Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Lifetime Award

When Peter O'Toole was informed that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was to present him with an honorary lifetime award in 2003, "he originally intended to turn it down feeling that the lifetime award signaled the end of his career. He wrote the Academy a letter stating that he was 'still in the game'."

Peter's recent, wonderful Oscar-nominated performance in Venus and his upcoming appearances in several other movies shows how right he was.

At CHI 2007 this spring, SIGCHI will be giving me its Lifetime Service Award, even though I, too, am "still in the game." Peter O'Toole was decades older when he wrote that letter than I am now, but I greatly appreciate the award and am happy to have been able to contribute to the field worldwide via SIGCHI.

Here is what SIGCHI has published about me in its award announcement:
"Richard I. Anderson is a user experience practice, management, and organizational development consultant with more than 20 years of experience. He was on the founding committee and served as program chair (1990-2002) and chair (first elected chair) of BayCHI, the largest chapter of SIGCHI, but has also traveled around the world growing and facilitating SIGCHI chapters internationally. Richard was the SIGCHI Local Chapters Chair for 5 years, from 1996-2001. He authored numerous SIGCHI Bulletin articles, wherein he offered case studies, advice and support for local SIG leadership. He organized and led popular annual workshops for chapter leaders at the CHI conference. Richard also served as a member of 4 CHI conference committees (including the upcoming CHI '08) and served as the CHI 2005 Development Consortium Chair, in addition to serving on the committee for 3 DUX conferences. Finally, Richard has authored multiple articles for interactions magazine. Through his leadership, he has facilitated and spread the word about human-computer interaction literally around the world."
I've written about some of the above-referenced work in various places. For example, in "Offshoring user experience work," I wrote:
"As SIGCHI's Local Chapters Chair for 5 years, I somewhat unknowingly helped make offshoring of user experience work a fact of life, working with people around the world to help them set up and successfully lead and manage regional and national HCI communities. Countries in which I helped establish and grow SIGCHI chapters included India, Russia, Romania, Brazil, Korea, South Africa, Poland, Mexico, Czech Republic, Israel, Chile, New Zealand, and Bulgaria, many of which are identified in a January 2006 issue of BusinessWeek as countries competing for offshore outsourcing by U.S. and Western European companies."
In "1996-2001 CHI Local SIGs Column Sampler," I review the many articles I wrote and edited about forming, leading, and promoting professional organizations around the world. Many of them are still relevant and of value to (potential) chapter leaders of any professional association, not just SIGCHI, and to some extent even to (potential) leaders of user experience organizations in for-profit companies, though that was not my intent.

A list of the dozens of BayCHI programs I put together is still accessible on my website, though it and additional information about each program can now be found on BayCHI's website.

I still get called "Mr. BayCHI" every so often, even though I ended my 12-year stint as BayCHI Program Chair and emcee a few years ago. And, delightfully, I still communicate with and run into people from around the world that I worked with as SIGCHI's Local Chapters Chair.

I miss all that work sometimes. I still lend SIGCHI a bit of a hand, but my professional association attention has shifted more towards the cross-disciplinary focus of UXnet, for which I am a member of the Board of Directors. (UXnet is still in its early stages of development, but it recently launched an Organizations network to facilitate communication and collaboration among major non-profit, user experience related organizations; SIGCHI is among the network's initial members. Additionally, BayCHI has helped sponsor the UXnet ambassadors in the San Francisco Bay Area.)

I most miss my work for SIGCHI in and for other countries. I have done other work in other countries, but I am interested in working and having an impact on work in other countries much more. So, if you are, for example, looking for someone to oversee and coordinate development of your international user experience research and design practice and organization...

No, of course I'm not comparing myself to Peter O'Toole, and, unfortunately, I never did make it to the Arabian desert, as he did as T.E. Lawrence.

The quote about Peter O'Toole comes from the Internet Movie Database.

Special thanks to Marilyn Tremaine.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Documenting and evangelizing user experience work

Many have argued that explaining and advocating for user experience work is a critical part of every user experience professional's job.

And many have provided guidance for doing so better. Examples include:
Our Managing User Experience Groups course also addresses this topic, providing guidance from a number of sources.

Yet, others have argued that user experience professionals excessively discuss the nature of their work -- that others don't really care nor should care or will just become concerned, and that process documents end up not getting followed anyway. As Bloomer and Wolfe state in Building and Managing a Successful User Experience Team:
"Teams need to avoid the role of evangelist for user-centered design."
Is it truly never advisable to document and evangelize user experience work?

This issue is among several that will be addressed by a group of people in senior management roles from a mix of companies during a session I'll be leading at CHI 2007 -- a session entitled, "Moving User Experience into a Position of Corporate Influence: Whose Advice Really Works?". Participants will describe the roles, large and small, that documenting and evangelizing user experience work have played in their workplaces, and will discuss the extent to which such efforts were important to achieving corporate influence.

As I reported in earlier postings, "ownership of user-customer experience" and "organizational positioning" are among the other issues that will also be addressed during that session. And I'll address all these issues further as well as the CHI conference session itself in upcoming blog entries.

Monday, February 12, 2007

DUX 2007

DUX (Designing for User eXperiences) 2007 :: Chicago
November 5 - 7, 2007

Theme: Social media and networks are producing a new set of expectations regarding people's ability to contribute, create, personalize, and share information.

These new expectations are changing the roles, methods and responsibilities of Designers and Researchers. The effects are being realized through:
  • Ease of access to new types of information
  • Explosion and redefining of online communities
  • Emergence of new tools and capabilities
  • Significant shifts to the worlds of product development, advertising, marketing, and customer service
DUX2007 will surface issues and strive to define the role of designers in this time of shifting spaces.
Location: Intercontinental Hotel (on Magnificent Mile)
505 North Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611 USA

The conference website should be launching later this week.

Conference Chairs (chairs at
Parrish Hanna, SIGCHI
Joseph O'Sullivan, AIGA
John Finnegan, SIGGRAPH

Friday, February 09, 2007

Mobile persuasion in short, high-speed bursts

The design of the "conference experience" is an interest of mine, as one who has played various roles in designing different portions of conference experiences and, of course, as one who prefers to have a good experience at conferences I attend.

I was particularly interested in the design of the experience of the one-day, single-track Mobile Persuasion conference held at Stanford University last Friday.

The conference content was itself of great interest. The diverse collection of topics addressed included augmenting reality with mobile technology, using cell phones as performance coaches, using cell phones to facilitate social change, mobile advertising, mobile dating, using mobile technology for health and wellness, and the relationships people have with their mobile phones. Of particular interest to me, as one who has engaged in, managed, and advocated "ethnographic" research in business (see, for example, "Designing for emerging, non-western markets"), was the session on the different roles mobile phones play in different cultures.

Thirty-one speakers, not counting session moderators, were spread across 8 sessions, limiting each presentation to just a few minutes. "I thought the communicated limit of 9 minutes for my presentation was just a typo," proclaimed one speaker in the men's room. Some speakers were permitted even less time. And in the final "lessons learned" wrap-up session, each of the 4 speakers who were asked to share their interpretations of what they heard and saw during the previous 7 sessions were permitted to speak no more than 30 seconds at a time (each could speak several times, but for no longer than 30 seconds each time). And everyone was carefully timed.

Such limits can prompt experiences and expressions of frustration from speakers and attendees alike, unless each session and each piece thereof is appropriately designed. As suggested earlier, not quite all of the speakers were fully prepared to be constrained by such time limits; as Jeremy Lind blogged, some presenters were "skipping and flipping their slides (note to self: always prepare your slides for the right time limit)." And most presentations appeared to be independently prepared, without much knowledge of or reference to the contributions of other participants in the same session.

Yet, most speakers were ready for and, thankfully, didn't fight the time limit. And, in my view, the final session of the day in which the participants could speak in only 30-second bursts was greatly enhanced by that constraint, making the session more conversational -- more interactive, prompting more contrasts and comparisons of perspectives and resulting in comments that leveraged and built off of the comments of others.

I applaud the jam-packed sessions and the associated time constraints imposed by Conference Chair BJ Fogg, who had previously participated as a presenter in a conference program with similarly jam-packed sessions and for which I was a Program Chair -- DUX 2003.

Since so much mobile persuasion itself occurs in short, high-speed bursts, ...

Note that the above posting is not a comprehensive review of the conference experience. Among conference features not mentioned were the many small, tall tables intended to attract attendees during breaks for discussions about the different mobile persuasion topics displayed on signs above the tables. And there were the fun giveaways that could be received only if an attendee returned from a break on time (that BJ is a stickler for time, no?). And...

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Does it matter where User Experience is positioned in your corporate structure?

Last May, I posted a lengthy blog entry entitled, "Where should 'User Experience' be positioned in your company?" that received a great deal of attention. In it, I referenced several factors to consider when determining organizational positioning. Among them:
  • what "user experience" means in the company
  • the nature of and effect on working relationships
  • organizational goals
  • who has the power
  • the corporate culture
I also referenced how organizational positioning is considered to be very important to a lot of people, including a lot of User Experience Managers, Directors, and VPs, and including everyone who had taken our Managing User Experience Groups course (many of whom were in user experience management positions). Indeed, figuring out where User Experience should be positioned is one of the many things students of the course work on, as reflected in the nearby photo.

And since last May, I've learned about additional situations in which organizational positioning appeared to be impactful. For example, Peter Merholz wrote about "the frozen middle" in August of 2006:
“The people we worked with were deep within ‘interactive marketing.’ Their lives were the website. They didn’t really know the people who worked on the monthly statements or at the call center. And even if they did, they didn’t have the time to collaborate with them -- they had too much on their plates already. …our contacts understood the need for addressing the customer’s experience across multiple channels and media. But they couldn’t move on it.”
However, in March of last year, Forrester Research published a report entitled, "Culture and Process Drive Better Customer Experiences" that challenged the importance of organizational positioning:
"Companies place a high priority on improving customer experience — and they cite a lack of organizational alignment as their top obstacle to making improvements. But our interviews with experts show that there is no single organizational structure that paves the way for delivering better customer experiences. Cultural factors and internal processes matter far more than organization."
While I agree that cultural factors and internal processes are very important, does the fact "that there is no single organizational structure that paves the way for delivering better customer experiences" mean that organizational structure has little impact? I don't think so.

Can't organizational positioning impact culture and internal process? Aren't culture and internal process among the factors to consider when determining organizational positioning?

Can culture and process trump any organizational positioning?

This issue is among several that will be addressed by a group of people in senior management roles from a mix of companies during a session I'll be leading at CHI 2007 -- a session entitled, "Moving User Experience into a Position of Corporate Influence: Whose Advice Really Works?"

As I reported last month, "ownership of the user-customer experience" is another of the issues that will be addressed during that session. And, of course, I'll address all those issues as well as the CHI conference session itself further in upcoming blog entries.