UX Strategy and Strategic UX

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<ul><li><p>Copyright 2015 by Charles B. Kreitzberg. All Rights Reserved. </p><p>UX Strategy and Strategic UX </p><p>Charles B. Kreitzberg, PhD </p><p>Principal, Cognetics Interactive </p><p>ser Experience (UX) and its close relative Customer Experience (CX) are finally hot. After years </p><p>as a wallflower, begging to be noticed, UX has now been invited to the dance. This new interest </p><p>in UX reflects a more mature corporate understanding of its strategic importance and the value </p><p>it brings to the bottom line. </p><p>Despite its new found acceptance, there is still a lot of confusion about what UX really is and how it can </p><p>best create business value. In this article well take a look at user experience from a strategic perspective </p><p>and explore its enormous potential to support and advance business strategy. </p><p>Why has UX suddenly become so popular? The reason is that computers, tablets and smartphones are </p><p>everywhere. Almost everyone is using them and theyre connected pretty much all the time. Younger </p><p>people dont distinguish between their digital life and everything else. For those born into the </p><p>information era, digital interaction and everyday life blend into one seamless stream. </p><p>U </p></li><li><p>Charles B. Kreitzberg Strategic UX </p><p>2 </p><p>Theres power in numbers. When the market speaks, business listens. As interactive technology has </p><p>become part of daily life, people demand that it deliver great experiences. Just as with other </p><p>experiences like restaurants, movies and fashion, pleasing the consumer has become essential to profit. </p><p>Another factor that is driving interest in UX is the advent of big data. The ability of ubiquitous sensors </p><p>to collect massive amounts of data and deliver them to companies over the Internet is making a flood of </p><p>structured and unstructured data available. Processing this massive data requires technical </p><p>sophistication. Getting insights from it requires UX sophistication. </p><p>For a long time, business failed to realize the importance of user experience. The rise of Apple Computer </p><p>and the relentless pursuit of its founder Steve Jobs to create the Apple brand through high quality user </p><p>experience design has been eye opening to business leaders. Where, in the past, they dismissed UX as a </p><p>nice to have but hardly essential, they now increasingly recognize that its basic to the bottom line. </p><p>Business users have been a bit slower than consumers to </p><p>demand great user experiences. Business software has </p><p>traditionally been poorly designed from a usability perspective. </p><p>No one worried a great deal about this (except for the users) </p><p>since workers were being paid to use the software and were </p><p>expected to learn it no matter how awkward the user interface </p><p>might be. The problem, of course, is that badly designed </p><p>software wastes money. Its hard to learn, awkward to use, </p><p>inflexible and error prone. Fortunately, business has now come to realize that crafting high quality user </p><p>experiences for its workforce is smart. </p><p>Business workers are also consumers. When they go home at night, they surf the web, play games, and </p><p>shop on-line. As the workforce became increasingly familiar with websites and smartphone apps, they </p><p>began to ask why their corporate software was so ugly and so much harder to use. This led to a rise in </p><p>user experience sensibilities in the workplace and placed pressure on IT to understand user experience </p><p>and integrate it into its processes. This has not been completely successful but the awareness is there </p><p>and progress is being made. </p><p>It turns out that good user experiences are as important in business as they are to consumers. For the </p><p>past 30 or so years, business has been focused on cost reduction. Business process has been streamlined </p><p>and staff reduced to a point where there are fewer opportunities to find efficiencies. Improving the user </p><p>experience of business software pays off handsomely. </p><p>Following best practices in UX design saves a lot of money. Poorly designed business software not only </p><p>impacts customers but also wastes money. Today, there is hardly a business process that doesnt rely on </p><p>technology. When competent UX designers and appropriate processes are part of software </p><p>development, companies recognize a significant net gain. UX more than pays for itself. The cost savings </p><p>Badly designed software </p><p>wastes money. Its hard to </p><p>learn, awkward to use, </p><p>inflexible and error prone </p></li><li><p>Charles B. Kreitzberg Strategic UX </p><p>3 </p><p>stem from several places: improved operational efficiency, more flexibility, a better fit between </p><p>workflow and the software, reduction in errors and, of course, reduced training costs. </p><p>When UX practices, known as user-centered design, are followed, development is also streamlined. The </p><p>user-centered design process involves gaining a clear understanding of the audience and its needs; then </p><p>building wireframes and prototypes to model the proposed product. These mock-ups enable </p><p>stakeholders to gain a clear understanding of what is being developed before a lot of expensive </p><p>development takes place. Traditionally, stakeholders were asked to review requirements documents </p><p>which were complex, boring and extremely difficult to understand. Requirements were written as text </p><p>and it was left to the stakeholders imagination to figure out how the product might look and operate. </p><p>Not surprisingly, misunderstandings, disconnects and communication gaps between the technical and </p><p>business side were frequent and led to expensive rework. </p><p>When user-centered design is followed, stakeholders have access to screen mockups and visual </p><p>prototypes that are much easier to understand and review. This is an example of a picture being worth </p><p>a thousand words. With wireframes and prototypes, potential problems become easier to spot and can </p><p>be corrected before expensive and inflexible development work is undertaken. </p><p>In both the business to consumer and business to business spheres, the case for integrating user </p><p>experience into product development is overwhelming. The payoff is enormous and everyone benefits. </p></li><li><p>Charles B. Kreitzberg Strategic UX </p><p>4 </p><p>While user experience is often thought of in conjunction with software, experience design and its </p><p>benefits are not restricted to interactive products. Experience design can be applied to virtually any </p><p>human activity. Walk into any Apple retail store and youll see examples of customer experience design </p><p>in its physical space and furniture, the sales process, packaging, customer service, instructions, invoicing </p><p>and billing. Customer experience is the natural extension of user experience and its becoming </p><p>increasingly important to business strategy. </p><p>Customer experience (CX) designers craft experiences for every touchpoint where a customer comes </p><p>into contact with a business, across the entire term of the relationship. This is sometimes called the </p><p>customer journey. </p><p>The value of UX and CX is not only about efficiency and cost </p><p>reduction. We are living in a time of great change and this creates </p><p>an enormous need within business for innovation. Strategic user </p><p>and customer experience is a foundation of innovation. The </p><p>reason is that experience design begins with gaining a clear </p><p>understanding of your audience, their level of knowledge, their </p><p>needs and the tasks they want to accomplish. This knowledge is </p><p>also basic to business innovation. </p><p>In an article in the Harvard Business Review, researchers from </p><p>McKinsey found: </p><p>organizations able to skillfully manage the entire [customer] experience reap </p><p>enormous rewards: enhanced customer satisfaction, reduced churn, increased revenue, </p><p>and greater employee satisfaction. They also discover more-effective ways to collaborate </p><p>across functions and levels, a process that delivers gains throughout the company </p><p>(Rawson, Duncan, &amp; Jones, 2013). </p><p>Not only does experience design benefit users and customers but it improves the quality of decision-</p><p>making and collaboration throughout the organization. </p><p>As interest in experience design has grown, people have begun writing about UX Strategy and </p><p>debating what it means. Coming to agreement on this is important so organizations can develop a clear </p><p>understanding of what experience design is and how it fits their business. The starting point is to create </p><p>clear definitions that can be operationalized. </p><p>My view is that there are two distinct concepts which have somewhat different meanings: UX Strategy </p><p>and Strategic UX. These two ideas are quite different but seem to get mixed together when people write </p><p>about them. As I use the terms, UX Strategy refers to the way that an organization incorporates UX into </p><p>its business. Strategic UX refers to the way an organization uses experience design as to define and drive </p><p>Not only does experience </p><p>design benefit users and </p><p>customers but it improves </p><p>the quality of decision-</p><p>making and collaboration </p><p>throughout the organization. </p></li><li><p>Charles B. Kreitzberg Strategic UX </p><p>5 </p><p>its business strategy. Both are complementary but by making the distinction we can get more clarity </p><p>about how to position UX for maximum business benefit. And, of course, when I use the term UX we can </p><p>substitute CX or experience design. </p><p>UX Strategy is the way in which an organization positions user experience for effectiveness and growth. </p><p>Paul Bryan has described this as an organization defining a </p><p>plan of action...to produce a game plan for their UX, CX, </p><p>product or service design efforts (Gabriel-Petit, 2014). In this </p><p>view, UX strategy is the roadmap that defines how an </p><p>organization will conduct and manage UX design. </p><p>Clearly, any organization that wants to take experience design </p><p>seriously needs a UX strategy. Without such a strategy the </p><p>organization will struggle to create consistency in the way that experience design is managed and </p><p>integrated into business activities. </p><p>There are many interesting issues around UX Strategy that each organization needs to consider. </p><p>Examples of these questions include: </p><p>1. What are the roles and responsibilities of the experience designers at various levels? To whom </p><p>do they report? </p><p>2. How do experience designers work with other members of the team and with business </p><p>stakeholders? What is their authority? At what points does the experience designer take a lead </p><p>role? For what kinds of decisions, is the experience designer the decider? </p><p>3. What are the processes by which experience design will be conducted? How does experience </p><p>design integrate with other development activities? </p><p>4. What design standards has the company agreed to? How are these standards used to create </p><p>consistent experiences across products and touchpoints? </p><p>5. How will the company integrate experience design into its brand and how will it maintain </p><p>consistency across products and product lines? </p><p>6. What experience design processes has the company established. Are there processes in place </p><p>for user research, persona development, prototyping, and testing? </p><p>7. What does the development process look like for software and for other touchpoints (such as </p><p>collateral, marketing, sales and customer service)? How does experience design fit into the </p><p>process? If there is an agile process, how will experience design be integrated into it? How does </p><p>the experience designer work with the technical lead and with the product owner? </p><p>Any organization that wants </p><p>to take experience design </p><p>seriously needs a UX </p><p>strategy. </p></li><li><p>Charles B. Kreitzberg Strategic UX </p><p>6 </p><p>8. What are the metrics through which experience design will be evaluated? </p><p>UX Strategy as Ive defined it here is largely about organizational implementation and roadmaps. A </p><p>second aspect to experience design is Strategic UX. Strategic UX is how the organization connects </p><p>experience design to its organizational strategy and how UX can help drive the organizations strategic </p><p>goals. </p><p>For an example of Strategic UX, imagine that an organization has decided that a good way to grow </p><p>would be to enter a new market where there is little brand recognition and their products are not well-</p><p>known. This is actually a common strategy as organizations seek to expand their markets globally. </p><p>An example of this is McDonalds, a fast food chain whose flagship beefburger product, the Big Mac, </p><p>needed significant rethinking when the company decided to enter India a country where most people </p><p>do not eat beef (Kannan, 2014). </p><p>The organization entering a new market is not likely to have well-developed instincts about its new </p><p>customers and, to succeed, it may need to make changes to the way it markets, sells and services its </p><p>products, as well as to the products itself. The kinds of strategic UX questions it might ask are questions </p><p>like: </p><p> Who are our target customers? What are their priorities and what do they care about? </p><p> How would they use the companys products and how good is the fit? </p></li><li><p>Charles B. Kreitzberg Strategic UX </p><p>7 </p><p> Are the sales and service processes currently in place appropriate for the new market? How </p><p>would we need to modify them to fit the target culture? Are there potential cultural </p><p>disconnects or land mines that the company should be aware of? </p><p>These are examples of the kinds of questions that experience designers can help answer and which will </p><p>help the organization achieve its strategic goals. </p><p>Strategic experience design can be a powerful tool both in the construction of an organizations strategic </p><p>vision and in execution of its strategic plan. To understand why, think back to the McKinsey study I cited </p><p>earlier. The researchers found that experience design led organizations to discover more-effective ways </p><p>to collaborate across functions and levels, a process that delivers gains throughout the company </p><p>(Rawson, Duncan, &amp; Jones, 2013). This is a compelling message. It says that when experience design </p><p>becomes part of the companys culture, it transforms the organization at all levels. Most UX designers </p><p>would understand this but its less intuitive to others in the business. There is a learning and maturation </p><p>process that needs to take place before an organization can gain maximum benefit from experience </p><p>design. </p><p>Twenty-first century business requires a different management approach than traditional 20th century </p><p>business. This is not to suggest that the underlying fundamentals have changed but that the cu...</p></li></ul>