UX Brighton: from the tactical to the strategic

user-experience Image credit: Beantib webbkommunikation

Last week I spoke UX Brighton, alongside Tim Loo from Foolproof and Leisa Reichelt from GDS, on the topic of UX strategy.

My perspective was that many UX practitioners are on a journey. UX used to be about interaction design that allows users to achieve goals. It is now taking on a far more strategic importance within organisations.

In their ‘Top technology trends for 2014 and beyond’ report, Forrester made the point that:

‘A great digital experience is no longer a nice-to-have; it’s a make-or-break point for your business’.

This is a journey that I have been on personally. Over 10 years ago I established a UX team at Cogapp, moved into a data-driven Customer Insight role at Spannerworks, which led to heading up the Strategy and Planning team at iCrossing. My latest adventure is setting up Brilliant Noise, a customer-first strategy and innovation company, with partners Antony Mayfield and Maddy Wood.

In the presentation, I talked about the relationship between User Experience (UX) and Customer Experience (CX), and how UX practitioners can become more strategic by learning to speak more ‘CX’.

My slides are at the bottom of the post for more information, but my key takeaways from the presentation are:

1. Knowledge of the customer is strategy.

In a world where change is coming from all directions – competitors, technology, employees and channels – the customer is the north star. A deep knowledge of the customer is the key to success in the digital era.

2. UX methods are strategic methods.

Stakeholder interviews and customer research are strategic methods, and designing, testing and iterating solutions are increasingly important as businesses adopt an agile approach to planning and development.

3. Understand your customer’s business. Use their language.

UX practitioners are good at understanding our customer’s customers. We research user goals and develop personas, designs and tests to make sure that that those customers’ needs are being met. But how well do we understand our immediate customers and their business? What they are buying? How they are buying and who is competing for their budget?

The website we are working on will invariably be seen as part of a wider customer experience and communications system, and this investment needs to be balanced alongside investment in social media and other digital comms. Having an understanding of these other disciplines and knowing how to communicate and collaborate with them is key.

From an agency perspective, we need to make a compelling business case. For UX practitioners working in-house, at some point we need to find common ground and collaborate across these disciplines. Being able to understand and work across different areas of the customer experience with other experts is a strategic skill.

4. Consider the entire customer journey.

The customer decision journey is one of the core strategic models we use at Brilliant Noise and one that can be used within businesses to understand digital. From a UX perspective it makes us consider different needs and modes of enquiry across the journey and what content, functionality and experiences are needed at each stage. From a strategic perspective, it is to provide a coherent and consistent experience across all touchpoints and to drive the customer towards advocacy, which in turn delivers repeat customers and recommendations.

5. Decide what and how to measure. And then measure it.

This has traditionally been a chink in the armour for UX, and few UX programmes have a robust evaluation framework. But we need to be able to demonstrate the value of our work and the return on investment. I introduce a couple of measurement approaches in the presentation.

6. The time is now!

Competitive advantages of the past – manufacturing strength, distribution power, information mastery – are receding as it becomes easier to tap into global factories, supply chains and cloud computing. In the meantime, customers have more knowledge, power and expectation than ever before.

In order to differentiate, businesses are increasingly transforming themselves around the customer. Not just by developing better websites and apps, but innovating through service and product design. We are in an age where focus on the customer matters more than any other strategic imperative, and where transformation around the customer needs to be both strategic and operational.

It’s a good time to be a UX practitioner and an even better time to become a strategic UX practitioner.

[slideshare id=34659836&doc=jasonryanuxbrighton003-140514024819-phpapp02]