Friday, July 13, 2007

Comparing UXD Business Models

Looking at how UX organizations are structured ...

"When leaders of UX organizations get together, we always seem to talk about how our UX groups are structured and why. Just as designers solve user interface design problems, their leaders solve organizational design problems. It’s what we do. At CHI 2005, Karthik Mithal, Director of User Experience at Sun Microsystems, and Jim Nieters, Senior Leader of User Experience at Cisco, spent hours sharing insights about how to best structure their groups for future success. Karthik and Jim agreed that the opportunity to learn from one another was one of the more valuable reasons for leaders of UX groups to attend CHI.

This manifest need for UX leaders to learn—and share—best practices was the rationale for the authors, Jim Nieters and Garett Dworman, to write and present a CHI 2007 Experience Report on the organizational structure that Jim Nieters created for his UX group at Cisco [1]. It also motivated us to follow up that presentation with a CHI 2007 Management Special Interest Group (SIG), “Comparing UXD Business Models,” in which participants compared different models of UX organizational design [2]. Our intent was to share experiences and systematically explore them in the hope that this information will aid companies in structuring their internal UX functions. To this end, we generated SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analyses of four UX business models.

More than 100 members of the CHI management community attended this SIG. During the discussion, it rapidly became clear that UX leaders had a lot to talk about, and one and a half hours was far too short a period to permit definitive answers to emerge. So, this SIG will be the beginning of a longer-term exploration. In this article, we are sharing what we learned by performing SWOT analyses on several UX business models during the SIG.

UX Business Models
To begin the SIG, we explained our goals and briefly described the following four simple organizational models:

• Centralized funding model—A central UX organization receives a large budget from a single organization, which views it as a cost center.
• Client-funded model—Individual business units fund a single central UX organization that manages the UX team and provides UX resources to product teams.
• Distributed model—Instead of a central UX organization, smaller groups of UX practitioners report directly into product divisions and focus only on the user experience of that division’s products.
• Internal consultancy model—Highly focused teams of cross-functional experts provide in-depth UX support on carefully selected products. This is the model Cisco’s UX group follows, and we discussed it in detail in our CHI 2007 Experience Report [2]."    (Continued via UXmatters)    [Usability Resources]

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