As a User Experience (UX) professional, you know that every UX project requires the balancing of stakeholder mission, business goals, user needs, technology constraints, and human-centered design. Scale a project to the enterprise level and this balancing act can quickly spin out of control. What’s the best way to prepare for this complexity?
Start by establishing a UX Playbook to help your team navigate to success. A playbook is a collection of best practices, trusted strategies, lessons learned, templates, and project-specific information that maps the way to meeting project goals. Ideally, a playbook should establish a strategic UX methodology while remaining flexible to the changes that innovation will bring.
As the UX Lead on an enterprise-level contract, I recently developed a playbook to provide the framework my team needed to deliver UX solutions that meet our customer’s needs. Read on to learn more about the unique UX challenges of enterprise-level contracts and how a playbook can help prepare your team to overcome them. Plus, gain insights on things to keep in mind when developing your own.
U.Group’s Enterprise-Level Contract
Last Fall, U.Group was awarded one of its largest contracts to date, supporting Records Development, Security, & Operations (RDSO) for a federal customer. U.Group will provide DevSecOps services and also leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve, integrate, and innovate the customer’s records systems.
The RDSO project supports numerous applications of various scale and complexity—all with their own technical and business needs—that affect a wide spectrum of users. There are unique challenges to projects of this scale and delivering the type of innovation needed to impact this mission requires a strong commitment to the right strategies and processes.
Unique Challenges of Enterprise-Level Programs
Supporting large-scale, complex, enterprise-level programs provides distinctive UX challenges. These systems support thousands of users with varying workflows. This wide spectrum of usage requires robust UX research and testing to ensure solutions support the full range of needs.
When the customer’s systems are also supported by distributed teams—as was the case for my project—it makes adoption of common design and development frameworks more challenging.
To help the team prepare to tackle these challenges, I focused our playbook on the key stages of:
- Staff: Building the Team
- Discover: Understanding the Challenge
- Baseline: Establishing Team Culture & Processes
- Transition: Supporting Team Integration
- Grow: Foundation for Innovation
UX Insight: Remember that enterprise users differ from commercial consumers. There is no other application that can be used to accomplish their task. The goal is to make the UX as efficient, accessible, and accurate as possible.
Staff: Building the Team
Finding the right talent mix to support this mission is imperative. Each UX practitioner brings their own experiences, strengths, preferred tools, and methods to the team. As the UX lead, it’s my job to ensure I am marrying that diversity to the unique needs of each system in the RDSO portfolio, while providing opportunities for each practitioner to innovate and grow their craft. Additionally, we built methods and processes we could reuse for other U.Group customer needs.
UX Insight: Soft skills matter. When building the team, make sure to evaluate soft skills, too. Working on complex, enterprise development teams requires clearly articulated communication and the ability to collaborate with multiple disciplines.
Discover: Understanding the Challenge
In order to gain a clear understanding of both the business and technical challenges on RDSO, we leveraged a combination of interviews, documentation review, discovery sessions, shadowing, process mapping, system demonstrations, and technical overviews.
UX Insight: Shadowing, or observing how a user interacts with an application in their natural environment, is a great way to witness usability. It also builds rapport, allowing the user to show how they overcome pain points to accomplish their tasks.
Baseline: Establishing Team Culture & Processes
While we remain flexible to each specific system’s needs and each practitioner’s approach, in order to ensure consistency within the greater enterprise ecosphere, we established a UX baseline. This baseline creates a program methodology that can remain flexible to allow for diversity of approach and process, while establishing defined delivery schedules, quality standards, user engagements, and documentation requirements.
This is a U.Group standard—through a culture of collaboration, we cross-pollinate lessons learned from our successes and failures and share templates, research findings, and other artifacts to increase efficiency and consistency.
UX Insight: The key to efficiency is consistency. Ensuring the UX team applies the same design standards across applications increases efficiency and accuracy for enterprise users who must use a suite of applications to accomplish their tasks.
Transition: Supporting Team Integration
When we began the RDSO project, U.Group integrated with exceptional partners who have been supporting the customer for many years. These teams have established processes that, as new partners, we must understand and delicately approach, to ensure systems continue to run smoothly while new team members are integrated.
The UX playbook pays special attention to a phased approach for integration. It outlines partnering new team members with established performers through transition sprints that allow knowledge to transfer successfully.
UX Insight: Respect the hard work and wisdom of an established team. Just because there are improvements to be made doesn’t mean the established team didn’t overcome huge obstacles to lay a solid foundation for the new team to build upon.
Grow: Building a Foundation for Innovation
Supporting innovation should be a key focus for any UX playbook. Innovation and incorporating leading edge technologies and strategies is ingrained in U.Group culture—and RDSO is no different. While we ensure we are meeting day-to-day mission needs, we also look for ways to prepare for the challenges of tomorrow. We focused on establishing an environment where it’s safe to implement new technologies and approaches—and quickly iterate on lessons learned.
We also ensure all crafts work closely together. Our teams are formed of data scientists, engineers, developers, testers, UX practitioners, business analysts, and scrum masters, all working closely together through the entire development lifecycle. Taking a holistic team approach ensures the complexity of new innovations are understood and can be implemented in a more efficient and effective manner.
UX Insight: Innovation can be slow—measure success by impact. One seemingly small change may save an enterprise system’s user base thousands of seconds a week. Small impacts add up to big wins!
By developing a UX playbook, focusing on the five stages described above, I feel confident we have the foundation to integrate, innovate, and impact our customer’s mission. As you develop your own playbook, having an understanding of the UX challenges enterprise-level systems present—and the strategies you can employ to overcome those challenges—will help guide you.