Human-Centered Design: Your First Step Toward Total Experience

4 min read

At IBM Design, people are at the center of every problem we solve. We start this process by empathizing with customers, users or employees.

This unrelenting focus on people has yielded an organizational transformation that goes far beyond our design team. We use enterprise design thinking as a toolset to build alignment on what is to be accomplished. We embrace the iterative mantra of observe, reflect and make. Our collaboration across functional areas and designing "people first" directly aligns with total experience.

What is total experience (TX)? In its eBook “Top Strategic Technology Trends for 2021,” [1] Gartner® Research Vice President Brian Burke emphasizes the importance of TX. “Total experience combines traditionally siloed disciplines like multiexperience (MX), customer experience (CX), employee experience (EX) and user experience (UX), and links them to create a better overall experience for all parties. Not only does this streamline the experience for everyone, because organizations are optimizing across all experiences, it offers an excellent opportunity to differentiate an organization from competitors. With an overall goal of transforming the entire experience, total experience enables organizations to lean into the challenges created by COVID-19 and identify new activities that they can integrate and build on.”

Source: Gartner, Inc., Top Strategic Technology Trends for 2021: Total Experience, Jason Wong, Michael Chiu, Michelle Duerst, Don Scheibenreif, Brent Stewart, Saul Brand, 28 December 2020

Source: Gartner, Inc., Top Strategic Technology Trends for 2021: Total Experience, Jason Wong, Michael Chiu, Michelle Duerst, Don Scheibenreif, Brent Stewart, Saul Brand, 28 December 2020

In reviewing the framework under the lens of enterprise software solutions, some terms and concepts are worth clarifying.

Understanding the distinction between customers and users

When a business sells directly to a consumer — for example, a hotel stay — the customer and the user are typically the same. This person experiences the end-to-end journey with the company. Each touchpoint they evaluate whether they will complete the initial purchase or make a purchase again in the future — a subset of the latter being customer advocates who promote your organization to their networks. Growing customer advocates is the primary customer experience (CX) goal.

In contrast, the purchaser of enterprise software solutions is often not the end-user. End-users might influence the purchasing decision; however, the purchaser will have other considerations to weigh during the procurement process. Throughout the end-to-end journey, different people with different needs interact at different times with different vendor employees. 

We take the approach to carefully design using nine universal experiences, our single shared language for delivering excellent experiences:

  • Discover
  • Learn
  • Buy
  • Get started
  • Use
  • Get help
  • Expand
  • End use

Cross-functional teams work together to review, provide feedback and action improvements, all to bring one cohesive IBM experience to our customers, users and prospects. 

A difference in kind: Multiexperience

Multiexperience (MX) and, more specifically, a multiexperience development platform (MXDP) are essential to ensure interoperability and interconnectivity between the digital touchpoints, the variety of devices types and interaction modalities. However, we need to start with people-centered improvements. 

A designer has a definitive person in mind when crafting improvements to customer experience (CX), user experience (UX) or employee experience (EX). Multiexperience relates to the underlying technologies that work seamlessly and consistently for the customers, users and employees. Multiexperience design integrates the most relevant technology options that improve CX, UX or EX experiences. Therefore, a decision to add virtual reality (VR), a smart watch or gesture interactions should only be made if it is justified by a deliberate CX, UX or EX improvement. If not, we risk an even more fractured and confusing experience by adding another touchpoint that is not aligned to the TX strategy. 

Design and people research are essential to experience excellence

The practice of design and people research is critical to improving experiences. Making purposeful human-centered decisions is the prerequisite for building a coherent TX. We leverage IBM Design and Enterprise Design Thinking across CX, UX and EX to improve experiences for customers, employees, users and business partners. 

During his tenure as chairman and CEO of IBM, Thomas J. Watson, Jr. said "Good design is good business," which is why our design team contributes to more than product design. During our rigorous design review process, a major area of focus is the digital Discovery, Learn, Try and Buy experience. Our teams have been working closely with marketing, product management, sales and development colleagues to identify blockers and iterate.

When the IBM Documentation team was looking to revamp the customer documentation experience, they started with a Enterprise Design Thinking (EDT) workshop. They continued to leverage various EDT activities throughout the iterative process. The reimagined IBM Documentation site was built on a foundation of empathy and led to a streamlined process to get the right content to users as soon as possible.

Moving towards the optimal total experience

A total enterprise-wide, human-centered experience is a key competitive advantage for organizations, regardless of industry. As companies embark on this transformational journey, it is incumbent on teams to put into practice the Enterprise Design Thinking principles, namely "A focus on user outcomes," "Restless reinvention" and "Diverse empowered teams." Download the IBM Enterprise Design Thinking Field Guide to start your journey toward total experience success.  

Learn more

Are you interested in learning more about human-centered design?  Apply to the IBM User Experience Program, an IBM client feedback program where you can collaborate with researchers and designers to improve your experience with IBM products.

[1] Smarter with Gartner,Gartner Top Strategic Technology Trends for 2021, Burke, Brian., 19 October 2020

GARTNER is a registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally and is used herein with permission. All rights reserved.

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