The tool is an observational research and questioning framework used to broaden the researcher’s perspective and make sense of elements being present in a particular context. The abbreviation POEMS stands for 5 contextual elements:
PEOPLE > OBJECTS > ENVIRONMENTS > MESSAGES > SERVICES
The application of this framework encourages researchers to examine elements within a context independently, as well as recognising them as an interrelated system.
For instance, a team researching a product using the POEMS framework will look beyond the object level (the product itself) and will recognise related services, messages, environments and people that also have a stake within the wider context. In broadening the perspective, the framework helps teams to think about product contexts as integrated systems and capture the world around the user they finally need to create solutions for.
- Project topic
- Challenge to be solved
- Defined situations for obser- vation, shadowing, interview
- Broadens mindset and vantage point
- Encourages comprehensiveness
- Gives focus to the process
- Helps to understand context
- Focuses on specific details
- Organized observation and questioning about aspects of a context
- Structured document to share with peers
HOW IT WORKS
STEP 1 – PREPARE FOR GOING INTO THE FIELD
Study the POEMS template well. When being in the field, you need to record and categorize your observations according to its framework quickly
Carry tools (clipboard, pens, camera) with you
STEP 2 – GO INTO THE FIELD
Observe people or engage them in a conversation. Ask about their activities, the objects they use, their environments, the information they interact with, and similar aspects – without in- terfering with their routines though
Take pictures of addressed or observed key situations
In addition to the photos, write down key aspects of your observations
STEP 3 – RECAP WHAT YOU HAVE JUST WITNESSED
Immediately after your field activity, go through the framework once more by yourself. You may rephrase or add things as long as they are still fresh in your memory
Every single piece of information gathered in field activities is called “signal”. Recently, signals and the term “insight” are very often mixed up and one became a synonym for the other.
It is crucial to understand the difference between them, because they have entirely different values. Research produces a variety of signals, which are subsequently condensed to in- sights. Signals reflect only an individual occurrence or a singled out opinion – insights on the other hand, have a much higher contextual value. They stand for a variety of different sources pointing at the same direction. This difference becomes highly important for companies in decision-making. Reacting on an individual signal is risky, because it only represents a singled out source of information. Making decisions based on a researched insight instead, proved to be much safer because insights are based on different sources and represent a broader stakeholder opinion.
The following chapter outlines how to harvest obtained signals and generate a solid, well-researched and user-centred insight.
WHAT CAN SIGNALS BE USED FOR?
- Stakeholder communication: present first findings to your stakeholders in visual manner
- Raw material for Personae
- Raw material for Touch Point Analyses