Saturday, October 10, 2009

Organizational and market maturity

Jon Kolko and I have been discussing whether the pace of corporate adoption and acceptance of comprehensive and strategic designer participation in business has been increasing. Look for a portion of that discussion in a piece we'll be calling something like "On designers as catalytic agents..." to appear in interactions cafe, our conclusion to the January+February 2010 issue of interactions magazine.

While we were having that discussion, Charles Kreitzberg kicked off a short discussion in IxDA's discussion list on what you need to say to a CEO to convince him or her of the need for "user experience design" in a company. As if all it takes is the right collection of words...

A response to Charles suggested that the maturity of the market the company is in is likely to impact the effectiveness of such a collection of words. And though Jon and I were talking about designer participation in a broader sense -- i.e., beyond user experience design, we discussed the concept of market maturity as well as corporate maturity, both of which have been addressed in numerous discussions over the years and for which numerous scales have been delineated. Since many may not be familiar with those scales, I thought I'd point to a few here.

Actually, I've pointed to a couple already in this blog. In "Developing user-centered tools for strategic business planning," I pointed to Jess McMullin's 2005 "design maturity continuum." Jess updated it a tad in December of 2008 and published the image of this version that appears nearby (click to enlarge). In his December 2008 post, Jess points out that his design maturity continuum is actually additive -- each higher level represents the addition of greater responsibility and scope for design.

Most other corporate scales I've seen are not additive but instead describe different stages organizations (or parts thereof) pass through. The first scales of this nature that I ever saw came from IBM Consulting in the early- to mid-90s and were used to rate the "usability management maturity" of their clients. Two of IBM's several scales, which appeared in little blue books they'd give to their clients, appear below:

HCI Resources
  1. Little or no investment in qualified people, prototype/simulation tools, equipment, and/or usability evaluation facilities.
  2. Some qualified people are available. There is limited availability of tools and equipment. A usability evaluation facility is available.
  3. Sufficient investment made in qualified people/tools. Budget for user involvement exists.
  4. Resources are applied effectively at proper stages and levels of the development process.
  5. HCI resources are fundamental to the development process and considered essential in planning product costs.
Integrated Design
  1. Various aspects of the design (panels, helps, pubs, installation, etc.) are designed separately or added late in the cycle.
  2. The need for interdisciplinary design teams is recognized, but efforts are uncoordinated.
  3. Plans for integrated design exist and are executed on a selective basis.
  4. Integrated design teams are normally established. Teams are effective in improving overall usability.
  5. All aspects of design evolve equally and in parallel. Designs provide users with solutions to needs.
In a 1994 book chapter, Kate Ehrlich and Janice Rohn delineated four stages of organizational acceptance of user-centered design. They are described in the table below (click to enlarge) which I took from Timo Jokela's 2001 dissertation.

Variations and extensions of this have appeared in a couple of international "standards," including the 1998 "ISO/DIS 13407 Human Centred Design for Interactive Systems":
0. Need unrecognized
1. Need recognized
2. Considered & encouraged
3. Implemented
4. Integrated
5. Institutionalized
Jakob Nielsen's 2006 version of such a scale -- which I've discussed in two earlier blog entries, including "Changing the pace or course of a large ship" -- combines elements found in all the above scales:
Stage 1: Hostility toward usability
Stage 2: Developer-centered usability
Stage 3: Skunkworks usability
Stage 4: Dedicated usability budget
Stage 5: Managed usability
Stage 6: Systematic usability process
Stage 7: Integrated user-centered design
Stage 8: User-driven corporation
(See "Corporate Usability Maturity: Stages 1-4 and Stages 5-8.")

Other such scales -- older and newer -- exist, but they look a lot alike though they tend to not be accompanied by references to any of the others. One of the more recent examples of these is Forrester's five levels of customer experience maturity, shown nearby via an image from a Bruce Temkin July 2009 blog posting.

Have you found any of these types of scales to be of help to you in places at which you have worked? Have you observed any corporate progressions not addressed in the scales described here that you think should be captured in a scale? (I can think of a couple.)

As for market maturity, the example referenced in the IxDA list discussion should suffice -- the four stages delineated by Jared Spool earlier this year (see "Deriving Design Strategy from Market Maturity: Part 1 and Part 2"):
  1. The Technology is Worth the Pain (such as "when a new product category emerges," there are "no competitors or the users have no choice")
  2. Building Out the Features (which usually happens "once a competitor joins you in a category" in order to catch up)
  3. Focus on the Experience (when "customers stop focusing on new features and start asking for simplicity")
  4. Supporting a Commodity (when "the things we're designing are embedded into bigger experiences")
Do such stages of market maturity trump the delineated stages of organizational maturity? Not at all, but they intersect. Consider both when trying to figure out what needs to be done for designers to be more effective and/or to expand their role in a company.