5 User Experience (Customer Journey) lies, damn lies and absolute myths

1. Anyone can do user experience, nope!

I meet a lot of people claiming to do user experience, process and deliverables aside, they don’t have a usability background so they cannot do user experience.

User experience is a solution capability based upon usability principles and research findings not design aspirations

User experience is a solution capability (not all usability people can do user experience) based upon the experience of conducting usability testing and user research. Usability testing and user research provides the standards and experience of the user that is needed to understand their perspective, elicit the correct (there are wrong ones) requirements in workshops or testing and represent them in projects.

I met (in 2006) a UX expert, I’m always worried when I meet UX experts, because I am a UX expert. Anyway she was moving from Razorfish into the freelance world for the big bucks and working a large project for Honda cars through a digital agency. Unfortunately she did not know how to use any software apart from word, so I checked her out sure enough she was a PA at Razorfish not a UX architect as claimed.

This happens so often it’s shocking, my favourite one has to be the PHd student I met working as an accessibility consultant repackaging W3C guidelines as work for several agencies. What I love about this guy is he does public speaking and has even done UX London and people wonder why I’m not interested in these conferences!

There are loads more fakes some of them milking huge daily rates from major companies, as these companies don’t do any checking it’s their own fault, but it makes me quite sad that clients and employment agencies can’t tell the quality from the junk.

Not only is the user experience world full of fakes, I’d go as far to say that of the people I’ve met in the last 13 years involved in UX;

80% (8 in 10) of UX people are fakes and have no idea what they are doing

These fakes can certainly sell themselves and get work (now in some very senior positions) because the clients did not then and still don’t know what they should be getting out of a user experience professional.

2. User experience can be learned from reading books, nope!

Absolutely read books, but read lots of them, but don’t quote them like the Bible that’s a bit odd. But reading about someone else’s experience does not mean you have any or in fact really understand the context or scope of those experiences.

Do some testing and research, I’m seeing a great deal of roles advertised for UX researcher or UX workshopping this is a great concern as the priority of discovered requirements and their interrelation is almost impossible to communicate in written documents. This critical project information should always be available.

Separating UX research from the UX solution activity may make sense for IT activity but for User Experience Professionals it does not

I assume this was a bright idea of someone who doesn’t actually know anything about UX regardless of their job title.

3. User experience is an IT activity, nope!

User Experience is not an IT process, it starts in the business area before IT is involved

I know a lot of company IT departments have tried to subsume User Experience into their IT process; user experience is considerably less effective this way.

User Experience leads the projects speaking for the End User Stakeholders (customers) as the Business Stakeholders speak for the Business

User Experience fits better into Agile DevOps, Change Management, Operations or as separate Standards Authority within organizations.

4. User experience is a design activity, nope!

Not exactly no, it sets the project brief and requirements then latterly gets involved in research first before creating solution concepts, user testing concepts then defining the final solution.

If there is no research, user experience solutions are not possible

5. The cost of user experience is going down, nope!

Perhaps a better understanding is that the market is flooded with willing bodies, the quality goes down and so does the price because people find it difficult to sell invisible clothing (the kings new cloths) even to people who like the colour and the cut, so accept a reduced price.

So the value of the job title is going down.

User experience should provide major cost benefits and advancements to companies who wish to stand out from the crowd, provided they find people who know how to do UX correctly.

This is the same problem that Agile is going through, people have picked up the language and use one or two of the activities incorrectly but don’t exceed the current status quo because they don’t know how to.

Great Agile is fast and accurate, flexible and delivers usable software and change, just as Great User Experience should provide the experience that customers want and allow them to interact with the client, accurately and often.

Great User Experience delivers increased transactions, interactions and communications towards relationship building.

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Welcome to my blog

About Karl Smith

Karl Smith works globally with directors, stakeholders and customers of multi-national enterprises across all verticals and technology stacks whose focus is on new concepts and capabilities that drive customer engagement, interaction and retention.

He creates digital companies, strategies and services that drive customer centricity into the core of client companies, that in turn enable them to realise their ambitions to engage with and establish a consistent two-way communication and interaction with their customers.

These new companies and capabilities are underwritten with tailored blue sky work, digital strategy, management consulting and program planning fitting to tight timescales, strategically correct, fully featured, useable, governable, scalable, efficient, end to end business propositions, service designs, applications, integrations and software systems.

Karl Smith Practical Skills

He is a highly competent, personable, creative and motivated person with a keen insight and definition ability. He is a critical thinker and able to rapidly discover the essence of problems then define, communicate, create buy-in and deliver end to end digital and process solutions. He positively motivates those around him and is able to engender a great team dynamic by leading from the front. He has business experience since 1989 at comparable levels in fields including defence, industry, energy, pharmaceutical, biomedical, construction, fashion, finance, banking, FMCG, property, publishing, healthcare, travel, policing, crown office, local and central government. He has specialist banking experience with investment, private, commercial, business, trading, wealth management in Europe, USA, China, Australia, Japan and Russia.

Karl Smith is a Founder and Director of UCD UK Conferences.

Karl has worked with several companies to define for launch or redefine their service offerings, business structures or digital presence including;

  • Avaloq AG – Setting up enterprise wide adoption of design thinking principals, master plan delivered in just two months.
  • Wipro Digital – Launch Wipro Digital, Design Thinking, Service Design, Creative Technology Services, User Experience Strategy, Creative Design Services, M&A Designit – 2014
  • Accenture – Launch of Enterprise User Experience, Digital Services Launch, M&A Fjord – 2012
  • Pearson Publishing – Digital Services Restructuring – 2011
  • Deutsche Bank – Self Service Paradigm Shift – 2011
  • RBS – Risk Management – 2010
  • The Oxford University Press – Mobile First Digital Strategy – 2009

Karl Smith has a wide experience in management consultancy and digital technology including business management, start-up, business strategy, digital strategy, advertising, customer experience, user experience, productisation, governance, change management, project management (waterfall & Agile), enterprise architecture and project definition, design, optimisation, delivery and digital marketing. He has been honoured by the British Computer Society for his eminence and significant contribution to the fields of UCD and User Experience with a Fellowship.

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Five most #common #failures of business #change and #transformation projects

Ever since transformation and change were linked to technology some of the worst parts of both have been combined on a national level and within major companies.

Giving users less functionality than they currently have and telling them it’s a great leap forward.

It is astonishing but this is the most common failing in projects, for some reason senior stakeholders appear to be convinced that technology is good and experience is bad. And if they concentrate on a new end state, all that is bad will go away. In a sad way all that is experience and knowledge are the things that go away often taking competitive advantage with them.

Asking stakeholders how things work even thought they only ever watch the outcomes and have no idea how things really work now.

Stakeholders by their very name determine that they are involved in the politics of a project, but they are considerably distanced from how thing work as they tend to represent management. This is less about the structure of projects in companies than how consultancies fail to ask questions about the current state, transition and opportunities into a project from a workers perspective and for service users.

Changing the requirements without understanding the long term debilitating impact of these changes.

There is without fail a point in all projects where the requirements will need to be changed due to cost, time or other constraint. At this critical point uniformly the future impact is relegated either to a later phase or someone else’s problem. While this at first sight is simply avoidance the impact in change, transformation and technology is significant often turning the current solution from strategic into nothing more than another tactical change that will need to be replaced.

Conducting due diligence on the project as a whole instead of across every aspect of the project at each stage and to the same consistent standard.

This may seem just a simple process but it is so often badly applied or not applied at all. There is naturally excitement when a project is in full flight but this some might say boring exercise often defines success or failure and will absolutely manage cost overruns which are often hidden by changing the requirements.

Not properly estimating and often severely underestimating the time it takes to create, refine, model, build and test solutions.

The reason that estimates are not correct is that translating requirements is not included in project planning. Project requirements must be translated into technical business requirements and user requirement both of which require testing and validation at a concept level before a solution can be considered to reliable, this is why so many project fail to deliver.

A brief note on requirements: Wish lists that make up an end state are not requirements these are just goals, requirements are what you get when you translate them into each delivery channel. For example the requirements to offer services to clients are different in mobile, desktop, telephony, marketing, pr etc. and they do not translate in the detail required to deliver. This is a highly common experience that no amount of lean and agile methodologies can make up or user experience cover up for the fact that most requirements given to technology as the bases of solutions are not fit for purpose.

Author Links;

Blog: user experience architecture
LinkedIn: profile
Twitter: userexperienceu

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#Blended #program #management #Prince and #Agile methods Part 1

Blended Program Management

I have been involved in project and program management since 1989 across various sectors and more recently have been focused in banking and finance.

I have experience in Prince and Agile methodologies and will expand on the blending of these two methods through the use of user stories (a user experience method) and the positive relationship between waterfall and iteration components in the following parts of this post.

Simply put (before getting into the detail) Prince and Agile = Delivery and in Banking and Finance they can give startling results.

This will not be a shock to many people but I’m not going to be describing the what, but the how.

I have managed some highly complex projects that would have failed if they had been run in Prince or Agile alone.

The clear advantage of blended management processes is that;

the project becomes team centric and affords an environment where success in common and that value is attributed to the correct people

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#Banking #Change #Management through #Human #Centred #Design #HCD

There has been massive change management taking place across all sectors of British banking over the last three years. Much of this is driven by buy outs and mergers, some by efficiencies and a little more recently through questioning the nature and controls around risk management.

However simply changing the owner has caused major problems in these banks as their competitive advantage and therefore their value has been an amalgam of very different skilled people, internal processes and market penetration from the bank or group buying them. These internal processes have often evolved in a highly organic method through acquisition and proven delivery often driven by individual people. However once this people based relationship is broken and these processes are exposed to a wider audience they pose serious questions in relation to risk management, value and the continuance of revenue flow.

The standard process applied has been to pass these processes over at division level to change program managers, at department level to business analysts to define the scope of the current structure. After definition many of these process based activities are passed over to information technology to resolve. I remember being taught at University (Napier, Edinburgh) that technology should never be used as a substitute to sound business process; however this technology determinant does not seem to have been passed on to banking business people. While not the best starting point, people who work in technology do tend to ask the right questions, to define epic requirements, even when it’s unpopular with the business.

Information technology analysts take these epic requirements and define an A to Z system ‘what it does’. However to get the B to Y user requirements (or stories), a user centred design analyst, ux research and designer spends time with the users to define ‘how it works’. This may seem obvious to digital practitioners outside banking, but it’s a revelation to those inside banking and banking technology, that users who normally find ways around poor software are able to define the requirements that turn a useful application into a killer application.

This is not really the end, more a beginning, if other sectors can learn from banking, that users (not stakeholders, usually no longer active users) can determine the overall success of software. And that user centred design (UCD) can assure and amplify competitive advantage if underwritten by skilled practitioners, then the possibility of success is significantly raised in all software and change programs.

Author Links

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12 #UX things you need to know

Getting into user experience, what you need to know?

What will a person need to be able to do to get into user experience;

1. Can you think?

Not the most subtle way to ask, but can you be creative? Thinking at the beginning of a project can save a huge amount of money and time later, but many user experience people blast their way into a project by starting on wireframes, without knowing what they are doing.

A huge amount of user experience simply is not user experience, its pretty pictures with poor justifications ‘it’s best practice’ my usual response is ‘prove that it’s best practice’.

2. Can you find things out?

Do you have a critical mind, can you work out what is missing from the information you have been given.

A project requires a bit of detective work because there are always gaps in the information provided to user experience, mainly because clients and IT don’t know what to provide or what is provided has had the juicy bits (outlier views) removed because clients and IT don’t know they are important.

3. Are you objective?

Having a strong opinion on user experience is really important, but it must always be tempered with an open non judgemental attitude. Are you willing to be changed by what your client, users or IT people know?

User experience people are not the gate keepers of an absolute set of rules, we have two ears and one mouth, we should listen twice as much as we speak.

4. Can you discern Fact from Fiction?

Again talking with clients, users or IT people can be pretty confusing unless you can work out if what they are talking about is still within the boundaries and various time lines of the project. A quick guide;

  • Clients tend to talk about the desired end state
  • Users tend to talk about any snippets they have heard about the project or their hopes for it
  • IT tends to take the pragmatic approach by thinking ‘what can we really deliver’

They are all true or were true at some point, or may be true if we had more time and money etc.

5. Can you deal with the politics?

Can you avoid taking sides in the various feuds that were going on before you got there and not flame the fires of distrust between business and IT.

6. Will you understand the business you are serving?

Your in a service relationship with the business, helping them get past their assumptions about their users and giving them some facts to act upon.

7. Will you understand the users you are serving?

Your in a service relationship with the users, helping them get what they need and desire.

8. Can you test – concepts, theories, business thinking, user perceptions etc?

Your going to need a lot of guts to question other peoples thinking.

User experience people reserve the right to ask stupid questions, in order to avoid doing stupid things, by Karl Smith 1999.

I’ve been saying this since 1999, I say it on every project.

9. Can you seek validation?

The user experience person is not right, they can come up with concepts and questions but a user experience person never decides they are right, they must check out what they do with other people. Often this process of seeking validation reveals more information and opens door to previously inaccessible people.

10. Can you communicate – findings and concepts?

Can you talk to people and provide information to them in a digestible way? The best way to work is to not use jargon, not assume that people understand anything especially verbal references to famous people or design principals.

You need to be able to package your information in the users and stakeholders own verbal environment, so that they recognise and understand it when they hear it.

11. Can you understand and benefit from the project teams expertise?

Do you know what other people on the project do? For example do you know enough about technology to carry out research with developers to pre-scope extra user requirements.

Can you cope with the give and take that happens during development and know which things to fight for?

12. Finally do you keep your common sense active?

Can you spot a non sensible request, a great example of this was NASA spending $1,000,000 on a pen that would work in space, while Roscosmos (USSR) gave their astronauts a pencil. Can you give a reasoned non personalised argument for not doing something?

Related

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When #Agile becomes #Fragile nobody #Wins

I have been an Agile practitioner a very long time, in fact as an Instructional Designer I was very excited when Agile was created based upon Computer Human Interaction methods and thinking. As one complete fully applied process Agile is astoundingly effective at bringing together all the best capabilities within a project team and totally removing the hierarchical and often power crazed notion of single point leadership.

Agile and Structured Business

Agile, however does not remove the need for formal and structured Program Management that interfaces with and supports a more formal set of business processes. I can only say this from experience, if you have managed to get the board, finance, operations or other parts of the business to operate in a true Agile fashion please tell us how you did it. I have now worked on a programme that has attempted this, I’d say we got 40% of what we were looking for. That has to be a caveat thought it has to be true Agile, not some invention of yours that you are calling Agile to cover the fact you have made up your own process.

The Agile Team

When I’m working on an Agile project it’s really important the team is complete during all aspects of the Agile process, at enterprise level that includes;

  • User Experience Researchers and Consultants – SM*
  • Visual Designers
  • Business Analysts – SM*
  • UI Developers – SM*
  • Backend Developers
  • Security Consultants
  • Database Administrators
  • Enterprise Architects – SM*
  • Testing Team

From experience the ScrumMaster – SM* can come from any of these groups. The Scrum Master is an active participant in the project and is not an administration or leadership role. The team leads itself with support from the ScrumMaster. The ScrumMaster also produces non partisan solutions along with everyone else. If the final solution is what the ScrumMaster wanted you have not done an Agile project, just an ego trip for the person with the title ScrumMaster, who is in fact, just an old school project manager.

Agile Planning Poker is a team Exercise

Whenever I join an Agile project my first question to the team is when did you play Planning Poker. This is my first clear indication of how Agile the Agile project really is, I hear answers like “what’s that” or “the planners played it, I think” and I know from that we are all doomed!

You might think that’s a radical response, but Planning Poker is the foundation of Agile, its the point at which the Agile team;

  • Discovers the complexities, depth and breath of the project.
  • They get an indication of it’s relevance within a program.
  • They start to piece together the skills and knowledge of their teammates.
  • They begin to establish team thinking.
  • They start to understand their relative strengths and role.

It is integral to an Agile project that the team as a whole own the project, everyone is responsible for every aspect, no one throws anything over a wall to another discipline they are all in it together.

Playing Planning Poker can be done is several ways I still opt for the original method with playing cards. Your looking for an assessment of complexity from the perspective of the highly skilled persons technical knowledge. With such a diverse group of people it is rare the get agreement, however doing the first round together is important to expose Trajectory issues.

If you do the first round with everyone in you will get wildly different scores between User Experience, UI Development, Backend Development, Database Administrators and Enterprise Architecture. This is because a simple requirement in one discipline many be extraordinarily complex or even impossible in another area due to existing structures, legacy constraints, timelines or even regulation.

After the first round I separate the groups to find out what they think their score will be. I focus on four key groups who’s timelines can be vastly different and if just pushed together usually causes the project to fail or worse never succeed (we should as a culture look for ways to help people feel successful, happy appreciated people work better and harder) as it was intended, creating a desire to move the goal posts.

  • UX includes research, conceptual design and customer testing (absolutely no high fidelity design work is done in UX)
  • UI includes visual design and front-end coding
  • BE includes backend developers, security consultants, database administrators and testing team
  • A is for enterprise architects

Also remember when you get to your sprint planning the reasons for these different responses and be careful to make four sets of cards, working out where the work-stream touch-points will be so they can feed into each other at the right time.

Agile Planning Card
Agile Planning Card

I know plenty of people do this differently save money, save time but produce pretty products that people don’t want to use of can’t use, because the MVP is not viable or it never gets launched in time because the enterprise architect were were involved too late to get regulatory and legal to review and approve the product.

Summary

I’m not going to do an exhaustive review of Agile here, but the fundamental thing is you can have a Stand Up or a Sit Down to your hearts content but it won’t be Agile. You need to get the basics right play Planning Poker with the entire team to create cohesion, then specialise the Poke to to get viable information. Only when everyone’s skill and experience is involved can you be truly Agile and avoid the awful experience of a Fragile project. Fragile projects are not Agile ones except in name only the process has not been fully applied, easy to spot with people who have created their own version of Agile meaning, Not Agile.

To date my best enactment of Agile was with a .NET team, they were 3 weeks in when I joined, the team was not complete, the requirements were 50% of an A4 page and the budget £1,000,000 on this part of the development alone. The first thing I did was Planning Poker with the available team, around 40% of the final team. I found were dramatically understaffed to deliver in 6 weeks time. I went to the CFO and got a budget release of the extra 50% more staff and a 3 week reprieve to get them before the official start. From official start to completion of a .NET Business Intelligence Toolset working on a 5 day sprint plan was exactly 6 weeks to the completed version 1.0 of the software.

Karl Smith – Scrum Alliance

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