Archive for the ‘Digital’ Category

Digital strategy services: a $97 billion opportunity by 2019

IDC logoDigital strategy services firms can expect both their business and the demand for their skills to grow rapidly through the rest of this decade, according to IDC Research.

The global market research and analysis company released its findings from a study that predicts digital-related consulting will be central to 80 percent of all business and information technology consulting and consequently drive a market for digital strategy services approaching $97 billion by 2019.

The study, titled Worldwide and U.S. Digital Strategy Services Forecast, says such discussions currently constitute only about 50 percent of similar engagements. But as more companies demand measurable business value outcomes from a combination of social, mobile, analytics, security, and cloud technologies, their need for comprehensive digital strategy services will increase.

These services are crucial to establishing the leadership, vision, goals, talent requirements, and data and technology priorities in successful digital enterprise and digital transformation initiatives.

“As digitization alters the nature of business, competition, supply and servicing operations, a growing number organizations of all sizes and maturities will adopt elements of a digital strategy to create and/or maintain a brand, product, and operational advantage,” said Michael Versace, an IDC research director of digital strategy research, in a news release today. “As more firms adopt digital strategies, consulting engagements must contain a larger digital strategy services capability.”

Among the areas IDC sees as key drivers in the demand for digital strategic services:

  • Agility and growth as fuel for digital strategies
  • Technologies and data becoming strategic business assets
  • Digital talent
  • The slowing pace of IT productivity

“A big question in the digital strategy consulting services market is around business risk-taking: Is now the time to execute more innovative business methods or operational experiments? Or to expand and diversify digital services, offerings, and technical capabilities, as well as client demographics?” Versace said. “The question remains one of how best to hedge against fluctuations in demand, execution risk, the broadening capability of digital pure plays, and the digital aspirations of traditional IT consulting and systems integrators.”

The study is the first forecast of digital strategy services through an analysis of worldwide business consulting, IT consulting, custom applications design, risk advisory, and digital agency markets, IDC says.

User Experience Debt: How and Why? (Part 1)

shutterstock_289434728_350As a user experience designer, I used to think that the worst designed websites were the best candidates for improvement. Symptoms of user experience debt may sound familiar to you – confusing navigation, excess clicks, accessibility violations, and painful load times. I applied to jobs thinking the larger the UX debt, the greater the opportunity. Perversely, however, the opposite is true.

Why? Because a good site already has the resources – money, labor, and knowledge capital – to improve. A bad site doesn’t.

We may be seduced to believe otherwise when so many elements of web design are free. Responsive frameworks like Bootstrap? Free. jQuery libraries? Free. Stock photography? Free. So it should cost little to transform a bad website into a fully responsive, whizzy experience.

Unfortunately UX debt can’t always be paid with free templates, or extra people or refactored code. This is because UX debt represents more than a lack of resources. It represents the existence of exacerbating conditions. Some examples:

Lack of executive support. Rightly or wrongly, organization leaders may prioritize other activities (e.g., developing new functions) over user experience. You can’t improve UX simply by hiring more designers. The decision-makers in your organization are still there!

Hero mentality. Some designers want recognition as creative geniuses, and tackle every project with visual brainstorming. However, standard UX processes today – including research, usability testing, analytics and multivariate testing – are all about user data and iteration. Brainstorming is an activity, not a strategy. Your designers may be actively generating UX debt by focusing on artistry instead of usability.

Overdesign. Often a design doesn’t lack resources. On the contrary, it may suffer from excess people and ideas. A common scenario is a new feature that could potentially work like X or Y. Stakeholders disagree, then compromise by making X and Y a user setting. The final settings menu has 67 items that’s impossible to navigate. Bigger is not always better. Good design has boundaries. You can actually incur UX debt through addition, not subtraction. Read the rest of this post »

Platform ambassador: The new title in media management

Platform ambassador graphic

Take a guess: How many virtual communities exist online, right now?

The answer is complex. If you count only those sites with 100 million members or more, the list is about a dozen names long. If you count those considered “major” and “active” at the same time, the list has about 400 members.

But if you try counting every community, right down to the tiny sites serving only a few devotees or the sites with barely any attention paid to them, expect to spend days, maybe even weeks just counting.

Now, apparently, major media companies are assigning someone to do exactly that. The latest trend in media administration incorporates a role called “platform ambassador,” or something similar. Simply put, these ambassadors determine which new or existing social platforms are worth bringing aboard as partners.

Their choices are crucial: Media outlets realize (or most do, anyway) that they need to go where potential audiences are, instead of expecting audiences to come find them – an expectation the oldest outlets embraced for 80 years. For example, Facebook and Twitter together garner 1.8 billion users among their active accounts, and of those users more than half get their news directly through the two platforms instead of through traditional media outlets. Read the rest of this post »

The dangers of listening to customers too closely

Part 1 of 2

How do you excite the imagination of your team to devise new ways of solving design problems, to create new ideas and better user experiences? Where do you start? Design firms, and those invested in design thinking and innovation, start by asking customers what they want. I’ll be the first to admit that I relish talking to customers, getting inside their heads to the point where I can “see” their needs and aspirations (i.e., empathy). But user research can be problematic if it’s not handled right. When firms expect customers to know what they want, and have accurate insight into how to solve their own problems, they are in for a surprise because customers are often unable to express what they want if they are even good at identifying it. Without a doubt, customers know what rubs them the wrong way and what brings them delight. However, customers are mostly clueless about how to come up with solutions to fix their issues. In some cases, lead users (e.g., die-hard, I’m never leaving this brand, customers) are able to express what they want due to their extensive and intimate experience with a brand, but that’s not typical.

Rev-up your firm's imagination, ask customers about outcomes.

Rev-up your firm’s imagination, ask customers about outcomes.

How do we resolve this challenge? If you want to release, say a blockbuster app, “Stop asking customers what they want. Start asking what they want your products to do for them,” advises Anthony W. Ulwick, CEO of Strategyn, a consulting firm based in San Francisco, and frequent contributor to Harvard Business Review. As a researcher, it’s tempting to give serious consideration to the solutions that customers suggest, but it’s imperative to distinguish between outcomes and solutions. Why? Read the rest of this post »

Your Digital Afterlife

our_digital_afterlife_featured_imageFor centuries, humans have been obsessed with solving the problem that is mortality, even dreaming up mythical creatures like vampires and zombies that are based on the idea of living forever. The once elusive immortality is very much a reality in today’s world except in a digital form. What are you leaving behind from your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other type of online account when you are gone? We now have a digital afterlife that very few people think about, but as unfortunate as the topic is, we have to determine what we want to do with it.

What happens to your online accounts after you die? What are your options? You cannot delete accounts when you have already passed away, so what can you do then? The social media giant, Facebook, has come up with a solution for it’s over 100 million active users. It now offers the option of memorializing an account. In order to memorialize someone’s account, the profile must be reported directly to Facebook. This setting then makes it impossible for any one else to log into that deceased person’s account. In addition, Facebook allows beneficiaries to be appointed through your account settings. Google has also made strides in creating Inactive Account Manager where users can set a trustee who will have the ability to obtain your data or content if the account hasn’t been active in awhile.

Read the rest of this post »

Part 2 – What to do about “the too familiar persona?”

Read part 1: The too familiar persona

The all too familiar persona

I imagine we’ve all used Cooper’s personas to routinely “engage the empathy of the design and development toward the human target of the design.” Nothing wrong in using goal directed personas, however one user profile model isn’t the best fit for every brand or its users’ motivations and unmet needs. So if we are going to hinge a design’s behavior on a handful of personas they better be the ‘right’ ones. As Dr. Lene Nielsen suggests we need to create a vivid and realistic description of fictitious people and treat personas as more than stereotypes. This is the greatest challenge I’ve encountered – to keep personas relevant, fleshed out, authentic, and alive to team members; another challenge, to not see them as an exercise that must be completed to move on with design.

By no coincidence I stumbled upon an article by Laura Klein that shares a similar sentiment. “We can do better. Frankly, most teams can improve their process for creating personas in a lot of ways, but there’s one problem that’s inherent in even decently researched and constructed personas: even the best personas tend to be descriptive, but not predictive.” Klein makes a good point. To recap in my words, I’ve conducted user interviews and constructed some form of a persona, could be proto-personas or goal directed personas, sometimes user profiles. In one case I created a narrative of a user who makes a perfect stand-in for a group of users. I did this for a transportation client and had a blast talking with the young and hip “bus queen.” I’m not making this up; it’s what her NYC friends call her. These are reliable research models, but I wanted to go further so I researched other methods to extend persona’s shelf life and include them in the entire design process. Read the rest of this post »

The too familiar persona

Too familiar persona

Design personas are user research models employed in various fields of design. Software design teams have been embracing personas in their work since roughly 1999, following Alan Cooper’s published work on goal-directed personas in his “Asylum” and “About Face” texts. They’ve become a user research staple, and the must-do-method for most of the products and services we design. We love personas and so do our clients; these handy models are visual and enticing, and useful at kick starting conversations between clients and design teams. And, unlike other forms of design research I find we encounter minimal to no resistance including them as a research deliverable. With all that is positive about personas my growing impression is that – dare I say – traditional personas are now a bit overfamiliar through overuse, and this familiarity has certainly clouded my perspective.

This familiarity is problematic.

Clients have trailed behind in understanding personas and how best to use them. At times the meaning and intent of design personas are lost in translation as other parts of organizations use them to represent such things as market segments. You may have encountered this at one time, “We’ve created personas. Let me check if marketing can send them over.” As a result development teams miss out on much needed behavioral insights. Along with this Dr. David Travis recently noted in his blog that by bringing personas to life we inadvertently turned them into parodies,” enlarged and printed on posters then cemented into a brand’s identity. Also, project constraints such as time and budget limit going beyond “good enough for now” to employ personas in a more meaningful way. Perhaps my experiences with personas are singular, but I must say I have had few opportunities to refresh a brand’s personas once the research phase was completed and signed off. Read the rest of this post »

“We shape our tools and afterwards our tools shape us.”

Digital DashboardI just read Changing change management shared by David Stallsmith. No doubt digital (interactive media) and the software powering it can be incredibly useful for delivering and managing change within organizations. The descriptive and prescriptive digital examples discussed in the article seem to verify that digital is both positive and transformative when done right. And digital design is bringing enjoyment and enrichment into our work. Even during change it can be useful. But is “it” that transformative? Or, is it the people behind digital and the strategy for using it that is truly transformative? My bet is on people and strategy. Read the rest of this post »

CX and software – consumers lead the experience (part 2)

Part 1 see: “Is software eating the world? Or, is it really customers?”

Software eating our world

In the earlier post I mentioned that more companies are focusing on the opportunities software offers to create customer value through the customer experience (CX). This rising development is a result of the rise in popularity of software, and it is spawning the age of the consumer − consumers are now leading the experience they want to have (i.e., Porter’s Five Forces Analysis, buyer power). I give credit for a chunk of this leverage to software sites such as Twitter, Yelp, Kudzu, TripAdvisor and the like for enabling consumers to socialize their experiences rapidly and easily, and providing leverage to the individual buyer. In our hyper-competitive markets this is putting pressure on companies to look across all customer touch points and evaluate how they measure up, not just looking at their customer satisfaction ratings (the good minus the bad ones) but on the total customer experience and the reasons WHY.

This era of transparency and perfect information is not all bad for businesses. It’s offering them an unprecedented opportunity to learn what attracts customers in the first place and how to satisfy them in the long term, and even retain them for life (i.e., lifetime value of a customer). But where do we start? Read the rest of this post »

Is software eating the world? Or, is it really customers?

Part 1 of 2 

Software eating our world

Are software companies poised to “take over large swathes of the economy?” Apparently Marc Andreessen thought so in an article from 2011. I think he is right. Let’s take a quick mental inventory of a few of the major firms running on software and delivered as online services – eBay, Amazon, Pandora, Shutterfly, LinkedIn and Netflix. Each one of these organizations, within their respective industries, has used software (digital services) to gain control over, or seize, sizable market share; and in some cases they’ve pushed top competing firms out of business. Anyone remember Borders or Kodak? Personally, there was a time I thought Monster would always be the juggernaut of recruiting and placing job seekers. Well, I had to smile when recently in an article in Forbes the writer compared Monster to “a 2001 Dodge Neon – a resume repository.” And how is LinkedIn doing? The firm just got an upgrade from Barclays so things seem to be going well for them. I think some of its success stems from robust features for sharing, joining groups, and as a research tool. It’s attracting the best candidates and in turn attracting the best recruiters.

It’s clear that the things we want to do are, more and more, being serviced and provided through software. We have become dependent on software to connect us with our friends and family, to educate us, and for games and shopping. So more companies are focusing on software to deliver customer value through the customer experience. Now this gets interesting. Software is spawning an emerging tension between CIOs and CMOs to tango over spending to reach customers. A prediction from one Gartner analyst (Laura McLellan) is that by 2017 chief marketing officers (CMOs) will out spend CIOs on IT. This spending is on digital marketing along with software. That is the great news. On the flip side – “ehm” – do we (meaning those of us in software) have a solid idea of how this disruption is affecting our customers in the markets we serve? Jeffrey Bussgang of the Harvard Business School says, “…Marketing leaders and agencies now carry the burden of understanding technology’s impact on their business, the entire customer experience…to win market share.”  Read the rest of this post »