Four years ago, I went from being a lead designer in a product company to be a manager of the UX team. I started to divide my time between ‘doing the design’ and everything that went in to that, to making sure and motivating others to ‘do the design’. My role developed into more of a coordinating function. In addition to this, one had to make sure each designer delivered at a uniform quality level (more or less). The more I thought about this, the more I found myself discussing what the appropriate level of UX quality was for each product and the business. Turned out this definition was different for different groups of people.
Leading a group also means you need begin to consider growing the team and I started thinking in terms of ‘value for the company’ in relation to UX. Having worked with UX for some years the value for me was clear, but now things had to be articulated in terms of organisational value. Explaining UX to persons that had their own definition was challenging and frustrating.
The company expanded shortly after I became manager and we grew to include two more products with their own development teams, this time located in the US. At the first few meetings with them, I described how we have integrated UX into our organisation. I had purposely promoted a very ‘loose’ process for the UX work. The UX team uses a ‘federal’ organisation where designers are integrated into each product team but solutions are usually developed through UX team collaboration.
One of the members of the new product teams asked:
Do you think this is the most effective way of organising things ?
After a minute or so, I answered ‘yes’, but wasn't really sure of my own answer.
A shift in the discussion
I spent the next couple of months discussing this with people in other organisations in Sweden trying to find some answers. Surely someone else had asked these same questions as me ?
Questions like :
How where they organised ? How many of them worked with UX ? Was this effective ?
What activities did they work on ?
How did the organisation view their efforts ?
How did the UX team demonstrate value ?
I saw a lot of commonalities but just as many differences. It seemed to ‘depend’ on many different issues and who you talked to.
Around the same time, I noticed a shift on social media and UX conferences — a shift from the discussing the craft, tools and methods of ‘doing the design’ to coordinating and managing the design. UX was growing up and this was a good thing. The discussion shifted from ‘getting a seat at the table’ (personally I believe in bringing your own seat) to figuring out what we were going to do once we got there.
UX for the bulk of us
Although I love reading about all of the all the ‘design lead’ organisations that exist in the world, the numbers indicate that there is a very large group of organisations that are not nearly as mature as these stars.
How were these organisation creating a business impact with their UX efforts ? Were they ?
I wanted to know.
So to get a wider perspective, I decided to ask some more people. To do this I created a (short) survey on a European level around UX impact within organisations. This includes UX team organisation, UX activities and how UX influences certain business metrics.
If you have a moment, give it a look. Thanks.
Take part in the European UX impact survey