UX design in action - how should enterprises face user experience shortcomings?
- My last user experience (UX) pieces focused on design methods. This time around, we focus on UX design in action, with views and project stories from UX consultant and practitioner Jose Coronado.
Why has Enterprise UX become a crucial project criteria?
UX has moved from an afterthought to a central enterprise project criteria, with a direct impact on user adoption, and thus the success of the project. It's also becoming a more important factor in enterprise software evaluation and selection. Coronado points to three reasons why UX has risen in importance. The first? The impact of mobile apps, e.g. the "consumerization" of the enterprise:
For most of the last 20 years, enterprise software has had a captive audience. You didn't have to do much for users, who were expected to use the system... Now the expectation of the end users are different, because access to consumer applications is so readily available for them. They are beginning to implicitly become more educated as to what is easy to use.
They don't have to ask questions. They just install the app, they start using it, and they figure it out as they go, - in contrast with how traditional enterprise software has been built, which is very complex. Processes are very complex. We made an effort to support the process in the enterprise, but we never made an effort to really make it a transparent user experience, to put the burden of the processes in the system, and then just support the way people work.
The ingrained expectations of the user are one factor in the UX emergence, but Coronado points to the pressure of social media as another:
A decade or so ago, Facebook didn't exist. Twitter didn't exist, LinkedIn didn't exist. Now, when a company puts out a sub-par product, everybody knows, and everybody knows a lot quicker than when a company delivers a great product. Instead, they just put it out on the market. Executives pay attention to the impact of the products that they put in the marketplace, and that has created another big wave of UX influence.
The third factor is perhaps the most interesting, which is the shift away from a tech-centric "count the error messages" approach to design, to an approach where every design ties back to seizing a business opportunity, and a chance to engage the user:
Twenty years ago, practitioners like me had to fight to let us design a page. They wanted to test how many errors a person makes, versus the position we have today in which we say, "Let us determine how our design can maximize the value of these new product ideas in the marketplace." That's business-level language, a strategy-level conversation. The value proposition perspective is no longer centered in what we do. It's centered on the value that we can add to the process. That's critical in terms of why companies are paying attention to user experience today.
Are UX projects one-offs, or is there a coherent UX methodology?
Coronado's approaches UX from an industrial design background. For the last two decades, he's been focused on software interface design. In the last five years, the plot thickened with the surge of mobile, cloud, social, and the new enterprise solutions these trends have spawned. Through his company ITX Digital, Coronado provides UX consulting to enterprise vendors and end customers.Fine - but I wanted to know if Coronado's consulting gigs were one-offs, or if he has developed a repeatable methodology around UX? The short answer is: yes, he helps companies develop their UX design strategy. But how does that play out in the real world, where UX resources can be scarce? Coronado's goal is to help companies take a close look at their UX skills issues, and develop a plan for optimizing their existing resources, adding new UX experts, or both:
It's both the organizational consulting aspects, as well as a product design aspect. I'm working right now on user experience strategy for the Accenture software division, which is part of the technology arm of Accenture. Basically, I have a methodology and a process that I can employ to bring the product or strategy people and the technology people together, and in a very compressed amount of time, which could be anywhere from a week to do a concept, to a month to do a full minimum viable product, to validate the design solution in the market.
Better UX for a better result - a project example
For a detailed example of how better user experience can impact a company at scale, Coronado shared the story of a UX project at ADP. At the time, Coronado was an ADP employee, tasked with developing ADP's Global User Experience Program. The roots of the story go back to 2010, when ADP was getting plastered on social media for their site design. But as Coronado tells it, the competitive pressures also elevated UX to a corporate priority:
In 2010, we were getting tweets such as, "The 1990s called and they want their website back." It's 2010, for God's sake, and people were basically comparing our products to the beginning of the web. That was very helpful in terms of catching the attention of the executives and the decision-makers of the organization to pay attention to user experience.
On the other hand, prospects would say to us, "We know you guys have the best technology platform, best of league, and the broadest platform for employee services solutions, but your technology looks dated." Our salespeople would tell us, "We don't want to show the product because when we show it next to our competitors, and we look really bad."
Empowered by executive buy-in, Coronado's team got to work. A core team of three: a tech lead, a marketing lead, and UX lead (Coronado), designed a program of four components:
- Push the envelope of modernizing and personalizing the user experience
- Re-usability: create portable UX technology that can be used around multiple products and product suites
- Create a foundational development library and UI toolkit that teams around the global organization could use to build new products.
- Improve/streamline the design process via visual analysis in the form of a visual simulation platform, with the goal of democratizing design capabilities.
And: pull all four off with limited internal design resources. To accomplish this, the scope of user experience was expanded to include teams working on UI, as well as developers, business analysts, and project managers. Another key element for the fourth bullet: a third party design visualization platform from iRise.
Coronado discovered iRise as he looked for resources that would help his team move rapidly from requirements to interactive prototypes. Getting prototypes up and running quickly is no easy task, but Coronado believes speed-to-prototype is crucial for incorporating design feedback. Coroado believes that iRise shortened that process to days instead of months: "iRise works by producing a visual simulation of the software you are attempting to create, so that end users and stakeholders can provide direct feedback on an application and expedite the review process."
But like any other project, UX must justify itself. Coronado reports that the first product suite rollout with the new UX resulted in a 300 percent conversion rate:
That 300 percent increase speaks volumes to the business impact of user experience. By leveraging the visualization platform, we were able to renew multi-million dollar partnerships with large financial institutions - that was just another contribution that had very clear business impact. We put a flag up on the wall that said, "$35 million. That's my return on investment. Any questions?"
Tripling your sales conversions is a hard result to argue with, but I wanted to know specifically what Coronado attributed that to:
There were a lot of factors. Let me give you one. Before we launched the integrated product suite, a client would have to go to four different websites and enter four different credentials. Every product looked different. The new product suite was a single platform requiring a single credential. After we took the product suite live, there was only one place that you needed to go to determine at a glance what you needed from the product today. Now, the salespeople were excited to show the product. The prospects and were saying, "This is game-changing for industry."
All told, the global adoption of the UX initiative took two years to complete, but the first suite was launched within the first year. By the end of the second year, Coronado's team was able to measure the market impact.
It's still unusual to hear about UX overhauls where specific business results can be cited. I'll be looking to share more stories of this kind down the road. Coronado had more to say on the do's and don't of UX projects, and how to balance internal team resources with external experts. I'll return to those topics in a future installment.
Image credit: Dream Big, Set Goals, Take Action © mudretsov
Disclosure: Diginomica has no financial ties to ITX Digital. 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.