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Implementing Usability in a Large Corporation

by Jim Garrett

Our Certified Usability Analyst (CUA) of the Month is Jeff Wilbur. Jeff has been at Chevron® for thirty-one years and is part of a relatively small usability team of five, all of whom are CUAs from Human Factors International (HFI). Their assignment: to institutionalize usability within the Chevron IT culture.

Jeff, what is your title and role at Chevron?

My job title is Certified Usability Analyst. I work in Chevron’s Information Management Company in the UX (User Experience) Team. This year we are focused on improving organizational capability through user-centered design practices. We’re doing that for the entire IT function throughout the company.

Who are the users you are targeting?

We are focusing on applications for our internal end-users. Chevron has over 57,000 employees around the world. Our organizational capability effort is to build up the competency of the people that are going to be playing a key role in improving usability for our internally-facing solutions.

Can you give an example of some of the projects that you’re going to launch and what some of the usability work will be?

One is that we’re going to be updating the software in our conferencing application that we use throughout the company to conduct remote meetings. We will assess which product options work best from the usability perspective. Obviously there’ll be lots and lots of other criteria but usability will be one of them.

Are there any other projects either current or upcoming you’ll be working on?

We just wrapped up a project working with the group that introduced smart devices to the company in order to connect our global workforce. They wanted us to come up with usability standards, processes and design patterns. In addition, we needed to figure out how to integrate usability work into an agile software development methodology.

The company does technical architectural reviews for IT projects and our corporate CIO decided that usability should be included in these architectural reviews. This was exciting because it says our leadership is really supporting usability. Sharon Allen, our first HFI CUA, was a lead author on assembling materials to help architects recognize what a good usability effort looks like. It involved laying out some simple practices – user-centered design practices, especially about understanding users – and evaluating how well the solution works. I think this is going to make a big difference.

As a matter of fact, I just talked to a project lead whose project was held up because the architectural reviewer saw that no usability work had been done. He contacted me and we walked him through the appropriate usability activities. The other day he showed us his work and he did a great job. He even hung out in his users’ offices to watch them do their work. He came away with a much better understanding of his users, their tasks, and their working environment.

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