It is one of the most underestimated and pivotal practice for any enterprise involved in creating digital products for human users — it definitely is a big jumbo which is made invisible due to many factors. Here are my understandings and view points of those factors…
In a consultancy enterprise, time is money and customer is the king. They are the experts for the clients and are looked upon for key decision making advices when it comes to technology. The process and workflows generally become more complicated based on the scale of the company and its not easy to embrace many niche domains with the required seriousness unless it is a culturally ingrained one. UI/UX process is one such discipline which often finds itself at the backbench in a classroom where Time, Money, Technology Stack, S/W development life cycle, BRD or Quality Assurance are few of the teachers’ favorites!
This is the case mostly with enterprises which don’t have a rich UX cultural heritage to carry forward to further generations. Institutionalising UX practice in such enterprises is a task equivalent to staring at the Mt. Everest before thinking of conquering it, and the size of the company and its operations adds to the woes! Having spent quite some time in such an enterprise, here are my observations on the patterns around this problem statement, and some suggestive solutions to get this seemingly disregarded child to the forefront:
Preach and Evangelize untiringly
It is the ability for being an unfazed preacher of the values of a good User Experience. Initial setbacks and disappointments when teams ignore the influence of a quality UX resource should be ignored to start with. With continuous evangelism and ‘spread the word’ attitude, this is something that can be made happen!
Prove the point by delivering
There is nothing like building a story around a proven fact, which is right in front of the eyes! Lead by example, walk the talk and do what you preach. A great usable end product that your team has delivered due to the presence of a differentiating UX team will become the greatest selling point in the future for you, and it is going to be your trump-card to get the whole world rally behind you and your ideologies. So, be a doer, and deliver the best possible product that you can with the help of your team, by embracing the UX concepts that you have always wanted to preach, and ride on top of it to conquer the rest of the world!
Be a ‘Jargonator’ and a good articulator
If there is a profession which needs master articulation skills as much as the technical skills, it is ‘UX Practice’. Coupled with strong understanding of concepts/implementation skills and clarity of thought needed to articulate ideas in consumable and understandable form, a UX designer is well equipped to spread the word and pursue the right audience into a common understanding about the UX process. This is a key skill which can help you remove misconceptions and assumptions from the key minds of the management, and help you move closer to the bigger goal!
‘UX Process’ is best served contextually
This is one of the most important thing which is missed out often. There is no ‘One size fits all’ theory when it comes to UX processes. The ability to adapt to the context is the key behind successful UX practitioners. Success lies in identifying which process to include and which to omit in a complete end-to-end delivery cycle of a system. This might require extensive experience in creating huge and complex systems, where technology stack, assurance cycle and domain knowledge forms key players, but the underlying fact is, a strong understanding of what value a process brings to the building process of the whole system!
Build guidelines and best practices for mass
Success of most digital systems finally melts down into a single factor — usability and ability to accomplish what they are supposed to! Even, in the absence of a dedicated UX team there are quite a lot of practices that can be promoted within a team which will eventually improve the overall usability of the output. Start building guidelines and best practices that can be consumed by a common developer (which I am assuming is the most common role in any team building digital systems, with not much UX inclined culture to boast about!) which he/she can follow while building a product. This can be references to frameworks that can be used for web-development to start with (Eg. Twitter Bootstrap), Basic usability checklist to look out for while building UI, Reusable set of graphic elements which any developer can easily start using readily in any project. These will gradually start instilling a value for UX within any team and eventually will bring the relevant importance to UX processes within masses!
These are some of my learnings so far, which have been gathered over time by working in cross-cultural teams across various enterprises and startups. These points might still be relevant for teams of smaller scale, and for startup based teams, with some thoughtful reductions…