User Centered Design is an approach to identify and solve problems, mostly through new products and services, that has been around for a long time. It covers many process in a company, and many people could be involved in them. But in my opinion, even in a company where this approach is quite common, there are a lot of people and processes that are not involved. And because of that I prefer to use User Centered Company as a concept, that could cover a more areas, such as IT, sales, and financial departments or even management. Of course, these are just concepts, and their translation to reality, their implementation, is what makes the difference.
We tend to have the idea that just some people have to have a User Centered mentality in a company, those that work closer to the users, or those that work designing new solutions. But a company where every employee’s mission is to serve their users, to improve their daily work or life, is a company that has more possibilities to survive, evolve and grow. Whatever we do in our daily work at our company, even if don’t realize, has an impact on what and how we deliver products or services to our clients and users.
On this path to user a User Centered Company, I have seen some examples in the past few years where we have a lot of aspects to improve:
Workers in a company need some infrastructure and tools to do their job, and users need them to interact with the company as well. The is IT department’s job is to provide people with these tools. But frequently workers and users needs are not taken into consideration. As a worker I have suffered it many times, with work applications that are difficult to use, or even not useful. And who doesn’t! And that means that we spend a lot of time dealing with this kind of problems than serving our clients. The easier the tools are to use, the more efficient we will be. I have been working with hMobile since october 2016, and we are developing new tools to help hotel workers in their daily work and in their relationship with guests, and we are creating a big impact helping them to be more efficient..
Some days ago I heard an interview with a cinema director and a movie composer. They both agreed upon what the most important thing in a movie is: the movie. I think that is a good example for any sector: the most important thing is the product or the service, what we offer to our clients and users. Often we tend to forget that, and pay more attention to the budget, to technology or whatever else. And of course they are important, but keeping in mind final users could guide the team in better direction, and a Project Manager is in charge of that. He/she should have capacity to have a global perspective, and on the other hand be able to pay attention to little details. Fos the last two years I have been conducting some Design Thinking training sessions in different companies, and in those where the project leader has been involved, the results have been much better.
A lot of sales people are paid depending on how much they sell. On the one hand, its a good way to motivate them, but on the other one, they pay too much attention to their commissions. And by doing that, they are probably not focusing on listening to the clients, understanding them, and taking this information back to the innovation processes. Commissions based on the quality and quantity of information captured, or based on how we are growing in our relationship with the clients (stakeholders involved etc.) could be another way to change this situation. And of course, involve them in innovation teams from the beginning.
Design Thinking could help organizing not just a project or a team, but a company as well, and thus extend a User Centered approach throughout the whole company. To achieve that, an ambitious transformation plan is needed, as IBM is doing for example. But of course, even without being IBM we could still do that. Some workshops and projects are good start points in this path, as the ongoing development we are doing in IKUSI, but they are not enough. And this transformation should be driven by top management, and should involve everyone in a company. And each company has to find it’s way, there is not a magic recipe. But, in my opinion, there are some basic ingredients: project based organization rather than departments, design thinking processes, multidisciplinary teams or a physical environment that would encourage that.