Strategic Alignment by Design - Short Term Fire Fighting versus Unified Directional Leadership


Strategic Alignment by Design - Short Term Fire Fighting versus Unified Directional Leadership

Product Direction

Transformation isn't just a UX project, it's the whole company project. Donal O'Mahony, Global Head of Experience Design at IoT Saas company Verizon Connect, has been leading experience transformation in his organisation to create incremental experience improvements with his 70 person X team.
In his talk, Dónal will discuss:

  • Directional CFT leadership alignment to help deliver multi-year digital transformation.
  • 'That was a great service design workshop, now what do we do?!'
  • Shared goals - unifying leadership around customer outcome OKRs.
  • One vision - telling an evolving, multi-year customer outcome story every CFT believes in.
Donal O'Mahony

Donal O'Mahony, Head of UX & Product Design,Verizon Connect

Hi, everyone. This is going to be a little bit of a walk into the past, a very grateful walk into the past. It's been an amazing four years. And also a look to the future, which is my very clever and wishy strategic alignment by design, because that's the topic of where we're going now for the next couple of years. So there's, please connect with me, please connect on LinkedIn or Twitter or whatever way you'd like to pick up the conversation after this as well. And obviously live on there as well would be brilliant.

Okay, so a little bit of background on Verizon and Verizon Connect in particular. So we basically in a nutshell, we connect a mobile workforce. At the time four years ago, it was classically around GPS, telematics, full visibility and utilization of a fleet. But now the true breakthrough of IoT and our SaaS product is that we've now broken into a hugely exciting area of computer vision. And obviously you can see that there are a huge area of safety and coaching and really a phenomenally exciting area with a huge amount, actually with previous session, a huge amount of AI and machine learning. It's been a phenomenal ride as the product has matured. And we really have been extending out the experience.

I'm not going to talk so much about that because this topic, that was the last topic in 2017, but this topic will be more about organizational transformation beyond the UX team. And that's, I think, what hits every UX designer as they mature in their career. So let's stick around for that because that's really what this is going to be about is transforming our entire organization. Okay, so that's the context of the product and the company.

So I do get this question quite a lot, and it's not in a passive aggressive way. It's in a very interesting way at the moment. And this is really what our team is really pushing for. And the question is, why do we need to unify around the customer journey? There's a huge interest in it. And now there's a huge education programs throughout Verizon Connect and wider Verizon. But the answer is strategic alignment. And I think there's a really great visual now that we could show here.

Without strategic alignment around the customer experience and the customer journey, you get this, which is the classic multi-year throwing spaghetti at a wall. Okay. It's kind of fun for a while, but then it gets really messy. And everybody is trying their best, right? In every company, it's probably not as common, might be actually in startups, but in any large, large organization, and particularly the kind of the fortune size organizations such as Verizon, you have a lot of programs and initiatives around tackling the same problem. And obviously what we're trying to tackle is that the great initiatives are all trying their best, but they're potentially going in different directions.

And that's very common, right? There's nothing groundbreaking about that insight, but products may be talking in a one way, sales, GCS, or support, or customer success, finance, et cetera, et cetera, marketing, and on and on. And really the way to align and the right to do that, of course I would say that, but it's true, is around an experience vision and commonly referred to over the years as North Stars concept cars, as I refer to them, and which I love and I'll talk about at the end of this presentation, and it's been a staple and almost a calendar reminder in my career is actually to do those North Stars and concept cars.

But now it's matured much more, not about the kind of the sizzle and the concepts, but actually grounding it really in the voice of the customer and those highs and lows of the insights from the UX research team. And that is becoming an amazing unifier within Verizon Connect in recent years and actually particularly in recent months. So a little bit more about that in the slides. So that's it. And we refer to really not just trying to straighten the spaghetti on the wall, but actually cleaning the wall and doing the process on the right properly around the customer.

Okay. So I can't help, but always tell folks what I'm going to tell them, then tell them, and then at the end, tell them what I told them. So here we go. So CX alignment, our customer experience, strategic alignment, these are my tips for this talk. Embed the experience. So don't just think UX, think of everybody having customer touch points. Embed that throughout the organization. Huge amount of customer exposure with support groups, with sales groups, et cetera, et cetera. If there's hardware involved with the installers, all of that, but embedded into the team, hardwired into the team. And I know I talk about CFTs and product teams, but I really mean all the teams in the organization. And we'll cover this throughout the talk.

Share that user research. Don't be protective of it. Really share it out everywhere and at every level. Then build out customer journey maps. No groundbreaking ideas here yet, but that really is important because if those, and when those customer journey maps are based on the user research and then they iterate quarter after quarter, or even week after week in the more lean organization, they become very, very powerful. But they're localized, if that makes sense, rather than federal and a very, very high level map is also required. So we'll cover that.

And then iterate with the customer or the user and sometimes the same person. So obviously the iterative design, but also the map itself, how is it going? What red pin points are you turning to green? And this is, as always, I'm very frank and honest. This is, even if you're a startup, but certainly if it's enterprise level transformation, this is multi-year. And where service design really has matured, I barely got a mention four years ago, is really become a driving force, certainly outside of the product teams, but in the wider organization. So that is multi-year.

They are going to be really ambitious visions for multi-year and it takes nerves of steel really to stick to that kind of transformation. And with those multi-year service design blueprints, you develop also the multi-years experience visions, or basically North Stars are prototypes at a grand scale, a massive scale, and really again, a unifying force for the company, not just again for the product team, but for the wider company to have skin in the game and invest it.

Why do you do that? To transform the company around the customer. And I don't know how that got in there. That's a little easter egg, but we're doing a lot of this. And obviously I'm sure it's a pretty hot topic right now, but if you like what you're seeing here, I'm hiring, as are many of the leaders of Verizon Connect in all those areas, such as Ireland, Italy, US, New Zealand. So there you go, a little sneaky in there.

So as I said, and it's a shame I'm not on stage. I do like an audience, but this was four years ago and it was a hell of a challenge obviously to embed and transform the company around the UX. At the time it was a company called Fleetmatics. It was acquired by Verizon, but we had just been acquired, I think, around the time of that talk. And I gave an ambitious four-year target to truly embed.

And I'll show that maturity chart in a minute, but to try and do that in four years and the great news is we did. We actually hit it, which is amazing. I'm really, really proud of that as our team. So that's a slightly younger looking and I guess a little bit more hair as well photograph is a great to take stock and look back at that. But it's a UX maturity model. It's a little based on the Nielsen Norman model that's got a lot of traction in recent years, but also a hybrid of a few other great thinkers in this area as well. So I just, to be frank, I just made it and translated it for the Verizon Connect instance.

So it can take, according to Nielsen Norman, it can take anywhere between four to 20 years to actually embed UX within the organization. So I have classic user experience from unrecognized, not important, just basically lipstick on a pig UI would be the classic. But way beyond that now, we've gone through interested, UX is important, but limited funding, invested well beyond that as well, obviously.

The team actually hit the dizzying heights in numbers, which I was obsessed with in the past, not so much anymore, but actually got up to 80. I remember the talk was about how to build up to, I think, 25 or 30 at the time and the huge excitement of that got up to 80. And there were hundreds of designers and wider Verizon at this stage and researchers. So certainly invested, but I'm confident now and the whole team are in complete agreement that we've actually got up to embedded, which is user experience is central in every decision, but note that I keep referencing user experience.

So we are here, we really celebrate that regularly and we were very welcome and very celebrated as well by our colleagues in products and marketing and engineering, et cetera. So I can confirm that did happen. And how it happened, if you remember, was that idea of embedding and lean squads. So that classic model of a product manager, engineering lead, experienced designer, and of course the breakthrough and the topic here is now they are absolutely hooked into the feedback, the visits, et cetera, and the personas in our instance as well of the customer regularly.

So that's again, nothing revolutionary, but next, and this is where you really, where we are, we have now moved into is a lean enterprise and a customer centered enterprise. So you see here that really building these teams and models around the customer, their feedback and direct channels with them is really where the company is now maturing into, including marketing and hardware design and that entire experience, customer support, et cetera. So really broadening that out.

And a quick plug, but also just to pat myself on the back, because not only is it the launch of our customer love hack, which is a hackathon today, it's also my birthday, which is brilliant. And I'm doing this talk. So an incredibly exciting day today. But I want to congratulate our own teams in all of Verizon, because instead of it purely being an engineering hackathon today and launched, and we're going to do it in early November, but the PR starts now, internal PR, it's actually inviting and including all of those other functional groups. And that's really, really walking the talk at this stage. So wish me luck. That's like 3000 plus people. God help me. But it's going to be fun.

Okay. So same chart. I'm not going to read the rate where we are because we're in progress, but it's high, but not high enough. And now it's not the CX, or it's not the UX, I should say. It's actually the CX maturity model. And I know CX, UX, what's the difference, internal, external, but really the culture change here is to focus on customer outcomes. So embedded, the way I've described in a wider organization, but in every decision throughout the organization. And I really believe that where Josh Seiden went, for example, for outcomes over output, which is a phenomenal read and something that we're really adopting here as well. And that's really needed at every level in the organization, not to be just OKR driven or target driven or business outcomes or business targets, but for it to be much more about what is the behavior change for our internal teams and our customer facing teams. And obviously the customer and users themselves, the behavior change, the outcomes for them based on their day, their lives, et cetera.

So we're off again. We're probably a year into this at least. And the drum that has been buying constantly and which I found as a nugget at one of the first executive talks that were happening when the acquisition happened in Verizon was in the States with a whole bunch of leaders. And someone was up there for on stage from the Mayo Clinic. And it was an amazing question, which was, how did you become number one and so patient centered or user centered or customer centered? And it's terrible on me, but I can't remember the person's name in the Mayo Clinic, but they said it beautifully. They said this, put the customer at the center of every discussion and decision throughout the company. And that was a eureka moment for me because let's face it, there's a lot of talk and there's a lot of LinkedIn posts or Twitter posts about customer centricity, but it's talk. What really, really happens is around the decisions and every decision, finance decisions, legal decisions, product decisions, support decisions, et cetera, et cetera, have to be around the customer. How will this affect customer outcomes? This decision in this meeting, in this workshop. And that was a eureka moment for me that I'll never forget because they said, it's simple and then put the same emphasis on the decision bit. So I love that. And the old saying that your parents hopefully, or your family, or your friends will tell you when you learn is actions speak louder than words.

Okay. So now it's more about embedding, but not necessarily as it was before around the cross-functional squads, et cetera, but actually in the company. Okay. So the voice of the customer somehow in each team. And that is through obviously user research or the UX research and the customer contacts, which we've really doubled down on and it's phenomenal for having a seat at the table, frankly. It's hard for design in the old days to get a seat at the table, but when you turn up with a customer or recording or with those clips sitting beside you in your back pocket, in your presentation, at every presentation or at every meeting, then you have a seat at the table. That will be my tip for the day.

So how you get that, obviously we're a very, very large team and we build up these kinds of hours. But of course you should do it and you must be doing it if it is a small organization even more so because you really depend in those early days on the success of your early MVPs, et cetera. You don't have that much buffer or comfort, for example, on constant failure.

So experience team customer contact in a general year or so, 150 lab tests. Back to customer field studies as well, which is amazing, which is get out of the office, go visit the customer, watch them, shut up and watch and listen. And those field studies are really important and provided amazing insight and very humbling insight as well and lead to some great innovation as well. Customer interviews, 900 interviews, 1,500 prototypes, huge amount of user testing, the discussions earlier about testing as well, and then obviously huge amount of surveys. So that's how you get the contact to the finger on the pulse and you get the seat at the table. You don't want to turn up and you get that seat empty handed.

These are examples of site visits. We love our customers. They vary anywhere from micro businesses and mom and pop shops all the way up to huge, huge enterprises. But it's incredible to go and watch those moments to see how, I think, Dan Olson referred to we're competing against pen and paper with some of his insights, obviously, from the Intuit days. And you really see that when you see the customers. I mean, look at it. And there's our product in the center of that, but surrounded in the customer's ecosystem. And we have to flex and integrate it in their worlds, not the other way around.

So big fan of personas. We're standing on the shoulders of giants here in this presentation. So a shout out, obviously, to Cooper. We also do jobs to be done. So I'm not really caring what methodology we use, but persona has been hugely beneficial for that cultural change with engineering, with leadership, with the ELT, et cetera. It's based on thousands of elements and thousands of hours of research. They're super, super helpful for us. And they're growing out really nicely. They're also growing out in a way that they're referencing internal personas. The customer facing points of success, customer success, sales closers, et cetera, as well, that we have to start designing for as well. So that's a great breakthrough for us.

And, yeah, has been a real turning point for us as well to get away from, as a UX and a CX team, being so customer centered that we actually miss some of the internal team members that are critical to the experience as well. Just to show some level of detail, it's that classic template, but it is really resonating in workshops. And certainly, it's going to be hugely useful in the company-wide hackathon, which is coming up as well.

So I mentioned about embedding the customer now, but everywhere in the organization. And while it's OK to talk about these kind of virtual teams, I also really mean that they're now beginning to be referenced and mentioned everywhere from our ELT sessions, recurring exec staff meetings, pressing play on those highs and lows, those great moments of our promoters, but also really moments that we have to double down and improve on. And standups, Slack channels, they should always be bite-sized and tempting you in and then drawing you in on those little nuggets of insight and customer feedback. Obviously, posters, all hands, project kickoff, project retros, research readouts, and then it's all leading, all that insight is leading to action. So insights for action.

And that is going to take time, obviously, but it should be organic. It should be a pull rather than a push. In the first year of trying to do this transformation, back in the days when it was trying to get UX working with product and engineering, it was a bit of a push, like a push in this. But really what I've learned is it's superb when the pull is there and people are like, we want more of this. We want to hear more of this. And then you're in your motor.

OK, so again, throughout the organization, let's keep focus on the theme here, this, which is strategic alignment by design. So the product strategy is influenced by the design team, the UX research team, and vice versa. We're heavily involved in some of the strategy and involved in that now and some of the new working models we have. And mentioned earlier, but we leverage tools and techniques such as the Lean product playbook with Mr. Olsen. So in this instance, rather than describing the process, what I really recommend looking at is that this is, again, covered in customer contact.

So from that methodology, obviously determining who's the customer based on the personas, everything I outlined, actual customer interviews and what we're going after in the problem space, customer problem space or the user problem space, and obviously site visits. What's their need? Observational studies, interviews, quantitative and qualitative surveys, et cetera. Why us? So it's competitive analysis, but particularly around the experience. And then you move into the solution space and you iterate between three and four, obviously. So you're building prototypes and ensuring to include the delighters.

And then the outcomes as well will come with that. A delight is an outcome, but we need to get more specific on that. And then validate with customers, testing the prototypes, iterating based on feedback. And then the last but really big, massive section is strategic transformation. And this is, I'll almost pause to catch my breath on this, but this is not for the faint-hearted, but is really where the action's at. And I would say that to everyone, once you see that things will take a multi-year plan, you're probably in the right space and stick with it. But service design is key here. And then that also is the multi-year experience vision is key here. You've got to know that the hill or the mountain or the Everest you're going to conquer, and not find that all of your colleagues around the organization are standing on other mountain tops. And again, it should all be based on user research and UX research again, and many other things as well, but it has to be based on foundational on that.

So I'm reusing my material. I kind of put this in the last time to say change happens one person at a time. And that really resonated with me because it was a very small team at the time, about 10 or 11 people. And we had to scale and it was overwhelming. But now we're at a point where the ambassadors, the champions, and the people who are really helping this change are really starting to accumulate throughout the organization. And by that, I'm feeling we're getting up into the hundreds because you have to scale this beyond the design, the UX or the CX team.

And they are the people who will make those decisions or not around the customer every day. So that means so much more to me now, that quote that I used years ago. And the sharp intake of breath is to do that in large organizations will take a couple of years, but like the last time, but now much wider, we're well on our way.

So I did mention customer journeys before. This has been a breakthrough for us again, which is called a mega map or a service design master map and a huge shout out to Amelia on the team and really the whole company because all the areas and all the functional areas have fed into our master map, which luckily you can't read. But this, if you zoom into, is individual customer journeys throughout the phases. There are all kinds of functional areas going in and swarming on this. We are flushing out any inconsistencies or frictions or disconnects all in this map. It is a living, breathing monster that's used nearly at every single strategic session that we're having now in the wider executive level and all of the breakouts and all the sessions that we do now. It's been phenomenal.

And a lot of the vision and what I'm going to show now, a lot of the vision, this is a future vision layer as well around the product, around the experience, around the future vision is also layered in a really, really huge, obviously a huge amount of research, but these are real milestone foundational research things to reference as well. There's so much in this. It looks complex, but it's hugely useful. We didn't invent it, but we're certainly championing it, which is how you will end up with large design teams with 40, 50, 60 journey maps for all the widgets and products. But you have to align them. It's going to take a long time and it's going to be way beyond the service designer UX team. It's going to require a village to raise this map. And as you can see, this is not Laura Nipsom. This is a real living map. Okay. So I really recommend that. As we say, it's one map to rule them all.

And then starting to close now on the end of my content, unifying experience vision. So this now is a shout out to Jared Spool. The team have been getting involved in a lot of the incredible work that he's been doing. And he is really, really focusing on something that's so close to my heart, which is experience vision. And any of the talks he's done on it are basing it, of course, and again on research. And so it's not just gut, but there's a lot of gut to that as well. I'm proud to say that I am head, heart and gut. But the experience vision is also great fun. And a reference to that, it's a companion piece to your service design master map, which should be a to be state as well as an as is. If you have a companion piece like this, it's incredibly powerful. I really recommend you go three to five years out and where you're going, it should be a real stretch.

And then the one that he references, which is phenomenal is the knowledge navigator, which in 87 and was a bit of curse for them actually because they went public with it. And then all the investors were asking when can we have it? But it had touch screen tablets, it had cloud collaboration, it had some guy with a dickey bow or for our international listeners for a bow tie. That was Siri, have email, internet search, wiki, machine learning, AI, FaceTime. It was phenomenal. A bit cheesy, obviously it looks a little bit like a soap opera cast was used for it, but it was known as the knowledge navigator.

And I really, really recommend that to help transform because once you have the prototypes and the visualization and the pictures painting a thousand presentations or spreadsheets, plus then the master map to swarm on, on how do we go after the current experience, improve it year by year or week by week, if it's more of a lean model, that's a really powerful Alliance for strategic lines.

And just to reiterate, that is why it's over on the right. Why do we need to unify around the customer journey and a master map in this case, strategic alignment and everyone's doing their best, but if we're not doing our best together around the customer, it's going to stay spaghetti. So that's really my focus and not just my team's focus, but the entire company is now really starting to pivot and turn and look very seriously at this.

And that's it. So reminder, warned you this was going to happen, but I need it. And that's how I learned in college and school is repetition. So embed the experience. And by this now it's not, oh, please can we have a UX team way beyond that, embed the experience everywhere. And that's why there's service design and UX of course, and all the champions in the other groups that also owns the CX. Share the user research to provide them with the insight and frankly, the ammunition sometimes. Use the journey maps, try not to have competing journey maps, my maps better than yours and all that malarkey, not good. So align them, iterate with the customer and the user. So that's the lean model that we're really trying to abide by and use multi-year service design, because this will take time to develop multi-year experience vision to transform the company around the customer.

And that's me. And there we go. There we go. Look at us. If you want to join us, you know where to call me.