26 April 2013
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Experience design management: An in-depth exploration from academia

Recently we’ve looked at the business aspects of UX management, from the characteristics of successful UX teams, to the role of the UX manager itself. An in-depth look and analysis of UX management itself seems in order.

“The Management of Experience Design” is the title of Torsten Brodt’s doctoral dissertation from the Graduate School of Business Administration, Economics, Law and Social Sciences at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland. Although slightly dated (it was published in 2007), it offers a level of detail in terms of both research and analysis that is unmatched by typical brief UX-related posts.

The focus of the thesis is on the relevance of experience design to the overall innovation strategy of companies in the consumer electronics, media and communications sectors. And the thesis’ definition of experience design management syncs nicely with our current-day usage: “… the conceptualization, development and orchestration of all interactions between a customer and a brand/company over time which are meant to maximize the value generated for the customer and the firm.”

Brodt puts forward four propositions in the thesis:

  • Strategy & top management support – Whether management and the business as a whole is behind experience design
  • Brand & communications design – Whether brand and communication endeavors are aligned with both experience design and development activities
  • Development process layout – Knowledge sharing and existing processes exist to support experience design
  • Organization set up – The organization is arranged in such a way as to support (cross-functional) experience design

Then, using in-depth case studies, he looks for evidence as to whether the propositions themselves hold out in real-world examples. He follows these up with a proposed model for the management of experience design within companies.

The four case studies presented in the thesis are from BMW AG in Germany, Nokia in Finland, mobile network operator O2 in Germany, and Philips in the Netherlands. And, as stated, “…the objective of the research is to identify how experience design is achieved and managed in the consumer electronics and the automotive industry” using four specific experience design-related projects, one at each company.

The research and case studies broadly support the propositions detailed in the thesis, and offer a promising insight: At the times the interviews were carried out – seven years ago – the value of experience design management at industry-leading firms was already establishing a foothold. With the passage of time (and the increased pressure of commoditization and as well as stagnation rather than innovation), we feel that the experience design management can only have increased in value for businesses across the board.

“This research was motivated by the quest for effective management levers to create successful experience designs. Based on the literature research and the cross-case comparison, it can be concluded that experience design starts to become reality in practice. Particularly CEMC-companies are initiating large change programs to move it closer into the focus of their innovation activities.

This is a first step for an effective management. Agenda setting is being done by including experience design into strategy statements and by incorporating it in the brand management. Similarly, on operational level experiences start taking the lead. Development functions are being made aware of a stronger incorporation of the full customer experience in their development programs. While some case studies show that the ‘thinking beyond the product’ is sometimes up to the personal engagement of single development engineers, other cases present formalized processes and tools that systematically incorporate touch points beyond the product.”

Source: “The Management of Experience Design” (Torsten Brodt, University of St. Gallen, 2007)

Business processes (14), Customer experience (65), User-centered design (12), UX management (10)

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