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Chaz Blogs It's all about the eXperience!

A couple of weeks ago I had a very intriguing conversation with an unlikely contact.  I received an e-mail from an individual "in the business" based on some of my User eXperience (UX) blogs.  I thought cool, a new contact in an area that I love.  I should speak to her in person.  So I set up a phone call.  She runs a business where she places Information Architects, Business Analysts and Human Factors folks in business units at her clients.  Wow the conversation was no where near where I thought it would be.

Instead of dazzling this woman with my technical prowess and contacts with some of the bigger names in software development I was somewhat schooled on her thoughts of IT and our lack of involvement in the user experience.  As it turns out this woman hasn't dealt with "IT types" since the early 90's!   Hmmm...  I thought IT created the user experience.  After all isn't the concept of user experience based on the usability of "SOFTWARE"?

I also learned that IT is apparently hard to work with.  Very difficult to get anything done.  Set in their ways and afraid of change.  I learned that business has taken over all corporate initiatives and that IT has been relegated back to nothing more than mere service station attendants for the automobile known as "the business".

I was really taken aback and of course a little offended by some of these comments on the surface.  But, being a pacifist, I sat back and listened and gave this woman the opportunity to speak her mind.  And I tried to take her comments constructively.  And I tried to be reflective because sometime criticism is hard to take.  And here are some of the key points/questions I took away from the conversation.

 

1. Does anybody "own" the user experience?

2. Is IT hard to work with?

3. Is the user experience all about human interaction with software or is there more?

4. Is IT dead?  Are we simply nothing more than a low level service that is a necessary evil with no value or impact on the business?

5. Is IT trying to reinvent itself and reinsert it's relevance in the enterprise?

6. What ever happened to the role of business analyst in the enterprise?

7. Is IT hard to work with?

 

Yes, 2 & 7 are the same.  That's on purpose.  I've always thought IT was hard to work with.  I think there is a superiority complex among many IT professionals.  I mean come on, look among our own community.  There are always struggles of the haves and have nots!  Are you Agile?  NO?  Then you are unworthy of being called IT.  Are you a RAD developer or OOP?  Ha!  RAD.... get out of here, I wouldn't hire you in a second.  VB or C#... hmmm let's not go here.

Anyway you get the idea.  So if we have this conflict among our selves with a sense of elitism, how do you think the non-IT world perceives us?  Add on top of that the business folks don't get us anyway.  We talk in bits and bytes and they talk in... well in business. 

But after reflecting upon this for a bit I think IT has come a long way.  And this was my argument back to the woman I was speaking with.  IT has in my opinion turned a corner.  Yes there is still in-fighting and some elitism, but I think for the most part we as a community have answered the call of the Enterprise.  We have stepped up our efforts to be problem solvers and strong contributors to the bottom line of the business.  We aren't the IT of the 90's anymore.  We were smacked down after Y2K (scam) and we got the message loud and clear.  I believe there is no better evidence of this than the practice of Domain Driven Design and Domain Specific Languages.  We no longer write code for the sake of writing code.  We write as little code as possible to produce a solution to a problem/need in the business domain.

I believe IT is not a second class citizen in the Enterprise.  I think IT is a vital and valuable part of how a company innovates, makes efficiencies and ultimately provides very valuable services to the Enterprise.  I don't believe that the business has made a concerted effort to muscle IT out of the ownership of technology projects.  I believe there is still an openness and willingness to collaborate and work as a team with shared ownership and responsibility.  And I don't believe that the Business Analyst has disappeared.  I believe that the business analyst has evolved into the Solution Architect. 

And to answer the question/title of this post, I believe no single entity owns the user experience.  The user experience is the responsibility of all stake holders.  It IS NOT the sole responsibility of the UI designer/developer.  In fact if your team starts addressing the user experience at the UI development stage, it is way too late!  The user experience Must start at project inception and be a focal point throughout the project life cycle.  Anything less is a hack and an injustice to the users of the system.

So Miss poo-poo on IT, I'd say the very essence of User Experience is reflective of how IT and "the business" cooperate in today's Enterprise.

--chaz

Posted on Saturday, September 8, 2007 9:33 AM | Back to top


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