Managing Chaos with Lisa Welchman

A transcript of Episode 92 of UX Podcast. James Royal-Lawson and Per Axbom talk to Lisa Welchman about digital governance.

UX Podcast
Nov 11, 2015 · 27 min read
Image: Detail from the cover art of Managing Choas: Digital Governance by Design by Lisa Welchman

Lisa was interviewed on UX Podcast in February 2015 shortly before the publication of her book Managing Chaos: Digital Governance by Design.


James: Hello and welcome to UX Podcast, balancing business, technology and users every other Friday from Stockholm, Sweden. I’m James Royal-Lawson.

Per: And I’m Per Axbom.

James: Hello Per.

Per: Hello James. Nice to see you again.

James: Nice to see you again.

Per: Yeah, we’re in the same room. We usually are these days recording.

James: Usually are. I’ve got a red microphone and you’ve got a blue microphone, just to give that kind of — you’ve got a hoodie on. I haven’t really got a hoodie on today, because I’ve got a hood.

Per: Interesting.

James: See? But it’s kind of a hoodie.

Per: I always have a hoodie on.

James: Yeah.

Per: It’s my trademark.

James: Yeah.

Per: What are we doing today? We’re doing an interview.

James: We are.

Per: We’re calling up Lisa Welchman.

James: That’s right.

Per: Who is she James?

James: Lisa, she is President of Digital Governance Solutions at ActiveStandards. She has been in the business for a long time, longer than us even and started out back in the day …

Per: Longer than us?

James: Not that old. But no, in the 90s, she started out with Netscape and Cisco Systems. But after that, she moved on to starting her own management consultancy company called WelchmanPierpoint. That was bought by ActiveStandards last year.

Now she has just written her first book which is Managing Chaos: Digital Governance by Design which is out soon on Rosenfeld Media.

Per: Digital governance, one of those things that you have to attend to but a lot of companies fail to actually do.

James: Yeah, I love this. I mean we used to say web governance. But I think it’s not — well, web governance is just websites. There would be such a multitude of different things like apps and so on. So digital governance is generally what you say. I love this topic.

Per: Yeah.

James: Because with me being — this is my route as such in the — in digital, in work, is with taking care of all these websites.

Per: And she’s in England today. So we’re almost in the same time zone. We’re going to call her up.

James: We had a bit of luck there so we don’t have to travel all the way across the pond with Skype.

Per: And just before we call her up, we’re going to be in a different time zone 3rd to the 5th of June. Not that far off though.

James: The UK time zone actually.

Per: Actually, yes.

James: GMT or BST.

Per: We’re going to UXLx again, the birthplace of this podcast. What are we doing there?

James: We’re going to be there.

Per: We’re going to have some workshops.

James: And the talks as well, and we’re going to be interviewing some people. We would love you to come along and join us.

Per: Yeah. It would be fun to see you there. Yeah. So it really fills up quick that conference. So get your ticket soon.

James: I think there are some forms of early bird tickets left available and you can get those until the end of February. So if you fancy joining us in what’s usually a nice, warm, pleasant Lisbon and really good fun, then …

Per: So looking forward to it.

James: Go to

Per: Yeah. So hopefully we will see you there. Come say hi to us. Let’s call Lisa.

James: Let’s ring her up.


Per: First of all, it’s really great to have you on the show. So that’s a first.

Lisa: Thank you.

Per: And I mean you are the thought leader in corporate governance, digital corporate governance.

James: And she said that to Per just before we started. Oh, I’ve been looking forward to talking to you Lisa, because she’s the thought leader in digital governance. I’m looking forward to talking to her for a couple of years.

Per: So it’s fantastic to have you on. But in your own words, tell us a bit about your background and how you ended up where you are now.

Lisa: I will start with my educational background. I always had a really strong interest in school in philosophy of language and semantics.

Per: Oh, cool.

Lisa: And philosophy science. So I like sort of abstractions and thinking about language and that sort of thing. That led me to really have a strong interest in symbolic logic, right? So I kind of like machine thinking. So the internet came along when I was somewhere in my late 20s and I sort of jumped onboard.

My first sort of real job in the internet was at Cisco Systems and it was interesting because I came in there ’96, ’97, something like that and my son was an infant. They already had multichannel delivery, right? So they were taking Quark documents, putting them in the top of the machine and they spit out HTML text for a book as well — for technical documentation and it was being burned to CD-ROM.

They had hundreds of thousands of documents online. So my first real experience very early on was on large scale digital development. There wasn’t any social media at that time. There were no web content management systems to speak of at that time.

So it was really an interesting time. In fact I cut my teeth with some content management system vendors thinking about that. So I got to really see the dynamics of large scale web, international, multinational localisation, multichannel delivery, all those things that we still struggle with today. I saw them early.

So that was sort of a little bit of an intellectual advantage and I started my own firm in ’99 thinking that I would help people figure out how to manage large scale websites, whether that was content management system selection, search engine optimisation, which we didn’t call that then.

I mean all these things that have names now were all sort of all the same thing, right? So I thought, yeah, Cisco has trouble managing their website. So must everybody else. I will do that. So that has really evolved over the years into this digital governance focus. Somewhere along the line, I started realising that people pretty equally implemented technology and designed websites sort of equally badly, right?

So that that wasn’t the reason why it wasn’t working, but it really was the people and their lack of organisation that was an issue and that it really is a challenge to do digital well inside an organisation because it cuts horizontally across things. So that’s a real strong intellectual interest of mine and that’s really what I’ve been examining through a lot of different lenses and working with in terms of consulting over the last 20 years almost, which is shocking, right? Twenty years.

Per: Yeah, it is fantastic. I was impressed. In ’99 you started your company around the same issues that you’re working with now, which is amazing.

Lisa: That’s correct.

Per: You have that idea already then.

Lisa: Well, it’s not — yeah, that’s good. I will pat myself on the back for that. But honestly, the awareness comes from the experience, right?

So that’s where I was just very fortunate that I just happen to work at this place that had a big, giant website early because a lot of people really had to ramp up into that. I was very naïve when I left there. I thought that this business idea I had of helping people manage large scale websites was going to take off like lickety-split.

So it’s shocking to me that — you know, I’ve written a book and it’s coming out in 2015 and we’re still talking about it.

Lisa: It’s fascinating to me and I mean that. I am very intellectually interested in the idea and mostly I’m interested in the people because I’ve had that job and it’s not fun trying to sort of wrestle this beast down when you don’t really have management support, when your team isn’t properly funded, when you don’t have the right human resources and when you’re constantly trying to convince people that this discipline of digital whether — and all the facets to go along with it, whether or not that’s UX or whether or not that’s application development.

There’s legitimacy to it, right? The organisation ought to take that seriously and really ingest that function properly. That’s an uncomfortable spot to be in that you’re sort of — you are the public face of the organisation externally but internally, you’re sort of like the poor stepchild. So it’s an interesting dynamic and I really enjoy working with the team.

James: I think exactly just that. Twenty years on from when you started and for me, I had a similar start with my career here in Sweden. I started at Ericsson competitor to Cisco back in the day.

Lisa: Yeah.

James: I went through a very similar story, bringing governance methods into a very chaotic, non-governed workplace. I came out the other end of it thinking, “Well, I’ve worked out what you do now in this situation,” thinking exactly like you that — you could just roll out governance methods after this one after the other and we will fix it all.

Lisa: Yeah, everybody wants to do that. Yeah.

James: And it’s still the same thing. Every new client I work with and projects I go into, there are still governance issues and chaos. I think what it does straight away just shows how — well, reminds us again about how young this industry is and that 15, 20 years in the scale of an industry is — we’re still at the big bang.

Per: Yeah, we are actually.

Lisa: That’s right.

James: But absolutely fascinating.

Per: I was actually at Ericsson back then. In ’98 I was working with updating the web guidelines for Ericsson. It was pretty cool. I was a web editor back then.

Lisa: That’s what we called them, remember? All those names.

Per: Oh, yeah, webmaster. I saw actually an article yesterday about webmaster and what that means and how you can interpret that and translate it to Swedish. In my mind, they got it all wrong. That’s not what a webmaster does. The webmaster does everything.

James: My title was a bit more cool. I was an interactive media manager.

Per: Oh, wow.

James: Fifteen years ago.

Per: Really?

James: Yeah.

Per: That’s amazing.

James: We had high ambitions.

Lisa: I was web publishing systems program manager.

Per: Oh, nice.

James: That’s a good title.

Lisa: That’s pretty good.

Per: It is pretty good.

James: Yeah.

Lisa: A few years ago, I wrote a blog post that was something like, “The webmaster is dead. Long live the webmaster,” or something stupid like that. I can’t remember what it was. But that’s always a bad sign when I go in an organisation and there’s somebody who has a title webmaster because I’m like, “OK. Something is really wrong,” because nobody should be doing everything all by themselves anymore, right? Which is what I think of.

When I think of the webmaster, that was really early back in the day. That was the person who configured the web server, installed the search engine software, designed the website, wrote all the content, right? They were just the person in the corner who knew how to do those sorts of things.

Per: Exactly.

Lisa: So I know sometimes it’s just a legacy title. But it’s just fascinating. We did a research study maybe in 2009 and one of the things — we were trying to target like the person who was in charge of digital in large organisations. One of the questions we asked was, “What was your job title?”

I think we got 600 total responses back to the survey that we sent out and there were over 400 different titles.

Per: Yeah.

James: Yeah.

Lisa: So one of the things that I’m really interested in, having just completed the book — or, you know, there’s always a new intellectual challenge which is, “How can we normalise the discipline of digital and really come up with the set of names?” not just because I want to control things, but so that people can have a career, right? And can move laterally from organisation to organisation. Like, there’s no system to it. If you work in marketing communications or in IT, there are some pretty good tracks, right? Work inside organisations. I mean there are some differences here and there but that’s really hard to do in digital because every organisation does it a little bit differently.

There’s a lack of coordination and really sort of a lack of professionalisation for the whole set of things. So that’s just something interesting to explore. I might find out that I’m completely wrong about that, right? Maybe that’s — it’s not a set of things. But it’s something I want to put a little thought into.

James: Well, I’ve got a question then. What is digital governance?

Lisa: Oh, well that’s a good thing, because I write that all the time. So I have many different versions of that definition. But the most simple one is really being intentional about the way that your digital team is formed and shaped and then understanding who within that team is accountable for defining digital policy, digital standards and the strategy for digital.

So it’s not those artefacts. So sure, it’s fun to write policy standards and a digital strategy. But usually that’s not the problem. Usually the problem is sort of knowing where all the people are who touched your web, mobile and social entities inside an organisation and then who has the authority to establish those things because that’s the meeting that you have when you’re doing a website redesign and everybody gets in the room and folks are arguing about like which way are we going to go.

Well, who actually is supposed to decide, right? So, digital governance cleans that up. So it’s a very sort of simplistic sort of exercise of clarifying roles and responsibilities around digital operations basically. But it’s powerful because once you have that, you can start thinking, “Yeah. We’re going to have this meeting in which we discuss our new website design. But it’s going to be a discussion,” and then those who are actually empowered to make the decision will make the decision based on input from other people, business needs and a variety of other things.

Right now from what I see, that’s not how it works most of the time. It’s sort of like — and it can be quite complicated in a global multinational. Who decides what the corporate homepage looks like across the globe, right? I mean it gets fantastic even. You put in multiple brands. Then you start doing translation and language and localisation and it can really get quite complex if you don’t understand who’s supposed to be making these decisions and I think that’s how you sort of get the mess online.

Per: Exactly. So you have a page in your book where you actually described the situation. Imagine a situation where you go into a meeting and everybody is on the same page and everybody is in agreement with what approach to take with this decision as opposed to all the meetings that I go to on a regular basis where there are arguments about where to place links even or what images to use and stuff like that.

So digital governance solves those problems of those long meetings and at the same time, as soon as you bring up something like digital governance or policies or something, you’re the boring person in the room who’s killing creativity. How do you balance that out?

Lisa: Well, I mean yes. I mean here’s the thing. I always counter that argument and I don’t like it at all because I have a thing about creativity and governance that’s — I just think that’s wrong. I say that firmly. In fact it’s violently wrong because I think people often confuse freedom of expression with being able to do whatever you want.

So the output of a digital governance framework, really the practical output is that an organisation is developing digital within a standards-based framework, right? So that everyone knows what the standards are. So most people say, “Oh, I can’t be creative because we have standards,” and I say, no, actually — or you’re slowing me down, because I have to go through this bureaucratic thing. You can be agile and have standards. In fact the agile development environment is standards-based, right?

I mean there are rules about how to go through scrum. There are rules about the roles and responsibilities. It’s highly governed, right? It’s highly governed so that things can move quickly, right? So a governance framework isn’t going to tell a graphic designer to hold their pen a certain way or you can only consider certain colours when you’re coming up with the standard. It’s just going to say, “This graphic designer gets to decide what the design is.” It doesn’t really do anything.

That actually speeds things up and enhances creativity because people understand where the lines are. One of the analogies that I use in the book is …

James: I was just going to say a good example about jazz.

Lisa: Yeah. I’m a huge jazz nut and I play jazz piano and I’m a jazz singer and you sit down and you have a lead sheet in front of you and these are the 13 chords in the song and you can only play these 13 chords. Of course you could change your mind if you wanted to in the middle. You got really excited. But let’s just stay within the lines for a second. There are a lot of really good improvisational jazz where people are making things that are going completely wild.

But they’re operating within the standards-based framework of a grid. So it has got nothing to do with that. The worldwide web operates over a standards-based framework and we’re all just totally riffing and doing exciting things like that. Plants and animals and human beings have a standards-based framework. We have DNA structure. Nothing doesn’t operate in a standards-based framework and yet we have all these diversity.

So when people — you can tell I’m passionate about this because I’m just like, “You’re just wrong.”

James: Yeah, you’ve got to create it.

Lisa: That’s just not how it works.

James: You got to create the game space. You got to set the boundaries for why you’re — as I say, all right kids, you can go across to the park, but you’re not allowed to leave the park. Fair enough. You could be as creative as you like in the playground.

Lisa: Right.

James: But please don’t leave the playground. So simple boundaries, simple game space.

Lisa: But you know even with that — in that case, there’s always the child who has his back to the whole rest of the park and is looking at that line going, “I’m just going to put my foot over.”

Per: Exactly.

Lisa: Because I mean — there’s always that person and that’s great because that person is probably an iconoclast. They might be an innovator. They might be an extreme case of an innovator who actually is going to break open something brand new. But I would argue to say — I mean everyone likes to think they’re that person. But those people are rare.

Per: Yeah.

Lisa: Right? So most people working in an enterprise can be highly creative and do really great work without being an iconoclast. I would also argue that most people are not by nature iconoclasts.

Per: Right. So that person in the room who’s arguing with you might actually be an innovator but most probably they’re just a snotty kid.

Lisa: Well, yeah, or they just don’t — yeah, or they’re not really thinking about it or they’re frustrated. I mean more generously I would say they’re probably frustrated by this really ridiculous situation that they’re in, particularly folks who are in this core aspect of the digital team, the ones who are responsible for overall quality but have been given no budget and no authority to make people comply with standards, right?

So sometimes people are just kind of in a bad mood because their job is really stressful and those things come out. So the sort of human aspect of a governing framework is it should settle things down, right? So you’re not — your job isn’t about arguing with people.

James: So this is what we come into. So we’ve got the game space. We’ve got the governance framework. Then we’re now coming into collaboration within that framework.

Per: So what’s the best way of communicating the framework? It’s what you’re getting into I guess.

James: Or getting people to collaborate within the framework.

Lisa: Well, collaboration is obviously something that I think about a lot because really that’s what we’re doing with the framework is building a collaboration model.

James: Yeah.

Lisa: The nature of digital is that it is multidirectional and many-dimensional, right? So that means I have to talk to everybody in my organisation in order to do digital well. I can’t just talk to people down my silo or down that silo and particularly for UX folks, right? That’s huge. You have to understand the whole breadth of it. Well, that really runs counter to how organisations work and function. They go down — I make an analogy between nested hierarchical and object-oriented, right? So organisations are organised in nested hierarchies, right? If you want something from someone, like their money, you have to walk up to the top of your silo, right? And then tell that person and then they have to walk sideways to the top of another silo. Talk to that person and then that person has to go walk down to their silo even though you might be — you know what I mean? You might want to just walk directly to that person, but you can’t.

There’s just sort of like this movement that’s really difficult inside organisations like that. So those collaboration models are tough. So one of the things that we really focus on is not breaking down silos, which is what people say all the time.

James: We say that.

Lisa: Well, here’s the thing. People have to work in silos. You can’t work in an 80,000-person silo. You won’t get anything done, right? I mean that’s what agile says. There are limits to the size of the team because there are optimal team sizes. So I’m saying that’s fine. But connect the silos intentionally, right? And operate against the same standards-based framework, right?

So the things that are important that are the same about development, write them down and share them, right? And make sure that you have people whose job it is to run from silo to silo with information.

So that’s the hardest part of collaboration in silos. Often at times people don’t have those connectors, right? Traditionally we’ve called them project managers, right? Or scrum managers or whatever. There are a lot of different organisational names for that dynamic. Sometimes a business analyst might perform that function, right?

So digital isn’t as great about doing that and I think it’s just because we don’t — we’re not really mature about our resource models and the organisation doesn’t really take it seriously enough to think, “Oh, we need an analyst to run from silo to silo to make sure everything is actually congruent.”

But that’s along with sort of maturing the digital profession. Another area that I’m really interested in as well which is the impact of digital on org structure.

James: So can we fix digital governance in an organisation without first fixing the corporate culture first or the corporate governance first?

Lisa: That’s an interesting question. My answer is it doesn’t matter and I don’t know, right?

James: Two answers.

Lisa: Well, right, exactly. So I don’t know and it likely doesn’t matter and the reality is because they will never really get fixed.

James: Yeah.

Lisa: Right? Because all of these change and stuff operates on a continuum and things will shift overtime. So I’m a firm believer in understand the direction that you want to go in and move that way, right? Just make sure that all the tail fluttering, hand flapping swim strokes are generally moving you to the right end of the pool.

When you’ve got sort of this disruptive type of thing happening like digital in an organisation, so many things are happening at one time. You can’t really understand or be too intentional sometimes about — or too prescriptive. How about that? Too prescriptive about what’s going on.

So to be more direct, I think that digital is the tail that wags the dog. Often when we start projects with folks and we’re talking, they say — we will go in for two or three days of discovery and on site and we will sit down and they will start sort of either defending or explaining why their website is so bad.

We know this page the information architecture and I always say to them, “I sort of don’t care. I can see your website. It looks bad.” You know, that sort of thing. I want to talk about you and your team, right? And they’re a little bit taken aback. Like so, I want to know how it got like that, why it gets like that. What is happening on operationally that that kind of stuff gets online. Let’s fix that because then we fix the source of the problem and hopefully we can tune that.

It’s never 100 percent but it can certainly get better and we’ve seen it get better, right? We’ve seen it get better inside organisations where people begin to understand that no, that team designs the user interface, right? Not all the teams across the world or they might say, “Yes, we’ve decided to decentralise that,” and it’s OK for every country to have their own home page style. But it’s intentional, right? It’s not unintentional, right? And that there’s just a difference.

Per: I think that’s the key …

James: Exactly. It’s intention, yeah. Again, you created this place and now be able to intentionally do things within it. I wonder if we should start to wrap up a little bit. I’ve wondered if there’s one bit of advice you could give to someone out there who’s working in a web team. I’m not going to pick a role. I was thinking maybe we should say UX because a lot of people that listen to the show or most people that listen to the show are UX but not all of them.

But if you are in a web team and haven’t really gotten on top of digital governance, what’s the one bit of advice you would give to them to start going about it?

Lisa: That’s a loaded question because I’m wondering what situation they’re in.

James: So I have to give you more information.

Lisa: Are they in a chaotic situation? Are they a junior person? Are they a slightly senior person? Are they …

James: OK. I will say …

Lisa: Just colour it a little bit.

James: OK. I will paint the full picture then.

Lisa: OK.

James: It’s a basic setup. So it’s a web team. It’s centralised. They’re publishing or writing basically what they’re asked to by their organisation. Maybe the site is owned by corporate communications and the platform is owned by IT. So yeah, it’s quite chaotic and they’re one of a team that’s doing that.

Per: And they’re probably sitting in a lot of meetings, trying to decide stuff and arguing.

James: So they might be quite senior within that team. But they’re within a corporate communications environment.

Lisa: OK. So I will give two answers because there’s one variable that makes a difference on what they can successfully do sort of from a somewhat tactical position, right?

So I’m assuming this isn’t somebody with a C in front of their name, but somebody who’s on the digital team on a hands-on capacity, right?

James: Yeah.

Lisa: So if you’re doing that, it really depends I think primarily on your leadership. So I talk about in the book about digitally progressive and digitally conservative leaders, right? And one is not good and one is not bad as much as one might think. It just really depends on the context.

But it really is, “Are they open to listening to the digital story and understanding digital as something more than sort of a tactical way to get brochureware online or to push transactions through a system?”

If they have an open mind, then you might have an opportunity to actually start to make a business case of why you need to get organised and you can sort of shop that up the food chain, right?

But usually if that’s the case, you’ve seen it and you’ve already done that. Most people are in the second situation which is it’s kind of tone deaf upstairs and there’s not really a lot that you can do. While you cannot give yourself authority — so this is what a lot of people try to do is say, “Well, I’m just going to write a digital governance framework and say I’m in charge.” I mean I’ve seen that a lot because I will come in and they will say, “We tried to do this but it didn’t work,” and it’s like, well, because you can’t give yourself authority, right?

Someone who has authority over you has to give you authority. But what you can do is start to create horizontal collaboration groups and start to build consensus. So there are usually some hands-on people at your level in the organisation. Maybe in other parts of the organisation that also know that everything is a mess. There might be some people that you argue and debate with all the time, people that are sort of on the good side of things, that sort of thing.

So developing an internal community of practice is a really strong move because if you can get sort of organic grassroots alignment and start to come to agreement about certain things, you can start to holistically move that upwards and say, “Our teams decided that we think we should make decisions like this,” and then you can present that to the appropriate manager and start to make recommendations about what a good governance framework would be.

But I will stress if you do that, you can’t do it in a silo. So it can’t be the two or three people on the core team who are angry, right? That they don’t get to make all the decisions saying, “OK, we have all the authority. We’re going to give it to our manager and make it so.” It has to be very holistic and extend to the full digital community. That’s an exercise, right? I mean it takes work. It takes work. But that is something that you can do.

Another tactical thing that you can do and then I will stop talking about it is you can actually start to document your standards. So a lot of people, when we go in, they will say things like, “We have all these rogue teams and they don’t follow our standards,” right? We come up with a UI and then they come up with their own information architecture, their own colour palette or whatever and then the next thing I say is, “Well, let me see your standards.”

They’re like, “Well, we have a style guide.” There’s always one of those. It’s like, “But what about all the other stuff that says you can’t pick your own CMS or this is the standard CMS or this is our taxonomy and how you want it?”

So a lot of times — and that’s usually because they’re busy. People haven’t actually written down standards yet they somehow expect people to comply with them, which kind of doesn’t make sense. So if you don’t want to take the time to sort of build collaboration groups because that can be time-consuming and talk about that, you might want to at least create some small working groups to start documenting your standards to see if you actually know what you’re talking about and if you actually have them or if maybe you’re just sort of inflicting your taste of the moment on to a larger group, which could be frustrating for them.

So that’s kind of a mishmash of things that you can do, but that are a little bit helpful. But obviously I like going for the big picture framework because it’s time for the stuff to mature. I mean for goodness’s sake, it has been 20 years. I mean, well, grow up already, right? I mean I think of digital as being stuck in an adolescent phase. It has got keys to the car and it wants to go out and have a lot of fun.

But there need to be some accountability mechanisms in order to enter adulthood. It’s time to really mature this discipline and get it integrated with the rest of the company which is going to be some changes for those of us who work in digital who are sort of sometime used to doing whatever we want, right? And not being too — held accountable for some things that we do.

But I think that’s just sort of what we’re going to have to take in if we want the rest of the organisation to take it seriously.

James: Yeah. I could spend absolutely all week talking to you Lisa.

Lisa: Oh, that’s sweet.

Per: That was an excellent answer. I mean it gave me a lot of ideas actually to go ahead and talk to my clients about.

Lisa: Hey, well that makes me feel …

Per: But also the first step of course is to buy your book I think and it’s not out yet. When is it coming out?

Lisa: It is shipping on February 19th.

Per: And Rosenfeld Media’s blog, it says you can pre-order it at 30 percent off.

Lisa: Yes, you can, up until the 19th.

Per: Exactly.

Lisa: You can pre-order it.

Per: This should be out on the 6th of February.

James: So you’ve got time to …

Per: So listeners will have time to get that price.

James: So go ahead and get it. Yeah, and I’ve read a little bit of it already and I’m going to keep reading it because it has been …

Per: Because it’s time to grow up.

James: It’s time to grow up.

Per: Yeah.

James: And this is going to help …

Lisa: I should change the title, It’s Time to Grow Up.

James: It’s time to grow up, yes. When you do the second edition, Lisa.

Lisa: Yeah.

James: You can put that in.

Lisa: How about this? Grow up already.

James: Yeah, there we go. That’s it.

Per: Oh, fantastic.

James: All right. Thank you very much for joining us today.

Lisa: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.


James: So why don’t we do three-hour podcasts, Per?

Per: Three hours. We should do. We might do one.

James: Yeah.

Per: We haven’t talked much about episode 100 yet.

James: Oh, should we do a three-hour for …

Per: We could just go for as long as we want.

James: Well, yeah, we could especially if we talk to Lisa. That was really interesting.

Per: It was. I feel so frustrated because I know she’s right and I spend too little time on this with my clients.

James: Exactly. I mean I’m going to go — I’m heading now to a half-year project doing a new website. The listeners will know that me and you, we talk an awful lot. We complain an awful lot about the new web — the website redesign project. Talking to Lisa, yeah again, it reminded about what’s wrong with doing that. I mean we say it all the time. It is wrong doing these three yearly or four yearly or two yearly, whatever, these redesigns. Remember, it’s an app website service. The problem is that we haven’t got the governance in place.

Per: Yeah.

James: We’re not honest to ourselves about the governance. Lisa said that if you — implied anyway. If you aren’t honest about what’s happening in your organisation, then yeah, a new pretty website is seen as a solution, temporary hit.

Per: Yeah. I love their story about people asking her about the website and she saying like, “I can’t just look at your website and analyse the problem. I have to talk to the people and understand why did the website get like this.” That for me ties in a lot with UX and understanding both the client side and the customer side and how they should approach the website to actually make something that’s useful for both of them and it’s something that can work even for the inside team, the people working with the website.

Of course it was hard not to laugh when she said that breaking down silos is a myth. It used to be one of our taglines.

James: But it is still on the website.

Per: On the website it is. We don’t say it enough. Now we should stop saying it because Lisa is absolutely right. You can’t get away from the silos.

James: We know that.

Per: OK. Yeah, I know that. But what she was saying really, the way to break down silos then is for the silos to start talking to …

James: To cross silos. And that’s really what we’re getting at when we say breaking down silos because that comes from the kind of sitting in your silo and whinging which is where our breaking down silos comes from.

Per: Yeah.

James: But she’s right. We’ve got to be honest with ourselves. You’re not going to succeed digitally if you’re doing the whole kind of like — you know, covering your eyes up. La, la, la, I can’t really see what’s going on there. It’s not really — I don’t really have all of these governance problems and organisations are really like that. Everyone can make a difference with this.

Per: Oh, yeah.

James: I think it’s good advice at the end there. If you feel as if there is digital chaos at the organisation, start by reaching out and creating a community across the silo community of peers who maybe you don’t get on with, who have conflicts within your organisation or maybe you do get on with, but people who — in your area and can understand the digital side of things and start to talk and make those baby steps towards developing a governance framework.

Per: Finding like-minded people sort of with same types of challenges and create those ties between the different departments. That would be — yeah. Oh, fantastic anyway.

James: Because you can’t throw out a governance framework on to an organisation. It has got to come organically based on the culture that exists.

Per: Yeah. Boy, so much work to do now. But now it’s the weekend.

James: It is.

Per: OK. So remember, we’re going to post some of the links.

James: Please remember — I thought you would say to keep moving.

Per: No. I remember that we’re supposed to say some stuff about UX Podcast at the end because you’re supposed to give people something to do now.

James: You mentioned the weekend …

Per: People stopped listening now.

James: Yeah.

Per: But a reminder, just go to the website, Sign up for the backstage emails.

James: Yeah. We have great …

Per: You’re very good at sending them out and of course the links, links for the show notes or links for the stuff we talked about in the show. Oh, the link to the book of course.

James: Yes.

Per: With 30 percent off.

James: Yes.

Per: Yes. What else? Subscribe to us, Stitcher, iTunes, the Podcaster app.

James: It sounds like you’ve lost the enthusiasm in your voice.

Per: I know. But there’s so much and people have criticised us about this. You can’t say all that stuff. You need to say one thing or two things. People won’t remember it anyway. So what do we –

James: OK. So what …

Per: So what are we really saying here?

James: So what’s the one thing we want them to do? What’s the one thing we want our listeners to do now at the end of the show if they’re still listening?

Per: Go in and sign up for the backstage email.

James: I like it.

Per: Yeah.

James: Do that.

Per: Do that. Remember to keep moving.

James: See you on the other side.


[End of transcript]

This is a transcript of a conversation between James Royal-Lawson, Per Axbom and Lisa Welchman recorded for UX Podcast in February 2015. To hear more episodes visit or search for UX Podcast in your favourite podcast client.

UX Podcast

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A twice-monthly user experience podcast brought to you by @beantin and @axbom. Balancing business, technology and people within the realm of digital media.

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