I met with yet another bank this week, this one in Singapore. They were smart and aggressive. They understood that their future success will be based on the quality of their digital customer experience. After all, they just can't differentiate by taking more customers out on the golf course. The technology is the new face of the bank. But then I described the golden thread and the fact that in most organizations it is broken. That again resulted in sideways glances and laughter. It's a punch line because it is so damn true.
To have effective digital offerings it is not enough to create usable software. The software must be an extension of 'executive intent'. This is the time-sensitive direction of the organization. It comes from the top level. And it SHOULD direct strategy. The strategy should direct innovation. And the innovation direct design (right, that then directs coding and deployment). The trouble is that the thread is usually broken. In the end, we see organizations whose technology group simply codes the functions for the type of application. And the executives and strategists writhe in frustration.
You might think that a usability group can fix this. Because it is our job to ensure that the technology team is NOT just coding functions, but meeting real user needs. And in fact, if we are there, things are better. But, most usability groups fail to connect to the golden thread of executive intent, strategy, and innovation. This needs to change!
Usability practitioners must be able to hear, discuss, and contribute up the golden thread. We need to understand the language of executives and strategists. We need to be able to bring them the value of our user centered insights. In Singapore, I was meeting with the top bankers in charge of the banking channels. We were planning how to make their bank truly differentiated in the market. Not just by making a usable interface (in fact, the need for that was a given). Not just by making the designs persuasive (though that will be part of the solution). We were looking for disruptive strategies and innovations that will take a commoditized business and make it differentiatied and profitable.
I think it's time usability staff went beyond writing for the web and started designing for the BIG. I hope I can help make that happen.