There was a good cross-company discussion of organizational models for User Experience (UX) teams at Boston CHI on Sept 11 (check that link for full bios on the speakers). Companies represented by managers, directors, and VPs of UX: EMC, Oracle, Symantec, and Fidelity (with Sun and others in the audience).
Some themes that emerged:
- Need to maintaining standards and cross-company guidelines requires having high level management or at least view that spans the organization — with creative org charts and management across sites often happening as well;
- Difficulty getting enough staff to meet demand (settle instead on doing fewer things well rather than over-extending, and making the case for more people that way);
- Organizations have more interaction designers than usability, by 2-to-1 or more (again, a separation of design from testing roles);
- Assumption that "good user experience" is no longer something that has to be argued for, it's seen as an obvious competitive advantage (the only mild disagreement from Fred at Fidelity);
- Engineering pay scale for their UX staff (common except for Fidelity, where pay didn't come up — since Fidelity hires a lot of low-paid contractors, I suspect they don't pay their internal folks by engineering scales ).
- Get the design right up front, or pay for it later. Very broadly assumed to be understood here!
- UX people can get bored working on the same thing, or the thing with too small a scope. Being able to move across projects will help with this issue.
- Not having to be accountable for all your project time means being able to do cross-product things and user studies that will improve design work downstream (it doesn't mean goofing off on long lunch breaks!).
- Long-distance management working remarkably well with the right management attitude.
- From Oracle, being responsible for good products, not just good specs (teamwork in an organization). [Adobe, while I was there, was terribly concerned with the checkoff that UI had delivered a spec on time and were not "blockers" on the product schedule; this was an ill of centralized UI management that wasn't very flexible in the development process or in terms of their deliverables on each team.]
- Value of being managed and reviewed by people who know what you do, not being dependent on managers who don't understand your process, contributions, and work products.
- Investment in prototyping and development.
Relevant past post on my blog: my study of the job postings for UX folks on the BayCHI mailing list for 3 years. Oracle, Symantec, and EMC are on the graphs, but not very high in terms of number advertised for relative to overall size of the company. Fidelity doesn't appear at all, but it hires mainly in MA, I believe.I have a full report (albeit sketchy) from the panel and the questions posted here. Scroll down to get past this recap on the top!