IBM ups bet on user experience, design consulting

IBM will add a series of design and data consulting labs around the world and invest $100 million in its Interactive Experience practice.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

IBM on Thursday said it will spend more than $100 million to expand its design and engagement consulting business and hire 1,000 workers.

The move highlights how user experience (UX) is becoming increasingly important to enterprises and businesses that are trying to become digital. IBM has had a user experience design lab and consulting business, but now appears to be melding analytics, data, and strategy.

IBM said it has 10 new labs in Bangalore, Beijing, Groningen, London, Melbourne, New York, Sao Paulo, Shanghai, Mexico City and Tokyo that combine design, marketing, and mobility. Four user experience labs are already in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, and Toronto. IBM launched its Interactive Experience unit in January.

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What's unclear is whether IBM will be seen as a cutting edge experience designer on the front-end enough to bring in its analytics expertise. The company launched intelligent customer profiles that learn individual preferences, influence analysis that scores people beyond social reach and identity tools that build profiles by combining data repositories.

Shannon Miller, head of global strategy at IBM Interactive Experience, said Big Blue plans to bring research, data, consulting, and design together. "There are new uses of data and that's driving the design," said Miller. "The reverse is true as well."

The argument from IBM is that the lines between business strategy and UX is increasingly blurry. If the user experience doesn't work, companies won't succeed.

As a result, Miller added that personalization of experiences---driven by data of course---will be critical to businesses.

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