What every CIO needs to know about user experience design

by Eric Schaffer, Human Factors International, August 22, 2012

While CIOs are well prepared to deliver efficient and reliable technological solutions, they generally have little knowledge of the user experience field

With the commoditization of hardware and software, organizations have started to look to user experience design as their key differentiator. In a recent Forrester study, 93 percent of organizations see customer experience as a key strategic differentiator. So, you are sure to be asked to make more usable and compelling applications. But what do you do?
While CIOs are well prepared to deliver efficient and reliable technological solutions, they generally have very little knowledge of the user experience field. So, it’s likely that you won’t be very effective. And we see CIOs floundering worldwide. It is a bit painful.
What does NOT work….
  • Giving lectures about how everyone must consider the customer.
  • Hiring a few customer experience professionals
  • Hiring a customer experience vendor that is really just a graphics company
  • Hiring a customer experience vendor
  • Hiring a LOT of customer experience vendors (that is even worse than one)
  • Designing it yourself
  • Asking for a iPhone application, personalization, responsive design or other new technology
What DOES work…

Recognize that there is no magic blue pill that makes a successful user experience design practice.  You need to:

  • Be or assign an executive champion and full time manager of customer centricity
  • Find a vendor who can help guide the process and has a suite of IP so you don’t have to reinvent methods, training, standards, etc.
  • Develop a UX strategy roadmap
  • Put in place the infrastructure (methods, standards, knowledge management, etc)
  • Setup the organizational structure and staffing (with training and certification)
Once this practice is set up, pay attention to the issue of governance. Because that is the area that is likely to be a problem once you are on the path to a mature practice in customer centered design.
But, But…Isn’t there a role for customer experience vendors? Customer experience is too important to your organization to be entrusted to a vendor.  And if you entrusted it to multiple vendors, without a strong framework, you will get a set of  inconsistent and disjointed deliveries and very little ability to reuse past research and design thinking.

With a mature internal practice you can harness external vendors for supplemental support and facilities. But, you must have an internal practice that is mature and industrial strength. That is the global best practice. And most organizations are headed in that direction.


- Dr Eric Schaffer is the founder and CEO of Human Factors International, Inc. (HFI). In the last three decades, Dr Eric Schaffer has become known as the visionary who recognized that usability would be the driving force in the "Third Wave of the Information Age," following both hardware and software as the previous key differentiators.

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