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Enterprise UX do's and don'ts - building a UX maturity model

Jon Reed Profile picture for user jreed July 13, 2015
Enterprise UX expert Jose Coronado knows about UX done right. He's also seen his share of UX mistakes. In this piece, we share insights on how to address Enterprise UX skills issues via a maturity model. Then we hit the UX pitfalls.

When I left off with UX expert Jose Coronado, he was quantifying the benefits of the ADP UX project he played a lead role in. (UX design in action – how should enterprises face user experience shortcomings?). But we didn't get into Coronado's enterprise UX do's and don'ts.

To set the table: Coronado is currently working with the Accenture software division on their user experience strategy. From his home base in New York City, he has worked with firms ranging from startups to major financial services players. I challenged Coronado to boil down his UX lessons across projects.

Large enterprises are in an early phase of UX design; they recognize its importance, but typically don't have the UX design capabilities in-house to satisfy the user requirements of modern mobile and web apps. This poses a big dilemma: how do you construct an effective UX design team? Do you engage an outside design firm (usually at a high price), pull in independent experts, or upskill internal teams? Coronado frames the issue a bit differently: he advises starting with a UX maturity model.

The steps to Enterprise UX excellence

1. First step - create a UX maturity model

Start by constructing a long term model for how you'll achieve your UX vision. That first step - designing the model - requires an expert in designing a sustainable UX skills plan. That expert could be an independent consultant, or it could be a larger design shop. Bottom line: an external partner helps you build that initial plan:

A UX maturity model might begin on a tactical level, working with one or two people, at the root level in the organization. You might bring in a consultant to help devise a two to three year plan. You may need to identify an external partner that can help you fulfill your tactical needs, while at the same time helping you define the model that works best for you.

2. Choose  between an "embedded" or "distributed" UX approach. One result from the initial UX maturity plan: companies choose between an embedded or distributed UX model. Coronado:

The distributed model could be the creation of a small UX swat team in the organization that can go to different products teams and help them create the user experience, while building the user experience program for the entire organization. Or you can opt for the embedded model, where you have designers embedded in each of the business units or product teams.

3. Get ready for the UX tipping point. Once you have a UX model in place and capable staff deployed, look out - there's a tipping point ahead. Think of it as a UX gut check: is UX about better design, or is it a business imperative? Some companies move into UX cruise control. But others take up to another level, elevating UX to a top-level differentiator:

What I have observed is that companies get to a point where they have ten or twenty UX team members, whether they're distributed or centralized, doesn't matter. Then they get to that tipping point where they go, "We've gotten to this point - is it enough?" Some companies decide they are satisfied with this level of UX investment, but other companies really see the business value, the strategic importance of UX.  Those companies invest as heavily in user experience as they would in technology resources and capital investment.

Elevating UX to a board-level priority does cause one problem, though: it heightens the talent and UX resource issue. Companies must then decide whether to hire aggressively, or whether to consider the acquisition of a design shop (see: Infor and Hook & Loop):

You've probably seen the Kleiner Perkins report, where there's been 20 or so acquisitions of design studios or private companies with a very strong design base. The IBMs, the SAPs, the Accentures of the world - they are heavily investing in building UX capability inside their organizations, because they see the value for their business and for the clients that they serve.

Enterprise UX - pitfalls to avoid

1. Design turf wars can sink a UX project. Coronado has seen battles over UX ownership cause serious problems:

If you have internal resources, or you partner with design firms that are overprotective of their design, or take the perspective that they are the only people responsible, or that are capable of delivering designs that is a potential failure. Ideas could come from anywhere, and as I mentioned with the case study on ADP,  we gave the visualization platform to the organization to help us design the experience. We opened it up instead of closing it out.

2. Viewing UX as a "one and done" project. Building up some design competencies, only to abandon them when the project is done, is Coronado's next danger point:

Some companies perceive the UX effort as a "One time and I'm done" approach, as in, "OK, we did the redesign of the product. We're good. We don't need a team of designers on staff anymore." But all products need to evolve with the influence of new devices and new technology. We just talked about cloud and wearables, for example. There's always a need to keep your user experience and design practice evolving with the products.

3. Embrace disruption by opening up your platform, or be disrupted. Coronado sees some institutions that are simply not moving fast enough. He sees a lack of APIs as one sign of a closed organization, incapable of harnessing outside innovation:

A lot of the disrupted players are no longer with us today. If you look at finance, for example, and you look at the login page of any bank, there are about ten different startup companies that are doing a piece of the puzzle of what that large financial institution is doing. If you don't pay attention to that, and you don't integrate with players that are more nimble and more specialized in addressing that issue, your users might look elsewhere.

For example: let users log in with their platform of choice. Or provide an API marketplace for platform integration. The winners are actually your clients, your customers. Closing your platform would be definitely a recipe for potential disaster.

Final thoughts - and the impact of cultural diversity on UX

I also asked Coronado about designing for UX across diverse/global teams. The short answer - user experience across regions requires extra consideration to language and local requirements:

When you go to Japan, if the product is not fully localized to Japanese, you cannot sell it. You have to give it away for free. All the documentation and help and training has to be made fully available in the local language, versus other countries that would say, "English is good, that's our international corporate language." You may not be fully aware of those requirements when you are delivering your product - but you need to be.

Alas, there isn't a cookie cutter approach to improving UX. Whatever approach is taken, one common thread is planning for UX as a long term competency. From there, culture takes over. I'm on the UX-as-business-imperative side, but you can't snap your fingers and make it so. Next up - I'll look for more use cases that support or contradict.

End note: this article is part of my ongoing diginomica series on Enterprise UX and the highs/lows of mobile app design.

Image credit:  feature image - lose © olly Photo of Coronado used by permission.

Disclosure: Diginomica has no financial ties to ITX Digital (Jose Coronado's firm). This interview was arranged by the PR firm representing iRise, which contacted me about Coronado’s UX expertise. I thought it would make a good installment in my UX design series, and an interview was arranged.

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