User Experience: “Our” Role in Massive Organizational Failure Peter Jones, Ph.D. Principal Consultant, Redesign Research
Jumping to Conclusion: • As UX/IA we play several roles: • User Advocate based on > Understanding • Design Lead > Competency • Project Advisor > Interconnectedness • At various stages in project lifecycle, our roles, properly played, can prevent tragedy You could save the company, the product, or … BTW: The answer is: Influential, recursive, dialogic
What are Organizational Failures? • Depends who’s defining “failure!” • Organizations will rarely recognize as such. “When significant initiatives critical to organizational strategy fail to meet most or all of their stated goals.” Such as >>> Flagship product fails in market Merger failures Disastrous business mistakes
Type of Organizational Failures Products, Poor market understanding, features, or just bad timing: New Coke, Newton, Boo.com Projects: Failures of coordination & decision making Processes: Adopting wrong practice for need, or poor execution of known process People: Someone has to take the blame, right? Organizations need resilience, should not be dependent on individuals to succeed
A Case Study There’s a large automotive company … • Spent years developing best practices • Planned a next generation system for managing the dealerships • Product evolved over tech changes, from NT client-server, to Web-based rich client • Development team sequestered from the rest of the company to “innovate” undisturbed • Kept the project secret from much of the company until ready to release
Case Study – Automotive Systems Organization / Management / Employees People Strategic / Exec Management Marketing Ongoing – people change roles Product Management Process Software Development UX / UI IA Project Project A: New Dealer Management 5-6 years Project B: Auto Parts Pipeline 1-2 years Project C: Dealer Intranet 1 year Product Product A Released Product B Released Product C Released Timeline 8-12 months 2-4 months 4-8 months
Product or Organization? Bottom line was – the product failed. • 2 years after release, did not acquire share • Dealerships kept their old systems • The implied “best practices” in the UI were not adopted or desired by most dealers • New executive shut the product down. • Auto company wrote-off > $50M, stock soared • New user-centered design was initiated
What’s the UX Role? Remember the diagram? • UX located “under” Development • Current best-processes were employed: • Dedicated UI designer • UI architecture reviews • Usability testing was performed: Project/product managers restricted scope of tests Testing restricted to UI interaction only Evaluated usability of each transaction: - Isolated, no assessment to current work context - “Not a problem” idea was to change work practices Impossible to interpret a failure from UX POV
UX is Influential Organizations are complex, intertwined • Failure in one process will affect others • Organizations need resilience, should not be dependent on individuals to succeed • Not all decisions or dependencies are equal(Some have real leverage …)(Sometimes redundancy propagates the errors!) Product design <or> Design right product? • How does UX play early warning role? • Which UX methods sensitive to detection?
UX is a recursive process You get more than one chance to fail. • Practices are repeated & improved, structures. • But: Orgs are competitive, avoid learning • Learning: Single-loop (Fixing things) vs. Double-loop (systematic reflection) What’s our recourse? • How should UX recurse? • Where do we challenge points of failure? • How does UX / user knowledge help learning?
UX should be dialogic In the sense of: • Surrounding product, org, or methods issues with perspectives • Inspiring exchanges & inquiry into root causes & prescriptive change • Motivating progressive learning What’s our dialogue? • What are key points of dialogue in processes? • Do WE listen? How does our listening impact?
Summary questions Product design <or> Design right product? • How does UX play early warning role? • Which UX methods sensitive to detection? What’s our recourse? • How should UX provide feedback in the org? • Where do we challenge points of failure? • How does UX / user knowledge help learning? What’s our dialogue? • What are key points of dialogue in processes? • Do WE listen? How does our listening impact?