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.


Richard I Anderson said...

What has been your experience where you work? Has documenting and evangelizing user experience work played a role in moving user experience into a position of corporate influence, or has it not played such a role? If it hasn't, could it? If it has, what role has it played?

Please share your stories here or send them to me via email.

Paula Thornton said...

Since the role has only evolved in the last decade, those of use who have been in the industry longer than that have been working in some other 'fringe' activity. All along, however, we were (as we still are) operating in a no-man's-land. That is, as an unrecognized profession, we also had no career path.

I nearly started crying when I read this. It was so cathartic:
"The ability of an
organization to innovate is a pre-condition for the successful utilization of inventive
resources and new technologies. Conversely, the introduction of new technology often
presents complex opportunities and challenges for organizations, leading to changes in
managerial practices and the emergence of new organizational forms. Organizational and
technological innovations are intertwined." Source:

We're still waiting for the organizational innovations to catch up...we're orphans.

Lest anyone doubt this, I have a list of activities that I regularly use with clients. In a meeting with an IT manager and a Communications manager (both responsible for some online activities), I showed them the list of activities and asked them who was responsible for them. Like a shootout at the OK-Corral, they both whipped their index fingers out and pointed at each other.

This is the deep dark secret...everyone already thinks that what we do is being taken care of by someone else. No one really knows that no one is responsible.