New Frontiers: UX Professional as Business Consultant


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We talk a lot about cross-channel experiences and how to address these new challenges as designers, but what about using our design skills, our hard won knowledge and empathy for customers to help companies decide what products and services will help grow their business? While companies are coming round to the value of customer experience, they're struggling to acquire the skills needed for creating and managing touch points as well as understanding and prioritizing needs. And when we're talking multi-channel ecosystems, who's better equipped to address this complexity than those who have the skill set to not only understand it, but to design it and guide how it's built.

From optimizing the cross-channel customer experience, to creating new product and service extensions, we're heading into a prime moment for bringing our toolkit into the business arena. This talk is meant to be both a thought starter a around how UX can begin to play a substantive role in a company's digital strategy. Using examples from my own experiences and input from a variety of seasoned practitioners, we'll examine the challenges and map the opportunities across our own journey as UX professionals who are starting to think about what's next.

Published in: Design
  • seems ux folks need to work on the 'business table' well.. as domain is evolving...
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  • Great job Cindy.

    Having sat on the front row through this next to a nodding and verbally approving Alan Cooper, I enjoyed the talk a lot. Reviewing again I have to respect the insight, and elegant slide delivery here - it was top notch. Any criticism i referred to at the Redux was purely based on the need for our industry to take this discussion further, beyond the rhetoric, into more actionable steps. Otherwise, these sorts of talks can set the expectation far too high for a talented and passionate industry that just isn't universally equipped to be considered appropriate competition for business/management consultants. The thing is, i truly believe we have a lot to offer. But having worked at a management consultancy, seeing great talent, similar methods, but wholly different value systems, and professional ethics, I think there is more to be aware of. I would love to chat in more detail some time, or have the chance to provide a more refined comment.
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  • Cindy, thanks for sharing at Interaction13! You made a significant impression on this discussion of the evolving role.

    The slides are packed with great conversation and debate pieces...looking forward to participating in the broader dialog of how we continue to evolve the role, and carry influence further upstream.

    I believe Service Design is an interesting space to investigate the value this multidisciplinary role can bring to opportunity creation and solution design.
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  • Solid. Great presentation!
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  • This is dead on. A really good overview of the work I've been doing the last 7 to 8 years. For much of that stretch I stopped using UX (or any variant) as a descriptor of what I do as most businesses haven't considered UX as covering or helping resolve their problems. Having UX folks with enough years of experience and being tightly woven into the understanding of business needs and complexities is what holds much of UX back. UX for them has often been a light understanding that sits hanging off IT somewhere.

    This preso is great for reshaping that. Thanks!
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  • An industrial design, for example, had to be accountable to business. Understanding process. Understanding the economics of materials. Understanding holistically how the business worked.
  • In a digital space we didn’ t ’ have to think about business…we had a group of technologist in a room some where who could magically create what we designed.
  • But the world is a very different place. [talk about ecosystems of product and service] Portable computers became ubiquitous the morphed into even smaller, more powerful and cheaper phones and tablets Mass product and consumption of news, entertainment, products service and ideas have lost the battle, giving way to personalization and customization Control of information shifted from the media to the forum of public opinion and everything has become connected
  • These are some of the companies who have embraced and have excelled at “customer experience”
  • As I come at this from only one narrow angle, I needed some help to tell the story. So I’ve created this virtual panel. All of these “UX Pros” have deep knowledge of design and the industry. Almost all have been in the business more than 15 years. And they are some examples of people who are functioning as management consultants to the clients and companies they serve. So…I asked them for input in this presentation so as to better understand the range or work, challenges and insights that they’ve encountered. It was also interesting to hear that they had new labels for themselves in this context: coach, facilitator, catalyst, translator, as well as designer.
  • So if you take a look at what these folks have been doing you see some common common activities. The kinds of help they were giving to their clients.
  • DG
  • SB
  • Mention expense report system story.
  • There are a lot of business management consultancies and innovation firm incumbents out there who are edging into the customer experience space. Here’s what IDEO says: At IDEO, we combine design thinking and traditional corporate strategies to help clients create avenues for market growth.  They say: Whenever a company designs a new product, service, or experience, it is essentially designing its business.
  • But when you think of how other types of consultants work. It’s often the subject matter expert who gets the gig. Like a cop, who becomes a consultant for a TV show. Or a doctor who consults M&A transactions in the health industry. So why shouldn’t the subject matter experts for user experience step up to these business demands? That’s our challenge and our opportunity.
  • Experience strategy: as well as defining the priorities that will help us get there. There should be a global experience strategy, as well as a more focused set of priorities for each application. Customer understanding: Understanding their needs will enable us to identify opportunities for delivering an experience that goes beyond expectations. UX design: through the applications and services that support the business process UX design can extend beyond the application itself, to how we can improve the on-boarding and transition of customers. Governance: will be essential for ensuring a consistent user experience.
  • But I have only one perspective. So I took spent some time with the interview transcripts, to see if I could tease out some common threads across the experiences of our illustrious panel. There was a fairly wide range of activity amongst this small group, but there were some very clear themes related to the work they were doing in the domain of business consulting.
  • Business consulting for all of these folks was about facilitating insight. I say supported by a design process because facilitation had many dimensions and wasn’t always about design. But the primary value of their service to the client was around integrating a new approach and new way of thinking about problem solving. Not one of these consultants thought they were the ones coming in with the big idea or solution. They were there to help the client understand their customers, the problem space and get to the best insights in a very collaborative way. Here are some of the things I heard: Person delivering the solution is not generally aware of all the stakeholder needs There's no channel for taking research findings to the larger organization when working on a specific product Often the people have great idea of where they need to go, but often their ideas aren't synthesized or connected.  Companies have the illusion of being efficient when they're really being inefficient. I work with people who need someone to think with about their challenges about how to solve them.  Guiding a client through a decision making process. Instead of telling them what them solution is I'm teaching them how to find it for themselves.
  • This is the land of the soft skills. Listening, communication, consensus building. All the things that are crucial to seeing change within an organization. It’s about truly being a part of their team. It’s about talking in a way they can understand as well as helping them communicate to their own employees. Some of you are used to putting together presentations that unveil and idea or an approach or a solution, but all of these folks seemed to be helping their clients build their own presentations. Here are some of the things I heard: Helping companies envisage, communicate and design their new workplace.   Involved months of pre-selling.  Building consensus. I work with clients on a long-term basis so that I really get to know their business. Connect what you want to do with what they want to do.  The more you try to control people the more they resist control. How to communicate a concept.  The way in which you communicate a concept is not standard for everybody.   Getting to know a sense of what they feel comfortable with. Dealing with power dynamics and multi-stakeholder environments. Overcoming the fear of changing. Letting other people do the work.   Over time reminding them of why we do things this way and why it matters What you need are internal champions.  That's where you start to see those culture changes.
  • This is a picture from one of the projects I’m working on right now. What’s been so awesome about where we’ve come is that we’re seeing individual employees as well as the company change the way their thinking and working. [tell story] This was another big theme. The reality is that a company doesn’t want to rely on a consultant forever. It just doesn’t make economic sense. And it’s not scalable over time. So part of our job is helping the client begin to adjust and learn so that they can begin to take on more things themselves. It doesn’t mean that their becoming interaction designers, they’ll either neither to hire those experts or continue outsourcing, but they can begin to make decisions on their own. And the can grow and maintain what we help them build. Here are some of the things I heard about this: Help them do the work but understand what the work looks like and how to measure it over time The transition to mobile is adding a layer of complexity.  And companies have to deal with this level of complexity.  They have do deal with it in their org structures and practices.  Teaching companies how to communicate, connect and coordinate activities.  Helping them restructure departments and roles in a way that will enable greater impact across the business.  Working a level above product: multiple product lines and how to integrate them successfully. Teaching them how to measure experience efforts against other ways to increase usage.  To articulate KPIs.  Giving them the tools to engage in a design process on their own.   UX is everybody's responsibility, *not just the responsibility of one person or department
  • After talking to these folks, the thing that struck the deepest cord was this.
  • So what is that path, exactly? Assuming the role of the business consultant that facilitates, works with people and helps a company to fish might look a little like this. And all of these things involved deisgn.
  • So like I was saying, the subject matter experts should be the ones who are among those help to advise companies on how to gain value through a better customer experience. So I asked our dear panelists what they thought differentiated them from the McKinsey and Bains of the world when it comes to this kind of work. What was it in their UX background that helped them naturally evolve into this kind of work?
  • But of course, we’ve had to learn new things. It ain’t all peaches and cream. Just went we think we’ve got it we’re being dragged through the corridors with another new challenge. And some of those things might bring a little discomfort your designerly mind. As mentioned earlier, we should be partners with business. Rather than thinking of it as something that gets in the way it should be a channel through which we work. Many of the people I spoke to profess to still be learning. Their veterans with years in the industry but they anticipate having to do this another five years before they get it right.
  • Forrester thinks we're still some time away from CX being embedded to that degree.  It's really only a small minority of orgs that have been at the CX game for some time. The vast majority is dabbling ---- and some have yet to realize the importance of CX as a business driver.   Early adopters will refocus their efforts to drive differentiation Companies in the mainstream will continue to seek buy-in Late adopters will panic as they realize how far behind they are
  • But for us. Those of us with a background in design and user experience. What’s that look like? Most of the people I spoke to see the opportunity but wanted to point out the tough road getting there. And they actually spoke with mixed levels of optimism. No easy path but a worthwhile pursuit.  No more overnight success.   Designers are well positioned to see the future, but I don't think there's a lot of patience.  It's going to take a long time to learn this stuff.  Organizational cultural inertia is forced to be reckoned with.  Internal UX teams.  I'd be surprised if this didn't become a standard part of any UXers toolkit.  Either that or your a commodity provider of basic designers.  My advice is that they will at some point in their careers be responsible for this kind of organization change.  Don't need to ask yourselves right now.  10-15 years into your career.   Depth of experience is key.  Wishes apprenticeship and practice for designers was much longer. 
  • New Frontiers: UX Professional as Business Consultant

    1. NEW FRONTIERS: THE UX PROFESSIONAL AS BUSINESS CONSULTANT TITLE SUBTITLE Cindy Chastain @cchastain #uxconsultantInteraction 13 | January 30, 2013 1
    2. Business (management) consultant:Someone who engages in the practice of helpingorganizations grow and improve their performance,primarily through the analysis of existingorganizational problems and development of plansfor improvement. 2
    3. UX Professional:Someone who engages in user-centered designpractices to generate cohesive, predictive anddesirable designs based on holistic consideration ofa users’ experience. 3
    4. 4
    5. 5
    6. 6
    7. Customer experience and technologyis becoming an essentialbusiness strategy 7
    8. 8
    9. The PanelJESSE JAMES KAREN MATTHEW STEVE WHITNEY GENE SAMANTHA DAVEGARRET MCGRANE MILAN BATY HESS SMITH STARMER GRAYCXO, Independent CEO, Principal, Independent President, VP, Ecommerce IndependentAdaptive Path Consultant Normative Meld Consultant nForm Razorfish ManagementSan Francisco New York Toronto Sydney Miami/NY Edmonton Chicago Consultant St. Louis 9
    10. Understand their customersIdentify market opportunitiesRethink business modelsArticulate a visionDefine their UX strategyPlan for organizational change 10
    11. For companies that have been aroundfor a long time, its often the case thatthey can see the looming threat onthe horizon, that their business modelisno longer working.- Dave Gray 11
    12. Companies think: were struggling inthis market. We need to reinvent andreinvigorate.- Steve Baty 12
    13. Companies are seeing that theirproducts have to support theircustomers in a very different waythan theyve been doing it in the past.- Whitney Hess 13
    14. we have arrived 14
    15. sort of 15
    16. 16
    17. 17
    18. Any UX work that weve done hasinvolved guiding a client through adecision-making process. Thats thecore of what strategic managementconsulting is.-Jesse James Garret 18
    19. Im fond of saying that all the work we do is change management. -Karen McGraneInteraction 13/ January 2013 19
    20. picture WIP 20
    21. What Impactful UX Requires Experience Customer UX Measurement Governance Culture Strategy Understanding DesignSetting a clear vision Clear, consistent, A set of activities An ongoing set of A clear, proactively- Cultivating a cultureof the type of and accurate and disciplines practices to measure minded set of in which delivering aexperience you seek picture of your required to define user experience practices for great userto deliver customers. the characteristics quality enables the monitoring quality experience is of a person’s company to enhance and execution. embedded in the interaction with your and optimize over organization’s DNA. company. time. 21
    22. 22
    23. The more things are brokered through digital products and services, the more important it is to look into how these companies operate. -Gene SmithInteraction 13/ January 2013 23
    24. Some common threads… 24
    25. pictureIt’s about facilitating insight(supported by a design process) 25
    26. What needs to be done is already known by the company.  Its just not consciously known. What I can do is to help facilitate that knowledge into consciousness.   -Dave GrayInteraction 13/ January 2013 26
    27. It’s about the people and the relationships. 27
    28. You could have the bestrecommendation in the world and thesmartest person in the room, but its achange management problem. Have tounderstand the subtle dynamics of howpeople feel and how they work togetherand you have to be able to influencethat.  -Karen McGrane 28
    29. It’s about teaching a company to fish. 29
    30. We ask: what are the processes andcapabilities we need to have in placeinternally in order to continue to deliverthis experience on an ongoing basis?-Jesse James Garret 30
    31. The solution is not the service.The service is the path we can provide. 31
    32. Understand the Figure out Create a plan forproblem and identify how to make implementationthe opportunity. change happen. and sustainability. research, prototype, test, refine 32
    33. We have come prepared… 33
    34. Interaction 13/ January 2013 34
    35. Ability to listen to customersSystems level problem solvingFacilitating consensusInquiry based processesAbility to go deepPatience around finding solutionsSeeing multiple facets of a problem 35
    36. A lot of business problems that fail in analytic approaches are much better served with a design approach. - Steve BatyInteraction 13/ January 2013 36
    37. The UX field benefits because all of us have a ground in making things. That is incredibly powerful. Were starting from being the builders. And moving upstream into the strategy world. -Karen McGraneInteraction 13/ January 2013 37
    38. But we’ve had to learn new things… 38
    39. Picture 39
    40. How to use and understand their language  How business models workBeing really good at translationUnderstanding how organizations workBasic sales stuffBudget and numbersEvangelizing and persuasionIntellectual honesty and strength 40
    41. So what does the future look like? 41
    42. Ecosystem maps will be the new journey mapsCustomer experience professionals andbusiness process pros will become best friendsCustomer experience pros will chase employeeengagementFirms will pay a premium for scarce talentForrester, January 2013 42
    43. Picture 43
    44. There’s way more clients who dont get it than those who do. Its the forward edge of the market that recognizes the value of an experience driven approach at the strategic level. -Jesse James GarrettInteraction 13/ January 2013 44
    45. Theres a step that a designer needs to take where they abstract out from their particular type of design and recognize that at an abstract level theres a design process that has common principles. Once you can take the step you can start to appreciate the intent of the design process and then apply it in other ways. -Steve BatyInteraction 13/ January 2013 45
    46. So much opportunity if people want to be leaders. But theyre going to need to know how businesses run. -Samantha StarmerInteraction 13/ January 2013 46
    47. I would be interested to see the field to stop acting like we are impostors and to start embracing this more fully. -Karen McGraneInteraction 13/ January 2013 47
    48. THANKS! 48