12 May 2015
Peter Bogaards
Peter Bogaards

UX Management Roundtable: Challenges 2015

Heading towards UX excellence

There is a growing need for UX managers in many organizations. Employees in this new role are facing big and complex challenges. Informaat organizes on a regular basis sessions of the UX Management Roundtable. In these meetings, the challenges UX managers are facing are addressed and discussed. Conversations of the roundtable from the past two years have now been documented in a free white paper.

This white paper is a reflection of the conversations in the UX Management Roundtable and contains an overview of the most important challenges of UX managers (in The Netherlands) and the various ways in which they deal with these challenges. Some are successful, others not (yet). These are the major UX management challenges in 2015 and beyond.

Challenge 1: Permanent improvement of UX teams

External developments (new opportunities for personalization, omni-channel and -device) lead to new design challenges and require strong professionalization of the team. The labor market for recruiting seasoned UX professionals proves difficult to any organization. There is scarcity in the marketplace: recruiting the right people is not a simple task. Experienced professionals seeking employment view both the C/UX maturity of the organization as well as its UX department with a critical eye.

For UX managers, this challenge implies more design for ecosystems and not for individual products. It’s about the development of a design approach, based upon abstract rules and principles, in order for designers to create meaningful products and services. New design disciplines emerge, like service design. They require specific and rare competences. Designers of various levels must be able to develop their skills to take on this complexity and to use new design languages and systems.

Challenge 2: Successful optimization of UX design and Agile development

In dynamic environments, the conventional waterfall process of software development doesn’t result into required outcomes. In time (it always lasts longer), in finance (it always costs more), and in results (it always doesn’t deliver on the promise). This process approach is abandoned often and replaced by an Agile approach. A method based upon short, interactive sprints in which products and services are improved incrementally. Organizations demand new competencies and capabilities during the development of digital products and services. UX departments have many interfaces with IT departments and are required to play an important role in this new process.

An important challenge is the synchronization of design and development processes. What’s the role of UX professionals in Scrum teams and how much time does it take? Only detailed design seems suitable to do in bi-weekly sprints. Strategic or tactical design, such as envisioning or the design of new UX concepts, are hardly unified with short cycli of design, development and delivery. Also, a successful cooperation is hard due to short and infrequent involvement of designers.

Challenge 3: Sharing useful outcomes of tests, evaluations and research with third parties

Evaluation in the broad sense is an integral part of design. The number of available methods and techniques for evaluation are numerous, for qualitative as well as for quantitative purposes. Besides the diversity of methods and techniques, there is also an increase in the number of projects within organizations which can benefit from these kinds of outcomes. Especially results obtained from research in which customers or users have been involved.

UX managers must decide upon the role of customers or users during design and evaluation processes. Participation of authentic and representative members from a target group in stead of employees of the organization. Useful research results can be shared with other stakeholders. What, when and how are things tested? Usability, functionalities and stability are relevant facets for evaluation. Combinations of internal test facilities and external insourcing emerge. An adequate formulation of a research and evaluation question and an effective way to generalize and share the results are important.

Challenge 4: Increase of the effectiveness of the UX department through optimal internal positioning

The complexity of design within organizations is increasing. More (digital) touchpoints appear, more stakeholders emerge and the relevance of customer experience is widely recognized. Who determines the goals of the UX department and how big is the dependence on others? The UX department often has a higher speed of innovation than others. When things are not going fast enough, the UX department takes initiative. And increasingly, marketing departments take charge of customer experience, while the IT department has the responsibility of implementation, maintenance and support of digital services.

Tasks and responsibilities of the UX department interface with other areas of work, such as business, IT and marketing. The task of the UX manager is to clearly define the role and remit of the UX department. The effectiveness of the UX department is determined by the clarity in which responsibilities are laid out. By the nature of its role and meaning there are inherent limits to what the department can accomplish. UX managers are challenged to provide more self reflection and to make their own SWOT analysis. In this way, they are more capable to position themselves internally.

Challenge 5: Useful application of Big Data from the user’s and designer’s perspectives

Online customer behavior can be measured. Tablets and smart phones have many features and sensors: geolocation, movement or biometry. Also, the costs of storage and computation in the cloud have dropped significantly. As a result, privacy, security and credibility become more important. The Big Data trend is visible and noticeable for UX teams. With Big Data, customer profiles and insights are increasingly relevant for UX. Detailed and personalized profiles are connected to unique content, interaction and form. Automated pattern recognition in behavior can direct, adjust and even determine the UX. Sometimes, these new opportunities result into difference of opinion between designers and marketeers. A moral compass is lacking so far.

Customer and user data are the basis for deciding which content, products and services to offer. Algorithms connected to design decisions require guidelines, principles or rules to incorporate certain elements. Sometimes, data scientists are added to the UX team. Ethical, moral and principal frameworks intend to support UX teams. It’s the responsibility of the UX manager to provide these frameworks for the team.

And furthermore…

Besides these 5 major challenges, the report also addresses strategic challenges for the coming 2-3 years, offers a generic profile of the UX departments from participating organizations, and outlines ways in which organizations position their UX teams.

Download the full report

About the author

Peter Bogaards (a.k.a. @BogieZero) is the editor-in-chief of our blog BiRDS. Peter also works as a curator and coach at Informaat experience design. He has been an online content curator avant-la-lettre in various UX-related fields for almost three decades, choosing what he thinks is interesting, relevant or remarkable to share.

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