I was recently challenged on why UCD should innovate at all?
A fair question as UCD has been seen as quite a passive activity, that is either intrinsic “yes we are all user focused”, meaning no user research is done* or done as an after thought so does not effect projects at the right point (stage 1 & 2*) to bring impact.
*Note: If your told that the company has done UCD on your project ask for details on the users who took part in each stage; 1. requirements testing, 2. concept testing, 3. design testing and 4. product testing, if they can’t respond they have not done UCD and you need a bit of a fee refund as UCD costs more to do than design (I’ll be exposing this in a later post) and creates the best kinds of interactive environments, engagements and effective e-commerce experiences.
Business leaders need support to drive their business objectives forward
Those who want to lead in business tend to embrace anything that will cause them and their business to succeed, yet UCD has not moved into the Business agenda, but got stuck in the Information Technology agenda.
User Centred Design is not about technology, its about engagement, communication and transaction based relationships
More importantly UCD is evolving from it’s original framework, starting from a world of people making design choice on a whim, to a risk averse, considered and mapped choice based upon user requirements, user tested concepts and user tested iterative design and tested iterative development and has changed the customer and market expectation (when UCD has been done) of products and services.
In a business that wants to win the UCD strategy and process model, is a game changer that creates the environment for continuous success. Businesses must choose to win or die (slowly or spectacularly).
Many business people have given the sole responsibility for success to their IT departments without even knowing it
It is not the IT departments job to determine business outcomes, but they will if business people fail to take the responsibility of leadership.
Where UCD fits in an business is a leadership decision, once decided that UCD is a strategic agenda item it needs to be managed and implemented by people who fully understand it.
It is only by employing specialists instead of generalists that UCD can deliver real business benefits and innovation. Many consultancies employ generalists and attempt to training them up internally to do whatever need done, it may work with management consultancy but it does not work with UCD which is a defined scientific process. I think this thinking comes from the 1950’s where there were simply not enough people able to do all the work required to recover from World War 2. This way of doing things is no longer valid.
Specialists in UCD are easier to find today they have Masters Degrees in Human Computer Interaction and are very smart
UCD consultants are not all masters graduates, but most are and it makes them easier to find and employ as they have been trained in a scientific process already. I have in the past dealt with recruitment people who have sent me 20 CV’s with a list of 5 rejections each of whom had a Masters Degree in Human Computer Interaction (HCI). The MSc was listed on the job description, even on pointing out the error the agency said “it was their advice to reject” of the 5 I employed 4 of them, I reviewed the 15 and rejected all but 1 who I employed in 2012.
If UCD is implemented to the full process it creates innovation as a normal outcome
But the management and delivery of the full process requires a scientific mindset rather than a design one. Design activity is involved later and takes up about 40% of UCD activity. The killer component of UCD is defining research methods to secure viable results that set the priorities and direction of projects and this is 60% of UCD. As part of this research new requirements, products and services are revealed, if added into the iterative and conceptual process they create innovations.
How to use the UCD Process for Innovation
I have left out some key activities, because frankly I’d like people to come to me as a consultant to enact the process and build it into companies as a consultancy service, if interested please contact me. This process has been used in Banking, FMCG, Utilities, Transport and several other domains and has not yet failed. I came up with this model from work done in the early 1990’s and formalised it in 1998, then first published it in 2001. It has had several revisions and updates in 2003 and 2008 (now reflected in this post) but has not changed since then.