An experience designer at a technology company

Clive Grinyer
Clive Grinyer wrote a highly honest, yet optimistic post about his experience of working in a hardcore technology company (Cisco) as a user experience designer.

It starts off with a very recognisable problem description:

“In the conventional industrial product development process at that time, my design specification was handed to a mechanical engineer, with specialisms in a greater level of detail of material and process. It was a shock to then realise that the design was treated as merely a guide, where the engineer would take hold of the reigns and steer the object in whatever route made the production easier and more robust. Persuading engineering specialists of all types, mechanical, electronic, software and even procurement that the user/ customer point of view and desire was paramount and that design decisions should be around their needs, was the challenge, the same for small UK companies and global consumer electronic companies. It is only in exceptional circumstances, such as at Apple, where their leadership, investment and strategy embraces those values, that you see the full impact.

In the mobile world I saw a culture again dominated by technology and decisions and assumptions made at every level that impacted badly on the end experience of the user. This might be technology developed without any thought of how it would be used, or 3rd party application providers incapable of customising or improving usablity.”

But Clive is optimistic, as he has found a way of making a difference in this context:

“So for the last 7 months I have taken all these developments and developed a methodology that does three very simple things.

1. Talk about people.
[…] It’s a standard tool of design but creating personas that replay what starts of as data from research or insight from focus groups as believable, pinchable representations that you feel you know is very powerful and useful tool. It focuses people understanding of whom they are creating things for and helps to drive decisions around real people, away from the engineer or technical or even business perspective. […]

2. Discover the customer journey.
[…] Because of the vertical way that companies are organised, almost nobody ever gets to experience the journey the way a customer does, travelling horizontally across the different touchpoints and business functions. […] The real customer journey is always a revelation to all, from managers to chief executives alike.

3. Tell stories of how it could be.
[…] Visualisation is very important in reaching shared understandings of what something is, showing that to real people and understanding the impact of any decision on that vision.”

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