Most of the Enterprise application UX still sucks and only a few products actually figured it out. Enterprises are fully aware of this and they are trying hard to change their organisations be more design driven. Yet most of them are failing in this task while they invest more formal attention, resources and budget into design that anyone else.
I attempted to formulate few symptoms that I was able to observe either directly or indirectly. There is one key symptom that rules them all.
Enterprises are missing clear definition of UX Design value.
In enterprise world customer journey is never straightforward as in consumer world.
Because of complex nature of enterprise selling customers and end users do not even see the product until last steps of the journey. What they see is interpretation of product. Most enterprise apps now offer "Trial" or "Proof-of-Concept" but these are carefully offered as part of the product interpretation.
There are various types of product interpretations in this journey. Market messaging, pre-sales, competitive advantages or uniqueness. Even that they use snapshots of actual product, it is not the product that takes the spotlight. It is the interpreter taking up the stage. Instead of showing the product, interpreter is showing picture of the product and carefully explaining to his audience what they can see on the picture.
Interpreting is not cheap. Global organisations invest thousands of hours to build key tribal knowledge interpreting assets — powerpoint decks.
Every time I see PPT where user interface is explained, the inevitable question pops up: Why that labelling is not directly part of the interface?
Products and services need to be constantly (but not annoyingly) in their faces with analytics and feedback that show users what benefits they’ve gained: what near misses they’ve avoided, how much time they’ve saved, what quality improvements they’ve gained, and so on. These benefits statements should be part of their normal operation.
Value of UX
When product design quality is higher, organisations needs to invest less in interpretations. Taking into account initial adoption phase, after each product design increment enterprises should be able to measure, that they need less pre-sales effort and fewer powerpoints.
Enterprise apps needs customisations. Even when goals and patterns are common, none two large organisations have exactly the same requirements. Plus they are paying lots of money to have the product fit exactly their needs.
When these requirements are not correctly synthesised, enterprises rely on extra capacity of technical experts that are hacking the product to fit users needs. This is happening in pre-sales phases but also after product is deployed, when experts are by-passing product limitations with custom hacks.
There is very thin line between customising and hacking. When user goals are fulfilled by hack that is written on top of original product API that calls previous version of different product, then to the user, this is the product experience, not underlying scaffolding.
Hacking is not cheap. It has to be done by the most skilled people that gather these skills over years of trials and errors.
By doing continuous (not one time only) ethnographic research and observing diverse groups of users it is possible to synthesise correct goals that fits most of the users. Customisation is then build right into the core of product experience and does not rely on external hacks.
When new products needs same amount of hacking as existing products then they are not correctly answering goals of internal users.
Trial, Proof-of-Concept and on-boarding have to be integral part of product design, not additional hacks, PDF's and wikis.
Value of UX
When product design quality is better, company has to be able to measure less hacking and thiner expert organisation.
A lot of executives have interpreting or hacking background. It is still rare to found executives with a direct design background. It is very hard for executives to self-reflect on this process and acknowledge, that measurable value of a good design is, that some of the classic enterprise deliverables such as the Powerpoint deck need to fade away.
Enterprises have to set clear and measurable goals — what should happen when UX Design is successful. They should not understand “design driven” as “design included” and delivering a new product in the exact same way with better-aligned buttons and better features. An enterprise that is design-driven will evolve all other domains such as product marketing, pre-sales or services around UX design process.
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