Who’s responsible for user experience?

By Beth Cooper, July 11, 2017

User experience for identical technology can vary from one extreme to the other, suggesting that the issue of responsibility for user experience cannot simply be laid at the developer’s door.

In our experience, where there are problems with software – when it fails to deliver the expected returns or where users don’t get to grips with it – the fault rarely lies with the technology. The issue is almost always due to a mismatch between ambitions and resourcing, between cultures and interfaces, or between strategies and the people who those strategies affect. This leads us to the conclusion that responsibility – or rather the lack of it – is a problem that can derail a project even when it’s in its very early stages. For success, an organisation must take responsibility for aligning their aims, funding, culture and platforms – because if it doesn’t, the casualty is user experience and ultimately the project itself.

On time, on budget and still a failure

Take, for example, a senior executive newly arrived at a business. His previous position saw him successfully implement a SaaS application. He is brought in to replicate that project’s success in his new role. He cracks on and, because of his experience, brings the project in on time and on budget. Believing that everyone is happy and that an upturn in business is only a matter of time.

As far as responsibilities go, has this exec delivered?  On time and on budget, yes, but what of the users? Is their experience benefiting them and the organisation they work for?

Our hypothetical executive went ahead without considering the impact on the employees. Thinking that this organisation was similar to the previous one. But let’s imagine, for a moment, a vastly different culture was in place. He’d assumed that the new teams would be as open and accepting as those he’d worked with previously, but instead, his failure to understand the new environment left users not just failing to benefit from the implementation but also disengaged and demotivated.

The impact on the employee

User experience goes beyond screens and functionality. It’s a much broader category, and ensuring that it is positive requires attention to be paid to every aspect of it. Someone within a change management team must be responsible for clearly communicating its aims. We’re not simply talking about the how of operating the new platform, but also the why. And where there is a disconnect between those whys and the aims of the individual employees, that too must be addressed. The responsible employer knows that a new software platform, however brilliant its whizz-bangs and widgets, needs a motivated workforce to shine. If the platform will fundamentally change someone’s role, a plan should be in place for their future.

Responsibility doesn’t start and end with adhering budgets and schedules. It’s not always about rigidly measured targets or the achievement of KPIs. Sometimes it is about the platform, but it’s always, surely, about the people?

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