Make Smarter Decisions with Visual Encoding

3 years ago

Make Smarter Decisions with Visual Encoding

An essential feature that can help you prioritize your work and gain new insights from your project data. Visual encoding also makes your views much easier to analyze (and much nicer to look at).

Much of the power of Targetprocess comes from the ability to visualize complex information in a way that’s easy to understand; this helps users to make well-informed decisions for their business or organization. We’re constantly pushing ourselves to improve this process.

Keeping in mind the information visualization mantra of “overview first, details on demand” we implemented visual encoding into Targetprocess some time ago. This feature was designed to bring focus and clarity to your views, and can be used at the company, team, and individual levels.

So, let’s do a before and after. Here’s a Kanban board with User Stories and Bugs:

Make Smarter Decisions with Visual Encoding. Image 1

Okay, there’s a lot of information in this view, but it’s hard to absorb all at once. Now let’s apply some visual encoding:

Make Smarter Decisions with Visual Encoding. Image 2

That’s much better. The cards are color coded according to a set of custom rules.

Visual encoding location

To set up visual encoding for a view, just click on the multi-colored box at the top right of the screen. Or, you can apply visual encoding from a view’s initial setup screen.

A Note on Mashups:
Using visual encoding with mashups that also recolor cards may cause problems with the view  -- double check mashup descriptions before using them in conjunction with this feature.

Other mashups can be very helpful when used with visual encoding. For example, the Share Timeline mashup allows you to share your views while leaving customizations and color codes intact.  

Using visual encoding to support your work role


Visual encoding is not just used for getting a high-level picture of your projects -- it’s also great for helping with specific work activities, such as product support, development, QA and marketing. We’ll list some examples here (there’s even more at
this user guide page) but there’s really no end to the different ways you can use this feature. If you need some ideas or inspiration for how you can use visual encoding, message us at support@targetprocess.com.

Product Development:

As a developer, you want to spend as little time as possible inside Targetprocess. To make your team’s next priority clear, you can color-code items by business value, cycle time, or assigned person. You can use separate views for these rules if you require in-depth custom filters, but multicolor encoding makes it easy to put all this information in one place.

Product Development Visual Encoding

Bug Tracking:

For Bug Tracking, you can color code bugs according to business value and still easily see tasks that you are responsible for on the same view.  

Bug Tracking Visual Encoding

You can also create custom rules to highlight bugs by severity...

Highlight by severity

...to quickly judge which fixes are most critical.  

QA Encoding

Creating custom rules can allow you to reflect your team’s unique needs. Let’s use a hypothetical team as an example:

A gaming company is testing the latest release of its mobile app. The company’s QA team usually finds and solves bugs on its own, then implements the fixes into the software. For their mobile app, however, they have to hand off spotted bugs to the mobile development team.

Closing the bug and creating a new task for the mobile team is not ideal, because the teams are used to only having one level of items for bugs.  Creating another level would make searching for details difficult -- a pointless step which would only result in more wasted effort (wasted effort = less value delivered to the customer).

To reflect the “done” nature of an item on the QA team’s views (without closing the task for other teams), assigned individuals can tag completed items with a predetermined phrase for visual encoding. This way, no QA team members will accidentally work on the completed mobile bug, but the task can remain open for the next team.  

Product Support:

Everyone on our support team uses visual encoding.  Their typical setup goes like this: new requests in the queue are highlighted in green. If a request remains in the queue, the color shade steadily changes until it reaches red (after 24 hours).  With just a glance, our support team can visually prioritize which requests need to be responded to first.

It’s also helpful to highlight cards that will require outside help -- perhaps from a developer or a product specialist. You can also choose to highlight requests from companies on a special support plan. Assigning these companies a visual code will make their requests stand out.

HoursSpentInQueue

This syntax runs with a custom field (HoursSpentInQueue) that calculates how long a request has been open or re-opened.

We can’t show you an actual screenshot of our requests queue (due to sensitive customer information) so we created this example view in a sample account:

iCal If this view were real, the most urgent task would be iCal integration.

You can also highlight requests by source type to see how each request was sent:

SourceType

Department Head / Product Owner:

Product owners, team leads, and department heads use Targetprocess at a high-level. Visual encoding is invaluable to these roles, because the feature can help to flag problems before they become too serious. Features which are in danger of being late can quickly be spotted by comparing Forecasted End Date against Planned End Date:

Timeline View

It can also be helpful to highlight open blockers so you can see where your team is being held back. To achieve this, you can use this handy advanced custom filter:

?InboundRelations.Where(RelationType is 'Blocker' and Outbound.EndDate is not None)

To summarize:

Basically, visual encoding allows you to highlight cards using multiple colors, making it much easier for your brain to process and understand project data. It can give your views more meaning -- both for users, and for observers who are unfamiliar with our software (like your stakeholders or customers).  
You can use visual encoding to highlight items according to custom filters. You can build your own filters for in-depth customization, or use our templates to highlight entities by:
Filters List

And much more. We provide basic templates for setting up visual encoding, but you can write your own using the same syntax as filters.

If you want to read more about how the brain processes information (or just want to see some cool visualizations), you can read more about visual encoding theory and how humans perceive information at this article by Michael Dubakov. For more information on visual encoding in Targetprocess, check out the following pages:

Visual Encoding User Guide page
Visual Encoding release notes
Multicolor encoding release notes

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