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Putting People First

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Posts in category 'Business'

26 September 2012

The magic of good service

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THE customer is king. So some firms have started appointing chief customer officers (CCOs) to serve the king more attentively. These new additions to the (already crowded) C-suite are supposed to look at the business from the customer’s point of view. They try to focus on the entire “customer experience”, rather than on individual transactions.

An article by The Economist reflects on the matter, and refers to the book “Outside In” (Amazon) by Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine of Forrester Research, who observe that customers are growing more powerful.

“The internet makes it easier to shop around and share complaints with a wide audience. Yet poor service persists. Mr Manning and Ms Bodine have been asking customers about their experiences with American companies for years. In 2012 a third of the 160 firms they asked about were rated “poor” or “very poor”. Health insurers and cable companies fared worst.”

The article ends with this hilarious recommendation: “Phone a firm that has appointed a chief customer officer and see if you can reach a human being. If not, that CCO might as well be tossed from an executive-floor window, no doubt clutching his collection of ‘journey maps’ and ‘customer archetypes’.”

23 September 2012

SAP’s new Mobility Design Center uses user-centered design approach

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A few days ago SAP announced the opening of the new SAP Mobility Design Center to help customers meet the growing need for individualized mobile solutions.

Headquartered on the company’s campus in Palo Alto, Calif., the center is focused on enabling companies to keep up with the consumerization of IT trend by conceptualizing, designing and building mobile solutions to better connect with employees and consumers.

To achieve consumer-grade experiences, customers collaborate with a team of user experience (UX) designers, architects and developers. The team employs design thinking principles and validates mobile solutions with end users continually throughout the build process.

The SAP Mobility Design Center is a one-stop shop for designing, developing and validating customer-specific mobile enterprise solutions that are intuitive for users and leverage features such as touch, camera, GPS and other device functionality across a variety of device platforms.

21 September 2012

Can ethnography save enterprise social networking?

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In this guest post for Ethnography Matters, Mike Gotta from Cisco Systems, makes the case for bringing the human back into enterprise software design and development, starting out with enterprise social networking (ESN). The introduction to the post is by ethnographer Tricia Wang.

“One of the biggest problems with ESN’s right now is that developers and trainers don’t account for culture. Often times ESNs are implemented with little understanding of the company’s social and tech context. For example, companies try to incentivize employees to fill out social profiles, or blog, or join communities, but often employees don’t understand why, or what’s in it for them to change their behavior to collaborate in such a public way. The result – slow adoption of the ESN. Can better design practices solve the problem? How can ethnographers help fill the context and cultural gap?”

16 September 2012

Luxury brands need luxury retail experiences, even in the online space

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Jonathan Ross, business development director at FACT-Finder, discusses the steps luxury brands can take to ensure a more rewarding online retail experience for consumers.

“A recent study by McKinsey and Altagamma, the Italian association of luxury brands, appears to finally dispel the idea that online shopping is the preserve of discounted brands and shoppers looking to pick up a bargain. As far as the luxury category was concerned, there was a nagging suspicion that shoppers needed to experience a tactile relationship with their potential purchases in a way that could never be achieved online.

The McKinsey study surveyed more than 300 luxury brands, 700 websites and more than 2.5m online comments, including those on social media platforms. Digital sales are expected to reach about €15bn in the luxury market by 2016, but the survey also found that use of the internet by consumers for research and price comparison meant that about 15% of total sales in the luxury goods industry are directly generated by digital media. As much as a fifth of store sales (a market worth in the region of €34bn) is said to be directly influenced by the online experience.”

> Financial Times article about the Digital Luxury Experience report

16 September 2012

PARC ethnographer on the power of observation

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In an article for GigaOM, Ellen Isaacs (personal site), a user experience designer and ethnographer for PARC, explains the benefits of using ethnography to develop better mobile products.

“Ethnographic studies likely save businesses far more time than they take. These observations and analysis can reveal insights that shift projects toward demonstrated problems. They also provide specific information about what features to include and how to design them to fit with people’s current practices. And perhaps most importantly, they can keep companies from developing a technology that solves the wrong problem or does it the wrong way. With benefits like this, it seems to me that companies don’t have time not to do ethnography.”

4 September 2012

Africa embracing m-commerce

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In a new report from its ConsumerLab, Ericsson maps out the potential of transformation within m-commerce across the region of sub-Saharan Africa.

Based on in-depth, extensive interviews with mobile phone users in Ghana, South Africa, and Tanzania, the report has four key findings: that consumers are constantly looking for new ways to improve their personal budgets; the speed and convenience of m-commerce points to great potential in the market; current behaviors and social structures indicate that the use of mobile payment services will expand; and that consumers need more information about the functionality and security of m-commerce transactions.

Consumers tell Ericsson researchers that they use mobile payment services for person-to-person transfers and purchasing airtime on their mobile subscriptions, and that they like the convenience of accessing money everywhere and at anytime, regardless of service hours. In Tanzania, for example, 38% of subscribers send money person-to-person over the mobile phone.

Another conclusion of the report is that people who use m-commerce keep little separation between private and business accounts.

Experience leads to greater trust, and the report finds that 44% of non-users of m-commerce are very worried about the integrity of their account information in case of theft or loss of their phones.

- Press release
- Media kit

2 September 2012

Focus on service design – in UK and in Italy

 

Earlier this year, the UK Design Council and the Arts & Humanities Research Council conducted a wide ranging review of the place of design research in UK universities, and its connection with businesses and policymakers. The aim was to identify future areas for research funding, and new and innovative ways of bringing research and industry together to contribute their ideas.

The findings from the initial scoping study indicated that a focus on service design is of the utmost importance, as it is an interesting field both in the design profession and in academic research, and one in which there is considerable opportunity for engagement with business:

“In relation to the UK design industry and the disciplines that we reviewed, we think it would be fair to say that the area that is perhaps most neglected is the developing sector and discipline of service design. It was certainly the area most regularly cited as in need of attention across all of the stakeholder research that we have conducted, but also has the potential to make major contributions to innovation and to major challenges such as health and sustainability.”

We believe that it is bringing together economists, design businesses and design researchers in multidisciplinary teams that will generate evidence that can fill some of the gaps currently seen in the literature.”

The Design Council will now conduct a study of service design that will conclude in November.

Italy

In Italy, there is a strong tradition of service design at academic level, with high-level English language Masters programmes at Domus Academy (directed by Elena Pacenti) and at the Milan Polytechnic (directed by Anna Meroni).

But too few of the students end up working as service designers in Italy, and despite good initiatives such as Feeding Milano (LIFT conference video), the impact of these programmes on public services is still scarce.

We at Experientia contribute to making that change happen, having hired former students from both programmes and also recruited their interns. They work with Italian and global players in multi-disciplinary and evidence-based projects, as recommended by the Design Council scoping study. Experientia partners Jan-Christoph Zoels and Mark Vanderbeeken also taught service design this Spring at resp. Domus and the Polytechnic, eager to inspire future positive change in the Italian context.

24 July 2012

Co-design in innovation

 

In a short post on the Huffington Post blog, author Soren Petersen describes how co-design – when firms and non-design users jointly design business and product offerings – is seen as a potential new avenue for breakthrough innovation in design.

“Inviting expert users and normal users to contribute their ideas has been used in design for decades; however, inviting users and other stakeholders to participate in the design synthesis process continues to be meet with some resistance from designers. Studies show that designers fundamentally believe that design and decision-making by committee caters to the lowest common denominator. In the process, concepts are watered down to a bland solution and make no one really happy.”

9 July 2012

Design alone can’t save UK companies

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Making products attractive and user-friendly is a smart idea, but it is no substitute for R&D and investment, argues James Woudhuysen, a professor of forecasting and innovation at De Montfort University, on Spiked, a British Internet magazine focusing on politics, culture and society from a humanist and libertarian viewpoint.

“Exaggerating design’s scope for impact is now a global pastime. For example, the New York City design firm Reboot seriously proposes that human rights can be designed, because ‘at our local health clinic, at our unemployment office or at our child’s school… [there] are the moments when human rights are realised in practical ways’. This underlines how the boosting of design’s economic contribution is part of a wider doctrine of what Virginia Tech professor Paul Knox rightly terms ‘hubristic design determinism’. Whereas Karl Marx argued that social being determines consciousness, design boosters contend that design plays a determining role in both economic growth and everyday behaviour. Arguably, they take a leaf from architecture here; but whatever the case, even leading economic commentators are now so bereft of a genuine strategy for growth that they find themselves pronouncing that ‘Design adds value to the product – in fact design adds most of the value to the product’.

This conception of design is completely over the top. If they want to be ambitious, and they should, designers should recognise that real economic growth will come from the development of whole new industrial and service sectors, capable of creating hundreds of thousands of properly paid jobs. Design cannot create those industries – they will come out of the much more elemental processes of R&D, the kind of R&D that led to the nuclear, plastics and pharmaceuticals sectors. And whether this R&D happens is, again, not a technical issue, but to do with the priorities and vision of society. Right now, the West prefers to talk up the merits of relatively cheap design than to do the dearer, riskier business of R&D.”

Read article

13 June 2012

Who’s the Chief Experience Officer?

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Method principal Reuben Steiger argues that companies need to start thinking about the holistic relationship between their brands, products, and services.

“Crafting an experience requires design that considers these 3 elements of brand, product, and service in order to generate successful results. Any company can be analyzed through these lenses to evaluate the experience it creates for its customers. The iPhone is a product that delivers services and fulfills the promise of the Apple brand. Other examples abound: Nike Fuel, Amazon Kindle and HBO GO. Put another way, a product is an experience that occurs in the moment. A service is a relationship that extends over time and across platforms and mediums. A brand is much more than the logo; it is the pattern our brains expect based on everything we have previously heard, seen, and felt. All of these components roll up into the larger experience.” [...]

“Ultimately, we all recognize a great experience when we encounter it, but designing your own is elusively difficult. The days of perfect plans within a top-down hierarchy are over. Instead, we need to influence our companies to embrace shared values and product principles. Then, each of us can be a Chief Experience Officer creating memorable experiences and a cohesive, engaging, and delightful brand.”

Read article

7 June 2012

Computational user experiences at Microsoft Research

 

“The Computational User Experiences (CUE) group [at Microsoft Research] creates technologies that augment our personal and professional digital lives to enhance individual and collaborative pursuits. We apply expertise in machine learning, visualization, mobile computing, sensors and devices, and quantitative and qualitative evaluation techniques to improve the state of the art in physiological computing, healthcare, home technologies, computer-assisted creativity, and entertainment.”

(Check the projects and publications)

6 June 2012

The curious case of Internet privacy

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Free services in exchange for personal information. That’s the “privacy bargain” we all strike on the Web. Cory Doctorow argues it could be the worst deal ever.

“Far from destroying business, letting users control disclosure would create value. Design an app that I willingly give my location to (as I do with the Hailo app for ordering black cabs in London) and you’d be one of the few and proud firms with my permission to access and sell that information. Right now, the users and the analytics people are in a shooting war, but only the analytics people are armed. There’s a business opportunity for a company that wants to supply arms to the rebels instead of the empire.”

Read article

25 May 2012

SAP co-CEO on social networking and the future of business

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Facebook’s IPO demonstrates the power of networks for innovation, growth and jobs, says Jim Hagemann Snabe, SAP’s co-chief executive.

“A fully networked business environment means better access to customer profiles and preferences, resulting in a stronger ability to deliver individualised products that consumers want. Broader knowledge of health data and energy consumption patterns will lead directly to more efficient use of scarce resources. Direct access to all of the suppliers in a product category will lead to stronger supply chain and supplier relationship management. That in turn will result in more competitive pricing, greater flexibility and less capital tied up in inventory.

When data generated at the level of an individual – whether they are shopping preferences, energy consumption patterns, social relationships or health data – can be captured and analysed along with other relevant datasets in real-time, existing value chains are turned on their head. It benefits the consumer, because the consumer gets more directed, more personal, more economical offerings.”

In an incisive reflection, Stowe Boyd thinks that “aside from the oblique mention to network effects in Facebook use, and some almost self-congratulatory mentions of existing SAP products, [he doesn't] hear a compelling vision of the socialization of business processes.”

Boyd thinks the central “nub” is “how to create a social environment that runs above the entrained business processes of the enterprise, as opposed to creating a social sidebar to an enterprise model dominated by inflexible and mechanical business processes.”

25 May 2012

For productivity apps, PCs still rule (for now)

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Gartner research suggests that there is an inverse correlation between portable devices and PC usage, reports the Financial Times.

“Is the PC era really over? The success portable computing devices including smartphones and PC tablets has some speculating that the dominance of the desktop PC, and even the laptop, may be coming to an end.

Gartner research analyst Nick Ingelbrecht and Mikako Kitagawa recently conducted a series of focus groups in the US, UK, China, Taiwan and Japan to explore consumers’ device usage and their research provides an insight into the growing importance of mobile devices and their impact on PC usage.”

Read article

25 May 2012

Journal of Business Anthropology

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The Journal of Business Anthropology is an Open Access journal which publishes the results of anthropological and related research in business organizations and business situations of all kinds. On the website you will find the Published Issues as well as Reviews of literature relevant to the field. The journal also publishes Field Reports and Case Studies as they are submitted.

Vol 1, No 1 (2012)

Editorial: What’s in a Name? – Editors’ Introduction to the Journal of Business Anthropology (pdf)
Brian Moeran, Christina Garsten

Anthropology and Business: Influence and Interests (pdf)
Marietta L. Baba
The premise of this article is that the expansive domain of business, as expressed in its market-transaction based, organizational, and institutional forms, has influenced the development or “making” of anthropology as a discipline and a profession for the better part of a century (i.e., since the 1920s). The influences were reciprocal, in that making anthropology played a role in forming the industrial order of the early 20th century and established precedents for the interaction of anthropology and the business domain that continues into the contemporary era. Anthropologists acknowledge that the time has come for our discipline to attend to business and its corporate forms and engage them as legitimate subjects of inquiry, and this suggests that it would be prudent to examine the ways in which business is focusing upon anthropology, and the potential implications of such attention. Throughout this article, the term “business” will refer to private firms as members of an institutional field, meaning “organizations that in the aggregate, constitute a recognized area of institutional life”. Over time, this field has attracted prominent academic researchers (as will be discussed herein), who may become intellectual “suppliers” to businesses, and thus part of the field. Therefore, the term “business” may include any organization or individual that is part of the field, including academic suppliers (see also discussion section). To reflect the scope and complexity of the institutional field, the term “domain of business” may be used interchangeably with “business”.

Horizons of Business Anthropology in a World of Flexible Accumulation (pdf)
Allen W. Batteau, Carolyn E. Psenka
Classically, anthropology supplied a cultural critique, by contrasting the Noble Savage to contemporary institutions and exposing the effects of structures of authority. This understanding of humanity was expanded a hundred years ago by Boas’s embrace of cultural and linguistic variety within a common humanity. Similarly, the classical role for business anthropology and other forms of applied anthropology has been to identify areas in contemporary enterprises and institutions where improvements could be made. Today anthropologists’ engagement with the contemporary world of business in a régime of flexible accumulation is expanding our understanding of the human project, interrogating the régimes of value and extension whose scale is global and whose scope penetrates to the deepest levels of consciousness. Using contemporary ethnographic insights from the authors and other anthropologists, this article suggests an enlarged understanding of and direction for business anthropology at the frontier of anthropology that uses classic anthropological approaches to investigate the sites where new human possibilities are being assembled and created.

Close Encounters: Anthropologists in the Corporate Arena (pdf)
Melissa Cefkin
The corporate encounter invites casting an anthropological gaze on the objects and practices of corporate worlds. This article delineates three perspectives of the anthropologist on this encounter: (1) with the things corporations make (products and services), (2) with the way they make them (acts of production), and (3) with organizational imperatives (corporate forms). This examination draws specifically on the work of those who operate from within the corporate arena by referencing papers from Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference (EPIC). Corporate actors, in turn, seek more nuanced views on human experience and aim to exploit the “people” and “practices” dimensions of their existence and have turned to anthropologists in the process. A brief exploration of the hopes and disjuncture that help shape the encounter from the point of view of anthropologists’ interlocutors inside the corporation rounds out this examination of the anthropologists’ corporate encounter.

Organization Theory Meets Anthropology: A Story of an Encounter (pdf)
Barbara Czarniawska
This text briefly depicts the history of an encounter between anthropology and organization theory in the Anglo-Saxon literature in the period 1990-2010 as seen by an organization scholar. In focus are some stable characteristics and some changes in this relationship, against the background of wider developments in societies and in social sciences. The article ends with suggestions concerning future possibilities of combining the insights of the two fields in a fruitful and interesting way.

Studying Consumption Behaviour through Multiple Lenses: An Overview of Consumer Culture Theory (pdf)
Annamma Joy, Eric Ping Hung Li
Since Miller’s (1995) ground-breaking directive to the anthropology community to research consumption within the context of production, CCT has come of age, offering distinctive insights into the complexities of consumer behaviour. CCT positions itself at the nexus of disciplines as varied as anthropology, sociology, media studies, critical studies, and feminist studies; overlapping foci bring theoretical innovation to studies of human behaviours in the marketplace. In this paper, we provide asynthesis of CCT research since its inception, along with more recent publications. We follow the four thematic domains of research as devised by Arnould and Thompson (2005): consumer identity projects, marketplace cultures, the socio-historic patterning of consumption, and mass-mediated marketplace ideologies and consumers’ interpretive strategies. Additionally, we investigate new directions for future connections between CCT research and anthropology.

24 May 2012

Ericsson User Experience Lab blog

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Cristian Norlin, master researcher at the Ericsson Research User Experience Lab, alerted me via Twitter to the Lab’s new blog.

The User Experience Lab at Ericsson Research studies people and make prototypes to better understand the experiential, affective and meaningful aspects of people’s interactions with technology and network infrastructures.

On the blog, which started in April 2012, “we will write about things that we think could inform, influence and inspire the development of future technology, products and services.”

Some of the recent posts:

24 May 2012

“Beautiful things that matter” – Experientia’s new website for granstudio

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Site works also as a full-screen swipeable tablet web app

Today granstudio, the international design studio based in Turin, launches its new website, created by Experientia®.

Founded by internationally-renowned designer Lowie Vermeersch, granstudio is a creative, multidisciplinary consultancy that combines automotive design expertise with a strategic vision on performance, beauty and functionality.

The site features granstudio’s first concept car and will be constantly refreshed with new projects including Interieur, the acclaimed design fair and event in Belgium that Vermeersch will be curating later this year.

Experientia® created the granstudio site to be highly usable and attractive on both computers and tablets, using the gesture of swiping from screen to screen as a key navigation element. The HTML5 site can also run as a web app on tablets. Simply by creating a home screen shortcut to the site, the shortcut icon opens the website in full screen mode, offering the feel of a native app without having to download it through an app store.

The granstudio team create “beautiful things that matter”, and Experientia’s very visual website is the ideal showcase for their projects, inspirations and design talent.

Experientia® and granstudio are currently exploring further collaborations on mobility interface, interaction and service design.

> A personal note: Lowie and his team are good friends and we are really excited about this new studio in Torino. All of us at Experientia wish the team the very best with this exciting venture.

23 May 2012

Ecosystems rule over products now. Here’s how Samsung’s designers are coping

 

In order for designers to navigate the complex ecosystem of digital platforms, they’ll need to master business modeling and become comfortable working across disciplines, says Samsung’s design chief, Sunghan Kim.

The big design leadership challenge is the familiar one of managing design’s input and role in large cross-functional teams. “Design is more of a community-based activity now,” he reflects. “For designers to succeed, they need to be able to collaborate with team members from different disciplines. We mull over to what extent product and service designers need to become with familiar with business modeling, or merely work effectively alongside business analysts. For Sunghan, it’s both. Just as in the Noughties, many product, UX, and service designers taught themselves how to code, in his view, designers in the coming decade will need to have a working knowledge of business modeling, especially at the concept stage, and learn multidisciplinary collaboration for the development phase.”

Read article

19 May 2012

After ethnography, and other papers by Iota Partners

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Iota Partners is a new Chicago-based venture of Rick Robinson and John Cain (with whom Experientia partner Jan-Christoph Zoels once worked at Sapient) that deals with user experience research, sensor-based data, and smart modelling.

The papers section on their website is worth exploring in some depth. Here are some of them:

After ethnography
This paper is based on the transcript of Rick E. Robinson’s talk “After Ethnography,” which he presented at a Telefonica-sponsored conference on user-centered design in Madrid, in December 2010. Bringing together a series of points Rick calls his “tiny arguments” it forms a larger assessment of the state and future of user research.

Nice work
This sample chapter comes from a book in progress by Rick E. Robinson that will bring together many of Rick’s talks and writings on the theory and practice of user research. Based on a talk Rick gave at an internal research colloquium for senior staff members at a major technology company—an audience already familiar with Rick’s previous work at E-Lab—the talk focused on creating an effective research practice and on working with the idea of models.

Valuable to Values: How “User Research” Ought to Change
“Valuable to Values: How ‘User Research’ Ought to Change,” written by Maria Bezaitis and Iota Partner Rick E. Robinson, originally appeared in Design Anthropology: Object Culture in the 21st Century (Springer Vienna Architecture, 2010) edited by Alison J. Clarke, a professor at University of Applied Arts Vienna, and a student of anthropologist Daniel Miller when she did her graduate work at University College, London. It covers a lot of ground. Some history. Some reflection. A healthy dose of unsolicited advice to several different fields of research. Enjoy.

15 May 2012

Short report on EPIC Europe, a conference on ethnography research in industry

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Short report on the first European EPIC meeting by Anna Wojnarowska, UX researcher at Experientia:

Last Friday, 11th of May, around 100 members of the ethnographic research community in Europe gathered in Barcelona for the 1st European EPIC (Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference) meeting, to discuss the conditions of ethnographic practice in Europe.

The meeting concentrated on the specifics of European cultures and traditions from the point of view of the research industry. It was developed as a younger sister of the annual EPIC conference, which this year will be held in Savannah, USA, in October.

The meeting included lectures and workshops organized into three panels. The first one, “Mapping Ethnographic Practice in Europe” gave an overview on how the UX industry is evolving in Europe, including the presentation of changes taking place in the Italian market, by Experientia’s partner in charge of user research, Michele Visciola. Emerging innovative ethnographic methods, such as “netnography” and self-ethnography, were indicated as important developing trends.

The second panel, “Evolving Industry-Academia Collaboration”, focused on what can be done to combine the expertise of academics and professionals so that the two parties can effectively support each other’s’ practices and supplement peer knowledge. All the panelists agreed that creating a cooperative platform between the two parties would significantly contribute to research outcomes.

The last panel, “The Corporate Perspective” gave an insight into how the work of an anthropologist can be effectively communicated and implemented in corporations. The discussion ended with a vivid debate on how anthropologists could profit from the increasing amount of data on humans, which is constantly collected through various technologies. How could it be useful during research? Can it positively influence the quality of our work?