Saturday, June 30, 2007

Hail to the Chief!

From a press release of last week:
"Cleveland Clinic has named M. Bridget Duffy, M.D., Chief Experience Officer, a newly created role designed to ensure all aspects of the patient experience at Cleveland Clinic meet the highest standards.

'We recognize that delivering World Class healthcare requires a lot more than providing patients with access to leading-edge treatments and technologies,' said Delos M. 'Toby' Cosgrove, M.D., CEO and President of Cleveland Clinic. 'As a leading healthcare provider, we must exceed the expectations of those we serve, offering compassion, showing empathy and providing patients with the responsiveness they deserve. With her passion for patient-centered initiatives, Dr. Duffy is the ideal person to oversee the Clinic’s efforts to provide a world-class patient experience.'

As Chief Experience Officer, Dr. Duffy will advance Cleveland Clinic’s Patient First Initiative by creating a culture that addresses the emotional and physical experience for the patient, restores empathy as a core value and recognizes the central role that employees play in delivering an exceptional patient experience."
During May of 2005, I posted an article entitled "The Chief Experience Officer" in my blog, refering to Challis Hodge's 2001 description of the role ("...should ensure that an organization delivers the appropriate experience at every point of contact it makes with the public") and to Jeffrey Rayport's March 2005 related description and his recommendation that companies create the position:
"To ensure desirable customer experiences, companies must appoint dedicated chief experience officers. Call this individual the 'other' CEO—or, as we prefer, the CXO (not to be confused with the commonly used term that refers to any C-level executive)."
In an article published later that year, Bill Buxton argued for the need for a CDO:
"Is design leadership an executive level position? Do you have a Chief Design Officer reporting to the president? My view is that if you do not, you are not serious about design or innovation. Furthermore, you are telegraphing this fact to all of your employees, along with a clear message that they need not be either. As a result, you might as well fire all of your creative people, since you are setting them up to fail anyhow."
During 2006, James Gilmore and Joseph Pine of "The Experience Economy" fame chimed in with an article entitled, "Wanted: Chief eXperience Officers," and Bruce Temkin of Forrester Research began to advocate for a CC/EO -- a Chief Customer/Experience Officer. This year, additional advocates have surfaced (e.g., see "The New CEO -- Chief Experience Officer").

However, in the upcoming issue of interactions magazine, Jonathan Arnowitz writes:
"Tuesday's offerings (of CHI 2007) included a panel organized by Richard Anderson titled, 'Moving UX into a Position of Corporate Influence: Whose Advice Really Works?' Much to our surprise, the panelists all seemed to scoff at the idea Richard posed: the need for a chief design officer or chief user experience officer or an alternate C-level design presence. One commentator said, 'The last thing you want is the board dictating the colors or fonts or other designs.'"
Jonathan did not agree:
"The panelists here were completely off base. The chief design officer (CDO) concept is meant to avoid this very thing. A CDO should set the design strategy for the company and make sure it stays on course. Being a C-level officer, the CDO has enough clout to keep boardroom design from taking place."
Why did my panelists not like the idea?

Panelist Secil Watson, Sr. VP of Internet Channel Strategy at Wells Fargo, said:
"My one worry is that there are only so many things you can divide up in terms of accountability, so if you say you are the Chief Experience Officer, there is not much that you are accountable for yourself. ...that accountability truly lies across the organization."
Blogger Eric Mattson appears to agree with Secil, as suggested by his words of earlier in the year:
"Experiences are core to a multitude of management roles already in existence. The last thing you want to do is seperate responsibility for great experiences from marketing, customer service, sales, training and product development.

It's like hiring a chief ethics officer to make sure your organization is honest."
Two panelists argued that the role of the CXO (or CDO or CC/EO) should be played by the CEO (i.e., the Chief Executive Officer). Indeed, Jonathan Arnowitz and others claim that the CXO and CEO are one and the same at Apple. But few CEOs can do what Steve Jobs does when it comes to design and user experience. (Plus, it is not necessarily the case that a successful CXO need be as "hands-on" as Steve Jobs.)

Panelist Jim Nieters, Sr. Manager of User Experience Design at Cisco, argued that it would be difficult for anyone in such a role to have anything but symbolic value at Cisco:
"There is a Senior VP in charge of our security products -- that person defines strategy. Our Chief Security Officer is more of a visible function -- more of a political function. That person goes and talks with people out in Washington and that kind of thing. So, I'm not sure that a Chief Experience Officer would be able to make an impact in the company, because we are very stove-piped as a company -- we have business units and technology groups -- it is like a kingdom -- every business unit is its own profit and loss center, and each of the executives owns everything..."
Panelist Jeremy Ashley, VP of Applications User Experience at Oracle, was the panelist who expressed concern about "the board dictating the colors or fonts or other designs." However, he also said "it would be very good to have an advocate at that level, especially because then that advocate also controls budget, and we all know that budget is king."

And panelist Justin Miller, Sr. Director of Product at eBay for Europe, had this to say:
"I mentioned earlier that I don't think having a Chief Experience Officer is the right direction, because you don't want to have all of your other organizations not focused on it. But where I think we generally get stuck -- and maybe this is true industry-wide -- but certainly at eBay, is that we think of the user experience of the site, or the user experience of whatever product. I think that is a very narrow view.

What we have got to be thinking about is the complete user experience, the holistic user experience, which includes the word of mouth they hear, the marketing they see, the experience they have on the site, the experience our customers have when they talk to customer support, ... All of that is part of the user experience, and I haven't seen very many companies tackle that issue. That is a place for a C-level user experience person -- someone who can be looking across the organizations, someone who is not directly responsible for the user experience on the site, but helping customer support, marketing, the product or website, etc. work together to create a holistic, collective, positive user experience that reflects the brand promise."
However, Justin's interpretation of the role might not be equivalent to Jonathan's. Lou Carbone has expressed concern about multiple interpretations, writing that the "definition and interpretation of the role and function of a Chief Experience Officer tends to be all over the board..."

Consider, for example, what Gilmore and Pine identify as the CXO's primary responsibility: to "develop, launch, manage and refresh a rich portfolio of paid-for experiences...created specifically to generate new sources of revenue and profits in an increasingly commoditized world."

Hmm... That definition and interpretation appears to be far different from that intended by the people at Cleveland Clinic or by most others referenced in this article.

Carbone's words of caution continue: "in far too many instances, both the people appointing the chief experience officer and the individual that’s appointed, don’t have the foggiest notion of what that role and function entail."

Challis Hodge, Jeffrey Rayport, Jonathan Arnowitz, Bill Buxton, Bruce Temkin, and Justin Miller are among those who have some pretty clear notions which, while not necessarily equivalent, would benefit lots of companies.

Quoting Jeffrey Rayport:
"The new executive must relentlessly focus on unifying the disparate functions of human resources, marketing, operations, sales, service, and technology. For most companies, such integration suggests an unholy alliance of warring fiefdoms and silos, and that's precisely why the C-suite needs an individual with the power and authority to deliver integrated experiences for customers."
As Jonathan entitled his upcoming interactions magazine article, "Enter the Chief Design Officer! Hail to the Chief!"

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Already at work as Incoming Editors-in-Chief of "interactions" magazine

Recently, Jon Kolko and I were appointed the next Editors-in-Chief of interactions magazine. (That is Jon at right on the cover of his recently published book.)

Though our first issue will not appear until January 2008, we have been working on fleshing out our vision for the publication, reconceptualizing the editorial board and structure, extending invitations of participation, meeting editorial and design staff, developing a strategy for a web presence, and much more.

Last month, I asked "How would you change 'interactions' magazine? What is missing? How could it be improved? How could it become more valuable to you?"

I've received responses from many, but I look forward to also receiving a response from you.

Many thanks to Ken Korman, Denise Doig, Mark Mandelbaum, Brooke Hardy, Andrij Borys, Alicia Kubista, and others for helping to make our interactions meetings in New York City both highly productive and enjoyable.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Breaking silos

In an April blog posting entitled, "Breaking silos," David Armano described the value of shared project ownership among multiple Flash/Ajax developers in his place of work.
"Each touches a part of the project... Sometimes it's at the same time. Other times it's not. No one has clear ownership... Territories don't exist... It's a shared goal -- a purpose. ... It's organic. It's collaborative. It works."
And he suggests that others can benefit similarly:
"Tip for all the executives out there. ... If you find yourself working in silos -- ask yourself why this is. If our people in the trenches can work this way -- so can we."
However, is sharing ownership across disciplines or functions or business units like sharing ownership among multiple Flash/Ajax developers?

In the world of user experience, one of the challenges to shared ownership across disciplines is the lack of respect some disciplines have for others. Bill Buxton and Cliff Nass discussed the difficulty some people have trusting the expertise of others during my interview of the two of them on stage at CHI 99. Some of Cliff's words on this matter:
"There's been this idea that somehow design is this richy democratic process where we all listen to each other, we're all expert, we all take each other seriously. I don't think that is fully true. I think a better model is that we figure out who knows the most about an area and listen to them most closely. The artist should listen to the social scientists about social science and to the technologists about informed about the true constraints and the opportunities. But the artists have to be trusted to do art; social scientists and technologists shouldn't be doing art. Nor should artists be doing technology. Since it's really hard to be good at one of these things...let alone two or even three...I think that division of labor makes sense. This idea of participatory design is a good one, but not when it means the abdication of expertise.

I was once teaching a class at Stanford, which often has these democratic impulses, and I said, 'I can't remember who said this particular quotation: A or B.' One of the students raised their hand and said, 'Well, let's take a vote on it!' That idea about voting about facts...about voting about what's true, while it is charming and feels good, doesn't result in the best designs."
Some of Bill's words:
"I want to find out how to have the skill of user interface design understood so that people will respect it in the same way that they respect the skill of hacking an operating system or designing a microprocessor. Since the skill of design is not well understood, everybody is an expert, and they all have an equal vote. There's no other discipline that I'm aware of where everybody has an equal vote regardless of their skill or expertise."
Bill said similar things during a presentation at Stanford University earlier this month, telling a story about how the CFO and Head of HR had all sorts of input to product design at Alias | Wavefront (where Bill was Chief Scientist for many years), yet Bill was permitted no input into how corporate finances were handled.

Also earlier this month, the VP of a large user experience organization told me about having earlier in the day cut off a marketing manager who, during a design review, was about to recommend changes to some wording on a redesigned webpage. He explained to the marketing manager that the content personnel had that part of the design covered, and he told me of how his organization's content managers were just starting to get their feet under them again after having had their work messed up for a very long time by product managers. (See "Borrowing from the field of child development..." for references to more stories of this nature.)

However, in a blog entry I posted in March (a posting recently republished in UX Magazine), I referenced situations in which "checking your disciplines at the door" can be beneficial.

And as Claudia Kotchka, VP of Design Innovation & Strategy at P&G, argued during her recent presentation at Stanford, "turf wars are unproductive and never lead to design succeeding."

The issue of ownership of the user experience was among several issues addressed during a CHI conference session I led last month, and session participants had differing perspectives on this issue. One participant advocating shared ownership was Secil Watson, Senior VP of Internet Channel Strategy at Wells Fargo. In my view, Secil's perspective is particularly insightful, as reflected in her words below which come from communication with me prior to the conference session:
"In our Internet channel strategy team, ... we have different disciplines represented: UI design, IA, content strategy, UI development, customer communications, servicing experience, product management, strategic planning, market research, user research, syndicated research, metrics analysis, statistical modelling, process consulting and business and technical architecture.

Their collective goal is to create positive customer experiences, which we believe lead to long term customer value. We think that we can only arrive at positive customer experiences if we collaborate. None of the disciplines can arrive at the right solution in their silos, since they each have a limited vantage point.

The (nearby) 'clover diagram' shows the key questions we all ask, regardless of our competencies. It also shows how achieving positive customer experiences presents an optimization problem. It's not about 'putting the customer at the center'. It's about finding a solution that meets multiple objectives. Finding the solutions require three things: 1. asking the right questions 2. Knowing who to go to to get the right answers 3. Having a culture that supports cross group collaboration (facilitating giving and receiving of help).

Collaboration and integrated work practices are critical. No one discipline can come up with the right answer - they would all only be able to 'locally optimize' their solutions. But putting everyone in the same organization, under the same roof, in the same room are also impractical solutions.

The change has to occur over time and be culturally encouraged: Individuals from different disciplines should know when to ask for another discipline's help, tools and opinions. To facilitate this information sharing, it's also critical that disciplines are open to sharing their tools and findings with other groups.

Asking for and offering help, tools and advice creates an economy of insight. And good insights drive organizations towards a culture that starts asking the right questions more often. At the same time, individuals become better able to connect to the right groups to get the answers to their questions.

My definition of a 'customer centric' culture is where people are asking the right questions to the right people, who are able and willing to collaborate to provide their insights. In such a culture, over time, individuals ask the right questions more often and get the right answers more often. This is a reinforcing feedback loop. As this culture takes hold, more and more of the solutions coming out of the group would yield positive customer experiences. Eventually, the center of the clover would grow...

So, a KPI for 'how customer centric is your organization' would measure how many of the "solutions" an organization creates do fall into the center of the clover as opposed to on one or two of the petals or even worse, outside of the clover."
For more on Secil's approach at Wells Fargo, see "Developing user-centered tools for business planning."