UX and Management
Recently, I have been researching and reading about UX, UX maturity, and management. With this article, I wanted to summarise my findings and methods that I believe will help my colleagues, young designers, or anyone interested in this topic.
Where to begin? One of the biggest problems with UX managing is not understanding what UX is and what UX teams are. User experience is what you get. A lot of people use the term “user experience” as if it’s a thing, like behavior or it’s “do the UX” — we use it like that; we’re “UX-ing”, we use it as a verb. But really, user experience is the touch-point that everything the customer or user has interacted with — if it’s the PR, the packaging, advertising, web, mobile: any contact they’ve had with an interface. It’s also the impressions that users or customers had with you. And this can also mean they bring expectations to your design or your brand impression.
It means innovating based on what you see in the real world, not what you cook up internally. And that as a business practice, business objectives and requirements are based on user research. Decisions are made with guidance from user testing.
User experience is also a practice, and it’s guided by disciplines in cognitive science. So, cognitive science is this multidisciplinary field — psychology, computer science, linguistics, neuroscience, anthropology, and so forth. Cognitive science is about behavior. And UX is about validating, defining, and designing human-centered systems based on the way people’s thinking is — their perceptions, their actions, and so forth.
There’s a huge gap between businesses that embrace UX strategies and those that don’t. State of UX differentiation, according to the Forrester Research survey of 237 firms, we have the following numbers.
Q: Do you aim to use UX as a competitive differentiator?
A: The intention is high: 47% (almost half) of CEOs say they want to use UX as a competitive differentiator.
Q: Do you measure customer experience quality?
A: About 53% of firms in the industry do that.
Q: Do you track everything to improve experience quality?
Tracking *everything*. That means call center; that means web; it means mobile; it means on-site conversions — any metric that you can grab — you know, usability test results
A: 33% track everything to improve experience quality.
And then, finally, following a consistent UX design process.
Q: Do you follow a consistent design process?
A: 15% following a consistent process.
Process consistency is critical. It’s about repeatability. It’s about systematizing good user experience practices not just at the UI level but in the way your team acts and is allowed to act in your organization.
But the reality, on the other hand, is that there is a lack of UX leadership and UX process typically. Lack of UX leadership or UX processes, and UX not having a strong and sustainable position at the organization. This is a study that the Nielsen Norman Group did in 2017.
Managing UX is a process
Designing a customer-focused process means changing your UX methods of inside-out orientation to the outside-in way of thinking. The primary technique there that Steve Blank, who is an academic and entrepreneur in the East Bay Area, said: “Get out of the building.” G.O.O.B. — get out of the building; that UX is not just something you do in a meeting or at your desk; it’s a process of extracting user behavior requirements and bringing that back into the design process. It means taking user perspective into your UX process. And this means that decisions are based on user data. So, you’ve got research-based, evidence-based and fact-based conversations occurring.
For example, if users don’t know that logo is also home page, and user testing shows that six out of ten users didn’t find the home by clicking the logo, but still manager or engineer or VP say „I know, we should leave it like it is“ it’s not something you want to do. You work for the company; you know too much. That’s a classic inside-out.
Operating UX process in outside-in manners means:
· understanding customers and what they’re trying to do
· understanding and empathy through the whole process to develop the product for a customer, a product that solves their problems and help them to do what they’re trying to do
· listen to customers and close the loop with their feedbacks
· Share the feedback and ensure it’s used throughout the organization to make decisions and to design the best experience for your customers
· Reduce customer effort rather than making the experience convoluted and confusing
· Map customer journeys and ensure all employees — frontline and back-office — have a clear line of sight to how they impact the customer experience
UX makes your organization smarter. It’s a case of getting behind the outside-in insights, thinking like a customer, getting beyond a sales and marketing mentality. Empathy is not about an agenda when you’re extracting empathy and bringing that in from the real world. It’s about removing those agendas and bringing the customer needs to software development
Assessing your organization’s UX maturity
Let’s take a look at a maturity scale as proposed by Forrester Research.
Stage 1 — Interested
At this stage, UX work is not planned, let alone incorporated into the organization’s vision. The few people at the organization who think about users are likely ignored or dismissed.
Strategy to achieve awareness of the importance of UX is introducing UX deliverables and the voice of customers.
Stage 2 — Invested
While organizations at this stage may show some UX awareness and engage in occasional UX activities, UX work is not done routinely, nor is it consistently well-executed or incorporated into strategy and planning. UX falls low among priorities. There’s no official recognition of user experience as a discipline and there are no UX-dedicated roles, processes, or budget.
Strategy to achieve adoption of UX process is to Conduct usability tests as a common practice in the product lifecycle, introduce evaluative research, share findings from usability test to show the value of UX, scale UX resources, adopt the remote testing tool to test as early and often.
Stage 3 — Committed
Stage three is going a little deeper to commitment in terms of UX becomes critical. Executives are getting involved; they’re attending design meetings. UX managers are meeting with senior teams, and they’re helping with the decision-making.
The strategy to achieve maturing stage is to share UX findings more transparently across the organization through your communication canals, collect proven study cases and present them to the product teams and engineers, work closely with product analysts to combine the quant with qual insights, Introduce the user-centric design framework to business by conducting workshops to define product strategy, conducting field studies to support business and product in discovering new insights from different markets, provide UX findings sharing platform to democratize UX and enable others to search for past findings and to act upon them as a source of inspiration for the product strategy.
Stage 4 — Engaged
UX becomes one of the core tenets of the firm’s strategy. So, this is where you see some of these unicorns in Silicon Valley that would never compromise their UX team. You’re actually thinking strategically in your product lifecycle about how engaged you can get.
The strategy to achieve the embedded stage is to have a UX team of three, five, or ten people who are paid and get funded to go outside and search for their findings.
Stage 5 — Embedded
The UX culture”. Goes to the user-centered design enterprise. UX becomes a fabric of the company, it’s not separate. This is what you see at Apple, for example — everyone is thinking about UX. There’s no hostility. There’s no “Who are you? What do you do? Why are you doing this? Why are you wasting our time? Go over there and get some designs done in Photoshop.” It’s not that. But it’s “Let’s bring the UX team in, and let’s have the UX team engaged from the beginning.” This is where you see in organizations with a high level of maturity.
I will give you an example of 4 students of d.school from their course „Design for Extreme Affordability“.
Rahul, Jane, Linus, and Naganand had a project to research and design a low-cost infant incubator for use in the developing world. They were electrical engineers, computer scientists, and MBA students with no experience in complications of premature birth, medical products, or health experts in general.
As you assumed, the team did desk research and Googled the global infant mortality problem and found out that the biggest preventable cause of death is -hypothermia. This means each year, fifteen million premature and low-birth-weight babies are born and they die because of hypothermia. In India, where nearly half of the world’s low-birth-weight- babies are born, hospital incubators can provide consistent, life-saving heat during those first couple of days. And those incubators are expensive and cost as much as $20,000- each. Naturally, the team taught that the solution was to reduce the cost of existing incubators by eliminating parts and using cheaper materials. Very soon, they will realize that was not the real problem, not even close.
Linus got funding to visit one of the modern hospitals in Nepal to more deeply understand firsthand the needs associated with incubators. Just to find out that mothers with low -birth-weight babies don’t use incubators because the babies who needed them were often born n villages thirty miles away. Life and death battles were being fought in the mother’s home, not the hospital. For the team, the solution was now about the parent, not the hospital. The Embrace team then worked on these insights to make innovations that will change these babies’ lives. They did a cycle of five or more rounds of rough prototyping to develop a simple but powerful solution — a tiny sleepy bag, a paraffin-based pouch that, once warmed in a heater, can maintain temperature for up to four hours.
They took their prototypes to India where they sought to understand the cultural nuances that could lead a mother to either accept or reject the device. Along the way, they discovered factors that could never have been found if they had stayed at home in Silicon Valley. For two years, the team traveled in India talking to moms, midwives, nurses doctors, and shopkeepers. The whole philosophy was to be close to your end-users and make a really good design. Even though they were countless iterations of the design based on user feedback.
Thanks to the Embrace team’s inventiveness and perseverance, they have helped over three thousand babies and after launching a successful pilot program in India, they were working with an NGO partner in nine more countries and have struck a global distribution deal with GE Healthcare.
It may not the exact example you are looking forward to like Intel or Amazon, or the Embrace team is not a company with hundreds of employees but they did figure out how to do UX and make the product usable, affordable, and accessible to their end-users.
Now, if we look at the industry picture — according to Forresters’ research, 37% of firms have not even reached the first stage of maturity; 41% have hit the first and second stages — stage two and stage three: Invested and Committed, and only 4% are in that fifth stage.
How do I get to growing and accelerating UX?
There are 5 practical steps in building UX maturity:
· Repair — Fix your pain points. Identify problematic user experiences, prioritize the fixes, coordinate and schedule implementation, and then measure results.
· Visions — that include strong, thorough user-centered ideas, are deliberately and strategically communicated and guide the entire organization (UXers and everybody else).
· Elevate — Sharing the results of your repairs. Measuring and incentivizing the reward for that. Take best practices and make them your standard. Company implement shared methods for project prioritization, UI style guide, ROI pieces, start measuring, and celebrate your UX achievement.
· Optimize — Model the relationship between customer experience and business results build strong UX practices, develop sophisticated practices and sharpen employees’ customer–experience–related skills.
· Differentiate — Deploy advance research techniques to systematically mine for new types of insights, a process that helps people step back and see problems in an even broader context. Business architecture based on user journeys.
If you look at Foresters’ recommendations (they’ve done a lot of work in this area) and HFI’s Eric Schaffer has written a book about it, you’ll see some of these things over and over again:
· Customer Insight Measurement
· Customer Experience Measurement
· Employee Communication
Training — the importance of training. Culture.
Employee communications — actually evangelizing to employees; brown-bag lunches, for example; informal ways to communicate. CEOs and senior-level managers should be carrying the message of UX in their communications.
Customer experience measurement — so, measuring, measuring, measuring.
And Insight management. there are tools to help you do this — there are online tools- Google Analytics, A/B testing, Hotjar, Optimizer, etc.
UX is innovation and ROI impacting intervention and should be treated as such.
Business Case for UX
While it’s great that user experience is being recognized as an important aspect of product design and development, user research is frequently underestimated at any point in the process.
Because UX is grounded in return and investment teams must be making a business case for UX. During the dot.com era, many years ago people thought that usability has nothing to do with investment, achieving business goals, and had nothing to do with ROI. I believe that confusion is coming from that usability is about making things nice and feeling good, which is naive. It is not just about making users feel good, which it does, it is also about quantifiable ROI.
The business goals of UX are early on attention to through user research and through obsessing about the user can reduce product development cycle up to half. It’s SENSITIVITY to UX early on.
If you don’t bring UX early on, you will end up with a bag full of features or a very badly formed tool where tasks are all over the place, navigation is tricky and content is laid out everywhere. This is by understanding users’ context of use, their tasks, and the task is the big word in UX. That’s how we measure success and is what users are trying to do.
And one of the problems that have been part of software development for years is something called “featuritis” which is an illness of too many features. It came from software development marketing in the 1990s when they had the box of software that would list the features. And the more features you had, the more “feature-rich” it was. Many organizations after the Dot-com era realized that ease of use is critical. They saw e-commerce sites like Boo, the famous e-commerce site, just collapse. So, UX
is about understanding not what’s possible, but what is *probable* — what users will probably do; not the possibilities that good engineering will flush out, but what’s probable because humans are creatures of habit and we need to know what their habits are.
The other risk that we’re trying to manage is the fact that software is developed in *silos*. And it’s the blind men and the elephant example where everyone is feeling a different part of the elephant. It’s really important to have a *holistic management* of products, including UX, and that UX is part of the product team. this is risky to develop — to throw it over the wall and do a waterfall-type approach. So, agile development has replaced the waterfall technique of working in a silo and then waiting and throwing it over the wall to the development team.
Let’s go back to business results and see what are others. According to statistics ( will note them below) and which is kind of shocking numbers:
- 70% of projects fail due to a lack of user acceptance.
- 72% cite effective user adoption as a key (vs 16% software functionality)
So, it’s all about user acceptance. It’s all about “Does the hand fit in the glove? Does the shoe fit that user’s foot?“ and user adoption is critical to realizing value in the enterprise That’s huge because think of how much time and effort goes into functionality when it’s adoption that is the key business driver.
Forrester Research Report „Rich Internet Application Errors to Avoid“ June 2008
NEOCHANGE, SANDHILL.COM AND THE TSIA 2009 (Realizing Value in Enterprise Software)
There was a great study that was done about the good experience by RightNow. And it’s 85% of customers said they’d be willing to pay more over the standard price for a good experience, good product or service and also to ensure the superior customer experience. Specifically, 55% said they would pay 10% more; 27% said they’d pay 15% more, and 10% said they would pay 25% more.
That’s a lot of incremental revenue that adds up, just by making sure that your user experience is compelling and puts a smile on your user’s face.
Good, and bad UX team performance
It’s vital to get the most out of your UX team. It’s pointless to hire a UX designer or a UX resource if they’re not adding value to the company.
Good UX team performance
Demonstrating a BELIEF in the importance of UX work is how good team performance starts. Management has to be involved. UX teams will feel effective when their users rate their designs high in usability, innovation, and visually. So there is a correlation between getting a UX team performing by supporting them from a management perspective.
How to fix UX teams if they are distracted by internal priorities instead of not focusing on empathy and learning by users’ pain points is to
- Give UX team a seat at the executive table and put UX in that business context so we can talk about business imperative or ROI without connection to the source of that executive decision-making.
- Give UX team autonomy in the organization chart. It is critical to letting UX teams have autonomy so they can influence.
I noticed that software development teams tend to subordinate UX because they’re more familiar with engineering. And they expect UX to act and think and behave like engineers, which some can. But they shouldn’t. They’re busy advocating for the user!
They’re out here getting the empathy from the users’ pain points, and they’re bringing that back into the organization as sprinkles, informing executives, product development, and marketing teams.
Bad UX team performance
Research shows that UX management and UX effectiveness are correlated regardless of budget.
That means that what we’re seeing is that with poor UX management, the UX, the actual user experience, is hurt. And this is regardless of budget. But even outside of the budget, teams feel that they’re ineffective when they report to a department other than UX.
It would be like putting an architect in with a plumber. Those are two very different things. A plumber is busy fixing the sink or the bathtub. And the architect is designing the interior structure and how people will feel when they’re in the living room and what the space is like in the bathroom and so forth and so on. So, smaller companies have a higher perceived UX effectiveness, the research shows.
UX team report being ineffective when:
- They report to a department other than the UX team
- Smaller companies have a higher perceived UX effectiveness
How to fix bad UX team performance?
By making sure that you’re positioning the UX team in the org chart in a way that makes sense for the company. That’s usually product development or autonomously. If we have built up a UX team, give them autonomy. UX should be highly collaborative. It should highly mesh with all teams
Have UX retrospectives so UX teams have time to learn and reflect. That UX team is part of the agile retrospective process. Finally to track UX data. Track it over time and track the effectiveness and make those adjustments so that you can avoid the ugly.
Managers, stakeholders, and UX
Giving your customer, stakeholder, or boss a greater understanding of what UX is and what it comprises might help your project succeed. So the keyword is CO-OWNERSHIP
When you’re starting a project, you want to make sure that all of the stakeholders are involved.
You don’t want product management, engineers, marketing, or executives to think of UX as a magical black box where you go into a corner and create a bunch of stuff before coming out and exclaiming, “What a pleasant surprise! I hope you enjoy it.” Instead, it’s best to sit down and show and communicate what you’re attempting to do at a high level early and often.
There are lots f ways how to do that and what tools to use to share all your findings.
It doesn’t mean you have to take all their ideas at face value. But it makes them feel like they were a part of it enough to where they aren’t going to push back as hard later. So, it’s allowing everybody to kind of sketch out ideas early on, put them on a board and discuss them and talk about them. Then, as you go back and you take all that and you start to solidify and go in a particular direction to continually show that. And you can do that by planning meetings. You can also use tools like Slack. You can use real-time collaboration and just post pictures and say: “Hey, here’s what we’re thinking. We’re kind of pivoting this way, and this is why.” And get their feedback, not just in a scheduled sort of formal meeting, but in an ongoing sort of way. A lot of prototyping tools also can comment on them and that sort of thing.
You may have noticed in projects where things are done this way, for a client that hasn’t done any real UX work, UX teams done field study and brought the whole organization in, 100 people into a meeting and shared those field study findings — that that, too, has a great feeling: the stories and the process of “Wow, we’re listening to users!” It seems like that’s part of that power.
Another great way is to have from time to time, short sessions. Not regularly scheduled but more like an ad hoc lunch type of meeting. Especially at the end of the day where people don’t have to run to desks to finish their jobs or on other meetings. But rather to have a casual conversation with some snacks and create a two-way conversation or a multi-way conversation, get the crowd involved in making suggestions and permitting them to tear apart the design, to say why they think from their perspective in the organization there could be challenges on certain aspects of it.
But a lot of time UX teams have to educate other teams in the company, or n general users during testings on education points to educate on the process. UX team needs to put out the design and kindly explain to others wherein the process they’re at, how they got there, why they were thinking this way. Try not to give rationales until after users/teams have gone through and given their perspectives.
UX teams should try and create that design thinking mentality across the organization and teach them about theirs processes and why it’s important and why all of them could help play a role in it, and that design didn’t have to happen in just one corner of the organization, that all of them could offer ideas and offer perspectives that could be helpful in making a successful product.
Harley Manning, Kerry Bodine, Josh Bernoff and Mel Foster, Outside In The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business, 2012, Forrester Research
John Rhodes, Selling Usability: UX Infiltration Tactics, 2009, Rhodes Media