UX Advantage 2015: The Role of Outsiders

Scott Zimmer, Head of Design, Capital One and David Baker, ReCourses

– is there a shift from using outside firms: no; more inside designers than ever, but there is much more design going on, so plenty of work for agencies
– Adaptive Path is a small but very influential part of our design effort
– 20th anniversary of IPO, still founder led
– lots of interaction with 3rd party design firms while building internal team
– for a successful acquisition, both parties have to be excited
– can’t create an internal team by buying a bunch of experts; need to integrate them and their expertise; organization has to have appetite to learn; if acquirer thinks they know it all, also not successful; CO and AP felt they were kindred spirits, especially with belief in user research
– often in past, acquistion may just be the primary client buying the design firm they use; all but 6 our of 50 over the last number of years; not a good story for the agency
– acqui-hire can be exciting for individuals at an agency; usually give it a chance for at least 6 months; owners may not enjoy running a business; porbably see more of this happening
– David: “Did you just mention SharePoint? I can’t believe you said SharePoint at a UX conference.” Jared: “Friends don’t let friends do SharePoint. Look up the definition of CF, you’ll see SharePoint.” David: “If you don’t know SharePoint, look up their MySpace page.”
– hands (contracting) vs. brains (consulting): no price premium on hands work, big premium on brains work; with internal competency growing, UX firms are often called for the hands work; unfortunately, doesn’t often lead to the brains work
– CO, biggest need is on the hands side for capacity; feel the tension from agencies that they want more, so may hurt partnership; rely on freelancers; become unofficial members of design team; highly value expertise consulting, but need them to deliver too, because internal team may not be inspired to continue the work
– internal workshops on design thinking really inspire the organization to want to adopt this sort of work; then can start talk about sustaining roles on design team
– in house departments don’t have three things that agencies do; business development, IT, and accounting; don’t neglect business development internally, treating your org as the client
– most internal UX teams don’t have an internal charge-back systems, so you can’t say no to stupid requests; some agencies don’t have the skills to say no either
– have to build and maintain expertise reputation; working with you makes their life better; if you are so accessible, may not be viewed as expert
– at the end of a brain-work contract: 1) agency implements it, 2) org implements it, 3) another party implements it, or 4) don’t implement it; clients generally want #1 for “one throat to choak”, but happens less and less
– how evaluate agencies: if you have senior business leaders but a junior design team, going to have problems; need to go toe to toe with a business leader and push back and influence; partners and peers, not customers or clients; tend to select agencies where we have points of proof on what they do and how they do it; culture has to match yours; user-centric principles more important than domain-specific knowledge
– web sites don’t really pay off for agencies; at UIE, hired someone to do our web site in 2003 and have ignored it since
– what happens if an acquisition is considered and then not do it because “we would crush your soul”; if you want a relationship with the agency for their expertise, they should figure out how to best work with you; client should want you to work with their competitors
– off shore design contracting: in person interaction is always preferred, though off-shore always seems like it should be a good option; success is from having equity partner on the ground where the agency is
– colocation is massively important, especially design, engineering, and product management; colocating designers with their teams instead of all the designers together; helps continue to evolve and change the culture; have a “design castle” is a nice place for execs to show off, but then not really engage design beyond that; a bit of distance, so the designers aren’t always hovering over the shoulder, is desirable (“co-location to a point”)
– how to you incorporate remote teams and individuals: travel to site of project; video
– how do you evaluate cultural fit of an agency to a client? experience, networking, and trusting your strong folks; if you look at the most successful projects, it all seems accidental; no good heuristics
– banking regulations keep you from selling anything that isn’t backing, right? how do you keep doing the events; CO has found ways to make it work and keep the events business going
– focus on not screwing up AP with their acquisition; hope that CO gained UX credibility by making that choice

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