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.”

If your organization is at a high UX maturity level, read:
Living in UX Paradise – A UX Future Vision (version 2020-10-23)
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 also tells how Eva, a customer at Delta Market, experiences Delta’s high UX maturity.


Overview of the nine steps

Some of the steps are illustrated by examples. The examples describe what Alice did to increase the low UX maturity at Gamma Airlines. Gamma Airlines is a medium-size airline with about 900 employees. Alice was recently hired as the first UX professional at Gamma Airlines.

  1. Understand the stakeholders and the business goals
  2. Create a sense of urgency – Sell the Importance of UX
  3. Produce short-term wins
  4. Align UX with appropriate business goals
  5. Pull together the guiding team
  6. Develop a three-year vision for the user experience
  7. Communicate for understanding and buy-in
  8. Empower others to act
  9. Regularly update the UX strategy


1.  Understand the stakeholders and the business goals

Interview one or more of the following: the CEO; the COO; the CFO; and the CIO to better understand your organization’s business goals and strategies.

The interview checklist could contain the following questions:

  • Tell me about current and planned products and relate them to our business goals;
  • Tell me about our strategy and roadmap plans;
  • Where do you see us in three years?
  • What are the biggest obstacles to getting there?
  • What is your bonus based on?
  • How can I help you achieve it?
  • What keeps you up at night? Can I help you solve it?

Pay attention to the language your interviewees use so you can learn to speak their language.

Ask your CxOs to identify an experienced employee who knows the organization and the product suite and can be your go-to person for detailed questions. It could be a senior strategist.


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

2.1 Field studies

To learn about user needs and current pain points, interview employees and users.

Example: To learn about the users of Gamma Airlines services, Alice interviews:

  • Three employees from customer support;
  • Three employees from check-in;
  • Three stewardesses;
  • Six people who travel frequently with the airline – that is, 15 times or more per year;
  • Six people who travel with the airline once or twice a year.

Alice gets a taste of the user experience by making three journeys on Gamma Airlines to observe the user experience and talk to fellow travelers about their user experience. To see what the competitors are up to, Alice also books and makes two journeys on Alpha Airlines and two on Beta Airlines. Afterwards, Alice documents her experiences in a short report. She advertises the report to interested stakeholders, including top management.


2.2 Examples of insights from field studies

Some of the insights that Alice got from her field studies are:

1.     As part of planning her trip on Beta Airlines, Alice talks to Bianca in Beta Airlines support and learns by coincidence that Beta Airlines is about to roll out a slick mobile app. Beta Airlines is poised to steal valuable young high-spending customers with this app. Beta Airlines is Gamma’s nearest competitor.

Alice’s reaction: Alice writes a UX strategy that details how to create a competitive app in a short time by hiring an outside agency.

2.     Alice finds out that usability defects in Gamma’s booking system are causing people to miss high-margin “flight extras”. This aligns with the current cross-sell/up-sell strategy.

Alice’s reaction: Alice proposes a series of usability studies with representative customers based on her personas to identify and remove specific obstacles to profit here.

3.     Alice determines that Gamma’s app is hard to configure and slow to respond, resulting in Gamma not showing potential flyers all the trip options they might want.

Alice’s reaction: Alice proposes sunsetting the bespoke app in favor of a highly rated third-party inventory management tool that can be white labeled to look like a new Gamma product. Alice shows how increased availability of flights reduces abandoned visits to the website and results in more full and profitable flights.


2.3  Usability tests to increase awareness of UX

Use the pain points identified from the interviews and the journeys as a basis for focused usability tests of the relevant key products to illustrate problems in representative key products and user journeys.

Example: Alice conducts ten usability test sessions of Gamma’s website with particular focus on the booking system. The purpose of the usability test is to demonstrate convincingly to stakeholders that Gamma’s booking system contain serious usability problems and that there are ways to solve these problems. Alice further uses the usability tests to roughly measure a number of KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) for the booking system. Alice decides to measure the following KPIs:

  • Time to book a flight for a user who has booked 0-2 flights before;
  • Time to book a flight for a frequent traveler – that is, a traveler who flies 15 times or more per year;
  • Time for users to find and understand the correct answer to a question about hand baggage;
  • User satisfaction with the booking procedure.

Alice invites stakeholders to participate in the planning of the usability test. Alice invites stakeholders to observe the usability test sessions. Stakeholders are Board members, senior management, marketing, developers, and more. Alice ensures that it is 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.

Alice invites everyone who has attended at least one usability test session to a one-hour workshop where participants discuss the results. Based on the discussion, Alice writes a usable usability test report. In the report, Alice emphasizes that the results were created in cooperation with the stakeholders.


3  Produce short-term wins

  • Implement the recommendations from the usability test.
  • Measure the KPIs after the changes have been implemented and document progress.
  • Communicate the successes.


4  Align UX with appropriate business goals

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.

The following table shows examples of business goals for Gamma Airlines and examples of corresponding UX strategies or tactics.

Business goalCorresponding UX strategy or tactic
Offer the best service among competing airlines; the competing airlines are Alpha Airlines and Beta AirlinesMeasure the user experience of Alpha, Beta and Gamma Airlines. Identify pain points for Gamma Airlines and how they can be relieved
Increase profits by cutting costsParticipate in the conception, design and implementation of the UX of the required automation tools to ensure that they are usable for the target groups.
Win young travellers
Increase the market share among 18-28 year old people from 25% to 50%
Make the UX for 18-28 year old people particularly usable and attractive
Win frequent travelersMake the UX for frequent travelers very efficient
Create efficient and sustainable operating platformsRegularly measure the time-on-task for key tasks in each operating platform. Where needed, suggest improvements
Secure the right capabilities
Our employees are an important prerequisite for Gamma Airlines future — we share our customers’ passion and interest for travel, which also drives our efforts to strengthen our offering.
Increase the UX maturity of Gamma Airlines from Incomplete to Established to ensure that Gamma Airlines can attract highly qualified developers and UX professionals


5  Pull together the guiding team

Use the short-term wins and the UX strategy that is in alignment with the business goals to argue for more resources.

For example, suggest that your boss should:

  • Nominate a small, powerful UX Committee that oversees all UX activities.
  • Give the UX Committee 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.
  • You may be able to handle steps 1 to 5 on your own but you will hardly be able to handle the following steps 6 to 9 alone. The UX Committee should consider hiring additional UX professionals for the following steps.
  • The UX Committee monitors return on investment and tracks KPIs for the money they spend as well as UX related KPIs in general.


6  Develop a three-year vision for the user experience

  • Create a series of prototypes and future user journey maps that illustrate what the user experience could look like in three years. Advertise the project widely and invite all stakeholders to participate.
  • Suggest that top management or the Board discuss and provide input to the vision in a one-day workshop.
  • Ask the Board to comment on and approve the vision.


7  Communicate for understanding and buy-in

  • 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.


8  Empower others to act

Make suitable tools available, for example

  • UX style guide and interaction standard;
  • Pattern library;
  • UI coding toolkit;
  • Procedural standards for usability testing, interviews, etc.

It’s not enough to provide tools:

  • 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.


9  Regularly update the UX strategy

  • Update the UX strategy regularly, for example every 3-6 months
  • Measure regularly, for example every 3-6 months
  • Document and communicate failures and successes.
  • Advertise the fact that you update the UX strategy regularly and that you measure regularly


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;
  • Measurements show that the usability and user experience of key internal and external products starts to improve significantly;
  • The CEO nominates an appropriate guiding team as suggested in Step 4.


Origin

The nine steps above were inspired by the book Our Iceberg is Melting by    John Kotter and Holger Rathgeber.