Welcome to episode 104 of The Digital Life. A show about our adventures in the world of design and technology. I’m your host, Jon Follett. This week we’re honored to have as our guest, Kelly Goto, who as an evangelist for design ethnography is dedicated to understanding how people integrate products and services into their daily lives. Kelly is principle of Gotomedia and Gotoresearch, a global leader in research-driven, people-friendly interface design strategy for web, mobile, and product solutions for clients which include Samsung, Hyundai, Sony Ericsson, Nokia, Adobe, and Seiko Epson Japan. Her book, Web Design 2.0: Workflow That Works, is a standard for user-centered design principles. Kelly, welcome to the show.
Thank you so much. It felt like a little bit of a long intro.
Well, it’s all worth talking about, so we included it. Today we’re going to chat a bit about user experience for the enterprise. I know you just got back from the Enterprise UX conference down there in Texas. I think this is a subject that is really on people’s minds right now. Especially when we’re considering how enterprise users, whether those are the employees, or the customers, or the managers, how they’re dealing with experiences that seem somewhat needlessly complicated when it’s compared to, we’re getting so used to these wonderful consumer-facing experiences. I’m going to jump right into some of the questions I have for you today. What do you think is the current state of enterprise user experience?
Right now, it’s an emerging field. User experience is the lovely new catchphrase for differentiation and success. I think it’s finally caught on. It takes a few years for these things to really get into the corporate culture. Customer experience, or CX, and brand experience, I don’t want to say BX, but these terms have been around for a long time. I think there’s very traditional, siloed, behavior and thinking, with some centralized resources that typically marketing and product have been very separate. User experience has come in to play a role between what is traditionally marketing-oriented, which is outreaching, and what is the customer experience, or the actual touchpoint behavior, internally. There’s a line. I see it as a line dividing what was marketing and product is now boring with user experience.
Just building on that, I’m wondering why it might have taken so long for the enterprise to catch on to the user experience benefits. What’s your take on that?
I think of it like a traditional pyramid. You can see that there’s a CEO at top and then there’s all kinds of VPs and directors. Then it goes down to the people who are actually making things. In the 2.0 transition of 12 to 15 years ago, it started to shift up where the people that were making things started to have more and more say over how the brand experience actually functioned and featured. It’s finally now become a more, if you were to think of the diagram where user experience and customer experience is all in the center, and then the company actually has to function around that actual experience. Because, you can no longer promise a brand experience, or promise any kind of actual emotional value, in a product or service. You actually have to prove it over time. Product and the user experience has become centralized in organization. That’s how it’s shifting.
Interesting. Could you give us an idea as to the scale and complexity of Enterprise UX problems? Because they’re quite different from consumer-facing UX.
Yeah. A lot of enterprise-driven behavior is based on fear, basically, and also avoiding any issues. They want to, as an organization, be very product-conscious and go towards market shares and numbers that make sense to them. There’s a lot of numbers that drive behavior. There’s a lot of decision-making used in the making for how big a market size is, and how much on a global level they’re going to be applying resources towards that market, and how much they think they can take of that market. It’s very systematic. It’s strategic. It’s a little cutthroat. If they don’t have those numbers, they’re not going to put that money and time and effort into that.
Now these are assuming there’s a long road ahead where they can actually size the market. They can actually look at what they think the options are to serve that market. Then they can actually service that market well. What’s happening now is that we’re in a state of what I call cultural flux, of the stability of the market kind of falling out, where everything is transitional. Everything is dynamic. People are trying new products and services every single day, making decisions that are not necessarily trackable over time and with numbers.
If you look at, I know, there’s sort of a diagram again. Sometimes visuals are handy. You can look at a market across time, and you can see that it goes from sort of simple to complex. Then you can look at user experience over time, and you can see that it might go from something that is stable to something that’s in flux. I think what’s happening right now is a lot of companies are in this quadrant, where the market is in flux and it’s a very complicated market to serve. It’s very, very difficult to use things like big data for instance, which is another catch term out there, to look at size and actually apply it to that kind of revenue that they’re looking for. It’s becoming harder to make those decisions ahead of time, if that makes sense.
Yeah. How would you say that now that UX has become this more important element to the enterprise., how is it changing the way the enterprise works? As a follow-up to that, how should it be changing the way the enterprise works?
Catherine Courage, who is in charge of the user experience group at Citrix, gave a great keynote and she really explained the fact that you have to have a vision from above. You have to have the vision to make these kinds of changes that need to happen. The speed at which it has to happen, also, is really critical.
She was able to, in a two-year time frame, do something that they really did think was going to take to 5 to 7 years. Which is to change the thinking of the organization, to centralize insight gathering, and research and design, and all the things that user experience does so well in an organization. And then, also roll IT under that. There was a bunch of things that needed to happen. She needed that buy-in from the top, and also, she needed to be able to move really quickly to make those changes happen.
Cultural change in an organization is also a huge piece of that. I think that right now, it isn’t an easy road unless you have all those pieces into play. Citrix isn’t huge. They’re not truly enterprise level, but they definitely serve an enterprise audience. It was inspiring to see how quickly those changes can happen if you have the buy-in at the top level and you have the vision to carry it through. That doesn’t mean it’s going to happen at every vision.
Right. We’ve talked a bit about sort of the grander idea of UX within the enterprise. On the individual design level or as a designer, how can I get in there and better understand enterprise-type users?
I think one of the things that came up in the conference is how tricky it is to actually get access to the people that are using their products and services, especially at an enterprise level. As user experience practitioners, one of our mantras is to actually, truly understand what people are doing. Using either agile or lean methodologies, to rotate that data back into the process and to kind of execute it real-time, so we’re meeting people’s actual needs.
Now getting access to internal team members and your internal customers, is actually fairly easy. Time, of course, is a hindrance. You have to be able to motivate, again, top-level thinkers to say “Okay. It’s worth us allocating resources to participate in this type of feedback and studies, so that we can improve our own services internally to provide a better output.” That has to, again, be something that’s a vision that’s driven from the top down. Now if we’re serving an enterprise audience, it’s also a very difficult proposition to reach those people and properly interview them. Or have them participate in usability studies. Because not only do they not have time in our difficult access, but they’re actually protected by sales team, and other external groups. Usually the product teams, with people that are working on actual products and services, do not have access to them nor are they given the rights to access. I think it’s a tricky proposition right now, in terms of how it’s actually working in an organization. Because of that lack of access, if that makes sense.
Yeah, and I would think that as a design consultant, perhaps coming in from the outside. I don’t know whether that would be, that access would be quite possibly even more difficult to obtain, or I’m trying to parse this, whether or not having the immediacy of, hey, here’s an outside consultant. We really want to get this work done versus hey, we’ve got a distributed audience. Like you said, there are protected by sales teams and product teams. We can’t get a hold of any of these guys internally ourselves, let alone you as a user experience consultant from the outside. Have you encountered any sort of those scenarios?
Absolutely. That’s I think one of the biggest reasons why a big shift is happening in the industry right now where everything is going internal. Because as an external agency, we need the buy-in and the access to people to do our jobs, and for consumer facing product of service that’s fairly easy, sometimes not so easy, especially if it gets into specific audiences. On the enterprise level, where a lot of the cash flow is still going out to agencies for marketing and for advertising that cash flow is turning internal for a lot of the both internal facing products and services and also R and D, development and innovation that they have to do to stay afloat. It’s because of that I believe access that’s needed, and the real-time churn that needs to happen internally in an organization. Also quite honestly there’s a lot of NDA out there because the competition is so fierce that people really can’t afford to let the secrets spill or take away the competitive advantage, so we’re really taking things internal to make that sort of sacrifice in a way, so that you’re working from one product or service all the way through.
Right, that seems to make sense. You spoke at Enterprise UX about ethnography as corporate strategy. Could you tell us little bit about that and what the content of that talk was about? Because it sounds really intriguing to me.
Yeah, ethnography, I use the term in this case fairly broadly. I do come from a really clear idea that there’s an academic side to ethnographic-based research and then there’s more design research or user experience research that will follow. In this case, in blending the two, took the liberty to do that. Ethnography as a whole is one of the only ways that you can get real-time one-on-one feedback from audiences that are fickle and shifting quickly. As an example when that big silo organization is taking a look at their market size they’re going to have surveys. They’re going to run big data analysis. They’re going to do social media analysis, they’re going to look at all their analytics to the website. That takes a lot of time to process. They’re processing information that six months ago or even a year ago.
We found that when we take a mixed method approach and we’re hitting the ground running and we’re interviewing people real-time, we’re also merging it with data including surveys and other analytics and we’re trying to figure out what are the patterns there and what should we dive into and where are those areas of innovation or potential needs that can be served. We’re actually do that in a three month period. It’s faster for us to probe, if you knew water was down there and you were to take a probe and you were probing for water and you understood that there was areas that you were looking for. We’re not trying to understand all of it, we’re trying to probe deeper and get more information about people’s real needs, their real actions, their behaviors, and really the emotional values that are important so that companies can offer the right kind of products and services to meet those needs. We’re able to do it in a fairly short time frame.
Yeah, that sounds like a good way in. I haven’t heard it described that way before. That sounds like a great opportunity for corporations to find out more about themselves and about what they need to do. Kelly, I want to thank you so much for coming on the show today and sharing your thoughts with us.
Well, thank you for having me. I appreciate the opportunity.
Listeners, remember that while you are listening to the show, you can follow along with the things we are mentioning here in real time. Just head over to the digitalife.com. That’s just one L on the digital life, and go to the page for this episode. We’ve included links to pretty much everything mentioned by everybody. It’s a rich information resource to take advantage of while you’re listening, or afterward if you’re trying to remember something that you liked. If you want to follow us outside the show you can follow me on Twitter at Jon Follett. That’s J-0-N- F-O-L-L-E-T-T. Of course, the whole show is brought to you by Involution Studios, which you can check out at goinvo.com. That’s goinvo.com. Kelly, how can listeners get in touch with you?
You can reach me on my Twitter handle, which is go2girl. G-O, then the number two, and then girl, and also check out our website, gotoresearch.com. It just launched and it really has a lot of the information that I’ve been talking about getting to stories and emotion rather than just data.
That’s it for episode 104 of the digital life. I’m Jon Follett and I’ll see you next time.