Consequences of an Underutilized UX Team – Lessons in UX Maturity: Part 2

Scott Plewes | Jennifer Fraser | August 20, 2015 | 4 Min Read

How well the leaders and company as a whole appreciate the value and necessity of UX design from a business perspective is fundamental for the success of UX at a company.

In parts 2 through 4 in this series we will examine case studies for organizations in the adopting stage and look at interactions between the various indicators and its impact on the relative success of the product design and development.

In case you missed it:
Part 1: Six Indicators of an Organizations UX Maturity Level

Context and Description

In the first case study, a small (minimal functionality, with only a few screens) application was created for a small to medium-sized business. The application was to be used by multiple users across the business with varying degrees of frequency depending on the nature of their job.

The organization creating the application had a highly skilled UX team, but they were not involved in the requirements definition, ideation, or initial design – nor was the company’s marketing team. Instead, a small, “agile,” engineering-only team led by a senior engineering manager rapidly created the product based on their impressions of the user and market need. The UX team was later brought in with requests for specific activities and deliverables. This included creating after the fact what are typically UX research deliverables, but they were not based on user feedback.

Results

The product has not been adopted by any of the intended markets. There has been no follow up to what aspect of the value proposition failed, or whether it was marketing, usability, technical integration, or some other issue impacting part of the ecosystem. Essentially, once the initial product was not immediately adopted, the small product team went on to another project.

Discussion

Saying the product failed as a result of the lack of UX maturity would be an unfair statement. Products fail in the market for a number of reasons. We recognize that a UX approach, by itself, does not guarantee good results for any given endeavor. However, it is possible to identify a number of weaknesses in this approach and how the lack of UX maturity could have contributed to failure in the market.

It is clear in this case that the leadership and culture were the determining factors in the organization not embracing a user-centered design approach. While there was access to skills and resources it was decided deliberately to forgo these. This illustrates a “generally-true” principle for adopting organizations. It really is a game of follow the leader. If the people with access to money and resources do not invest in UX (often out of a misunderstanding of its nature and value – not maliciously) then all other characteristics of maturity are unlikely to see the light of day.

It should be noted that the rationale for this “UX-less” approach was essentially rooted in the perception of speed and cost. This allowed for the quick development of product ideas with minimal investment in market or user research, user experience design, follow up research, or analysis of what barriers prevented adoption of the product.

What might Edison have said about this approach?

There was no cross-functional team. There was no integration. There was no consideration of the larger ecosystem. Just as Edison realized the light bulb didn’t act in isolation, this application would not have acted in isolation. It was neither apart from other applications nor from business processes and even personal preferences for working and adopting it. Yet, none of this was considered in the application – only its “raw functionality”.

How well the leaders and company as a whole appreciate the value and necessity of UX design from a business perspective is fundamental for the success of UX at a company. The company was fully capable of carrying out integrated processes, had knowledge of the right techniques, and so on. They simply were not utilized because the business leader, in this case, did not appreciate or understand how UX applied in this situation.

It is tempting to blame the senior management and software team for not pulling in other functions or seeing this as a holistic cross-functional process, but, we believe that is an oversimplified picture. Everyone in the organization plays a role. While it is true in the end that those who allocate budget and resources must play a significant role in who is involved, it is also true that there can be many influencers in the organization who potentially could have played a role.

In part 3 we dive into a company updating a legacy software product that had not had a makeover in over 20 years.

Part 3: Bringing UX to a Legacy Product Revitalization

Download: Introducing UX Into your Corporate Culture

This ebook covers the process of building the UX practice within your company to deliver products with great user experiences.

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