnering businesses to get an in-depth understanding of their challenges and current process. I both led and observed interviews, and then distilled the notes from over 7 hours of insights into validated problem statements, user journeys and personas.
Key themes emerging from the interviews centred around a lack of time and human resourcing.
Streamlining the current manual and administrative processes around card issuing and tracking, and grant reporting and acquittals, would enable the Chex team to spend time to resolve the additional challenges identified such as raising awareness and seeking extended business sponsorships.
Nima, our very experienced Mentor, provided guidance throughout this process, contextualising the artefacts we were producing and explaining best practices.
Leveraging the synthesised research and validated problem statements, I used divergent thinking to ideate through many possible solutions and explored ways that Chex could streamline their administration activities. I tried to think through the problems from many different angles and both manual and tech solutions.
I evaluated potential solutions against Value and Effort criteria to identify those with the most significant return on effort invested. As a small organisation, Chex does not have money to waste, so the ideal solution had to deliver maximum effort quickly and easily. I went on to conduct a second round of interviews with the Chex team to test and refine concepts and ensure my solution would be feasible and achieve great outcomes.
Ultimately, I recommended implementation of a new Chex portal, built on the Square SAAS platform. Its key features are that it:
As a program manager, preparing a phased implementation roadmap was familiar, however developing a business model for a small charitable organisation was a new and fun challenge. I considered aspects including revenue growth from sales, once off and recurring donations as well as costs required to implement the solution across software, change management and digital marketing. Based on financial modelling, I believe that Chex would be able to save significant manual effort and produce recurring revenue streams by implementing the online shopfront solution.
It was wonderful to present the final business case to the client team, and to hear the solutions devised by my teammates. While we were all working with the same clients, it was amazing to see the myriad creative ways we had approached the different challenges we identified through the process. The clients were very appreciative of the recommendations made and the questions they asked made it clear they were already thinking about ways they would interact with the solutions and adapt to their new ways of working.
I appreciated the opportunity to partner with Harness and the Chex program on this exciting digitisation initiative. I got to apply practical skills to a worthwhile cause, while working with an engaged and enthusiastic cohort and a knowledgeable and experienced mentor.
I will be able to take the skills gained through this project with me as I progress in my career.
At the conclusion of the project, Nina was assessed for the skills she demonstrated during the 9 week project. These were certified and co-signed by Harness Projects and Uniting to acknowledge the great work she achieved on the project.
Follow Nina’s footsteps and check out our Upskiller Product Management Course