Whether stating that “innovation is everyone’s job,” that “understanding customers is everyone’s job,” that “everyone is a designer,” or that we need to “make continuous improvement part of everyone’s job,” corporate leaders are signaling to their employees that they can expect more demanding job descriptions and blurrier roles and expectations in the future.  

Corporate leaders across industries are imploring their workforces to take responsibility for all manner of imperatives that once were seen as the domain of the leadership team.

More and more companies are becoming design-driven, and companies that traditionally have been product-focused are beginning to join the cadre of companies in many industries that are putting user experience as the core of their strategies. This is easier for some organizations than others, as CPGs, apparel, food and beverage and electronics companies have long been customer-focused and have placed a heavy emphasis on design. For other companies, the shift is more difficult, and perhaps nowhere is the transition tougher than for internal functions like Enterprise IT departments who are being tasked with creating a more user-centric approach to delivery.

I spent over a decade managing development teams and implementing custom and off-the-shelf software solutions across virtually every business function in the Fortune 100, so I can attest to a general belief and practice that for many traditional IT enterprises, User Experience has traditionally been a function, not an ethos or a strategy. With the rise of intuitive SaaS products, mobile applications and BYOD, however, the gap between the expectations of users and what enterprise IT is accustomed to delivering has been widening every year, putting pressure on IT leaders to rethink the way they hire, the way they buy, and how to put customer experience at the core of organizational values. Of course, IT is just one example of user experience being a function or one person’s job versus an ethos or a way of working, and the same holds true for HR, Finance, and many other enabling functions inside enterprises.

From consumer insights teams to go-to-market teams, incorporating innovation or customer experience into a way of operating is often a goal, but this is easier said than done, as evolving into that requires developing new skills, new mindsets and changing behaviors.

The Old Way

When I was trained in how to deliver IT products inside enterprises, much of the focus was on meeting requirements and quality standards. Our teams were made up of the usual suspects - DBAs, front end developers, system testers, tech writers, business analysts, project managers, trainers, and support staff. Having worked with and managed hundreds of people on these projects, I can say that I don’t think one person would have described himself/herself as a “designer.”

As time went on and “user experience” entered the lexicon, we began leveraging a central UX shared service team at key points in the process, effectively entrusting all usability and design considerations to one person (often after the tool was largely built). The rest of us focused on things like functional requirements, technical design, coding, system testing, compliance, documentation and training. The result? We built “to spec” solutions that ultimately met requirements but rarely delighted our users. To be clear, having a central, highly trained and skilled UX team is a tremendous help, and the traditional IT skills are as important today as ever. However, with design-driven companies outperforming the S&P by 228% and leaders pushing to make customer obsession the core of employee culture, how can a team introduce new mindsets, methods, and tools to empower this new way of working--one in which everyone is enabled to expand their skills and mindsets? 

A New Way of Working: Human Centered, Employee Powered

Making the transition to a design-driven, user-obsessed organization isn’t easy, but getting started is more simple than you might think.  

Intuit’s CEO shares some secrets on how he transformed their culture and organization, from altering hiring strategies, bringing in experts from other industries, and “making design a team sport.”  

If you’re not trying to change an organization, but just get your team working differently, there are some quick and easy things you can do too.  

Empathy Maps

Instead of doing user profiles at the start or your project, why not take a shot at Empathy Maps to build a more complete picture of what your actual users are thinking, seeing, hearing, and doing, and what their pains and gains are?

Quick tips include:

  • Empathy Maps force you to think of your “user” not as a nameless, faceless abstract concept but rather as a real person, helping you understand and evaluate a consumer’s feelings or state of mind.
  • Whether it's out in the field or during a market travel trip, if you notice interesting behavior, jot down notes about everything you see, hear, and observe. Later, when you work with your team on your Empathy map, illustrate and connect these “tensions” and “contradictions."
  • Continue to connect, cluster and synthesize any clues, hunches or insights you’ve collected. Whether using a whiteboard and sticky notes or working digitally on Batterii Walls with backdrops, begin to connect the dots and identify patterns, signals, trends, insights, and opportunities. Work as a team, or give each team member a Wall to “diverge-then-converge” as you work towards synthesizing your information.

Journey Maps

If your team routinely creates process maps, consider exposing them to Journey Maps (sometimes called Experience Maps). Rather than just diagramming process steps and information flows, your team can put the user at the center of the experience, documenting what their users are doing, thinking, feeling and interacting with at each step in the process. Journey Maps are a great way to identify touchpoints that are needed, that could be improved, or that might not be needed. Over time, your team will learn to move from discussing only requirements to focusing on latent needs, pains and gains.  

Quick tips include:

  • Journey Maps help to shift teams from a singular focus on product and expand the perspective to the entire consumer experience.
  • If you’re stuck getting started, begin by simply documenting what a user/consumer is doing throughout the process using sticky notes or Batterii backdrops, then go back to consider what he/she is thinking and feeling at each stage. Be sure to consider the stages that come before and after where your traditional interactions begin and end!
  • As you document touchpoints (or missing touchpoints) that cause frustrations, stress or delight, identify opportunities where the experience could be improved and use them as “how might we?” statements for future brainstorming.

Of course, Empathy Maps and Journey Maps are just two examples that can make your team more user-centered, so don’t stop there. User Acceptance Testing, which focuses on quality and performance, might be augmented with Usability Testing that focuses on adoption. Idea Reviews might turn into Round Robin sessions...the possibilities are almost endless. Slowly but surely, teams learn to see their customer through a different lens, using new mindsets and methods to deliver products that actually delight.

Learn More on Connecting Human-Centered Design and User Experience

There are no shortage of good frameworks out there for Human Centered Design and User Experience.  A few examples incude the Osborn-Parnes CPS Process from Alex Osborn and Sid Parnes, the UK Design Council’s Double-Diamond framework and Luma Institute’s System of Innovating for People (Looking, Understanding, Making). Picking the right methods and stitching them together to fit your organization’s process requires experimentation, but can pay big dividends.

Are You a Team Leader Who Wants to Build Design and UX into Your Team’s Culture?

See how regardless of the methods you choose, Batterii can digitize your process and help your teams collaborate across geographies to drive to results, while storing your artifacts safely and securely to build organizational knowledge and capacity. Then download our "How to Innovate...Strategically" paper, where we examine how and when Design-Driven, Lean Startup, Open Innovation and Crowdsourced Idea Management are best used. See the limitations and challenges with each innovation approach when you download the paper below.

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