From a product perspective, not only are the results indicative of the design maturity, but the types of opportunities for improvement are also strong indicators of where an organization is.
In part 4 we wrap up our study of organizations in the adopting stage of UX Maturity.
In case you missed it:
Part 1: 6 Indicators of an Organizations UX Maturity Level
Part 2: Consequences of an Underutilized UX Team
Part 3: Bringing UX to a Legacy Product Revitalization
Context and Description
In this situation, the organization that was involved part 3 decided to expand the application of UX best practices. There were two things that were key additions. First, a larger look at the product/business/technology ecosystem was considered before proceeding. Second, some primary research was done in this ecosystem to understand better the needs of various stakeholders.
The eventual output was an update to the “sister” application of the original enterprise application that was redesigned. The sister application was essentially an application with complementary functionality targeted to a smaller user group within that ecosystem.
In addition, a small mobile application was built that allowed for some approval processes to be undertaken outside of the general usage of the larger application.
Predictably, the results were even more successful than the previous endeavor. The updated applications and the mobile application were accepted and met with success in the initial sales process. The final market success is too early to conclude, but all preliminary indications are that it will meet its goals.
We think this illustrates what an adopting culture needs from either a UX maturity point of view or, equivalently, what Edison would have suggested. In particular, Edison implicitly or explicitly suggested:
- You need leadership and alignment on how to approach designing a new product or re-designing an old one.
- You need cross-functional teams with everyone getting on board early.
- You need to look at the broader ecosystem.
In this final case study, all three aspects were present and the organization was starting to move into the “realizing” stage. This does not mean there is not room for improvement, but the challenges or opportunities are of a different nature. Instead of struggling to get something of value, the organization is looking at how it could have come to the same result more efficiently, what skills are needed permanently in house, or how can some of the “design thinking” principles be applied to a broader context.
From a product perspective, not only are the results indicative of the design maturity, but the types of opportunities for improvement are also strong indicators of where an organization is. However, until it has mastered one project, the leadership, integration, and proper scope (ecosystem), it was difficult, if not impossible, to deal with some of the more subtle problems of becoming a more UX mature organization.
As previously mentioned, technology-centric companies can be particularly averse to the adoption of UX best practices. Instead, they choose to believe that functionality alone, with their advanced technology, will give them sufficient differentiation in the marketplace. This was a belief that Edison discovered to be a fault in his approach to innovation. Instead, in order to define success for one of his inventions, he decided that success needed to be a function of the utility of the invention. In other words, to Edison, the definition of success of an invention was based on its ability to satisfy the needs of the customer. This approach is summed up in the following quote from The Thomas Edison Papers, “Anything that won’t sell, I don’t want to invent. Its sale is proof of utility, and utility is success.”
To understand those needs, Edison conducted ethnographic research. After the end of the civil war, Edison noted an upswing in the need for insurance and felt that this would be a lucrative market for him to target. Edison went to various insurance offices and gained permission to observe the clerks at work. This observation of clerks making by hand multiple copies of a single document led him to invent a process for document duplication.
The research was not done in a vacuum. Edison’s approach to innovation linked research to applied science. In the cross-functional teams in his research and design facility, those people doing the research worked closely and collaboratively with the people doing the applied-science investigations. This meant that the insights from his R&D facility always had commercial applications based on a market or customer need. This approach to innovation is found in companies in the latter stages of UX Maturity. They have a systematic approach to user research, base the success metrics of innovation on end-user satisfaction and marketplace adoption, and see innovation as a multi-faceted approach that combines design, technology, and business.
This approach to problem solving and innovation is needed now, more than ever, according to Tim Brown (CEO IDEO), “The need for transformation is, if anything, greater now than ever before. No matter where we look, we see problems that can be solved only through innovation… problems that all have people at their heart. They require a human-centered, creative, iterative, and practical approach to finding the best ideas and ultimate solutions.”
This five-stage framework may not exactly match the specifics of a particular organization. In the real world, organizations may display a mix of characteristics from different stages across their organization. Nevertheless, we believe assessing a company against some of these key indicators can provide insights into opportunities and issues that will allow a company to adjust its trajectory and attain its business aspirations that are dependent or related to successful user experiences practices and their execution. Like people, organizations, learn by doing. To do it properly, experts need to be hired or consulted. Identifying projects, deliverables, and is activities are key to progressing. Training, attending talks, and reading books is certainly helpful, but not enough. In this regard, UX design is no different than any other function.
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