Increasing the UX maturity of your organization

This page presents nine actionable steps that you can take to increase the UX maturity of your organization. The steps are mainly for organizations at the low UX maturity levels, “incomplete,” “performed,” and “managed.” The nine steps are inspired by John Kotter’s Model of Change.

If your organization is at a high UX maturity level, read:
Living in UX Paradise – A UX Future Vision
which describes a day in the life of Chris, the UX manager at Delta Market. Delta Market is at the highest UX maturity level, innovative. The story builds on my experience and describes many specific characteristics of an organization at the highest UX maturity level, which may serve as inspiration for you. The story also tells how Eva, a customer at Delta Market, experiences Delta’s high UX maturity.

Overview of the nine steps

  1. Understand the stakeholders and the business goals
  2. Create a sense of urgency – Show the Importance of UX
  3. Generate quick wins
  4. Create a vision for change
  5. Form a powerful coalition of stakeholders and UX staff
  6. Communicate the vision
  7. Empower action — Remove obstacles
  8. Build on the change
  9. Anchor the changes in the organizational culture

1.  Understand the stakeholders and the business goals

  • Conduct field studies to better understand the context of use and to learn about user needs and current pain points. Interview co-workers, customers and other users.
  • Interview executives, key directors and managers to better understand the organization’s business goals and strategies. Get inspiration for these interviews from my interview checklist. Pay attention to the language your interviewees use so you can learn to speak their language.
  • See what the competitors are up to. Use their products, and conduct usability tests of their products to identify pain points and great features.
  • Document experiences in a short report. Advertise the report to interested stakeholders, including top management.
  • Look for experienced employees who know the organization and the product suite and can be your go-to person for detailed questions. It could be a senior strategist. Also look for middle and high-level managers who feel the pain of poor UX; they might be helpful allies.

2  Create a sense of urgency – Show the Importance of UX

  • Use the insights from the interviews as a basis for focused usability tests to illustrate problems in representative key products and user journeys.
  • Conduct a usability test of a key product. The purpose of the usability test is to demonstrate convincingly to stakeholders that the product contains serious or critical usability problems and that there are ways to solve these problems.
  • Invite stakeholders to participate in the planning of the usability test. Also invite stakeholders to observe the usability test sessions. Stakeholders are senior management, product owners, marketing, developers, and more. Make it simple and convenient for stakeholders to observe live test sessions. For example, test sessions can be scheduled on Friday afternoons and announced as a social activity.
  • Define a number of KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) for the key product. Use the usability tests to roughly measure the KPIs .

3  Generate quick wins

  • Implement the recommendations from the usability test.
  • Measure the KPIs after the changes have been implemented, compare them to the KPIs from step 2, and document progress.
  • Communicate the successes.

4  Create a vision for change

  • Align UX goals and UX strategies with business goals identified in step 1. For each relevant business goal, describe the specific user problems it addresses. In other words, align UX goals, UX strategies and UX tactics with business goals.
  • Create a series of storyboards, prototypes and to-be user journey maps that illustrate what the UX could look and work like in three years when the UX goals have been achieved.
  • Ask the executive team and the Board to comment on the UX vision. Suggest that they discuss and provide input to the UX vision in a one-day workshop.
  • Advertise the project widely and invite all stakeholders to contribute. Based on the feedback, constantly improve both the vision and the presentation. After some iterations, advertise widely that the vision is now based mainly on input from stakeholders.

5  Form a powerful coalition of stakeholders and UX staff

  • Use the short-term wins, the UX strategy and the UX vision to argue for more resources.
  • Suggest that your the organization should nominate a small, powerful UX Committee that oversees all UX activities. The UX Committee should have a budget for appropriate UX training and pilot activities, for example $500,000 for a three-year period, for appropriate UX training and pilot activities as well as support for first-time project-based UX activities, such as conducting a series of contextual interviews or running a usability test. The UX Committee monitors return on investment and tracks KPIs for the money they spend as well as UX related KPIs in general.
  • Ask for resources to hire additional UX professionals. One person may be able to handle steps 1 to 5 on their own but they will hardly be able to handle the following steps 6 to 9 alone.

6  Communicate the vision

  • Ensure the entire organization regularly and consistently hears about the three-year vision from senior leadership.
  • Regularly bring up the vision when talking about new projects, features and requirements.
  • Communicate documented UX successes to management, developers and staff. If you dare, also communicate failures and what you learned from them.
  • Advertise regularly in your internal newsletter that it’s OK for people outside the IT-department to report usability problems and suggest improvements.

7  Empower action — Remove obstacles

  • Make suitable tools available, for example, UX style guide and interaction standard; pattern library; UI coding toolkit; and procedural standards for usability testing, interviews, etc.
  • Ensure the tools are usable. Communicate information about the tools in a usable way. Follow up on the use of the tools; in particular, ensure that user interfaces are consistent by diplomatically insisting that the style guide must be followed. Never “police” a UX style guide.

8 Build on the change

  • Celebrate wins all the way to the top of the organization. By giving success a stage, UX awareness scales organically from product team to product team.
  • After every win, analyze what went right and what needed improving.
  • Update the UX strategy regularly, for example every 3-6 months. Measure regularly, for example every 3-6 months. Advertise the fact that you update the UX strategy regularly and that you measure regularly
  • Document and communicate failures and successes.

9 Anchor the changes in the organizational culture

  • Articulate the connections between a great UX and organizational success.
  • Ensure that UX is seen in every aspect of the organization. Present examples of great UX and not-so-great UX every chance you get and point out how it affects competitiveness and profit. Listen carefully to the feedback. Tell your own success stories about UX and document them with numbers. Repeat other stories you hear.
  • Show up in person when training new staff to make sure that the organization’s UX culture is communicated properly.

Final advice: Be persistent

It takes time and hard work to increase usability maturity in an organization.

If you feel that life is too short to wait in vain for positive signs, you can quietly decide to wait two years for Good Things to happen. Examples of Good Things are:

  • Development teams start doing field research, or they start asking you and your team to do field research, and they implement at least some of your advice;
  • Measurements show that the usability and user experience of key internal and external products starts to improve significantly;
  • The CEO nominates a UX Committee as suggested in Step 5.