UX Strat attracts leading experts on UX Strategy from the world over.
This year’s UX Strat Europe saw a return to questions about practice, a consideration of the growth of internal teams, as well as conversations around the need to make data meaningful and to better measure the outputs of experience design.
From time to time it’s nice to check the temperature of the experience design industry - particularly the strategy field. Trends come and go, and UX Strat gives us the opportunity to sanity check our own methods and thinking against others.
UX Strat 2018 boasted over 200 delegates from 100 organisations. 16 talks and 4 workshops later, here’s my take on the key themes that the conference orbited around:
1. Internal accelerator teams and the rise of strategic design
The rise and validation of deploying dedicated strategic design teams on client sites to rapidly zip through the user centered design process was discussed from differing angles.
As Laura Müller from Daimler Lab1886 said directly:
"Does the idea meet the customer needs, pains, requirements? if it doesn't, kill it."
"Being wrong doesn't mean you failed, it means you are closer to the right product. A failure is an untested product that fails out of the door. Small failures are actually learnings.”
She went on to explain how using internal intranet ideation/voting platforms are a fantastic way of involving the thousands of passionate employees within the firm and can be used as a measure of success.
Commenting on moving up the UX maturity ladder, Marta Alcañiz García of BBVA said;
“Shifting from design as production, to transforming BBVA into a human centered service organization where Design is embedded into the organization’s DNA.” She went on to explain the six steps to reach UX maturity within an organization, highlighting that:
“DESIGN IS EVERYWHERE.”
Dr Giulia Calabretta (author of the excellent “Strategic thinking”), took this a step further likening Design to Mogli’s character in the Jungle Book; innocent and struggling to survive. Giulia defines strategic design as:
“The use of design principles and practices for the co-formulation and co-implementation of an innovation strategy toward outcomes that benefit people and organsiations alike.”
2. UX practitioner efficiency and skillsets
There was an emphasis on working more efficiently as individual practitioners and using all the tools and workshop tactics available; sketching, speaking the same language, and making collaborative strategy all result in better outcomes overall.
As Sonja Rattay from Block Zero put it:
“We are designers, let’s design our own tools and processes to help us do our job more efficiently.”
Having a good narrative with your clients was highlighted as a key tactic to gain buy-in. The best story wins, every time – making for more efficient outcomes.
“Tell that story, through a persona or a journey map – to win the hearts and minds of your clients.” - Jim Kalbach – Mural.
Dr Giulia Calabretta went on to describe three different narratives to use at different points in strategic engagements to achieve different outcomes: sell, teach and problem solve.
The ‘sell’ narrative was concerning demonstrating value; speed to market, employee management, ROI, market growth and cost reduction. The ‘teach’ narrative was for helping make more effective individuals and teams by training and sharing your craft. The ‘problem solving’ narrative is about staying true to yourself and your users to solve the problem for them.
A combination of the narratives can be used to scale strategic design – grow by making progress through training, value, and problem solving.
3. Rapid deployment of UX skills and tactics
Early access to end users is key - what I’d call "rapid ethnography" or contextual observation - to understand the "how". Plan well, recruit and get into participant sites early, execute strategically in context, learn fast and share results broadly. This makes big organisational changes possible by creating a series of small steps or moments.
Dr Susan Petrick from Google talked about her initial struggles:
“Replaying the scenario in the labs just didn’t work.”
To ensure strategic impact be there at the start, study workflows, assess emotions, evaluate in context, and inform the strategy you’re working to shape with underlying needs.
4. Make data meaningful
This point was raised by Dr Eva Deckers from Philips Design, suggesting we:
“Use data as a creative material.”
The three current challenges that designers face are that:
- It’s difficult to envision what you can and cannot do with data.
- There are few design tools readily available which you can freely explore with this material.
- Designers are unaware of the sources of data available as they are not well enough embedded in the discussion around intelligence.
The key is to make actionable insights from multiple sources; business analytics and from users. She explained:
“The service design competence in my team are the ones that should adapt to this data part and ensure that we also build differentiating propositions that encompass this data and intelligence to ensure that we deliver something meaningful to our users."
5. Measurement frameworks
This charge was led by David Ruiz Martinez from Orange Bank, who during his talk “Influencing the Organization to Invest in Strategic Design” spoke from the heart about design leadership. He advised that we should make our customers’ problems factual, defined, measured, and weighted. He pointed this out via a fabulous quote from Sun Tzu’s ‘The Art of War’
"Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat."
I was particularly drawn to his presentation on experience principles and measurement;
Orange Bank took a step back from the project early on and reflected before defining design principles, and the vision of the experience they wanted to deliver to their customers.
“We showed them by doing that, we can have a positive impact on both customer satisfaction and business objectives. We are now succeeding on making Experience Design objectives, a KPI for all to achieve.“
The five pillars David used to help focus the bank were that the future experience must be: emotional, reassuring, engaging, pleasant, and efficient. Impressively, the work his UX design team had conducted saw 100,000 users convert within just 4 months.
Overall UX Strat was informative and engaging and set the scene for my practice as a strategist over the next 12 months. With much to consider – particularly alongside my own work on measurement – the value that UX Strat brings to practitioners is invaluable. It’s also great to spend time with like-minded people who share a sense of purpose and a desire to push experience strategy further forwards.
Thank you UX Strat.
- All presentations from this year’s conference are available here.
- Additionally, each presentation has been distilled as a one-page sketch-note by Chris Spalton, You can download the complete set here.
- If you are interested in knowing more about UX Strategy, you can read more on our journal, or listen/watch to our interview series with leaders in UX Strategy.
- Ensure you don't miss the next UX Strat event by following @uxstrat on Twitter.