Building an enterprise UX team: 5 essential personality types
Building user-centric enterprise application software is a little easier with these 5 personality types on an enterprise UX team
Building a stellar user experience team is hard in itself, but the task becomes even tougher when constructing a UX troupe within a global enterprise. What kind of people can keep their eye on business goals and market trends while staying in tune with users, and living and breathing design thinking? Do the perfect enterprise UX team members even exist?
In our ebook Making an Enterprise UX-Friendly: A Quick Guide (PDF), we talk about how to recruit and direct a UX team in an enterprise scenario – what kind of technical skills you need to recruit, how to maximize productivity, and evangelizing UX culture to the enterprise as a whole. But certain so-called ‘soft skills’ are also necessary in an enterprise team: personality traits that betray an ability to think globally and transfer that to pixel level, to weigh market exigencies against user needs, to work with a development team on one side of the world and a C-suite on the other, with UX in the middle (geographically and metaphorically). What kind of personalities can juggle all this and still produce engaging enterprise application software?
Recruiting outstanding UX professionals is a tough task for any Human Resources Department, but prioritizing these 5 personality types can make an enterprise UX team stronger.
The Big Data Fiend
Within user experience as a discipline there are plenty of occasions when analytics have to be applied: organizing and understanding the data collected from usability testing is an obvious example of UXers thinking analytically. In an enterprise UX scenario, the ability to analyze and, most importantly, act according to data is imperative. 51% of global enterprises will adopt Big Data use over the next2-3 years, according to a DNV GL survey; user experience departments won’t be exempt from this trend.
Adding a user researcher with experience in Big Data will ensure that there’s an equal emphasis on evidence and creativity in your team. There will always be someone able to produce evidence to justify (or discount) a design decision, and global user trends will be presented in design friendly ways. UX in an enterprise can be subject to tough questions from skeptical boards: having an analytical UXer on your side will ensure the team is working on evidence rather than aesthetic hunches.
How to spot an Big Data Fiend?
Despite being named by CNN as the sexiest job of the 21st century, you probably won’t want to recruit an analyst-oriented UXer solely on their sex appeal. Look out for UXers who can spot and interpret patterns, manage huge amounts of information and make it all comprehensible for the non-data fiends.
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The Problem Solver
Designers and UXers have always been problem solvers, and that skill is only going to become more important in the future. Soon, UX friendly interfaces will be standardized and highly usable sites will become normative; UX designers will be left with only the wicked problems that take an innate problem solver to resolve. Providing solutions to user problems while dealing with hugely complex legacy systems and high-level security concerns is the bread and butter of an enterprise UXer’s day.
How to spot a Problem Solver?
Look at the processes they apply in their work. A problem solver has to be able to define the problem on their own, conduct user research, prototype solutions, implement the best solution and evaluate the outcomes. They need to have a positive attitude towards business requirements, and a willingness to take a long look at software requirements in an attempt to align the two.
The 360º Strategist
In an agency or a small design outfit, it’s perfectly possible to get by without a dedicated UX strategist (although we wouldn’t recommend trying to get by without a UX strategy), but in an enterprise scenario a UX strategist is central to software success. Strategy is, according to guru Eric Reiss, “the secret sauce that defines the pixie dust”: having a UX strategy is the best way of ensuring that business goals are aligned with user needs and product outcomes.
And for UX strategists in particular, their vision has to be global rather than local. UX strategists have to spin lots of plates: business strategy, value innovation, validated user research and, in Jaime Levy’s words “killer UX”. A team member who iscomfortable with managing all these elements will define the UX department’s direction and outputs.
How to spot a 360º Strategist?
We’re not saying every enterprise needs a Jaime Levy – although that would be nice – but every enterprise UX team does need someone who is aware of the meeting points between business and UX strategy, and who can build and evangelize the strategy across the organization. Look for a UXer who is analytical, with a global vision and a background in business.
The People Person
Obviously, a UXer needs to be a people person: They work with groups of users to test prototypes, they meet with developers and designers on the regular, as well as high-level management, and they have to empathize with all these disparate groups. Historically, user research in enterprises has been seen as more of an activity for marketing or sales departments; the truth is that user research is an integral part of the design thinking-based software development process, and every enterprise UX team needs an empathetic user researcher in its ranks.
Where UXers working in enterprise scenarios have to be even more empathetic is when it comes to system design. Designing an engaging consumer-facing app is one thing; building the interface for a legacy software system that can have 1000s of user pathways wrapped up in Fort Knox level security concerns requires a whole different level of user understanding and empathy. Faced with IT conundrums of industrial difficulty, an enterprise UXer has to keep thinking like a common or garden user and never lose sight of that perspective.
How to spot a People Person
Try hiring a UX professional with a background in psychology or social sciences – anthropologists make surprisingly good UXers.
The Pessimistic Planner
This may sound like a pretty weird recruit to want to make; no one wants a debbie downer in the office, right? That said, having a UXer capable of seeing the worst case, as well as the best case, scenario in every situation will give your team an invaluable head-start in catching bugs and crisis management. There are plenty of examples of enterprise software going hideously wrong – in our ebook we mention SAP’s near-miss take-down of Hershey’s back in 1999,or HP’s centralization of its ERP systems – these user crises might not have arisen if there had been a Pessimistic Planner on the design/UX team.
A UXer au fait with planning and long-range strategy will have to be well-versed in the enterprise’s global plan, be on top of market and technology trends and have the ability to comprehend how these external factors will impact on the software and on users.
How to spot a Pessimistic Planner
Focus on the planner part rather than the pessimism. Long-range planning is a valuable skill to add to any team dynamic: it requires discipline, logic and commitment.
Enterprise UX personality traits – the takeaway
Traditionally, enterprise application development has left the user out in the cold, and it showed in the resultant software. Increasingly, future facing enterprises such as IBM and Deloitte are building their own in-house UX teams, meaning the demand for UX Designers with business savvy and a global vision is growing. Enterprise software has a lot to gain from having a user-focus; building an enterprise UX team with a rich and varied personality line-up means that an enterprise will be able to extract maximum gains while keeping users happy. Happy users and happy enterprises means that the most common personality type you’ll end up with in your team is – you guessed it – a happy one.