Three dots representing a team

A focus on user outcomes

Drive business by helping users achieve their goals.

Partners in your users’ success

Take a moment to think about what your team values.

Not every organization puts users first. Sometimes, they have explicit business rationale. For example, in a highly commoditized industry you may prioritize cost of delivery over user experience. As a design thinker, you may not agree with that, but it’s still a valid strategy to pursue.

But at IBM, we’re not measured by the features and functions we ship. We’re measured by how well we fulfill our users’ needs. Whether we’re helping them discover a cure for cancer, collaborate across continents, or just do their expense reports a little faster, our users rely on us to help get their jobs done everyday.

When we shift the conversation from one about features and functions to one about users and user outcomes, we deliver more useful, usable, and desirable solutions. We elevate professions and redefine industries. But most importantly, we earn the trust, respect, and repeat business of the people we serve.

In practice

At a time when user needs are increasingly synonymous with market needs, delivering great user outcomes is increasingly synonymous with business success. But as our users’ needs grow and evolve, they expect our offerings to grow and evolve too. It’s no longer enough to stumble our way to great user outcomes. Every aspect of how our teams work––from the metrics we measure to the language we use––must be user-centered.

As a team manager, you can do your part by identifying who your users really are and aligning the way you manage with the user outcomes. As a team member, you can do your part by getting to know users as people and learning about the role they play on their team. Lastly, take the time to learn more about the practice of human-centered design at IBM.

As a team manager

Differentiate between users and clients

Your first line of contact with a client organization is oftentimes a client or economic buyer (for example, a CIO), not an end user.

Take any second-hand information about your users’ experience with a grain of salt. While your client may do their best to represent the end user as faithfully as possible, they may not have the exposure required to truly understand the lived experience of users in their organization. Work with them to identify and connect with the real users for whom you’re designing.

Manage toward user outcomes

Delivering great user outcomes demands leadership and management practices that align your teams’ work with your users’ needs. No matter what project governance process you use today, the Keys of IBM Design Thinking help put user outcomes at the center of your work:

Hills define success based on discrete user outcomes instead of a list of features and functions.

Playbacks capture the nuances of your users’ context by telling stories from their perspective.

Sponsor Users get real users involved in the project from the very beginning.

Measure user outcome metrics

You are what you measure. Only paying attention to metrics like revenue and operating costs undermines your team’s effort to focus on the problems that matters most to users of our offerings. Choose appropriate user outcome metrics that help us learn and understand user behavior. Measure usability, usefulness, and desirability, both in development and in-market.

If you don’t know where to start, consider using a metric such as Net Promoter Score (NPS), which gauges a users’ loyalty with an offerings. An offering’s NPS is shown to correlate with other similar metrics such as Customer Effort Score. It is also shown to act as a leading indicator of growth––when your NPS goes up, it’s likely that your revenue will too.

As a team member

Build empathy with users

An authentic focus on users begins with a simple acknowledgment: we’re not our users. Understanding what really matters to people requires you and your team to put away biases, set aside personal preferences, and see the world as they see it. This requires empathy.

When we make the effort to truly empathize with users, we understand that our users are real human beings with values, behaviors, hopes and fears as complex as our own. Each of these characteristics influence the way our users interact with the systems we build.

Understanding users isn’t just about creating great personas or making accurate user behavior predictions with data. It’s about getting to know them as people first, “users” second.

Understand their role

In reality, most of IBM’s users don’t work alone. They’re often part of complex, interdependent systems of people and processes that work together to achieve a greater goal.

While each individual user is important, it’s equally important to understand the needs of their teams. Get to know the spectrum of processes in which your users participate and what’s expected of them in their role, from the mission-critical to the mundane. Find out who they rely on and who relies on them. Remember that the needs of their business will play a key role in shaping the way they behave.

Learn more about user-centered design

Whether you’re a visual designer, a recruiter, or a lead architect, it’s everyone’s job to understand why their work matters to the users they serve.

IBM Design Research is the practice of driving actionable outcomes through continuous understanding. It helps teams develop a deeper understanding of their users, their challenges and motivations, those with whom they work, and the systems with which they interact.

The IBM Design Language is a shared vocabulary for doing great design at IBM. Use it to transform human needs into thoughtfully made products. Mix the elements together to design for delightful experiences that help people accomplish their goals.