What’s the State of User Experience (UX) in the Enterprise?

Fred Boulanger | May 27, 2015 | 4 Min Read

The days of sitting down and learning how to use a product are over, especially if those enterprise buyers are to remain competitive in their respective markets.

Recently, I was lucky enough to attend the first incarnation of Enterprise UX 2015 in San Antonio, Texas. I met UX practitioners and passionate UX advocates. Here are a few highlights I’m left with.

Enterprise UX

Enterprises are warming up to design and recognizing its value – up to a point. The clear signal out there that design thinking and creating product delight matters and that enterprise vendors are making a big push for it. All the vendors on stage (e.g. Citrix, Rackspace) get that user experience design is differentiating them from the pack and providing more value to end customers. The days of sitting down and learning how to use a product are over, especially if those enterprise buyers are to remain competitive in their respective markets. As a buyer of products, enterprises value well-designed products over poorly designed ones. Enterprise buyers are pushing the marketplace to evolve and get better through design.

Enterprise UX – To a point…

While enterprises are buying products that are more delightful for their users, they are still behind with their own tools and systems. An enterprise design department is not the norm for the internal world. For example, user research as a way to understand and validate assumptions is not on many radars. User research is still seen as customer research and part of marketing research activity. There is still progress to be made. What the double-loop learning design can bring to products creation/development is not applied to internal needs.

I think we will see design taking root in the context of internal use when enterprises start considering the customer experience as a whole. The ripple effect of looking at the customer experience is that the tools in place are not sufficient or adapted to deliver the customer experience envisioned. This, in turn, will force the hand of the enterprise to build the internal design feedback loop.

Customer Delight

Speaker, Nathan Shedroff, made a very solid case for the full value of a product and how that value is insufficient as calculated and thought of these days. The argument is that the value of a product gets exchanged in the context of a relationship and a relationship sits on a series of experiences. First, where is the relationship on our respective balance sheets? It’s this intangible value that we talk about a lot, but that nobody really measures. Second, the multilayered view we have of the relationship is oversimplified by strictly looking at function and financials. We have much to gain in considering more intangible aspects like emotion, identity, meaningfulness – and these are the aspects that a design-thinking and customer-delight focus can bring to the relationship our customers have with our products.

Although everyone in some way gets this intellectually, few are making it work. Apple understands this. They don’t have the biggest market share of devices, but they do have the vast majority of the profits. Apple is an expert at embracing the qualitative AND the quantitative. For other organizations, the perpetual head-butting comes from the fact it’s a qualitative OR quantitative. Business leaders need to be design savvy and designers need to be business savvy to get the dialog going in an organization to extract the full value of the relationship the organization is building with its customers.

Team Mentoring (Unrelated, but right between my eyes)

During Catherine Courage’s keynote, she talked about the rise of, and her success with, design at Citrix – and the fact as a designer, she is now business first and design second. In fact, she now looks at the business with a design lens. This in itself is impressive because she is saying it’s not about the craft, but about the business and how the craft can support it.

She also made a point along the way about the wrong career advice that women often receive – how they should change the way they interact to be more business-like. However, men with similar personality traits typically would not receive advice on how they should be more business-like in their behavior but receive advice on the business itself and how it works. In other words, the vision for a successful business person is dependent on the gender. As a coach and mentor, this resonated with me and reinforced the fact that we all need to continue to uniformly foster the development of the necessary skills to be successful – for all of our employees.

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