The business requires great software, and great software requires strong user experience design. This is increasingly clear in a world in which digital technology is disrupting entire business models by finding new ways to connect with customers.
Much has been said about IT leaders, and their business counterparts, needing to embrace design thinking. Last month, Velocity discussed exactly that with UX strategy consultant Jose Coronado, who has driven digital thinking for ADP, Oracle and AT&T, among others. In the second of a three-part series on the intersection of IT, business and design, Velocity asked him what CIOs and business leaders need their designers to bring to the table.
It’s more than design theory and research chops, he says.
“Design leaders and their teams need to be knowledgeable about more than the ins and outs of UX,” Coronado says. “They have to be fluent in three languages—business, IT and design.”
The Dynamic Designer
Designers are a scarce resource. Large enterprises continue to increase their investment in design talent, but they are not alone. The competition for UX professionals is also growing. IT organizations need to make business choices, because they cannot cover as much of the software portfolio with design support as they may like. Thus, designers are naturally focused on the highest-value, customer-facing projects, in which time-to-market, innovation, and high-quality user experience are critical. These projects need to be delivered quickly—and they have to be right the first time.
“I was in a project review meeting when the product manager highlighted the fact that conversions for one product suite I’d worked on had shot up 300%. If I hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t have known.”
And that, Coronado says, is why you need them to understand business priorities and IT processes, as well as UX principles.
“Designers don’t need an MBA, but they need to effectively articulate how a design solution aligns with the business goals or differentiates us from the competition,” he says. “They don’t need to be accomplished developers, but they need to understand the key characteristics of the platforms and technological constraints, so they can efficiently communicate with IT—an effective knowledge to augment their deep expertise in the discipline of UX.”
You don’t necessarily need designers with software engineering degrees, and you do not need software engineers with design degrees. However, you need them to share an understanding of design and development to collaborate—you want them to have mutual empathy and respect.
Designers should also understand how their work aligns with the organization strategy and the bottom-line impact design work has on the business—which is part of understanding the nature of the business and its goals. Designers, Coronado says, need to ask the questions, to seek out that information, working in collaboration with business and IT leaders to succeed as a team.
“Sometimes you stumble upon the business impact of the design work you are doing by accident,” he says. “I was in a project review meeting when the product manager highlighted the fact that conversions for one product suite I’d worked on had shot up 300%. If I hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t have known.”
This goes back to our previous conversation with Coronado, in which he stressed that “design thinking,” or emphasis on design, has to be more than lip service. Leaders need to understand the importance of UX, and the enterprise needs designers who aren’t shy about advocacy.
“From a design perspective, I’ve pushed a lot over the last 10 years, and user experience had to be aligned with the overall organization strategy to succeed,” he says. “If the enterprise is expanding in new markets or increasing customer satisfaction, it’s important that designers map their design activities and macro-level goals into that organizational strategy.”
Everyone should be thinking about design, he says, because to the end user, the experience is the software. And by the same token, the designer should be thinking about the entire business.