Monday, August 20, 2007

Special workshop in NYC September 8

I'll be running a special, short notice workshop -- with special, short notice pricing -- on Saturday, September 8 on the edge of the East Village in New York City.

Workshop title: Moving User Experience into a Position of Greater Corporate Influence.

Workshop description:
Why is it that at a time when user experience (UX) expertise is in high demand, countless UX professionals continue to feel misunderstood, undervalued, and unable to contribute to the success of the businesses for which they work in the ways and to the extent they can and often should?

Why is it that at a time when UX is becoming a critical marketplace differentiator, countless companies continue to not utilize or position user experience professionals in such a way as to enable them to effectively contribute to the formulation of business strategy?

What can be done to change this? What can YOU do to move UX into a position of greater influence where YOU work?

Explore and formulate answers to these questions in a special workshop led by Richard Anderson, UX practice, management, and organizational strategy consultant and incoming Co-Editor-in-Chief of interactions magazine.

This highly interactive and participatory workshop will borrow elements from the very successful multi-session “Managing User Experience Groups” course Richard has co-taught in Silicon Valley, from the highly praised “Moving UX into a Position of Corporate Influence: Whose Advice Really Works?” interactive session from CHI 2007, from related workshops Richard has led within various companies, and from a multi-session “User Experience Managers and Executives Speak” course Richard will be offering in Silicon Valley next spring.

(This workshop is intended for all who want to and can impact how user experience is addressed in their places of work, but might be particularly valuable for people in management roles.)
If you'll be in the NYC area on September 8, I hope you'll consider joining us.

For more information and to register, see Victor Lombardi's Smart Experience website. Readers of my blog can use the code "FOSE" for a 10% discount off of the special short notice registration fee.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

On the advisibility of estimating ROI

Much has been written about analyzing return on investment (ROI) in order for user experience to have influence in a corporate context. And as I detailed in "Calculating return on investment," some have argued that such analyses are and have been essential, while others have argued that dependence on ROI calculations can be and has been excessive and detrimental.

One of the examples I referenced in that blog entry was the major role estimating ROI had played at eBay for several years. Their process for creating the business case for user experience projects was described by Jeff Herman in a paper presented at CHI 2004 and again by Christian Rohrer in a presentation made in January 2007.

However, things have been changing at eBay.

You might have seen some hint of this in how President and CEO Meg Whitman recently described user experience as one of eBay's main strategic priorities.

What has been happening behind the scenes?

One of the changes made has been to how they address ROI.

eBay's Justin Miller talked about this during the session I led at CHI 2007 entitled, "Moving UX into a Position of Corporate Influence: Whose Advice Really Works?":
"At eBay, as Richard mentioned, we have changed significantly, but (not only regarding) user experience. As a company, we had much more demand than we had supply in terms of executing on projects, so we developed ROI calculations for every project that we wanted to do, whether it was user experience related or some other thing. We discussed not doing it for the user experience pieces, but we would have been the only ones not doing it and trying to make the case that we shouldn't need to do it. The fact is, the reason we are at the company -- the reason we've been hired and have grown our group significantly is to drive ROI -- to drive revenue, to drive value. So, we should be able to show that. We've had a lot of success, and we've presented and talked about it. I don't hold it against my company for saying you guys need to do it, because we were doing that for everyone.

Recently, however, we looked at those calculations -- we looked at what everyone had been presenting over the past years. After someone would present their ROI estimates, they would come back a year later and say "here is how we did..." We looked at the results and found that at least 90% of us came back and said, "we did great." But when we looked at the return that we should have gotten if every one of those projects actually delivered what they predicted, we learned that we would have 10 times the revenue of what we have today. We realized that looking at ROI on a project by project basis was not the right approach, whether it was the user experience or otherwise. We needed to be looking at the user experience and other things at a higher level.

So, now we are focused on the initiatives. We are not focused on the individual projects. What are we trying to go after? We are, for example, trying to increase conversion rate, so when a buyer looks at a listing when they come to a site, what percentage actually bid on an item? That is the kind of thing we are looking at -- at whether we able to move those metrics, not at whether a particular project moved the needle by some percentage. And that has had a huge impact and changed the morale of employees, focusing less on the details and the tactics, and focusing more on the big picture, because you can really understand that if you can generate a change at the high level, that has a big impact."
Hence, is estimating ROI advisable? Again, many respond with a blanket, "yes."