How we created a UX-environment at Visma

At Visma we have a growing environment working with optimizing the user experience of our offerings. When I started the first embryo of this group it was in the beginning of 2006 and we were 3 people. Today we are around 40 full time employees working directly with user experience.

We have quite diverse backgrounds but most of us has higher degrees within the fields of cognitive science, psychology, design or specialized programs for interaction design. The group of UX-people consists of a broad range of profiles with a wide range of experience as well as cultural diversity. But – how did we succeed with this?

As described in a previous blog post we have a model for how to work with establishing a good user experience in our offerings. And, as we all know it is not enough to have a model. It takes people to turn ideas to execution. It is in the execution all the difference is made. It’s all about what you do and how you do it.

But, how can you create a difference when you are 40 out of +500 developers? Or, if you include product management and other stakeholders we are about 3 % working directly with user experience. How do you get everyone to work with user experience? Everyone should, right?

We solved this at Visma with the following steps (there are more but this is sort of top-of-mind):

1. We formed a centrally governed team with activities spreading far out in our organization. The team was initiated and endorsed by top-management. Without this you will fail.

2. Establish a model and process that everyone works in-line with. In our case we invented the Visma UX-pyramid. It originated after a few years hard work finding out the culture and organizational characteristics of Visma. You can not simply take a theory and model and expect it to work. It needs to be contextually right. Read about it here.

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Part of the HCI-team at a Kick-off in Transylvania

3. Recruit the right people. As I said above. It takes people to move ideas. And, I’ve been lucky to be able to attract many very talented people to Vismas user-experience work force. Many of which has surpassed me when it comes to creating wonderful usability.

4. Establish guidelines and a source library for streamlined deployment of standard interaction design elements and graphical components. By doing this we increase effectiveness of product development greatly and establish a much higher quality standard from start. At this point in time our guidelines are hidden for external parties. However – we are working on sharing more of our guidelines for the common wealth.

6. HCI-days. Our main forum for UX is two days twice a year where all UX-personnel in Visma gather to meet, share, educate and work together. We are actually having the HCI-days this week in Stockholm. And we have invited – amongst others – Jonas Söderström to talk about ‘Stupid bloody system’. https://javlaskitsystem.se/english/. Follow us on twitter #vismaux

7. We have started different physical and on-line training programs. These training activities is mostly within R&D and product management. Focus? Well – build right things right from the beginning. UX is nothing you can add in the end. We have programs and trainings that is covering a one year long mentor program, extensive three full day training sessions and smaller one hour sessions for executives. My plan is to switch this around. Imagine three day training for executives. Many times they talk loudly about usability and user-experience – but how to actually create good ux is another matter.

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HCI-team finding its way at CHI2013 Paris

8. Our latest initiative is to establish HCI-teams higher up in the unit organisation and also establish the role CXO – chief experience officer. Why do we do this? Well, since user experience is basically our product. And – how can we not have a chief executive that is responsible for this? Even more importantly, our customer journey is intersecting many traditionally compartmentalized parts of a company. We need someone to oversee that with a more holistic perspective. Someone with a mandate. Stay tuned for this – I have high hopes on pushing UX further by doing this stunt, that by the way was discussed lively on CHI2013 in Paris.

Does this mean that we got it fully covered? Not at all. But we have reached much further than I expected when I started the HCI-team in Visma Software in 2006. Do you have experience or ideas on how to better integrate HCI & UX as a natural part in a development organization. Please share those with us!

Follow me on twitter @FredrikFernberg

Fredrik Fernberg, M.Sc, Cognitive psychology, is the Corporate UX-manager & Head of UX Visma Commerce. Been working at Visma, both in product development and marketing the last 12 years. Before starting in Visma, Fredrik has been working with UX and media production since 1995. Fascinated by human behaviour and the power of captivating interfaces and communication.
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