Successful product designers and developers know that good user experience (UX) is the key to success in both traditional and digital domains.

And yet, the enterprise continues to under-invest in the functions that inform meaningful improvements to UX. We fail to engage "the business" as part of internal digital product development. We fall short in the development of holistic understandings of end-users.

These shortcomings point to a lack of maturity in UX strategy and they hinder successful adoption and value realization from investments in information worker-facing technologies.

They aren't simple to address, but they can be overcome. And it is worth the effort. While many enterprises may perform fairly well on a few of these dimensions, a higher level of maturity is required across the board to avoid a litany of negative consequences including:

  • Low adoption and corresponding negligible gains in insights, productivity and innovation (i.e. unrealized value)
  • Use of alternative solutions (similar to consumer switching behavior)
  • Negative cost recovery
  • Loss of credibility and relevance
  • De-funding of initiatives, programs, and delivery organizations

This month, I'm going to explore how the enterprise can gauge the maturity of its UX strategy and why it's so important to do so.

Homing in on Productivity

The issue of UX strategy maturity is particularly significant when examining issues related to productivity -- a key competitive differentiator in large enterprises and government institutions.

In focusing on issues of productivity, our team has developed a valuable shorthand: C3CS. That's collaboration, communication, content, and social computing. Together, these concepts represent the scaffolding around which productivity initiatives -- including self-service business intelligence; forms and workflow; lightweight, platform-based applications; and third party solutions -- can be built.

They are dependent on a complex array of technology solutions; processes; and culture, training and leadership issues that are required to realize benefits from productivity solutions.

Assessing UX Maturity for C3SC Initiatives

How mature is your organization's UX for C3SC initiatives? If you are interested in productivity, this is one of the most important questions you can ask.

Strong UX-oriented organizations possess a difficult-to-acquire and maintain set of characteristics whereby both utilitarian and emotional value are provided via a combination of aesthetic, functional and usability-oriented capabilities.

This is in contrast to many other types of organizations that (even with strong design/development cultures) focus mostly on the functional, utilitarian side and less on the emotional value driven by aesthetics and usability.

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The bottom line is this: you can't shift away from the functional/utilitarian orientation without first understanding where you sit with respect to a common set of UX-oriented dimensions. But, once you have that understanding, it becomes possible to determine where your UX strategy should move over time.

We typically conduct this analysis based on the following key measures:

  • Awareness of Value. Perception throughout the organization of the business impact that continual investment in UX can have.
  • E2E Lifecycle Investment. End-to-end focus on user experience in the product design lifecycle
  • Leadership. Executive leadership understanding, sponsorship and involvement.
  • Organizational Capability. Skilled UX resources, beyond just traditional designers, in multiple parts of the organization.
  • Business/User Engagement and Enablement Processes. Formalized processes to engage business units and their end-users in the design, roll-out and enablement phases.
  • Measurement and Continuous Improvement. Ability to measure, communicate and react to explicit investments in users experience.

For each of the above dimensions, a simple progression model framework of “Baseline> Developing> Operating> Optimizing” can help establish where your organization sits with respect to each dimension and where you’d like to move to over time as part of a strategic plan.

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Being Empowered by Knowledge

In the example above, this exercise would encourage us to emphasize changes that support Business/User Engagement and Enablement Processes, and Measurement and Continuous Improvement, while seeking to leverage the organization's executive leadership understanding, sponsorship and involvement in the initiative.

By understanding the level of maturity of the organization's UX strategy, we are able to create a roadmap for progress that promises to help prioritize resources and better manage business goals and technical, organizational, and cost constraints. The future is so much brighter with this depth of understanding of the past.

You won't always be pleased with what you learn when you evaluate the maturity of your organization's UX strategy, but you will always be bettered by understanding it.


Editor's Note: Looking for more on user experience? Check out Kevin's Where Does Good User Experience Come From?