4 most interesting takeaways from Enterprise UX

By Charlie Moss

Enterprises IT has become huge, complex and fragmented. And the cloud doesn’t seem to be making things any simpler. Employees feel disconnected, the data they need is hard to access and sometimes not up-to-date. And communication between teams can be lacking.

People want their work experience to be as user-friendly as the social media and shopping apps they use everyday — they want enterprise user experience to be consumer-grade.

Some folks from Skuid attended the Enterprise UX conference in San Francisco in June 2017. The 3rd annual event was put together by Rosenfeld Media, a leader in user experience (UX) training and resources. The conference focused on the importance of delivering great enterprise experiences and was broken into four themes:

  1. Crafting Enterprise Experiences
  2. Leading Teams That Execute
  3. Transcending Silos
  4. Creating a Legacy

Here are some of the highlights we thought were most interesting.

Solve not-sexy but important problems.

UX means user experience. And it means how we interact with everything from software and computers to cars and dishwashers. It’s all about design. But design means much more than colors, fonts and typefaces. It’s also about systems design, computational design and design thinking. And many enterprises are looking at ways to leverage design to transform how they operate. Conference speakers explored how unique factors like complexity, scale, and lack of control can impact a UX designer’s craft and change their expectations.

Global Technology Ethnographer and co-founder of Constellate Data, Tricia Wang, in her discussion, “Solving Not Sexy But Important Problems” said her most burning question was why “craft” is at the bottom of the enterprise when it comes to decision making. Here are some of her key points relative to trying to move UX craft to top of mind in decision-making:

  • Companies can often succeed at innovation but fail to capitalize on it.
  • Powerful insights lose fidelity as they travel up the hierarchy, seeming less transformative.
  • The people who find these powerful insights should be present when discussing with decision-makers.
  • Use both data and words to tell a story.
  • We need to make room to share data about the unknown — all the stuff that doesn’t fit into reports. Decision-making processes should account for the enormity of the unknown.
  • Instead of summarizing data, decision-makers should be experiencing it. The research team can’t be the only one experiencing customer and products. Decision-makers have to be experiencing it first-hand.
  • The common thread for major success stories: companies can reimagine the boundaries of their markets.

Break through silos with collaboration flows in product development.

Mark Interrante, the former engineering SVP for HPE Cloud Business, shared his experiences in helping his teams work more effectively in organizations in a cross-functional way.

Interrante spoke about how large corporations create silos and how to break through them. His solution? Start small and build from it. Pick something and tolerate it a little less. Take a small, simple practice, something you’d like to change within your own team and make it happen. If it’s to take better notes during meetings, then do it. And set clear expectations.

Now build from it:

  1. Horizontal flows. Figure out how work is happening. Look at the flow of work and figure out where time is being wasted. Share what you’ve found and get feedback.
  2. Riding the fences. Whenever you are working with someone, assume positive intent from their point of view. They may be against you on some issue, because they are trying to get their own thing done. But they are not against you personally. That assumption is true 99 percent of the time. Thinking this way enables you to see it from their point of view. Then you can talk about conflicts — they are not a bad person — and you can solve the problem together.
  3. Goals. In large organizations, we have to connect between task, work, and the outcome that work will achieve. These are the four most impactful questions that Interrante uses on a daily basis:
  • What do you want?
  • What will it get you?
  • How will you know it’s done?
  • What target goal does this support?

Get a car. Why? Need a ride home. How will you know? Someone will call and say my car is here. And the long term goal? Get home safely.

4. Action communications. How do I get someone to actually help me with this? Simple, precise, and useful — the SCIPAB framework — Situation, Complication, Implication, Position, Action, & Benefit. What makes it timely and critical now? And what are the implications of doing (or not doing) something? What do I propose to happen, and what is the action? And (possibly) what is the benefit of that?

To put all of this together, start with small things, and let them compound. Find the bottlenecks in your work. If you are missing good partnerships with adjacent organizations, establish consistent touchpoints for key processes. Focus on outcomes. And use the SCIPAB framework to write a simple explanation when you need to get something done.

Create resilient enterprise design.

Craig Villamor, vice president of product experience at AppDynamics, talked about resilient design. For the past several years, the consumerization of enterprise software — the need for the programs we use at work to look and feel like Snapchat and Amazon — has been a trendy topic. But the reality, Villamor says, is that the needs of the enterprise are not identical to consumer needs. We can’t ignore these differences.

Companies are not focused on individual happiness. Our context and behavior change when we are at work, because we need to get work done. In an era where customization is increasingly expected, Villamor argues that enterprises need to be able to incorporate users’ needs for efficiency to be able to be more flexible as a company. This type of resilient design has the potential to become a key differentiator and competitive game-changer for companies who figure out how to support such ongoing design innovation within their enterprise apps.

Scale the human center.

“User-centered design can be in conflict with business outcomes,” says Gretchen Anderson, the head of design at Pacific Gas & Electric. Her team works on the systems that the 29,000 employees use to maintain the infrastructure of this enormous company. At Pacific, design is valued. But the reality is, in many companies, that is not the case.

Enterprises like to move sequentially from A to B to C, and it can be difficult to break into that.

“How can we make designers feel empowered but still make an impact?” Anderson asks.

Some of the key challenges designers face in the enterprise are:

  • A mentality of “that’s good enough”
  • Designers feeling isolated
  • Analysis paralysis and political hierarchy
  • Processes proliferate, stifling new ideas

Some solutions Anderson suggests are:

  1. Pair designers. Designers work better together. They are better because they are different.
  2. Lead through making. Nobody is going to invite designers to the table. They have to invite themselves. And when they offer working designs rather than bullet points, they change and shape the conversation.
  3. Design operators. Patterns and systems need ambassadors. Leverage designers to speak in front of decision makers. Use dev sprints for the details but don’t forget to have design sprints on the big picture.
  4. Build strong relationships. Designers need to engage across the business, to interact with others in the company besides other designers.

“We need to design the experience that others have with design to be human, fun, and just a little bit magical, summed up Anderson. “Show a different way to engage with problems. Come up with once crazy idea to get people excited and thinking in new ways. That will ultimately make you successful at scale.”

For more information about the conference, including presentation slide decks, notes and more in-depth content, visit https://2017.enterpriseux.net.