Wednesday, December 07, 2005

User Experience As Sustainable Advantage

If you want to see people finally starting to quantify and analyze why businesses need UX practitioners, read the excellent McKinsey Quarterly article on "tacit interactions" as a sustainable competitive advantage. (registration req'd) The article presents many charts and numbers on how hiring of knowledge workers is exploding. Please check them out, but I want to discuss their conclusions here.
Raising the labor performance of professionals won't be easy, and it is uncertain whether any of the innovations and experiments that some pioneering companies are now undertaking will prove to be winning formulas. As in the early days of the Internet revolution, the direction is clear but the path isn't. That's the bad news —or, rather, the challenge (and opportunity) for innovators.

The good news concerns competitive advantage. As companies figure out how to raise the performance of their most valuable employees in a range of business activities, they will build distinctive capabilities based on a mix of talent and technology. [snip] Best practice thus won't become everyday practice quite as quickly as it has in recent years. Building sustainable advantages will again be possible —and, of course, worthwhile.
The next revolution in interactions (registration req'd)

UX practitioners by nature constantly handle the complex interactions. By continuing to produce effective interactions with customers, both internal and external, our argument about how to demonstrate our value as purveyors will seem quaint and unnecessary. Plus, we were in the thick of the Web's emergence, and we will be in the thick of these new trends.
Jobs involving the most complex type of interactions —those requiring employees to analyze information, grapple with ambiguity, and solve problems —make up the fastest-growing segment.
The next revolution in interactions (registration req'd)

Sound familiar? Along with our ability to set context and capture information within a multi-dimensional space, we provide key connections between the various parties. As the transactional nature of business practice relaxes, our abilities to generate multiple approaches and solve problems become increasingly important - and less about technology.

We are developing our skillsets by adding people management, negotiation, budgeting, and political wiles. Add into this mix new software tools and networks (Web "2.0") that enhance our brainpower, we seem to be creating personal competitive advantage.
Technology and organizational strategies are inextricably conjoined in this new world of performance improvement.
The 21st-century organization (abstract)

This statement demonstrates why the Information Architect stands at the crux of these issues. We improve the performance of the customer (Internet) and employee (intranet) interactions with technology (interfaces).

Why not try lessening our focus on the technology interface and put it more on the organization and its interactions? Our understanding of the customer interaction has led us directly into the teeth of the need for organizational redesign in most companies. We should follow these possibilities.

Companies like MIG, Adaptive Path, and Ideo are turning towards the less technology-heavy issues to those of process, people, and strategic interactions. This is a very exciting development.

How many times have we dealt with bureaucratic policies of a corporation or a governmental organization - and experienced frustration similar to that of a usability participant? Too many times to count, I'm sure.

Our skills can help organizations do something about it, and the organizations are starting to wake up to that fact. We are ready for the challenge.

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