Enterprise UX techniques are learned by the seat of the pants, survey shows

Businesses stand to lose more than $1 trillion in sales due to poor user experience. However, UX proponents have a lot of work and learning to do to convince their organizations to do better.

Enterprise user experience (UX) is still only in its earliest stages as a formally acknowledged, consciously practiced approach to designing better systems. A new survey of 3,157 designers, engineers, and product managers in the B2B space finds that only about one in four organizations have well-formulated UX efforts in their organizations.

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Photo: Joe McKendrick

That's a shame, since UX may make the difference between sale or no sale. As Jerry Cao, UX content strategist at UXPin and a co-author of the survey report, put it in a related post: "Driven by the consumerization of the enterprise, user experience is now a major competitive advantage for B2B products notorious for poor design."

Researchers at The CareerFoundry's UXSchool expressed the challenge even more bluntly: globally, businesses will lose about $1.4 trillion in lost sales due to poor UX. At the same time, about $5.5 trillion in sales will come out of good UX designed-environments. "Even small investment in UX design," they observe, "lead to massive financial returns for businesses: invest $1 in UX and it is possible to see a return of $100 dollars (or more). In addition to the significant increases in both revenue and conversion for the companies mentioned, there are also enormous savings to be had: UX-centric organizations need fewer support calls, have increased customer satisfaction, reduced development waste,and lower risk of developing the wrong idea."

The report cites work by Dr Susan Weinschenk, who breaks down the losses coming from within the context of the $1-trillion shortfall:

  • "The number of projects abandoned because they do not meet the original purpose is up to 15%, which equates to $150 billion worldwide."
  • "The time spent by developers reworking a project with avoidable faults is 50%."
  • "The cost of fixing an error after development is 100x that of fixing it before development."
  • "Three out of the 12 reasons why projects fail are attributed to user experience failures."

SAP's Ivan Femia also makes the business case for enterprise UX, noting these four core benefits:

  • "Increased user performance and satisfaction."
  • "Reduced time spent to deploy a solution (estimated between 33 and 50%)."
  • "Minimized amount of rework on applications - by up to 50%."
  • "Decreased (sometimes, eliminated) costs on training and change management, as well as technical maintenance and updates."

However, UX proponents face many obstacles in evangelizing great design and experience to their enterprises. For starters, there tends to be a dearth of formal training and education in the field. The UXPin survey confirms that enterprise UX skills are not readily picked up in college or other formal learning settings. Two-thirds of respondents stated they are self-taught, versus 32% that have some level of university training.

Along with lack of formal training, additional challenges designers and engineers have been encountering includes improving UX consistency (59%) followed by testing designs with end-users (53%). The survey also finds that improving design consistency becomes a significant challenge once a company grows beyond 25 employees.

Organizational acceptance and supoport also stands in the way of deliering superior UX. At least 38% of respodents to the UXPin survey cite the challenges in getting buy-in or understanding from executives. Executive buy-in becomes a greater challenge as company size increases -- almost half of all respondents from companies with 5001 or more employees reported that executive buy-in and understanding of UX as a challenge.

Additonal challenges inclide clarifying requirements (46%) and collaborating between teams (44%).Collaboration becomes more difficult when developers greatly outnumber designers, the survey also finds. The ideal level would be about five developers per designer, but many organizations will have ratios of 50 or more developers for each designer they have on their payrolls.

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