Conference Review: UX STRAT 2013, Part 3: Day 2

By Margie Coles and Pabini Gabriel-Petit

Published: June 23, 2014

“The second day of the main conference at the inaugural UX STRAT … brought another day of great content.”

The second day of the main conference at the inaugural UX STRAT, on September 10, 2013, brought another day of great content.

Keynote: Connected UX: From Tactics to Strategy with Data

Reviewer: Pabini Gabriel-Petit

Presenter: Aarron Walter

“Data can languish in obscurity if you don’t use it.”—Aarron Walter

Day 2 kicked off with a notable keynote presentation by Aarron Walter, Director of User Experience at MailChimp, shown in Figure 1. He told the story of an approach that his team has innovated: using Evernote to discover new connections between things and, thus, facilitate the analysis of massive amounts of data from disparate sources to inform UX strategy and design.

Figure 1—Aarron Walter speaking about connected UX

Aarron Walter

The Story

As the UX team at MailChimp grew, Aarron was keen to do UX research, talk to customers more often, and do usability testing rather than just guessing—or shooting from the hip—when designing screens. They were able to build and test some prototypes and did interviews to learn from customers how their business works and how they do things, enabling them to make things that are more relevant to customers and improve the product. Aarron’s tactical approach was to do UX research and usability testing the MacGyver way—just bubble gum and duct tape—the cheap, easy, quick way to get smarter and build a better product.

“Only rarely does knowledge turn into real wisdom that could guide the future.”
—Aarron Walter

Aarron started collecting customer feedback, using a form on the MailChimp Web site. It wasn’t always actionable feedback, but it helped his team to understand where their customers were coming from. Eventually, they set up some analytics packages to determine the common pathways and where people were struggling. They did competitive analysis. All of this was helpful, and they learned a lot. But sometimes they’d learn something, then lose it—forgetting what research they’d done in the past and even replicating research—because it was so much information to keep track of. “Data can languish in obscurity if you don’t use it,” warned Aarron.

Aarron had gone from having no data to having a lot of data and was suffering from data overload. It’s hard to digest so much data and find meaning in it. As shown in Figure 2, when you look at data really closely, you can turn it into information—see what is happening, what patterns are emerging. Then you can turn that information into knowledge—see problems and propose how to fix them and make a better product. “But only rarely does knowledge turn into real wisdom that could guide the future,” asserted Aarron. Few figure out how to connect all of that information, maintain it, and start to see the relationships between seemingly unconnected things. Rarely do they get to that point where they have wisdom, see the problem, know what to do about it, know why something is happening, and see what’s going to happen in the future.

Figure 2—Progressing from data to wisdom

Progressing from data to wisdom

“Having that wisdom to find out what’s coming next; it’s called strategy,” said Aarron. Going from being very tactical, studying things very closely, making some adjustments, but never looking up, never seeing the landscape of how this all fits together. And that’s what strategy is about. So much of user experience research—that learning—is about tactics. But doing only that, you can never make user interfaces all that much better and smarter. You can never make giant leaps.

“Having that wisdom to find out what’s coming next; it’s called strategy.”—Aarron Walter

Strategy is a core thing. It’s such an important thing for a company to be smarter, leap in front of its competitors, and create new things that help its customers solve problems better. When you can begin to develop strategy, this helps lots of different teams to move in the same direction.

As UX professionals, we’re great at research. We’ve got research down to a science. We study customers very well. We have all of these techniques. We have the tactics, and we’re damn good at it. But research is in silos. Rarely do we connect all of this stuff together. We leave data and information—valuable stuff—on the table. Perhaps another team controls that stuff, and they don’t let other teams come look at it and compare notes. So, we need connections. When a company starts to scale, get to a certain size, we need connections between this information, and ultimately, we need connections between the people that are the stewards of that information.

About a year ago, Aaron found himself in a crisis: his email inbox was inundated with customer feedback from a Wufoo form on their Web site. It was hard to manage and know what to do with it. Although it was good information that helped him to understand what they could do better, he couldn’t really adjust his roadmap for all of these things. He needed to see whether there was critical mass on specific issues that would warrant shifting their resources. He needed to do something with all of that information. Aarron thought, if he could just put all of it in a bucket somewhere, maybe later he could find something to do with it. He needed a database of some sort. They had experimented with wikis in the past, to collect information, but using them was very cumbersome and difficult.

So, he decided to funnel this stuff into Evernote—a dumping ground that is essentially a database—and clear his inbox on a regular basis. Evernote was cheap—he just set up a free account. And he could just email the stuff in. He set up a Gmail script, so any time an email with a particular subject line comes in and it’s starred—that is, he’d read through it and starred it, meaning it’s worthy of attention later, that this is the cream—the script sends it to an email address that drops it into Evernote and puts it into a specific notebook. So, he collected this information, thinking that he might be able to do something with it later.

At that point, he had a few hundred pieces of information, as shown in Figure 3. The feedback form asked for an email address, and he curated that information, so if he ever needed to get in touch with a person who gave feedback, he had an easy way to do that.

Figure 3—Information in Evernote

Information in Evernote

Later, when MailChimp was working on email-automation features, the CEO, Ben Chestnut, asked Aarron whether he had any research data on an RSS-to-email feature. So Aarron did a quick search of the database for RSS. That search turned up about 45 pieces of feedback—and it was really good, relevant, insightful feedback with email addresses attached. He started to see some patterns emerge and emailed a few of the people to get clarification or more background information. In just few days, he was able to provide a solid assessment of what people were struggling with.

“The team began to get a broad understanding of what all customers were doing, as well as what individual customers were doing.”

This made Aarron think about what other types of information they could put into Evernote and cross-reference and connect. He started talking to other people—UX design researchers who did a lot of interviews and usability testing, had transcripts of interviews, and collected customer feedback—and asked them to create a new notebook and start funneling that stuff into Evernote as well. With more different types of information, their database got a little bit richer. They were able to turn qualitative information into quantitative information—for example, how many people had requested a particular feature in a given time period. If the numbers were small, the data helped them to decide what features they would not invest in.

By this time, the UX team had all of their data in Evernote. But Aarron wondered what they could do if they added more data, so he started talking to other teams that had a lot of information and asked them to funnel that information into Evernote as well. For example, he talked to a data scientist who had aggregate findings that he could share; someone responsible for delivery statistics who had data on customer behaviors in aggregate; a data analyst in Support who reviews all support requests and transcripts and reports on trends and patterns in the data; an engineer who does analytics and finds patterns in databases; a person who monitors comments on their blog, as well as posts on social networks. All of this was valuable information that helped them to get smarter.

Another engineer offered to set up some scripts that would capture common pathways and activities for users in different industries. He set up cron jobs to query the databases and, via emails, dump the results into another notebook in Evernote, so they could see the aggregate behavior. They set up cron jobs in Google Analytics, too. The team began to get a broad understanding of what all customers were doing, as well as what individual customers were doing. They were able to start quantifying the number of users having particular issues with the product and identifying patterns in the data coming from all teams.

So, in addition to customer feedback and transcripts from UX research interviews, this dumping ground in Evernote had grown to include notebooks for Web analytics, data from account-closing surveys in Wufoo, blog comments, competitor news from Google Alerts emails, delivery statistics, industry research—articles that they captured using the Evernote clipper in their browser—release notes, support data, survey data, and social-channel feedback from tweets and Facebook posts. All of these different, disconnected, totally heterogeneous data sets—to which Aarron’s UX research team had not previously had access—now got dumped into Evernote. All of it was searchable and taggable, so they were able to find things across silos. Aarron’s team was able to make data available without having to launch a new study.

This was a big win—not only in what they could learn, how fast they could learn it, and how they could go from tactical to strategic thinking, but in its political and collaborative implications. People became more aware of what their colleagues were doing. There was a spirit of sharing. It was a big win in the way it shaped their team’s behavior. They started doing a data nerd lunch each week to share ideas. There was a fluid exchange of ideas. In connecting the data, they also connected the people.

How Does Connected UX Work?

“The great thing about this approach is that there isn’t a big learning curve for how to contribute and consume information.”

The great thing about this approach is that there isn’t a big learning curve for how to contribute and consume information. Here are “the nuts and bolts, the mechanics” of connected UX:

  • using email as the API—The way to contribute is via email. If something would be valuable to share, you can write something, copy and paste something, set up a stream to stream in new data, and just send it to this email address that you share internally at your company. There’s no additional workflow that you have to learn. You already know how to send an email. Generate and email a report, and it automatically comes into Evernote. Screenshots go in very easily. Easy in, easy out. At MailChimp, a lot of people in different roles started contributing because it’s so simple to do.
  • routing data—You can funnel things into Evernote simply by adding @notebook—@ and the name of a notebook—to the subject line of an email message, and it will go into that notebook. Evernote has an email parser. It sees that incoming email and parses it for you. All of this data is very unstructured, and that’s a beautiful thing because it makes it easy to contribute. But it’s potentially problematic because synonyms can skew your searches. You can deal with that by tagging things, so they’re easy to find. In the subject line of an email message, just add a hashtag and a particular subject or piece of metadata—#tag. This gives you a lovely way to browse different topics and see whether there are patterns there—to find patterns that you might not be looking for. MailChimp tags stuff really well, but not everything needs a tag. Customer feedback needs tagging. There are now many, many tags and, every once in a while, they have to take a look at the tags, group things, and delete some tags. If you drag tags onto each other, they bucket. Figure 4 shows the tags for MailChimp Research in Evernote.
  • tagging with personas—The more customers you talk with, the more you start to see patterns, or customer archetypes, for which you can create personas. Once you’ve got all of your information in Evernote notebooks, you can tag it with specific personas. In the subject line of an email message, just add a hashtag and a persona name—#persona. This gives you an additional dimension by which to do searches and understand different customer archetypes’ traits, motivations, and behaviors. The UX team at MailChimp talked to dozens of customers and created a series of personas to help them understand their customer archetypes—such as Andre - Developer, Fred - Ideal User, Eliza - PR Manager, Ada - Receptionist, and Mario - Studio Consultant. They turned that information into a series of persona posters like that shown in Figure 5. They tagged everything in their database with these personas.
  • searching—Aaron showed the power of searching for tags like Android or autoresponders. The process is simple: You just do a quick keyword search for something and get all kinds of useful information that helps you to progress from data to information to knowledge about a topic—and, ultimately, to wisdom. Once you do a search, organize, categorize, and tag that information—perhaps putting it into a spreadsheet. Collect email addresses. Do follow-up interviews with people to collect additional information. Work collaboratively to make it faster to go through studies. Divide and conquer. Then funnel the information back into the database, so other people can discover it.
  • providing open access—Anyone on a team can open an Evernote account, explore the data, and contribute or just lurk until they eventually find a way to contribute. What if you want to discover something you might not be looking for and don’t know what questions to ask? When you have access to information on lots of different devices, you can open up Evernote anywhere and do a quick search or get notifications about what your colleagues have been contributing—the new things that have been coming in. You start to learn things that you weren’t looking to learn. You start to discover what’s interesting, what’s relevant. Having your data available on all of your devices—not only making it open to all of the people on your team, but having it easily accessible to them—makes it easier for everyone to get smarter.
  • fostering joint ownershipAlthough this started as the UX team’s project, once MailChimp openly shared data across teams, it very quickly shifted to joint ownership. Everyone was responsible for the quality of the information in the database. The real power of connecting all of these things together—connecting people—is that people are now empowered to answer their own questions and become smarter designers. “We want people to be empowered. We want people to be smart about what they’re doing,” exclaimed Aaron.
  • telling stories—Data does not transform itself into wisdom. You have to do that yourself. Wisdom comes from telling stories. At MailChimp, they turned their information into stories that they could share with the team. Few people would find a 40-page report of research findings engaging, so they turned them into short video clips that they could IM to people. Videos that showed the future of the MailChimp product, but not the user interface. Instead, they showed people trying to solve problems in their workday. When stories have a URL, they’re IMable, and it’s easy to share them with someone on your team. This makes it easier to keep everyone moving in the same direction. It’s one thing to get the wisdom and create the strategy, but then you’ve got to communicate it to a lot of different people and get them moving in the same direction—and that’s no easy task. So, every two weeks, they send out the MailChimp Insights email newsletter, shown in Figure 6, to the whole company.

Figure 4—Tags for MailChimp Research in Evernote

Tags for MailChimp Research in Evernote

Figure 5—The persona poster for Mario - Studio Consultant

The persona poster for Mario - Studio Consultant

Figure 6—An edition of MailChimp Insights

An edition of MailChimp Insights

Principles of Connected UX

“It’s data for everyone and everyone’s data.”—Aarron Walter

Aaron shared some principles of connected UX:

  • “It’s not about the tools.”—“If you make things more usable, people will participate,” declared Aarron. MailChimp had tried a lot of things that didn’t work. “Wikis just frustrate and confuse people. They don’t work on your phone.” A member of the audience commented that Jira is not optimal because there’s a ton of overhead.
  • “It needs to be easy in, easy out.”—If there are any barriers to discovering things, any barriers to contributing, people won’t contribute, they won’t take part. It’s got to be easy to access—on mobile, too.
  • “It’s data for everyone and everyone’s data.”—This is the core principle that makes connected UX work. Anyone can contribute to the database. There are no defined formats. It’s open and accessible, so everyone can participate, explore, and trust that this is where they can get answers to their questions—in many cases, questions that they hadn’t been asking before. You can unsubscribe from a notebook that isn’t relevant to your needs.

Strategy

“We’ve started to build collective wisdom and, from that, to create strategies based on patterns.”—Aarron Walter

“We’ve started to build collective wisdom and, from that, to create strategies based on patterns,” shared Aarron. When teams start collaborating—teams who each have data—this helps to break down the walls between silos. “The magic is people talking to people.”

We need to break down the silos of people, the silos of data that divide the teams that control the data and what’s going to happen with it. Break down the walls between the teams. Break down the walls between the data and start connecting the different pieces to find patterns and to find meaning.

We’ve got so much information that we’re leaving on the table. All kinds of information that could be valuable. What could you mine from your databases? How could you tie all of this information together and find a pattern that you couldn’t see before?

“We’re good at research. Now we have to do just as well on storytelling,” exhorted Aarron. “Listen hard, change fast.” We have to be able to stop guessing. All of the information that we need is right in front of us. We just need to draw the connections between disparate pieces of data. “Big data is going deep into a silo. We’re going horizontal.” The problem with big data is that it’s very rarely practical. Can you act and change your world with that?

Strategy is both looking at the big, guiding star of an overarching strategy and little microstrategies along the way. We have to try a lot of things. While it’s good to see all of the connections between things, it can seem overwhelming.

Smart Design

“We want to able to design and stop decorating.”—Aarron Walter

Smart design is problem solving, not decoration. “We want to able to design and stop decorating,” exclaimed Aarron. So much of design often goes in that direction, where you’re just adding visual treatments to something that someone hands you. But when you know exactly what’s going to help someone, you can make smarter decisions. So, designers go from being decorators to being problem solvers. They’re doing something that’s more meaningful.

Connecting data is a really important thing—to make designers smarter, to make companies smarter, to make them work better, to connect teams together. When you connect data, you connect people. When you connect people, they can collaborate. They can make better things in a better way. And that’s what we’re all excited about. That’s what we’re motivated by.

The coolest thing about this idea of connected UX—a connected company: When people can ask crazy questions and know that they can get answers, they ask more crazy questions, and they get more answers. They solve problems faster, and they make smarter designs. And they can serve customers better.

You can filter and quantify information. Qualitative information can, to some degree, be quantified. When you can quantify things, you can start to make decisions about what is and isn’t worth your time. And that is how you turn data into wisdom—you go up that hierarchy, that pyramid. Connect information. Connect people. This creates a culture of inquiry, where lots of questions get asked—a culture of learning. This is so invaluable—not just for User Experience teams, but for all teams and all companies that are trying to serve a big audience.

Aarron is a very effective storyteller and speaker and presented a beautiful slide deck comprising headlines and pictorial slides, which you can check out in Figure 7. After hearing Aaron speak, I was excited about trying this approach in my own organization.

Figure 7—Aarron Walter’s presentation

UX STRAT 2013: Aarron Walter, “Connected UX” on SlideShare

Using Big Data and Personalization to Drive UX Strategy: A Case Study

Reviewer: Margie Coles

Presenter: Rob Houser

“Find a way to tie UX strategy to business strategy.”—Rob Houser

Rob Houser, Senior Director of Product Management at Sage, shown in Figure 8, delivered a case study to describe how his company leveraged big data to deliver a more personalized user and customer experience. He described how a UX project whose goal was to help new users get started had evolved into a corporate-wide customer experience (CX) project. According to Rob, reframing the project as creating a service or product that would generate revenue—rather than another cost center—was key in gaining enthusiastic buy-in from C-level executives at Sage. He recommended that UX professionals “find a way to tie UX strategy to business strategy,” so leaders will support user experience.

Figure 8—Rob Houser presenting Sage’s basic strategy at UX STRAT

Rob Houser

Initially, the UX strategy was to improve the support experience—especially during the setup process—and, thus, minimize user frustration and product abandonment. The basic UX strategy assumed a well-designed product at the core and ample embedded user assistance that would be readily available within the product, as shown in Figure 9.

Figure 9—The basic UX strategy

The basic UX strategy

Throughout the company, the UX team evangelized a six-tiered safety net of user assistance that was based on a model from Microsoft. As illustrated in Figure 9, the levels of this model included the following:

  • Level 1—Well-designed product
  • Level 2—On-screen assistance
  • Level 3—In-product Help and demos
  • Level 4—Standalone documentation and training
  • Level 5—User community
  • Level 6—Support center—and Sage Advisors
“The UX team proposed the introduction of Sage Advisor services that would deliver personalized advice and guidance to customers….”

The team built a proprietary system for tracking usage data on the desktop to learn more about users and what features they were using—especially for users who had significant needs for support. This helped the team to focus usability improvements on high-impact areas of the product. They also developed a rules engine that supported in-product delivery of Advisor Messages—personalized, proactive, push messages that the product delivered according to product settings, user behavior, and known product issues.

Most importantly, the UX team proposed the introduction of Sage Advisor services that would deliver personalized advice and guidance to customers—advice that would be relevant, immediate, brief, optional, and connected. While the executives praised the UX team for its innovativeness, they were concerned about the costs inherent in delivering such a high level of support. The common refrain from executives: “How will we monetize this?” So, the UX team stopped talking only in terms of making improvements to user experience and reframed the Sage Advisor services as value-added advisory services that the company could sell. This reframing proved to be highly successful in gaining executive support and traction.

Sage established some guiding principles for delivering personalized advice to their users, which are outlined in Figure 10.

Figure 10—Guiding principles for delivering personalized advice

Guiding principles for delivering personalized advice

Rob emphasized the importance of aligning each of their annual UX strategies to business goals—and communicating them in such a way that they would easily appeal to the CEO/C-level mindset. Surveying UX strategy at Sage from 2007 through 2012, as shown in Figure 11, the progression of impact on the company is readily apparent. By 2012, UX strategy had expanded to include Customer Experience as an all-up brand differentiator.

  • 2007—Improving ease of use and ease of learning for competitive reasons
  • 2008—Reducing abandonment
  • 2009—Increasing renewals by increasing consumption
  • 2010—Delivering an extraordinary customer experience that increases customer loyalty
  • 2011—Redefining the corporate brand
  • 2012Customer Experience as a brand differentiator

Figure 11—Evolution from UX to CX goals as the primary brand differentiator

Evolution from UX to CX goals as the primary brand differentiator

In summary, Rob told us:

  • “Our UX strategy has impacted the brand and given many disparate products a more common customer experience.”
  • “Impacting the customer experience drives revenue more directly—because it is more closely connected to renewals, attrition, purchasing, cross-selling, and up-selling—which the business can more readily appreciate.”
  • Customer Experience is a good partner for User Experience. Look to the CX people in your company—generally in Marketing—as partners in driving UX strategy forward in your company.
“Impacting the customer experience drives revenue more directly…, which the business can more readily appreciate.”—Rob Houser

It is clear that UX strategy at Sage has done more than provide greater consistency across the user experiences of many disparate products. At Sage, UX strategy has led to the adoption of Customer Experience as a primary brand differentiator for the business. UX strategy now directly drives increased revenues.

Rob concluded his talk by calling out two different aspects of UX strategy:

  • making better products
  • impacting customer experience across an organization—which gets you closer to the C-level table

You can see Rob’s entire presentation in Figure 12.

Figure 12—Rob Houser’s presentation

UX STRAT 2013: Rob Houser, “Using Big Data and Personalization to Drive UX Strategy: A Case Study” on SlideShare

Morning Vignettes

Reviewer: Pabini Gabriel-Petit

After the morning break, another series of three vignettes—fast-paced, 10-minute presentations—were delivered back to back. Talk about drinking from a firehouse! The presenters did an amazing job, packing each presentation with valuable insights.

UX Strategy Needs Numbers

Presenter: Pamela Pavliscak

“Data is really about people—at least the traces that they leave.”—Pamela Pavliscak

Pamela Pavliscak, shown in Figure 13, is the Founder of Change Sciences, a UX research and strategy firm in New York City. She kicked off this round of vignettes at UX STRAT, speaking about why UX professionals should start to embrace numbers as a way to quantify design decisions, set targets, draw meaningful comparisons, and identify high-performance patterns.

Figure 13—Pamela Pavliscak on stage at UX STRAT

Pamela Pavliscak

Where does all of the data that UX strategists work with—like that shown in Figure 14—come from and what does it really mean? Pamela told us, “Data is really about people—at least the traces that they leave.”

Figure 14—Data

Data

Why does UX strategy need numbers?

  1. Numbers spark curiosity. We want to fill in the blanks. We are pattern seekers.” What’s a test of curiosity? Do numbers foster exploration? Are they not bullshit?
  2. Numbers simplify.” They provide clarity. “We see complexity.” But there are similarities between people in the C-suite and users. They’re both “pressed for time, worried about the bottom line, not likely to read much”—and both “pay attention to numbers.” What’s a test of simplicity? Do numbers reduce uncertainty? How can they create positive change?
  3. Numbers motivate. Numbers tell stories.” They act as catalysts. What’s a test of motivation? Do numbers prompt action? How can numbers help you to make connections?
  4. Numbers tell a story.” Stories like: We know our users—data are people. The right direction. Our site has improved. We are competitive. “You can’t tell these stories without numbers.” Figure 15 shows examples. How can numbers better communicate?
  5. Numbers translate. Numbers are a common language.” They’re the lingua franca of the C-suite.

Figure 15—Examples of stories numbers can tell

Examples of stories numbers can tell
“You can’t tell these stories without numbers.”—Pamela Pavliscak

What are you going to do with all this data? You need a need a framework to bucket all this data into groups.

Have a look at Pamela’s slide deck—a beautiful example of a pictorial presentation—shown in Figure 63.

Figure 16—Pamela Pavliscak’s presentation

UX STRAT 2013: Pamela Pavliscak, “Why UX Needs Numbers” on SlideShare

The Empathy Cycle: Customer Insight Gets Rhythm

Presenter: Andrea Moed

“The UX research that Inflection does has a specific intent and a point of view.”

Next up was Andrea Moed, shown in Figure 17, UX Research Lead at Inflection, who spoke about how they needed UX research and customer insights to get rhythm and sync up with Inflection’s two-week Sprint cycles and presented the empathy cycle that enables her to do so. In the past, they’d done big research up front. Now, the tempo at which they release code drives the pace of UX research, and the UX research that Inflection does has a specific intent and a point of view.

Figure 17—Andrea Moed presenting empathy cycles at UX STRAT

Andrea Moed presenting her empathy cycle at UX STRAT

Instead of following a waterfall development process in which they’d learn, design, develop, test, release, and plan; Inflection follows an iterative, agile process, in which they plan, design, build, release, and measure—repeatedly. “When product development is iterative, UX research needs to be, too!” exclaimed Andrea.

“When product development is iterative, UX research needs to be, too!”—Andrea Moed

Andrea presented a case study about introducing UX research at Inflection, an Internet startup with a culture of constant, incremental improvement. Her goals for UX research were to seize the moment when insights could make the biggest difference, support decision making in every cycle, and provide input to the product roadmap across cycles. So she needed to get answers to questions about when the team agrees on requirements, explores proposed solutions, and commits to a design to ensure that UX research would be an integral part of that process, as shown in Figures 17 and 18.

Figure 18—Fitting UX research into the agile process

Fitting UX research into the agile process

The team was driven by metrics, analytics, and A/B, or split, testing; watched for key moments, then defined requirements and designed solutions for those moments.

In empathy cycle 1, Andrea set expectations around UX research during Sprint planning. In both empathy cycles 1 and 2, following design ideation, she decided whether to do UX research during a Sprint and, if so, what research to do; and during design review, she scoped and planned, then conducted UX research. In empathy cycle 1, she shared findings right after conducting the research. In empathy cycle 2, Andrea conducted further research after the product’s release, then shared findings from both rounds of research. In empathy cycle 1, after analytics review, but before story-writing for the next release, she consolidated learnings, then revisited the roadmap; while in empathy cycle 2, that was a time for looking ahead.

Doing focused research within Sprints makes room for broader questions across Sprints.”—Andrea Moed

Andrea concluded that “doing focused research within Sprints makes room for broader questions across Sprints,” when they could do strategic research relating to new products and new opportunities. “What does each team member know about our customers? What do they wish they knew?” During each Sprint, they observe and interpret customer behaviors. Across Sprints, they learn motivations and expectations. “UX research in an agile organization doesn’t just have to be fast. It can be strategic, too,” stated Andrea.

“In an iterative world,” said Andrea, “UX research

  • fills the gaps in customer understanding
  • builds a shared, yet changeable vision of customers
  • enables us to strategize from empathy
  • customers feel anticipated and recognized”

Figure 19 shows Andrea’s entire presentation.

Figure 19—Andrea Moed’s presentation on empathy cycles

UX STRAT 2013: Andrea Moed, “The Empathy Cycle: Customer Insight Gets Rhythm” on SlideShare

Determining What Good Means, with Performance Continuums

Presenter: Dan Klyn

“Stakeholders all have different ideas about what good means.”—Dan Klyn

The final presenter in this series of vignettes was Dan Klyn, shown in Figure 20, who is an Information Architect and Cofounder of The Understanding Group (TUG), an information architecture consulting practice in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Dan told us, “Stakeholders all have different ideas about what good means, different intentions and motivations”—for example, whether to add features and/or optimize user experience; acquire and/or service; optimize and/or innovate; focus on the present and/or the future or on engagement and/or conversion. We often frame these things in terms of zero-sum games—this versus that—rather than moving from versus to yet.

Figure 20—Dan Klyn

Dan Klyn

“If we want to know what good means, we have to stack these things up,” asserted Dan. We have to reconcile each of these continuums against each other. Where are we now, and where would we like to go?

Dan shared these “tips for using performance continuums:

  • Don’t settle for or.
  • Do embrace yet.
  • Do use grammatical symmetry.
  • Don’t use true opposites.
  • Do sort continuums into similarly granular clusters.
  • Don’t start sorting and narrowing too soon.”

Check out Dan’s presentation in Figure 21.

Figure 21—Dan Klyn’s presentation

UX STRAT 2013: Dan Klyn, “Determining What Good Means” on SlideShare

The 10 Commandments of UX Strategy

Reviewer: Pabini Gabriel-Petit

Presenter: Ronnie Battista

“Thou shalt focus on the big picture.”—Ronnie Battista

The morning closed with the most entertaining presentation of the conference, when Ronnie Battista, shown in Figure 22, delivered his rousing 10 Commandments of UX Strategy. Ronnie is UX Practice Lead at Slalom Consulting, in New York City.

Figure 22—Ronnie Battista holding forth on the 10 Commandments of UX Strategy

Ronnie Battista

Here and in Figure 23 are Ronnie’s 10 Commandments of UX Strategy:

I. THOU SHALT FOCUS ON THE BIG PICTURE.

“Seek the strategy behind even the most tactical engagement. No matter how tactical, you should always seek to root your engagement in the big picture.”
—Ronnie Battista
  • “Strategic UX initiatives and projects will always be here; those with the greatest chance of long-term business value stay framed in the big picture.”
  • “Seek the strategy behind even the most tactical engagement. No matter how tactical, you should always seek to root your engagement in the big picture.”

We need to think about the larger context of what a business is doing—its longer-term strategy.

II. HONOR YOUR COMPANY AND CUSTOMER, BUT COVET YOUR NEIGHBOR’S ASS.

  • “What are the specific business levers that enable your company to win out over competitors, and how can UX directly impact them?”
  • “Understand the company.”
  • “Understand the competition.”—What are competitors doing?
  • “Understand the customer.”

III. THOU SHALT NOT STEAL THY EMPLOYEE’S HUMANITY.

“When humans are on both sides of an interaction, attention must be [paid] to their mutual success.”

IV. REMEMBER TO KEEP HOLY THE CONTEXT.

“The UX Strategist must strongly advocate the need for context in any attempt to create or redefine an experience.”
—Ronnie Battista
  • “The UX Strategist must strongly advocate the need for context in any attempt to create or redefine an experience.”
  • “Unfortunately, our global supply of true ‘genius design’ potential … is inversely proportional to well-intended senior executive gut feelings that are unencumbered by facts.”
  • Context is really important.

V. THOU SHALT NOT KILL THY CAREER.

  • “It is becoming increasingly clear that business—and the UX profession—is fast moving. Prepare for life-long learning.”
  • “A UX Strategist must keep the door open to understanding current UX software, processes, and services.”
  • We have to constantly change. We have to constantly reinvent ourselves.

VI. THOU SHALT NOT BEAR SPECULATIVE WITNESS.

  • “UX strategy embraces both qualitative [and quantitative] user research, or set / targeted metrics.”
  • “For the Quals: No one here will argue against user research. But we need our clients to understand our need to connect with real human beings, even if we think—or they think—we know the answer.”
  • “For the Quants: Big Data needs UX strategy. We ask why something happened, interpret the data into valuable insights, and turn Big Data into Big Impact solutions.”

Most successful studies provide a combination of both qualitative and quantitative data. Data for data’s sake doesn’t mean much.

VII. THOU SHALT STAY FAITHFUL TO UX GOVERNANCE.

  • “Experience is fluid with periods of evolution and revolution.”
  • “An ongoing UX governance program to measure and optimize the experience is vital to long-term viability.”
  • “A UX Strategist should strongly advocate Experience Management infusion into the company’s program/ portfolio management infrastructure.”
  • “A journey map can only take you so far.”—Sometimes leaders arent able to operationalize journey maps and nothing happens. Where does the money go in an organizations portfolio and project management? Find a really good way to connect to a program management plan. Use a journey map as a driver for key management objectives.

VIII. THOU SHALT NOT SPEAK UX IN TONGUES.

“A UX Strategist at heart understands that UX and the practice of UX is ultimately one of communication.”—Ronnie Battista
  • “A UX Strategist at heart understands that UX and the practice of UX is ultimately one of communication.”
  • “As an empathetic translator / proxy advocate for the human audience.”
  • “In the products and services we design, which communicate utility and inherent value.”
  • “And in the ability to convey to business leaders the experience implications of why a path should or should not be chosen and the value of ongoing investment and growth in UX.”
  • UX professionals are storytellers.
  • We must speak the language of business.

IX. THOU SHALT NOT WORSHIP DIGITAL ONLY.

Service design falls under our umbrella.

X. THOU SHALT PRACTICE UX WITH HUMAN-CENTRIC INTEGRITY.

  • “As translators of business and technology to the human condition, UX is at the vanguard of a technological revolution that has already irrevocably changed base human interaction over the last two decades”
  • “Possessing the tools and skills to capitalize on human behavior in context is powerful.”
  • We have the power to influence outcomes.
  • Do no harm.
  • We own the responsibility for telling our clients that there is more than profit.

Figure 23—Ronnie Battista’s 10 Commandments of UX Strategy

Ronnie’s 10 Commandments of UX Strategy

In contemplating UX strategy, Ronnie asked: “How can I be the best in an emerging field that’s still defining itself? How can we help build this profession to grow and support those that come after us?”

How can we help build this profession to grow and support those that come after us?
—Ronnie Battista

Ronnie’s talk truly delighted the UX STRAT audience, who smiled and laughed throughout. Of all the great talks at UX STRAT, this one was my favorite. You can read more about Ronnie’s 10 Commandments and why he chose to speak about this topic at UX STRAT in his own words, in his UXmatters article “10 Commandments of UX Strategy.” If you haven’t already read it, be sure to read Ronnie’s article! Check out Ronnie’s slides, shown in Figure 24. Most are pithy. Many are hilarious!

Figure 24—Ronnie Battista’s wonderfully entertaining slide deck

UX STRAT 2013: Ronnie Battista, “10 Commandments of UX Strategy” on SlideShare

Assessing Organizational Context and Capability for UX Strategy

Reviewer: Margie Coles

Presenter: Phillip Hunter

“Growing a UX practice well is more important and challenging than ever.—Phillip Hunter”

Phillip Hunter, Senior Designer for Microsoft’s Engineering Excellence team and shown in Figure 25, delivered an excellent presentation. He discussed how to assess organizational readiness to execute on the Perfect Experience Strategy and presented a detailed case study of the project that he led at Microsoft to systematically assess UX skills and identify gaps within engineering teams across the enterprise.

Figure 25—Phillip Hunter presenting at UX STRAT

Phillip Hunter

Some key tenets of Phillip’s talk:

  • “Growing a UX practice well is more important and challenging than ever.”
  • “User/customer experience [is] now a core component of success.”
  • It’s important to have an organizational focus rather than merely being a collection of individuals.
  • Think beyond role-based constraints.

The Case Study

The lenses through which Microsoft chose to consider their assessment process … were context and capability.

Phillip’s story began in 2011, when executives at Microsoft were considering how to boost adoption of Microsoft’s new Metro design strategy inside the company. The importance of UX strategy to the bottom line was clear, so their discussions centered on how to enhance UX capabilities across the organization.

Historically, Microsoft had hired and rewarded individual superstars rather than teams, so a key decision was to assess UX strengths and gaps at the team level. Phillip told us that “strategy is about inspiring before hiring.” Their intention was to evangelize and build UX strengths within each team—before focusing on hiring to fill specific UX roles.

The lenses through which Microsoft chose to consider their assessment process, explained Phillip, were context and capability. Their process was to orient, assess, question, and hypothesize.

Context

“What are our goals, values, and principles as a company? What do we need to get done? Why? How much?”—Phillip Hunter

Context considerations included getting answers to the following questions: “What are our goals, values, and principles as a company? What do we need to get done? Why? How much?”

From examining these questions, it was clear that Microsoft, as a company, needed to go beyond its typical focus on individual hiring and individual career growth. It needed to find a way to shape and align each team with its business goals and build cross-team ownership and participation in UX thinking, as Figure 26 shows.

Figure 26—Focus on complementary strengths and increased ownership of UX across each team

Focus on complementary strengths and increased ownership of UX across each team

Capability

“What do we need to be good at? How good?”—Phillip Hunter

Considerations regarding capability included these questions: “What do we need to be good at? How good?” What skills do we need?

With the assistance of an assortment of UX stakeholders—for example, UX leaders, UX enthusiasts, and product owners—they gathered a list of UX skills for their capabilities assessment tool. Then, using the tool, each engineering team rated itself for each skill, in terms of their current level of proficiency, the desired level of proficiency, and its priority.

Figure 27—UX capability assessment tool for each engineering team

UX capability assessment tool for each engineering team

They developed a formula that enabled them to weight the priority of each skill appropriately. The results of this assessment, shown in Figure 28, provided a normalized perceived gap for each skill that they assessed. A gap analysis helped each team to understand its strengths and weaknesses relative to other teams, as well as to its own priorities. This analysis enabled teams to discuss and determine how best to meet the identified gaps.

Figure 28—Factors supporting UX ownership at Microsoft

Factors supporting UX ownership at Microsoft

Near the end of his presentation, Phillip showed a diagram from Six Boxes.com, which you can see in Figure 29, that was particularly interesting. This diagram highlights the key factors that are necessary for any organization to successfully make an enterprise-wide shift. These factors include the following:

  1. Expectations and feedback
  2. Tools and resources
  3. Consequences and incentives
  4. Skills and knowledge
  5. Selection and assignment
  6. Motives and preferences

Figure 29—Factors necessary to making an enterprise-wide shift

Factors necessary to making an enterprise-wide shift

In reviewing this chart, Phillip highlighted the steps that Microsoft had taken to enhance their experience focus. For example, Microsoft issued a company-wide challenge to add User Experience to everyone’s job description, stating the expectation that UX excellence was the responsibility of everyone on a product team. “Let people find their point of contribution.”

“Involve the team to determine fit and talent, and hire the inspired.”—Phillip Hunter

Now, when Microsoft hires UX professionals, they follow the“ same strategic framework, involve the team to determine fit and talent, and hire the inspired.”

This session was of particular interest to me—having spent many years in various UX-related roles at Microsoft. I really appreciated hearing Phillip explain their well-thought-out strategy for raising UX awareness and capabilities across an organization that has not always valued enabling great experiences as a core business value. If User Experience at Microsoft could next shift to working on bridging the chasm between the business teams and engineering teams, my interest would really perk up!

Figure 30 shows Phillip’s complete presentation, which shows data from the UX capability assessments.

Figure 30Phillip Hunter’s presentation

UX STRAT 2013: Phillip Hunter, “Assessing Organizational Context and Capability for UX Strategy” on SlideShare

UX Strategy and Organizational Synergy

Reviewer: Pabini Gabriel-Petit

Presenters: Liam Friedland and Jon Innes

To endure, an organization must learn and adapt.”—Liam Friedland

Liam Friedland, Vice President of User Experience at Informatica, and Jon Innes, Founder and President of UX Innovation—a San Francisco Bay Area UX strategy, research, and design consultancy—spoke about the compelling topic of UX strategy and organizational synergy and are shown in Figure 31. This was my first time seeing Liam and Jon present on UX strategy since I’d attended their stellar and very popular course on UX strategy at CHI ’06. Liam is a self-proclaimed fanboy of Peter Drucker, and both Liam and Jon have worked in UX leadership for many years and have long been thought leaders on UX strategy.

Figure 31—Liam Friedland and Jon Innes speaking at UX STRAT

Liam Friedland and Jon Innes

As Figure 32 shows, “to endure, an organization must learn and adapt.” Being a learning organization is key to developing an effective strategy. But there are impediments to organizational learning, such as organizational tribalism. “When people are rewarded for hanging out in tribes, this leads to an us-and-them mentality,” explained Liam, and this presents a barrier to working collaboratively and creating synergy on product teams comprising people belonging to different tribes, including developers, designers, product managers, and quality assurance engineers. This is a real problem because it is imperative that an organization develop synergy.

Figure 32—Strategy and the learning organization

Strategy and the learning organization

Collaboration is key to achieving synergy:

  • “Step outside of your office.”
  • Adopt a “big picture perspective.”
  • “Define strategy for influencing.”
  • “How do you work with other groups in your company? Cultivate allies.”
Think like a diplomat.”—Liam Friedland

“Think like a diplomat,” advised Liam. “Go with a very specific agenda.” Strategically investing in relationships means

  • bringing outsiders into the core constituency—Outsiders are weak links, but provide useful information and spur a lot of new ideas and ways of working. These are transformational, new relationships that don’t yet exist.
  • serving adjacent relationships within the business—These relationships expand from existing relationships into new relationships.
  • serving existing relationships within the business—This is about optimizing core relationships with current partners.

“This is the pathway to collaboration,” asserted Liam, in describing the slide shown in Figure 33. “Who do you need to impact? What type of support do you want? Do you want an executive to support an initiative? What do they want out of it? What are their needs?”

Figure 33—Pathway to collaboration

Pathway to collaboration

Defining a UX strategy involves asking many questions, as shown in Figure 34—formative, ideation, and summative questions. There are many possible solutions. You must articulate solutions, end goals, and outcomes in the language of stakeholders. “It’s the outcomes that they care about,” said Jon.

Figure 34—Questions defining UX strategy

Questions defining UX strategy

As Jon explained in describing the slide shown in Figure 35, “Systems thinking defines UX strategy. User experience is a broad systems approach.” From formative research, “we have deep qualitative understanding and empathy. Numbers summarize well. They’re the language of business.” Ideation focuses on information architecture, interaction design, visual design, and concept prototyping. We use summative research to validate the work that we do with users.

“Systems thinking defines UX strategy. User experience is a broad systems approach.”—Jon Innes

Next, Jon discussed organizing for innovation, as Figure 36 shows, telling us to “Think about how you interact with an organization. There are organizational barriers to doing the right thing. Which are the key things to do first? What don’t you need to do? Think about internal customers. Who’s going to benefit? What motivates them?”

Figure 35—Systems thinking defines UX strategy

Systems thinking defines UX strategy

Figure 36—Organizing for innovation

Organizing for innovation

Jon and Liam described various tactics that are useful in implementing UX strategies and the tasks involved in executing them:

“Group requirements in meaningful chunks that provide value to users and the business.”—Jon Innes
  • collaborating with the Product Owner to define the requirements in the backlog—“Group requirements in meaningful chunks that provide value to users and the business,” recommended Jon.
  • working with an agile team to design, prototype, and validate a minimum viable product (MVP)—“Think about what needs to be done first,” suggested Jon.
  • working with entrepreneurs to develop a new product or service concept and pitch it to venture capitalists or executives—“VCs and executives ask a lot of tough questions,” said Liam. “Research business trends and come armed to discuss those. They don’t have a lot of tolerance for details. Mockups should look really good for executives. Create a clickable prototype that you can leave with them.”
  • working with a VP of Product to re-architect a product—“A new VP or executive brought in to lead an effort is motivated, but risk averse.” Liam suggested telling him, “We can help you to mitigate risk.”
  • working with product teams to integrate acquired products into a platform—The teams who created the acquired products “don’t understand your UX strategy,” stated Liam, so “diplomacy and outreach” are necessary.

Here’s Jon’s “strategy for success:

  • right people—right time
  • formal and informal channels
  • effective give-and-take relationships
  • understand perspectives of others
  • know when to fight and when to compromise”

“Be a user advocate, but not a zealot,” advised Jon.

Jon wrapped up this presentation by providing some great tips for achieving success in UX strategy:

  • “Function as a change agent. You’re going to have to change how the organization does things.”
  • “Partner tactically to achieve strategic goals. You never know who it’s going to be.”
  • “Influence others as part of your ‘foreign policy’.”
  • “Develop cross‐organization synergies.”
  • “Adjust deliverables to align with strategy. Have a Plan B.”

For greater detail about all of the tactics that Jon and Liam described and their related tasks, check out their slide deck, shown in Figure 37.

Figure 37—Liam and Jon’s slide deck

UX STRAT 2013: Jon Innes and Liam Friedland, “UX Strategy and Organizational Synergy” on SlideShare

Panel: Who Owns UX Strategy

Reviewer: Pabini Gabriel-Petit

Moderator: Jonathan Anderson

Panelists: Liam Friedland, Phillip Hunter, Jon Innes, and Jenny Sun

Presenter: Jonathan Anderson

“The UX team should own UX strategy.—Liam Friedland

Jonathan Anderson, Editor-in-Chief of UX Magazine, moderated this panel on who owns UX strategy. Here are some highlights from the discussion:

Q: “Who owns UX strategy?”

Liam: “The UX team should own UX strategy. But an umbrella organization may own leadership of the team. Implementation of strategy…? Engineering teams build our concepts.”

Phil: “Ownership is a tricky word. It gets politicized. It absolves others of responsibility. Who drives UX strategy? People. Who understands UX strategy? UX.”

“Ownership is a tricky word. It gets politicized. It absolves others of responsibility. … Who understands UX strategy? UX.”
—Phillip Hunter

Jenny: “The Product Owner manages the vision that comes from above.”

Jon: “There are some cases where you want to suck less. Be at least as good. Why would great be valuable?”

Phil: “Great to what end?”

Jon: “You might find you can make a case for it.”

Jenny: “I’ve worked for organizations that wanted to be the Apple of their industry.”

Figure 38—Panelists Liam Friedland, Jon Innes, Jenny Sun, and Phillip Hunter, from left to right, and moderator, Jonathan Anderson

Panelists Liam Friedland, Jon Innes, Jenny Sun, and Phillip Hunter, from left to right, and moderator, Jonathan Anderson

Q: “What are typical causes of the failure of UX strategy?”

“Failure to connect to those making strategic decisions for the company. UX can’t do all the things necessary to carry out a strategy. Decide how to do what you’re trying to achieve.”
—Phillip Hunter

Phil: “Failure to connect to those making strategic decisions for the company. UX can’t do all the things necessary to carry out a strategy. Decide how to do what you’re trying to achieve. There are discussions you have to have. But at some point, you have to stop the discussion.”

Liam: “The motivations of the team implementing the strategy.”

Phil: “Failures of innovation strategy. Monetizing too soon. You need to have the right motivations separate from revenue.”

Liam: “A portfolio management approach is considered best practice.”

Jon: “Get lots of customers first, then make money.”

Phil: “Adoption is something you can measure.”

Someone in the audience called out, “Politics!”

Liam: “I hate politics, but I’ve found, in leading teams, I’ve had to engage in politics. Relationship building. Expectations. Resistance to change. They have good rationales. Just keep talking to them. Turn to partners in the organization.”

“Get lots of customers first, then make money.”—Jon Innes

Jon: “Integrate into an existing strategy.”

Jenny: “Content strategy needs to be designed early on.”

Phil: “Our brains are adaptable, but training is difficult. New paradigms; extensions of technology that have no bearing on life. Engage people as whole humans.”

Paul Bryan: “CX Strategy and UX Strategy being synonymous with or antagonistic to one another.”

Liam: “At my company, CX is not relevant. Some talk of it supporting the organization. If it’s an important part of your business, management won’t retool in that area.”

Jon: “If the organization values what you’re doing, title matters. Chief Product Officer is a common title in Silicon Valley.”

Jenny: “CX and UX are similar. Short- and long-term goals.”

Phil: “If advocating for people, UX should be able to have the right conversations.”

Q: “What’s the role for the agency?”

“Understanding culture is key. Vision and values are key components of strategy—and making it appropriate to an organization.”—Jenny Sun

Jenny: “As a consultant, I’m in and out of projects pretty quickly. Understanding culture is key. Vision and values are key components of strategy—and making it appropriate to an organization.”

Jon: “Think about doing good work on a product and getting visibility for that.”

Phil: “Draw attention to the fact that you can capitalize on value opportunities.”

Q: “What about obstruction?”

Phil: “Avoid negativity at all costs. Find out what motivates a person.”

Afternoon Vignettes

Reviewer: Pabini Gabriel-Petit

Paul Bryan knew what he was doing, giving the audience a refreshing breather before diving into the intensity of another series of three vignettes—short, snappy talks focusing on narrow, pithy topics. The presenters had this quick-paced format wired and delivered concentrated value in 10-minute chunks.

Start the Invention Engine: Creating a Design Innovation Program Within a Large Company

Presenters: Reena Merchant and Elizabeth Thapliyal

“Experiment with different methods. Combine them to suit your needs.”

Reena Merchant, Product Design Manager, and Elizabeth Thapliyal, Lead UX Designer, shown in Figure 39, described their initiative to create a design innovation program at Citrix.

Figure 39—Elizabeth Thapliyal and Reena Merchant

Elizabeth Thapliyal and Reena Merchant

Here’s their list of six things they wish they had known from the beginning.

“Innovation programs are risky. Data helps build trust.”
  1. Just do it! Don’t wait for permission to start. Communicate throughout.”
  2. Fuzzy is okay. Embrace ambiguity. Trust you’ll get there.”
  3. Mix it up. Experiment with different methods. Combine them to suit your needs.”
  4. Data is your lifeline. Innovation programs are risky. Data helps build trust.”
  5. Remain tenacious. Competing agendas can fog vision. Maintain clarity and push forward.”
  6. Evolve and grow. Do a little at a time. Iterate on your innovation process.”

A few choice quotations:

  • “Demonstrate the value of your activities.”
  • “Things don’t have to go perfectly the first time.”
  • “Drive people-centered innovation.”
  • “What’s key is what you learn along the way.”

Figure 40 shows Elizabeth and Reena’s entire presentation.

Figure 40—Elizabeth and Reena’s presentation

UX STRAT 2013: Elizabeth Thapliyal and Reena Merchant, “Start the Invention Engine: Creating an Innovation Program Within a Large Company” on SlideShare

Building the UX Center of Excellence

Presenter: Susan Rice

“Vision: creating a holistic, unified experience for Vistaprint customers.”—Susan Rice

Susan Rice, Head of Global User Experience Design at Vistaprint, shown in Figure 41, shared her experience building Vistaprint’s UX Center of Excellence. Susan saw the need for organizational change at Vistaprint. There was no clear career path for UX professionals. The team was distributed across multiple business units. She wondered, “Are we making the right choices for our team?” They started having conversations, making connections, and defined the team’s “vision: creating a holistic, unified experience for Vistaprint customers.”

Figure 41—Susan Rice presenting at UX STRAT

Susan Rice

To fulfill this vision, Susan introduced the “UX Center of Excellence at Vistaprint: A team of subject-matter experts that define and promote best practices and processes around a specific focus area to maximize business results.”

“UX Center of Excellence: A team of subject-matter experts that define and promote best practices and processes around a specific focus area to maximize business results.”

Their commitment is to Vistaprint’s customers. “We focus on delighting our customers by creating an effortless enjoyable experience based on user-centered design, customer research, and iterative improvements,” said Susan.

Susan effectively communicated the value of the UX team to executive leadership at Vistaprint, as shown in Figure 42, which illustrates the combined value of the UX professionals on the UX team, in terms of their years of experience, skills, and expertise.

Figure 42—Value of the UX team

Value of the UX team

The team’s “key learnings:

  • Don’t make assumptions.
  • Ask questions.
  • Build coalitions.
  • Be creative.
  • Make connections.
  • Show business value.”

“You have to unlearn the habit of waiting to be told what comes next….”—Penelope Trunk

By creating the UX Center of Excellence, Susan has enabled “greater UX input and strategy into all aspects of the project lifecycle.”

You can see Susan’s complete presentation in Figure 43.

Figure 43—Susan Rice’s presentation

UX STRAT 2013: Susan Rice, “Building the UX Center of Excellence at Vistaprint” on SlideShare

Mapping Business Value to UX Strategy: A Case Study

Presenters: Paul McAleer and Lis Hubert

As we mature as a practice, we need to mature in the way we communicate our value.

When working together, Paul McAleer, UX Strategist at Centralis, and Lis Hubert, Independent Consultant at Hubert Experience Design, shown in Figure 44, put together an experiment to map business value to UX strategy. When a company has a UX team of one, “How do you scale? Who owns stuff?” asked Paul. As we mature as a practice, we need to mature in the way we communicate our value.

Figure 44—Paul McAleer and Lis Hubert

Paul McAleer and Lis Hubert
The more strategic UX is, the more business value you get out of it”—Lis Hubert

“The more strategic UX is, the more business value you get out of it,” asserted Lis. “We have to change our communication strategy. Answer people’s questions about how this is going to affect their job first.”

In a progression of slides, Paul and Lis showed the evolution of a graph in which they had plotted the value of UX, culminating in the graph shown in Figure 45.

Figure 45—Mapping business value to UX

Mapping business value to UX strategy

In conclusion, Lis said, “It’s up to us to change the way we talk about our work in order to expose the gaps to the people we are trying to communicate with.”

For much more about mapping business value to UX, read Lis Hubert and Paul McAleer’s series of articles on UXmatters:

You can see Paul and Lis’s slide deck in Figure 46.

Figure 46—Paul McAleer and Lis Hubert’s slide deck

UX STRAT 2013: Lis Hubert and Paul McAleer, “Mapping Business Value to UX Strategy: A Case Study” on SlideShare

What Designers and Strategists Can Learn from Dick Fosbury

Reviewer: Pabini Gabriel-Petit

Presenter: Brad Smith

We constantly have to rethink our brand.”—Brad Smith

For me, this was the least satisfying presentation of the conference. Perhaps the stellar content that had preceded it had raised the bar—pun intended, you’ll see what I mean if you don’t already—so high that it would have been difficult for any closing speaker to sail over it and meet my expectations. Brad Smith, Executive Director of WebVisions and Creative Director at Hot Pepper Studios, shown in Figure 47, is an effective speaker and delivered his talk very well, but the content of his presentation lacked substance.

Figure 47—Brad Smith

Brad Smith

In fairness, I’m definitely not a fan of track and field sports, so my first reaction was Dick who? As Brad explained at length, Dick Fosbury innovated a completely new approach to jumping the high bar that transformed the sport. Unfortunately, though this talk was ostensibly about innovation, this was the only example of an innovation that Brad explored in any depth—and it wasn’t one to which I could really relate.

How will we reinvent digital and analog interfaces and experiences?”—Brad Smith

“We constantly have to rethink our brand,” asserted Brad. “Look at things you can try that are different.” Then, seemingly in contradiction to what he had just said, Brad told us, “As designers and strategists, it’s our role to follow trends and innovations, and to ask questions.” While asking intelligent questions is a hugely important part of our work, I disagree that it’s our role to follow trends and innovations. As UX designers and strategists, our role is to set trends and create innovations. Of course, we should always be aware of trends and others’ innovations in product design and build on them, but we should not slavishly follow them.

Saying, “Evolution happens mighty fast,” Brad spent quite a bit of time giving a retrospective of the evolution of product categories such as the phone, the TV remote control, the Web, and Apple products.

“Anticipating and adapting to change equals job security.”
—Brad Smith

Things got a bit more interesting when Brad identified some product categories that will present future challenges, such as video and motion—for example, Canva.com—voice recognition and sound—for example, Siri in a Honda—gesture and position, geolocation, and ambient systems—interacting with devices in our environment. Brad asked, “How will we reinvent digital and analog interfaces and experiences?” He briefly spoke about “the changing Webs—the entertainment/media Web, the research/information Web, [and] data.”

Toward the end of his talk, Brad very briefly touched on a few innovative product categories—optic fiber and the cloud—and products—such as the Nest thermostat and the Square credit-card reader for mobile phones; as well as one of the most hackneyed example of innovation, the iPhone.

Brad’s conclusion? “A UX designer and strategist’s work is going to get a lot more complicated. But here’s the good news: Anticipating and adapting to change equals job security,” Indeed, it does. I did appreciate the call to action in Brad’s parting words: “Don’t accept ‘what is.’ Ask ‘what if…?’”

“Don’t accept ‘what is.’ Ask ‘what if…?’—Brad Smith

I would have liked the conference to end on a high note with a fantastic, keynote-quality presentation. On the other hand, some people had already left for early flights, so maybe the organizers thought that scheduling a keynote that late in the day would have been a waste.

You can see Brad’s presentation in full in Figure 48.

Figure 48—Brad Smith’s presentation

UX STRAT 2013: Brad Smith, “What Designers and Strategists Can Learn from Dick Fosbury” on SlideShare

Conclusion

“UX STRAT 2013 was a resounding success.”

Paul Bryan and his associates put on an excellent, first UX STRAT conference, filling a real need for that growing part of the UX community that is striving to meet both customer and user needs and business goals through UX strategy, and thereby, bringing greater value to the businesses for which we work. UX STRAT 2013 was a resounding success.

My single complaint is that the organizers haven’t maintained the UX STRAT 2013 Web site, with all of the information about its presenters and the topics of their talks. Maintaining a centralized home for UX STRAT 2013 could have provided a rallying point for further discussions on UX strategy among attendees, enabled attendees to connect with one another easily and build a greater sense of community, and provided a home for all of the UX STRAT 2013 presentations. Not to mention that it would have been good for UX STRAT’s PageRank in Google.

At this point in time, the UX STRAT home page still functions as something of a portal for UX STRAT 2013, providing links to some YouTube videos and photos of the conference, as well as to Tim Loo’s workshop presentation on SlideShare, which indirectly leads you to the rest.

To make things easy for you in the possible eventuality that the links don’t remain on the UX STRAT home page—here are links to all of the content that the organizers and presenters have posted online:

  • presentations—You’ll find nearly all of the presenters’ slide decks from UX STRAT 2013 on SlideShare.
  • photos—There’s a large collection of high-quality photos on the UX STRAT Web site.
  • videos—The organizers have posted an excellent, short video on YouTube, comprising clips of some talks, which is shown in Figure 49. This will give the feel of the conference to those of you who weren’t able to attend.

Figure 49—UX STRAT 2013 Clips: The Conference by Day

And, of course, you can always connect to the UX strategy community on Paul Bryan’s UX Strategy and Planning Group on LinkedIn.

I’m really looking forward to UX STRAT 2014, which will take place in scenic Boulder, Colorado, on September 7–9.

Previous installments in our series of reviews on UX STRAT 2013:

This is the final installment of our series of UX STRAT 2013 reviews.

Many thanks to Pat Lang for contributing his photos to this review.

1 Comment

Pabini and Margie, Thank you for this detailed review of UX STRAT 2013. We’re deep in the planning for UX STRAT 2014, and it is soooo refreshing to see this material laid out in UXmatters, to know that it will be worth all the effort. Boulder is amazing, and so is the Boulder Theater where the event will take place. The lineup is stellar and laser-focused on UX/CX/Product/Service/Experience strategy.

The details you provided above are very impressive and a welcome adjunct to the presentations on SlideShare.

I accept responsibility for the spanking you gave us on the UX STRAT Web site. The site started out as just a mobile-first conference program for 2013. We went from one (1) event in 2013 to twelve (12!) this year and my small team is doing a heroic job just to keep up with the flood of logistics tasks. UX Strategy, and UX STRAT in particular, have really taken off, and it’s really been a challenge to manage the success. However, as soon as I have a breather—after Seattle? or Toronto? or Dallas? London? not sure—we will make every effort to ensure that our Web experience parallels the awesome event experience we had last year and expect this year.

Kudos for an excellent job reviewing UX STRAT 2013, and I am looking forward to having UXmatters at UX STRAT 2014!

Best, Paul Bryan

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