In my work I meet with many companies who have jumped aboard the Agile train. Their journeys have had mixed results with a few organizations truly adopting agile values while others (the majority) adopt agile rituals more than anything else. Regardless of their dedication to true transformation, all of these companies are recognizing that user experience and design are critical to their success. They’re investing in design leaders and practitioners but continue to struggle to integrate the user-centric approach these colleagues advocate. 2016 drove an organizational understanding and demand for these skills. 2017 will provide the opportunity to integrate UX skills in more meaningful ways. Why? Two reasons:
- Outcome-based management — Regardless of the maturity of their process most companies now recognize that out-featuring your competition is not how you win in the market. Instead, delighting your customer, making it easy and efficient for them to achieve a goal and providing a modern experience are the factors that keep customers loyal. In a software-driven world, these are measurable success criteria. Companies will increasingly be asking their teams to achieve these outcomes rather than simply shipping features (aka output). This trend will highlight the need for user-centric teams — cross-functional teams that truly understand the motivation behind user actions and are continuously optimizing the customer experience towards those needs. UX’ers will have the opportunity to lead many of these efforts, bring teams closer to their customers and power the engine that drives market-based evidence into how the teams work.
- Leadership empathy gap — UX leaders have a new opportunity in 2017 as well. As companies large and small hire VP+ level designers they have executive leadership’s ear. These are executives who often have an industrial-era management mindset. And it’s served them well until now. They believe that strategy, direction and creativity emanate from the executive suite. As new UX leaders get installed, it’s their responsibility (and unique opportunity) to bring empathy to the executive suite. These leaders have bought into agile but they think it simply amps up production. UX leaders in these orgs now have the opportunity to show how agile rituals — short cycles, continuous feedback loops and a relentless focus on the customer — can yield far organizational agility (values) through increased usage, loyalty and revenue.You can see these conversations start to play out already in some of the more enlightened companies. We’ve (Josh Seiden & I) covered these topics extensively in our new book Sense & Respond and strongly believe that this is the future of management, leadership and great customer experiences.