IBM’s HCI Business Agenda and its competitors

For many organizations, user experience design, or UXD, is now considered a vital component of product development. With the ever changing customer needs, it becomes crucial to not only sell affordable and more technologically savvy systems, but to also deliver to the market, products which are easy to use and which are without excessive features not necessary to the user. Companies are facing stiff competition and must therefore create designs which are superior and reflect the needs of the consumer. One company which has embraced UXD in all its products is IBM.
At IBM, UXD is incorporated in the design process by among other things, continuous user feedback. They achieve this by primarily including stakeholder proxies in their agile teams, composed of UXD professionals (IBM, 2008). This ensures that principals, users, partners/deployers and developers, are involved in all aspects of product development.

At this level, they also include design feedback programs and managed beta programs. Through user research, technical service teams and marketing/sales representatives, crucial customer knowledge is obtained and used extensively in the formulation of new designs. By working within these parameters, IBM is able to meet the enormous challenges posed by its competitors.
However, IBM is not alone in realizing the need to develop systems that take into consideration the user experience. According to Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox (2009), what project members of internet content development know or understand may not be the same as the opinion of the real customers. They do not represent the consumer market as they tend to be experts in their field and will be bogged down by complex terminology and background knowledge which is not relevant to the user. This is indeed true and can spell disaster for an online site that depends for the most part on visuals which must be specific, and textual information that is easily understood. Through continuous user experience design, such online companies can capture and retain an audience.
Agconsult, a Belgium based web usability research company, is meeting the challenges posed by the evolving need of UXD development. Their service offers research into web behavior analysis that focuses on what visitors to your web site do and want. They also interview employees and customers with a view of arriving at the best content design. They present open and transparent information architecture (Agconsult, n.d.). And at Agile product design, Jeff  Patton says that “UX folks have an active hand in deciding what is built, the overall business strategy that drives what’s built, and the tactical prioritization of work done first” (Agile Product Design, 2008). Clearly, UXD is now a priority for most companies which need an edge over the competition.
UXD can be incorporated into the overall business strategy. At IBM, designing the user experience is now partnered with business and marketing goals, similar trends which are being followed by its rivals. In many of these companies, the importance of the agile teams has been heralded by the maintenance of a large pool of users to be consulted on a regular basis. Needs and trends are changing everyday and without constant touch and feedback with the consumer, products can very well become outdated. It is therefore critical that all organizations derive benefit from user experience design. It will evolve into more cost effective products whose design is customer driven, and customer oriented.
References
Agconsult (n.d.). Usability Services. Retrieved on July 26, 2009 from
            http://www.useit.com/alertbox/respect.html
Agile Product Design, (2008). 12 Best Practices for UX in an Agile Environment – Part 1
            Retrieved on July 26, 2009, from http://www.uie.com/articles/best_practices/
IBM (2008, May). Design @ IBM. Retrieved July 26, 2009 from
https://www-01.ibm.com/software/ucd/
Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox (2009, July). Building Respect for Usability Expertise. Retrieved on
            July 26, 2009 from http://www.useit.com/alertbox/respect.html

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