OD FAQs | How do you convince the executive of the value of user experience design?

During the AIMIA Digital Customer Experience forum, that I chaired this morning, there was considerable discussion about how to justify the work UX people do and have it accepted as part of the business culture.  Difficulties with acceptance often occur in large enterprise where traditional cultures are strong and therefore it is difficult to update process. However, the landscape is changing.

I have been encouraged in recent years that enterprise has accepted the importance of customer (and staff) research during the product development process.  Companies like Telstra, Fairfax, Sensis, News Corp, Westpac, BT Financial and CBA have their own internal customer experience teams.  Most importantly, these teams are not just working on website and mobile apps. The great ones are shaping the entire business! UX Leads are overseeing product design, not just focussing on the digital bits. 

Another trend for these teams, that has been slow to take off in Australia, is the consideration of more than just the technology interaction during the design process.  Great UX teams are thinking about how the entier customer journey is ‘designed’. Here’s a concept from Opher Yom-Tov, from BT Financial and previously IDEO.

 The design of a train, in Opher’s example, did not just consider the configuration of the carriage and seating. You can see in the image that the “Train Ride” is the 8th step in the process. If you don’t design the 7 steps before that, then the passenger might not even board the train!

So how do companies make this happen?

One project at a time.
Don’t use too many motherhood statements of user experience principles and try to preach them to the uninitiated. Instead do a project, do it properly and incorporate processes that engage users on the journey.  The outcomes will speak for themselves.


Seb Chan from The PowerHouse Museum, reckons that sharing results of research is an important part of the UX sales process. Even if you don’t have to, make sure that everyone knows that there is customer research available in a central repository (and that they can access it). The way that Seb encouraged sharing at the Powerhouse was to set up internal company blogs, where people began regularly sharing their insights from different projects. These blogs became so popular that they are now open to the World!


Opher suggested that you should treat the project as an education process where the business and technical stakeholders and project team members are taught what UX design means and why it is important. At project team meetings let people know what they are there and what each step will do for the project. When customers are engaged in the project take photos, these will be useful later, when you need to show everyone what you did.

Once these projects are launched and the business sees success the exec will come round to the user experience way of thinking.