People often ask me if there are companies “out there” that truly embrace UX. In my experience, not one company I ever worked at was truly customer-centric. While some companies might say they are in their mission statement and even hire lots of designers/UX people, companies are only truly committed to one single thing: making money for their shareholders. (Many years ago I read a great Kurt Vonnegut quote to this effect but I can no longer find it.) Fortunately, the one modern finding that came out of the entire UX movement, is that focusing on your customer is the surest, most direct way for any company to make lots of money. As I explained in my article Experience Partners: Giving Center Stage to Customer Delight, any company that has not yet realized the making the customer successful is the key to profit and survival is either delusional or on its way out of business. So the good news is that the entire situation is completely in your hands. You, the UX professional, hold all the cards and have all the power. If you can prove to the business people on their terms, that usability improvements will help them meet their monetary goals, these improvements will get implemented, every single time. These “organizational challenges” are simply there so you can prove how much you want to implement these improvements. Here are some practical strategies to overcoming organizational challenges:
1) Demonstrate the relationships between UX and making money – use industry cases like Staples making 20 million a year by removing ads and extra links from their zip code page (example courtesy of HFI, Inc. ). This will introduce the topic of UX and some possibilities into the minds of decision makers.
2) Find out which goals are important to people that can say “yes” — present your design ideas to true decision makers (hint: this may not be your direct manager.) Demonstrate how these ideas will help them meet their goals, how much these things will cost to implement and what the projected ROI will be.
3) Get approval for a pilot project – find one (preferably C-level) executive that will be your usability champion and get an approval for a “pilot UX project”. Build a mastermind alliance of like-minded UX people around you as your team. Make sure to use the best UCD UX methodology and document everything. Measure key metrics before and after to demonstrate how you blow away even the loftiest of expectations.
4) Quit winning – the power is in your hands. As the company’s UX, you are the glue that makes things usable and allows everyone in the company to make some money, survive the tough economy and emerge stronger. If you feel that absolutely can’t succeed in your company, you won’t. In this case, it’s worth while looking for other employment at a company where you feel you can succeed.
See Institutionalization of Usability, a pretty good book by HFI founder, Eric Schaffer, that describes some good approaches to overcoming organizational challenges in more detail.