Given the right context and corporate culture, User Experience leaders can do amazing things for any company. Much like Design Leaders, here is a snapshot of what the best UX leaders lead, and it goes far beyond usability.
UX is about making new experiences, services and products, and this requires process discipline and methods know how, coupled with creativity. UX leaders are adaptable to any kind of process they face – Agile, Sprint, Waterfall, Stage gate, Scrum, ISO, departmental and company based. Great UX leaders can make great things happen regardless of process requirements.
User experience involves many people, and UX leaders know how to assemble great cross-functional teams, guide and inspire them, and create synergy. Great UX leaders are great people leaders – they ask more then they tell, laugh more than they criticize, have tons of empathy, and yet are straightforward in their critique and remain focused on content.
Front stage and back stage
Beyond creating the desired user experiences, great UX leaders coordinate the front stage and the back stage platforms. Front stage being the user facing experiences, and back stage being the technical enablement’s underneath. Great UX leaders get both, and based on the principle of user-centered design, can create better experiences both inside and outside the company.
UX leaders are connectors – connecting technology, new services and products, connecting different platforms, connecting different functions in the company, and connecting the company to it’s customers and followers. In fact, UX leaders help connect the company to all it’s stakeholders, internal and external. After all, every company touch point is an experience, and the best UX design leaders help orchestrate the best experiences.
Keep in mind too, great experiences don’t just happen, they are designed. A background in design, any design discipline, can help give grounding, context and empathy. Yes, many professionals can lead a UX department, but I think that behind every great UX leader is a creator, designer or concept maker at heart. According to Bob Schwartz, General Manager, Global Design & User Experience, GE Healthcare, “Great design and user experience are inextricably linked and interdependent.”
UX leaders bring meaning to the experience, and also to the brand, because a brand is not just what you say, it is what you do – UX leaders are about the do. They ask, how do the apps work? How does the customer journey progress? How does the mobile experience integrate? How well do the services perform? How does the user respond? UX is about making relevance, and UX leaders make products, services and brands more relevant and meaningful to all stakeholders.
At the end of the day, UX leaders are the chief advocates of usability – even if it requires crossing boundaries, technologies or platforms. Again, they are the connectors, and the best user experiences stem from the best UX leadership, usability, human factors and human-centered design. According to ISO 9241-11, usability involves “The extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a specified context of use.” Yes, the UX Leader owns usability too.
UX leaders are future creators – UX leaders lead the creation of new apps, services, products and customer experiences. They help take the company, and its’ customers, to new places, to new experiences. UX strategy guides us all to the future, in little steps. Great UX design leaders help lead a company to it’s preferred future state. Finding and recruiting great UX leaders is an art and science unto itself, here are some tips about our Design-based recruiting (sm) methods.