Where Does User Advocacy Belong in the Company Structure?

14 Jan 2004 - 5:09pm
10 years ago
4 replies
772 reads
Chris Whelan
2004

Can a usability team report into an aggressive
marketing/business development unit and remain true to
the user? Can the same question be raised if the team
reports into IT?

I'm having an interesting debate here about where the
user advocacy group should report. (The choices are IT
or Marketing – I can't form a new department!).

I know concern over objectivity in the usability field
certainly isn't as dramatic as in publishing, where
many organizations literally separate editorial and ad
sales, but has anyone looked at how an organization's
structure impacts the effectiveness of the UX team?

I realize the answer would likely vary by case,
depending largely on the UX team's leadership, but I'd
appreciate any insight…

-C. Whelan

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Comments

15 Jan 2004 - 12:04pm
ralph lord
2004

I agree with Robert for the reasons he mentioned and would add my
opinion that more often than not new products and new product ideas
start in marketing. Since one of the main complaints/struggles of most
in ID is being brought in too late, being closer to the source of
product initiatives is of great benefit.

Ralph Lord
Atlanta

15 Jan 2004 - 10:40am
Ian Roberts
2004

I'd want to report to IT, so that my goals for advancement come from my
ability to meet the needs of the users with the software we build. In
marketing, my advancement and guidance would come from how well I
convince the users that our software does what they need.

Also, in an "us vs. them" environment, I'd rather be on the side that
has the most affect on the part I really care about - the software. It's
hard enough to convince some developers that they even need
usability/analysis, and it would be worse if those directions were
coming from marketing.

My 2 cents...

Ian Roberts <Interaction Architect> Rich Interactive Environments,
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

-----Original Message-----
From: Chris Whelan [mailto:ccwhela at yahoo.com]
Sent: Wednesday, January 14, 2004 2:10 PM
To: discuss at interactiondesigners.com
Subject: [ID Discuss] Where Does User Advocacy Belong in the Company
Structure?

Can a usability team report into an aggressive marketing/business
development unit and remain true to the user? Can the same question be
raised if the team reports into IT?

15 Jan 2004 - 12:29pm
Arjan Haring
2003

I think the big challenge is the fact that Marketing usually doesn't have a well documented process.

And the fact that they don't think in processes, in fact the generally think in results. This is also true for behaviour versus actions(results).

ID has problems with justifying itself because it looks at behaviour/process and not so much in results. First of all traditional marketing depts. have to realise that the world is changing (and will never stop changing) so results aren't the most important thing, the focus should be on processes (and behaviour).

There is a wave of marketing ideas, quite similar too ID, that focuses on processes, behaviour (predicted by Archetypes/Personas) and the implicit world behind products.

Arjan
Marketing Intelligence
AXA Netherlands

It's very true that some traditional marketing depts.
need to be educated about interaction/behavior. I've
seen similar marketing groups that come from the print
marketing communications world. Usually the job isn't as
hard when there are product and technical marketing
groups that have some tech awareness.

Robert.

-----Original Message-----
From: Narey, Kevin [mailto:Kevin.Narey at Gedas.co.uk]
Sent: Thursday, January 15, 2004 11:23 AM
To: Reimann, Robert; discuss at interactiondesigners.com
Subject: RE: [ID Discuss] Where Does User Advocacy Belong in the Company S
tructure?

Interesting. Yes, theoretically you would think of Marketing as the
customer/user's champion. However, I've had completely the opposite
experience of Marketing, who appear to be solely interested in (and
sometimes thoroughly uncompromising
on) the visual element of the solution and not the physical interaction. I
suspect that this is a legacy issue with Marketing where print is a
preferred medium.

Internally, I have found that there is a very complex interface between
Technology and Marketing and that Interaction Design can often provide it.
In addition it has the benefit of being able to be sold externally as a
service in it's own right.

rgds

KN

-----Original Message-----
From: Reimann, Robert [mailto:Robert_Reimann at bose.com]
Sent: 15 January 2004 16:05
To: discuss at interactiondesigners.com
Subject: RE: [ID Discuss] Where Does User Advocacy Belong in the Company S
tructure?

Given this choice, and without specific knowledge of
each organization, I would tend to pick an association
with Marketing over IT.

Theoretically, Marketing should understand the importance
of customer/user relations, and from there it's usually
an easy sell that a product's behavior constitutes an
important piece of that relationship. Usability can also
offer Marketing a greater insight into its customers/users
(via ethnography and even traditional u-test) along axes
that market research doesn't provide, and also provide
insight into what people really like and dislike about
existing products. With the right people and approach, Usability/UX and
Marketing can be wonderful allies.

This isn't to say that Usability/UX can't operate from within IT, but in
this case, upper IT management must really support it, recognize it as
necessary component to the development process (rather than a luxury),
recognize where it belongs in
the process (throughout, and especially at the beginning), and
be willing to back up the UX team's decisions and analysis.
I've seen it work, but I think it's often the bigger challenge
organizationally, and very dependent on IT and UX leadership.

And as others have mentioned, UX must bring together many
constituents across the organization to be truly successful,
no matter where its home is.

Robert.

---

Robert Reimann
Manager, User Interface Design
Bose Design Center

-----Original Message-----
From: Chris Whelan [mailto:ccwhela at yahoo.com]
Sent: Wednesday, January 14, 2004 5:10 PM
To: discuss at interactiondesigners.com
Subject: [ID Discuss] Where Does User Advocacy Belong in the Company
Structure?

Can a usability team report into an aggressive marketing/business
development unit and remain true to the user? Can the same question be
raised if the team reports into IT?

I'm having an interesting debate here about where the
user advocacy group should report. (The choices are IT
or Marketing - I can't form a new department!).

I know concern over objectivity in the usability field certainly isn't as
dramatic as in publishing, where many organizations literally separate
editorial and ad sales, but has anyone looked at how an organization's
structure impacts the effectiveness of the UX team?

I realize the answer would likely vary by case,
depending largely on the UX team's leadership, but I'd appreciate any
insight...

-C. Whelan

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16 Jan 2004 - 12:38pm
Todd Warfel
2003

Depends on the environment, actually.

Some environments we've worked in (partnering with an internal IT/Comm
group) are better for reporting into IT, while others into Comm. For
instance: one client's IT group is measured on how well they follow
process, not the quality of the delivery of the final product. In this
case, I'd much rather report to Comm, particularly since they follow
every step of the process and aren't allowed to make good judgment
calls to "skip" certain parts when needed. They're following Six Sigma
to a T - no variance - it's simply not allowed. So, often times things
that should take 20 minutes to decide will take 5-7 business days do to
"following the process."

In other cases, Comm focuses too much on the marketing message and
doesn't get it that the product has to be useable, useful, and
desirable, not just flashy. In those cases, IT is better to report
into, sometimes.

Again, it really depends upon the environment. From what we've seen,
it's more common to report into the "creative" groups than IT. But
again, it depends on your particular situation.

On Jan 15, 2004, at 10:40 AM, Roberts, Ian E wrote:

> I'd want to report to IT, so that my goals for advancement come from my
> ability to meet the needs of the users with the software we build. In
> marketing, my advancement and guidance would come from how well I
> convince the users that our software does what they need.
>
> Also, in an "us vs. them" environment, I'd rather be on the side that
> has the most affect on the part I really care about - the software.
> It's
> hard enough to convince some developers that they even need
> usability/analysis, and it would be worse if those directions were
> coming from marketing.

Cheers!

Todd R. Warfel
User Experience Architect
MessageFirst | making products easier to use
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voice: (607) 339-9640
email: twarfel at messagefirst.com
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aim: twarfel at mac.com
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In practice, they are not.
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