Remaking the Making Company – From Focusing on Technology to Experiences

BY MARTIN ERIKSSON ON AUGUST 17, 2016

Not that long ago new technologies were magical, and we were so happy when they just worked. But today we expect more, and assume, demand even, that digital experiences don’t just work really well but are simple, intuitive and fun to use too. This means companies need to stop thinking purely about technology, and think about a holistic experience for their customers.

Maria Giudice is the VP Experience Design at Autodesk, brought on board to be a design leader and a change agent to help take the 33 year old company from being technology centred to becoming experience centred. In this talk from Mind the Product San Francisco she shares some of her experiences from that journey.

Becoming a Change Agent

The time for change is now

As a change agent you have to ask your team, your company, and your organisation if they’re ready for change. Ready for the mess and the chaos that comes with change. And if you’re not ready – you need to be. Your industry, your customers, and your relationship with them is changing rapidly and if you don’t adapt you will fall behind.

Change is a team sport

Do you have the right people on your team? Are they ready for change? Usually you find that the leadership and people closest to the customer are ready but everyone in between might fear it. To be a change agent you need to clear the pathway to drive change, and provide some quick wins so those teams see the value of change and embrace it.

No time for politics

The other obstacle to change is office politics. It’s important to be able to say what you think, be transparent and open about what’s happening. One key to this is to walk the talk – not just talk about change but actively work on it and show how new processes and ways of working help.

Treat every problem like a design problem

Whether you’re changing a process, a team, or a product it all starts with listening. Maria traveled the world to meet and interview as many of the Autodesk staff as she could. She hung out with them, spent time in their teams, and really worked to understand their story and their motivations. This is a process we’re all familiar with applying externally when designing products, but we often forget to apply internally when designing new processes.

Define the key problems

There was a lot of data that came out of that process, and it underlined a few key problems that Autodesk shares with many larger companies;

  • Imbalance of power on product teams
  • Fragmented access to customers
  • Organisational silos means customer experiences aren’t cohesive
  • Focusing on quantity of features instead of quality of experience

Four Principles to Becoming Experience Centric

In order to move the company from technology centric to experience centric, Maria and her team defined four principles which became Autodesk’s operating charter:

Build Community

Great companies are built on great cultures so we can’t ship great products without tearing down those internal boundaries and becoming a more holistic organisation. The very first thing to do was to define what design is and designers do. It’s not a noun. It’s not about artefacts. It’s an active verb that’s shared by the whole team.

Designers must become leaders because the best ideas and solutions come from multi-disciplinary teams. Because everyone is a designer, designers have to give up ownership of the word and share it with the team. More brains and more diversity of input produces more ideas and better solutions.

By breaking down the silos between teams and bringing everyone together into one team you allow them to work on common ground, communicate better, collaborate and share equally.

Focus on Customers

What percentage of your company interact with customers on a daily basis? Does design, engineering and product get to interact with them on a regular basis? Probably not enough. It starts with identifying and treating customers as people, not users. This starts with building a strong research practice that everyone takes part in, including programs to get closer to customers, making the research easily accessible to everyone in the team, and balancing qualitative and quantitative data.

Connect Experiences

Autodesk, like many larger companies, has grown through acquisition and development, and has over 140 products in it’s portfolio. So you can imagine that there’s a lack of product cohesion among them. Are your customers getting consistent experiences? Or are you shipping your organisation’s seams to them? This requires a new focus on platform thinking, and delivering services from that platform instead of piecemeal products. That includes developing a consistent brand and product point of view, journey mapping to design consistent end to end experiences, and reorganising to align different teams within those products into a company wide practice.

Ship Quality

It is our responsibility to create experiences our customers love. Which means we have to change our mindset to focusing on lovable experiences – and not minimum viable products. Are you shipping something truly valuable to customers? Or just shipping cool features? Are those features easy to use? Or are you hiding behind complexity? Is it well crafted?

This principle includes prioritising poor in-product user experiences instead of sticking them in the backlog, building in time to craft and polish each release before shipping, dogfooding your own products and simply building less better.

Watch this great talk for more detail behind these four principles, and how they can guide any large organisation to make changes and embrace a new experience centric focus. Listen to your teams, embrace your inner designer, and go create great experiences your customers will love.

Martin Eriksson

About MARTIN ERIKSSON

Martin Eriksson has 20 years experience building world-class online products in both corporate and start-up environments for global brands such as Monster, Financial Times, Huddle, and Covestor. He is the Founder of ProductTank, the Co-Founder and Curator of Mind the Product and currently a Product Manager at large, advising and mentoring startups while writing Product Leadership, How Top Product Leaders Launch Great Products and Build Successful Teams (O'Reilly, 2017).

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