UPA 2008 Conference: Opening Keynote

I’m attending a few sessions at the UPA 2008 conference here in Baltimore this week. I went to the opening keynote presentation this morning. Carole Bilson, VP of Global Design and Usability at Pitney Bowes described her experience in evolving and extending the role of design and usability within PB over the last eight years. Her group has been very successful and now has executive level participation, many awards and patents, and have institutionalized user experience at PB.

Some tidbits:

  • PB was featured as one of the 11 companies in Good to Great.
  • Innovation at PB is done in Corporate Strategy, Global Design & Usability as part of Engineering, and Advanced Concepts. GB&U focuses on near term, 0-2+ year developments. Advanced Concepts focus on 5+ years out.
  • Mission of group: Combine the science of usability with the Art of Design, leading to compelling and valuable products for the worldwide marketplace.
  • Her own group expressed the need for space renovation and did all the design and construction themselves, and are now a showcase for the whole company whose space is desired for top-level meetings.
  • “It all starts with a sketch” for a design, long before any digital design tools are used.
  • Key is empowering the team, challenging them to do their own business cases and presenting to CTO and others.
  • There is a technical track for promotion for designers. They have their first Industrial Design Fellow, and their first Principal Industrial Designer now.
  • They now have design management at the VP level.
  • The COO sponsor of the UX work recently was promoted to CEO and makes UX a primary focus for the company.
  • Annual “User Experience Day” where executives from every unit attend, bringing key people, to engage in understaning the customer and user experience of the products. External keynote speakers and internal openings and support all the way up to CEO. Now called “Innovation & User Experience Day” and it is a key event on the executive calendar with over 40 execs from across the business participating.
  • Example panel session: “The pain we cause our customers and what we are going to do about it.”
  • Key is having a seat at the executive table where big decisions are made and money is allocated.
  • User Experience is positioned as one aspect of Customer Experience which now has its own VP, budget, and staff.
  • Key is to hire strong people, particularly looking for leadership skills, and nurture and challenge them.
  • Employee morale is very high, in stark contrast to 8 years ago.
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