10 Observations from    10+ years in theCorporate UX Trenches                     @ario                #InfoCampSeattle   ...
Hi, I’m Ario... I’ve done UX-y things at these places since     2001.              PictureIt!, MSN Photos             Real...
First observation...           1. Identify       “What you can’t say”1
The    Conformist      Test     “Do you have any opinions that you would be     reluctant to express in front of a group o...
An example of something you might see in an internal    document...        “The manager in charge of each engagement      ...
Every organization has some version of this, what Freed    & Broadhead coined as...                                   “Sac...
What can’t you say & why?    • Look to your company’s sacred texts &        cultural norms.        Risks of pointing out t...
• How are the important things that aren’t getting      talked about in your org impacting morale &      effectiveness?   ...
2. Big companies good,Small companies good 2
Why work at abig company?• Scale - reach millions• Learn - tons of smart people / projects• Visibility - see how a huge un...
And why go toa small one?• Nimble - run as fast as you can• Agile - little penalty for changing course• Variability - wear...
Big companyoutcomes•       Dominate forever - CocaCola•       Slow painful/fade out - Yahoo•       Maintain & play it safe...
Small companyoutcomes1. IPO - LinkedIn2. Acquisition - Skype3. Lifestyle business - Instapaper4. Call it quits - 99% of ev...
Determining what’s right for you comes down to...            What do you want,            RIGHT NOW?      • Consider where...
3. Leadership isn’t just  vision, it’s get-shit-      done-ability    3
Steve Jobs has always been lauded for his design vision...              3
But it’s not his ability to imagine the iPad that made himgreat. Here’s Kubrick & Clarke’s vision of the samedevice from 1...
Steve’s genius was the ability to motivate and align alarge team under a cohesive vision.            3
Steve also understood the importance of an “ecosystem”          3
Competitor tablets, phones, & mp3 players don’t havethe entire ecosystem that Apple has created and it’s thatecosystem tha...
Is your organization thinking... • about the ecosystem? If not, someone’s   going to squeeze through the gaps and   bite y...
4. Know your org-chart       4
It’s importantto understandwhat kind ofhierarchicalstructure existsin yourorganization.Knowing whothe realdecisionmakers a...
Most big companies utilize some form of...      Command & Control    “The exercise of authority & direction by a    proper...
... Functions are performed through anarrangement of personnel, equipment,communications, facilities, and proceduresemploy...
Who’s commanding &controlling your organization?• Identify ALL stakeholders, no, seriously, all of  them.• Figure out who’...
If you rarely see or interact with the exec(s) responsible  for your project, that’s no good. Find out what it will take  ...
5. It’s not the tech that’s        hard, it’s thecommunication dummy!            5
Team problem solving exercises like Synergy’s“PowerBall” will give your team the visceralfeeling of the importance of comm...
What activities like these  will prove to you• Communication is everything when tackling a  tightly constrained problem• B...
Mid-mortems• Postmortems happen too late• Mainly involve finger pointing• Mid-mortems should happen  when there’s still a b...
6. Software teams need     “the triangle”            6
It takes severaldifferent roles toget a largesoftware projectoff the ground,but there are 3roles in particularthat must be...
Big projects should have...•   A strong designer•   A strong technical lead•   A strong project manager•   Don’t have thes...
7. The most innovativeteams are diverse teams     Not what I mean exactly...                            7
Why is diversity good?• Different skill sets =  different viewpoints = new  approaches• Someone who’s an outsider  may rev...
Know the team’s personality              colors•   Blue: relationship builders•   Gold: practical, like structure•   Green...
Applying colors• Everyone has a primary and a  secondary color• Aim to have everyone’s tasks match  what they’re good at  ...
Sidenote on a paradox of     design work...• Every team will have opinionated people who  don’t have “designer” anywhere i...
8. Pick the rightkind of pain points                 8
What do these experiences   have in common?•   Marathons•   Advanced degrees•   Yard of the Month awards•   Publishing you...
They’re satisfying becausehard work went into them• But not everything that  requires hard work feels  satisfying• Find ex...
•   DMV•   Voting•   Taxes•   Banking•   Home buying•   Dating•   Bulk photo editing•   The list is long!                 ...
9. Secrecy: friend or foe?                        9
Is secrecy in your organization  leading to better products /            services?• Internal secrecy around new projects s...
Consequences of secrecy• Employee morale on teams can be negatively  effected if details of important projects are kept  h...
Is it worth it?• Pros/cons around secrecy decisions should be  weighed very carefully• Cultures where teams are discourage...
10. Performance reviews     need a redesign                          10
Universally loathed by all• Takes an inordinate amount of time/energy away    from employees•   Causes tons of unnecessary...
Must-watch: David Rock• Managers should be hyper-aware of how their  feedback can effect their direct reports• Pain caused...
A better way?• Make sure feedback comes not only from  managers, but from peers as well• Perhaps a system of averaged micr...
Thanks for reading!     -@ario
Related reading...http://www.paulgraham.com/say.htmlhttp://sullivanfiles.net/WID/assignments/discourse_field/sacred_texts_fr...
Image creditshttp://www.manucornet.net/graphics/drawings/JPEG/bonkersworld/2011.07.12_it_world_roles_wm.pnghttp://www.manu...
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10 Observations from 10+ years in the Corporate UX Trenches

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Presentation at InfoCamp Seattle 2011 where I talk about 10 things I've learned from 10+ years doing UX work at large companies.

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  • 10 Observations from 10+ years in the Corporate UX Trenches

    1. 1. 10 Observations from 10+ years in theCorporate UX Trenches @ario #InfoCampSeattle Oct 9 2011
    2. 2. Hi, I’m Ario... I’ve done UX-y things at these places since 2001. PictureIt!, MSN Photos RealArcade and here starting tomorrow! Toolbar, Sidewiki, Priority Inbox, Calendar, YouTube, G+HCI Masters Cloud Drive
    3. 3. First observation... 1. Identify “What you can’t say”1
    4. 4. The Conformist Test “Do you have any opinions that you would be reluctant to express in front of a group of your peers?” -P. Graham What are those things in your organization?1
    5. 5. An example of something you might see in an internal document... “The manager in charge of each engagement shall prepare at its conclusion a brief report.” -- Some Mind Numbing IBM Employee Manual1
    6. 6. Every organization has some version of this, what Freed & Broadhead coined as... “Sacred Texts” • Sets organizational norms • Protects in legal situations • Confines discourse (i.e. a spec template you might find in a big company)1
    7. 7. What can’t you say & why? • Look to your company’s sacred texts & cultural norms. Risks of pointing out taboo topics... • Bruised egos • May entail scrapping a lot of hard work • May piss off someone higher up • Fear of a “bad review”1
    8. 8. • How are the important things that aren’t getting talked about in your org impacting morale & effectiveness? • Is that silence helping or hurting? • Think about how you can raise sensitive issues in a smart way1
    9. 9. 2. Big companies good,Small companies good 2
    10. 10. Why work at abig company?• Scale - reach millions• Learn - tons of smart people / projects• Visibility - see how a huge undertaking gets off the ground• Stability - assurance your job will be there2
    11. 11. And why go toa small one?• Nimble - run as fast as you can• Agile - little penalty for changing course• Variability - wear many hats vs deep specialization for eternity 2
    12. 12. Big companyoutcomes• Dominate forever - CocaCola• Slow painful/fade out - Yahoo• Maintain & play it safe - Microsoft?• Go under/become subsumed - Friendster/ MySpace• Google / Apple / Amazon /Facebook? - TBD 2
    13. 13. Small companyoutcomes1. IPO - LinkedIn2. Acquisition - Skype3. Lifestyle business - Instapaper4. Call it quits - 99% of everyone who tries 2
    14. 14. Determining what’s right for you comes down to... What do you want, RIGHT NOW? • Consider where you’ll thrive and learn the most • Find something that aligns with both your personal and professional goals • If you’re considering to pursue a new gig, don’t be afraid of burning bridges (as long as you leave in the right way) 2
    15. 15. 3. Leadership isn’t just vision, it’s get-shit- done-ability 3
    16. 16. Steve Jobs has always been lauded for his design vision... 3
    17. 17. But it’s not his ability to imagine the iPad that made himgreat. Here’s Kubrick & Clarke’s vision of the samedevice from 1969 in the film, “2001” 3
    18. 18. Steve’s genius was the ability to motivate and align alarge team under a cohesive vision. 3
    19. 19. Steve also understood the importance of an “ecosystem” 3
    20. 20. Competitor tablets, phones, & mp3 players don’t havethe entire ecosystem that Apple has created and it’s thatecosystem that leads to great user experiences.Examples of their ecosystem...• iTunes• App Store• Sync across devices• Mobile / Desktop / TV all accounted for 3
    21. 21. Is your organization thinking... • about the ecosystem? If not, someone’s going to squeeze through the gaps and bite you! • long-term? Are you slaves to quarterly earnings? Big things take time! • If not, work hard at painting a convincing picture for the vision you have in mind. UX work is sales work! 3
    22. 22. 4. Know your org-chart 4
    23. 23. It’s importantto understandwhat kind ofhierarchicalstructure existsin yourorganization.Knowing whothe realdecisionmakers are iskey. 4
    24. 24. Most big companies utilize some form of... Command & Control “The exercise of authority & direction by a properly designated commander over assigned & attached forces in the accomplishment of the mission... 4
    25. 25. ... Functions are performed through anarrangement of personnel, equipment,communications, facilities, and proceduresemployed by a commander in planning,directing, coordinating, and controlling forcesand operations in the accomplishment of themission.” 4
    26. 26. Who’s commanding &controlling your organization?• Identify ALL stakeholders, no, seriously, all of them.• Figure out who’s going to care about what. Tailor your communication/deliverables to them.• Make sure they’re looped in at the right time 4
    27. 27. If you rarely see or interact with the exec(s) responsible for your project, that’s no good. Find out what it will take to get them more directly involved with your team.Your exec’sface here 4
    28. 28. 5. It’s not the tech that’s hard, it’s thecommunication dummy! 5
    29. 29. Team problem solving exercises like Synergy’s“PowerBall” will give your team the visceralfeeling of the importance of communication. 5
    30. 30. What activities like these will prove to you• Communication is everything when tackling a tightly constrained problem• Being physically proximate to your team helps tremendously• Have mid-mortems not postmortems... 5
    31. 31. Mid-mortems• Postmortems happen too late• Mainly involve finger pointing• Mid-mortems should happen when there’s still a big chunk of time left to make changes• Don’t have scary people there. People should feel comfortable speaking up• Bring in a neutral moderator 5
    32. 32. 6. Software teams need “the triangle” 6
    33. 33. It takes severaldifferent roles toget a largesoftware projectoff the ground,but there are 3roles in particularthat must be inplace if theproject is to moveforward in apositive direction... 6
    34. 34. Big projects should have...• A strong designer• A strong technical lead• A strong project manager• Don’t have these or try to combine roles... proceed at your own risk! (and try to escalate the problem to someone who can help) 6
    35. 35. 7. The most innovativeteams are diverse teams Not what I mean exactly... 7
    36. 36. Why is diversity good?• Different skill sets = different viewpoints = new approaches• Someone who’s an outsider may revisit good ideas that were previously discarded• Companies should hire a mix of seasoned vets & newbs (both serve important roles) 7
    37. 37. Know the team’s personality colors• Blue: relationship builders• Gold: practical, like structure• Green: tinkerers, puzzle solvers• Orange: prototypers, brainstormers 7
    38. 38. Applying colors• Everyone has a primary and a secondary color• Aim to have everyone’s tasks match what they’re good at 7
    39. 39. Sidenote on a paradox of design work...• Every team will have opinionated people who don’t have “designer” anywhere in their job title.• All of them can and will chime in on the UX• While engineers can give their opinions on UX, rarely can non-engineers chime in on their code• Accept this imbalance and embrace it (or start beefing up on your codin’ skills!) 7
    40. 40. 8. Pick the rightkind of pain points 8
    41. 41. What do these experiences have in common?• Marathons• Advanced degrees• Yard of the Month awards• Publishing your first novel 8
    42. 42. They’re satisfying becausehard work went into them• But not everything that requires hard work feels satisfying• Find experiences where there’s a mismatch and there’s an area ripe for innovation 8
    43. 43. • DMV• Voting• Taxes• Banking• Home buying• Dating• Bulk photo editing• The list is long! 8
    44. 44. 9. Secrecy: friend or foe? 9
    45. 45. Is secrecy in your organization leading to better products / services?• Internal secrecy around new projects seems to be on the rise within big companies (perhaps trying to follow Apple’s lead)• Also due to increased fear of leaks which ties into competitive advantage• It’s harder for companies to keep secrets as they get bigger and bigger 9
    46. 46. Consequences of secrecy• Employee morale on teams can be negatively effected if details of important projects are kept hidden from them (especially if they find out the details anyway through the grapevine)• Feedback is harder to come by and getting feedback early and often (especially on something unproven) is key 9
    47. 47. Is it worth it?• Pros/cons around secrecy decisions should be weighed very carefully• Cultures where teams are discouraged from interacting/collaborating with other teams create toxic working environments• What are some examples of projects that were great successes in the market because they were kept secret for long periods of time? 9
    48. 48. 10. Performance reviews need a redesign 10
    49. 49. Universally loathed by all• Takes an inordinate amount of time/energy away from employees• Causes tons of unnecessary stress• Happen far too infrequently• Evaluations usually done against outdated goals• Take very little consideration of how brains work... 10
    50. 50. Must-watch: David Rock• Managers should be hyper-aware of how their feedback can effect their direct reports• Pain caused by criticism can be alleviated with Aspirin! (same pain receptors at work in the brain) 10
    51. 51. A better way?• Make sure feedback comes not only from managers, but from peers as well• Perhaps a system of averaged micro-reviews that happen bi-weekly / monthly could replace the gargantuan annual review 10
    52. 52. Thanks for reading! -@ario
    53. 53. Related reading...http://www.paulgraham.com/say.htmlhttp://sullivanfiles.net/WID/assignments/discourse_field/sacred_texts_freed_broadhead.pdfhttp://www.wired.com/magazine/2009/12/fail_accept_defeat/http://www.synergylearningsystems.com/team_prog_pb.htmlhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Command_and_controlhttp://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2011/09/getting-serious-about-your-org-chart.htmlhttp://users.trytel.com/~jfalt/Ene-med/true-col.htmlhttp://www.chickjunk.com/true-colors/http://www.scottberkun.com/blog/2011/5-dangerous-ideas-for-designers/http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XeJSXfXep4Mhttp://www.amazon.com/Abolishing-Performance-Appraisals-Backfire-Instead/dp/1576752003
    54. 54. Image creditshttp://www.manucornet.net/graphics/drawings/JPEG/bonkersworld/2011.07.12_it_world_roles_wm.pnghttp://www.manucornet.net/graphics/drawings/JPEG/bonkersworld/2011.06.27_organizational_charts.pnghttp://media.salon.com/2011/07/what_to_do_when_the_projects_done-460x307.jpghttp://halloweencostumes.costumestore.com/106879_01_Lg.jpghttp://bio4esobil2010.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/lakeecosystem_poster.jpghttp://www.smartdraw.com/specials/images/org-chart-template.jpghttp://blogs-images.forbes.com/glennllopis/files/2011/06/Diverseworkplace.jpghttp://www.trisoma.com/webimg/Fig409BackMusclesTrP.jpghttp://icedcoffeerunner.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/img_0607.jpghttp://www.thenervousbreakdown.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/dmv1.jpghttp://fc01.deviantart.net/fs43/f/2009/056/f/c/Shhh_by_Str8UpSkills.jpghttp://i.ehow.com/images/a07/lo/tj/annual-performance-reviews-mandatory-law-800X800.jpg

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