It’s really not such a bad idea.
The terms “creative” and “finance” rarely occur in the same sentence – In fact, it can be an unsettling concept. But it’s something we need to address.
As companies “cut out the middleman” and move their business to the Web, eCommerce and B2B sites, we must create a delightful, compelling experience for our workforce and customers in order to remain competitive. But how?
We’ve become a computer-literate society. Now we expect technology to work for us – on our terms. Our acceptance of this new technology is predicated upon two simple questions: Is it useful to me? and Is it easy to use? The answer to both of these lies with The User Experience Practice (UXP). It may be an oversimplification, but UXP is often viewed by the business and technology arenas as “creative”.
- The corporate IT shop has evolved. It must now compete as a professional software design house.
- The corporate business-technology process must now integrate a creative component.
- The creative component (UXP) is the primary determinant of success in the interactive marketplace.
The question facing a financial enterprise is not “If” or even When” we should make a commitment to developing a strong User Experience Practice – It is “How.” So, let’s get down to business.
The User Experience Practice as a Business
The First Order of Business
Your enterprise’s Primary Business is financial. The business case, operational rules and functional requirements of the financial arena are clearly defined and well established. Most financial firms are large and handle a range of applications across a number of business offices and markets. Your corporate “user experience” challenges are operational and cultural integration.
Operational integration is the IT challenge – getting products and services to work together effectively “under one roof”.
Cultural integration is the HR/Marketing challenge – giving clients, partners and corporate personnel a sense of being part of the same team.
The Second Order of Business
Like many large corporations today, the enterprise’s Secondary Business is IT. In recent years the corporate IT department has become a software development shop. The design mandate has evolved from technical implementation to customer satisfaction. The development team already knows how to deliver functional code. The new challenge is to deliver ease-of-use.
What’s the main difference between an IT shop (that creates products that we have to use) and a professional software development house (that creates products that we actually want to use)? A commitment to UXP.
The Third Order of Business
That’s why the enterprise’s Tertiary Business is now UXP (the User Experience Practice). The emergence of Interaction Design as a skilled position marks the coming of age of the traditional IT working environment. Perhaps more importantly, it assumes an organizational vision that anticipates the future and a commitment to change the way we work.
In an increasingly complex and competitive online environment, Usability defines success.
When considering UXP, it is necessary to understand that we are talking about a creative service bureau (emphasis on “creative”). This is a very different kind of business – one in which corporate, financial and technical managers usually have little experience.
This presents a new set of organizational and management challenges to the enterprise that wishes to embrace the next level of professionalism.
The Big Question
Let’s step back for a moment and look at the situation:
The enterprise’s core business is financial. Of necessity, the enterprise has also invested substantial resources in growing an in-house business that is technical. Does the enterprise now really want to invest in developing an in-house creative service bureau?
Are you an “innie” or Are you an “outie”?
E-commerce may be the future, but software development is rarely the enterprise’s core business. Building a whole IT practice is a big corporate headache to begin with: The mechanics of producing code that works is no mean feat in itself. However, market success is now defined by “usability” – the Customer Experience.
Most corporate managers are extremely reluctant to embrace “the ‘c’ word” (Think: “Creative“). But, let’s face it; Crafting the Customer Experience is probably more of an art than a science. Ephemeral values like “satisfaction” and “ease of use” are difficult to quantify, awkward to manage and generally don’t fit gracefully into the conventional IT code-production mindset. There are two schools of thought:
We need an independent, professional perspective.
Maintain an arm’s length, “consultancy” relationship with an external service bureau design shop. This option requires strong process and accountability. It’s based on effective liaison with stakeholders and a sense of trustworthiness. The enterprise company maintains its flexibility as regards its ability to contract for design services and can concentrate on its core business.
We need to evangelize and educate from within.
Build knowledge and advocacy within the organization structure. This option requires a strong management commitment to establish an internal design practice. The company must invest in infrastructure and the development of a knowledge base. It’s a slower sell. The IT department and the enterprise itself must evolve into a “professional” software production house. The implications for organizational change are significant.
Of course, it’s not necessarily an exclusive either/or solution. Nonetheless, the debate between “innie” and “outie” is still at the heart of the struggle to effectively promote usability. It all comes down to determining the enterprise’s willingness to make Creativity an integral part of the business process.
The right answer is the appropriate answer.
Finding an Answer
What is the right fit for the enterprise? Is there a migration strategy? First, let’s take a look at what UXP does. The UXP Mandate operates across 5 high-level areas.
|The UXP Umbrella|
|Presentation||(Customer-oriented) Style, design, usage profiles||“identity”|
|Maintenance||(Document-centric) Create & maintain the building blocks, standards||“agility & efficiency”|
|Process||(Environmental) Establish organizational systems, workflow||“integration”|
|Strategy||(Management-driven) Forward-looking, brainstorming, prototypes||“vision”|
|Education||(Knowledge-based) Evangelism, advocacy, mentoring||“understanding”|
Whether these task areas are handled by a trusted external partner or by an internally-grown division, the enterprise must evolve internal organizational structure and management skills in order to effectively integrate the User Experience Practice across all of these areas.
The Point of Integration
The role of UXP is to “bring it all together”.
UXP is effective to the extent that it liaises across the cultural mindsets of the enterprise: Marketing, Technology, Business, Management, Human Resources. In very practical terms, the User Experience Practice does not sit under any particular division, but rather operates across all of them.
The role of UXP is to “bring it all together” from the perspective of the user.
The User may in fact be a customer, a business client, a public visitor, an employee, a manager, a partner. In all cases, the UXP perspective is “outside-in” rather than “inside-out”. UXP is the critical eye. UXP points out the nature of “the emperor’s new clothes”. UXP is not necessarily a team player. And that is the valued role of UXP.
The establishment and support of a Usability Practice which operates across the corporate structure embodies the enterprise commitment to “customer-centricity”.
UXP is no longer merely “a new coat of paint”. It determines the success of any interactive endeavor, be it customer-facing, B2B, employee self-service, marketing, HR, education or infrastructure.
- Make a commitment to develop User Experience as a business.
- Establish UXP as an established identity in the organization. It has a defined set of responsibilities and authority. It has an explicitly-defined role in the process flow.
- Support in-house UXP advocacy through a UXP Evangelist and the establishment of a UXP knowledge base.
- Engage UXP across all relevant arenas: Technology, Marketing, Employee Services.
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