Join Kuldeep Kelkar, UserZoom’s SVP of Global Professional Services, as he analyzes the data from our 2018 State of UX in the Enterprise survey, highlights the top trends emerging from the results, and offers his own recommendations on taking advantage of the user research landscape.

Here at UserZoom, we realised that one of the key pieces of the UX landscape jigsaw that’s missing is how enterprise companies (businesses with more than 1,000 employees) organize their UX teams, and how those teams meet the challenges of running user research at scale.

So last year we surveyed hundreds of people from some of the biggest companies in the world to discover the current state of UX in the enterprise, and the results are a revealing array of common challenges and trends. Including:

  • Budgetary and resource restrictions are the number one challenge faced by 60% of our respondents
  • 49% of our respondents work for a company with 1 – 4 UX researchers, while 13% have more than 20
  • 45% of UX teams in enterprise organizations are a central team working on multiple products, while 26% of enterprises have separate teams working with several business units
  • 21% of respondents say that their organization has a VP of Design or Chief Experience Officer, while 67% of enterprises surveyed don’t have a UX or Design officer at a high level

In a recent webinar covering the entire survey, Kuldeep Kelkar offered his take on the data, and advised on how experience professionals can not only overcome the top challenges reported by their peers but also how to stay ahead of the emerging enterprise UX trends.

The following article highlights the six key areas to keep in mind for 2019, and features Kuldeep’s insight, drawn from the 2018 survey and his own anecdotal experience.

If you would like to have your own say, we’re running the State of UX survey again in 2019! So if you work in an enterprise organization, please take a few minutes to give us your insight and you’ll not only be shaping a more accurate picture of the UX landscape but you’ll also be in with a chance of winning a bundle of must-read UX books. Take the survey now!

1) Integrating research into design and development

According to our survey, here are four of the major challenges that designers, researchers and product managers are routinely facing:

  1. Securing resources or budgets (60%)
  2. Integrating research into design and development (57%)
  3. Getting executive buy-in (48%)
  4. Sourcing the right participants (45%)

It’s highly likely that these problems are related to each other.

Because researchers who are working at enterprise-level do not always know how to find the right participants to conduct research, this leads to the challenges around integrating research into development. Which then feeds into the executives not buying into the value of UX, which then leads to challenges around securing resources or budget. And then we’re back to the start of our issues.

Here at UserZoom we see this day in and day out, across customers in Europe and in North America, where designers are under pressure to deliver design artwork in rapid Agile Sprint cycles. They are almost always in catch-up mode because engineers are waiting for design deliverables, and inevitably it’s the user research that’s compromised. This is the worst thing that can happen, when you start delivering designs without necessarily knowing whether it’s the right thing you should be building for your customers.

If you are working in Agile, you should figure out how to do research even if it’s just at a small scale. You can do this by finding a way to get rapid, interactive feedback from your customers. This will help you deliver value through a better user experience of your finished product.

We have one solution for this, which is relatively straightforward – IntelliZoom, our intelligent sourcing engine that provides access to almost 120 million users, so you can find the right participants for studies in a much faster, automated way.

However if you aren’t currently a UserZoom customer, you can still find small-scale ways to integrate user research. Even if it’s just a single round of unmoderated studies with only five participants, every insight counts and will help you deliver value.

2) Democratizing research

The demand for UX research is outgrowing the capacity of every organization and its team of researchers. Even if your company has dedicated researchers, it’s highly likely that they don’t have enough capacity to deliver on every single question that a designer, product manager, or marketing manager has.

We asked our survey respondents, “how has demand for UX research changed in the last 12 months?” It’s interesting to see that 65% of respondents are reporting an increased demand for UX research (on a scale from slight to significant).

state of ux in the enterprise demand for user research survey

Of course the demand is increasing because everyone wants to do more research, not just for the sake of research, but to be customer-centric and get the best possible design out the door. Even if it’s an MVP (minimum viable product), you still want a great experience. But budgets are not matching this growth.

Most of our respondents reported that budgets have remained the same (32%), while 23% are seeing a slight increase. If budgets are staying static or only slightly increasing, but the demand is growing dramatically, then how can effective UX research be sustainable? How do we as the UX community capture insight effectively, with speed and scale?

These days, with tools like UserZoom, where you can run unmoderated research on a weekly basis at a much higher pace for less money than we spent 10 years ago, your budget will be able to match demand. This is one way to get back to that efficiency gain.

Another major theme that’s been developing across the industry for the last year or so, is to train designers to conduct In-Sprint research themselves.

We work with a lot of enterprise organizations, where we train designers for a day or two, and we help to facilitate the democratization of research, which then frees up a dedicated user researcher to carry out more discovery work.

This is a trend that I expect to continue into 2019 and beyond, especially with the launch of our own UserZoom Academy a free, online place of learning for all, designed to equip UX practitioners with the skills and knowledge needed to create better digital experiences, advance their professional development, and promote UX awareness across their organizations.

3) Balancing your qualitative and quantitative insights

It’s interesting to see that in-lab moderated, remote moderated and remote unmoderated are being carried out in relatively similar frequencies.

state of ux in the enterprise popular user research methods survey

This isn’t surprising now, if you have to do a lot more research than your time and resources will allow, the UX community is very good at finding efficient ways of running research no matter the challenge.

Sometimes, that might mean using remote unmoderated because it’s potentially a faster method. If you want to run benchmark studies with 30 participants in a lab, it’s exhausting, so that’s where unmoderated really comes in useful. But there are times when in-person in-lab is potentially the better method because you want to glean in-person qualitative insights.

For us, it’s not a matter of moderated versus unmoderated, or qualitative vs quantitative – instead we figure out what the right method is to answer in-the-moment business and design questions. So don’t be married to just one method because you are comfortable with it – expand your toolkit, expand your portfolio.

And a part of this expansion is the education of stakeholders and the C-suite that UX research isn’t just videos. It also isn’t just about sample size. The UX community know when and why small sample size-qualitative research is valuable, just as they know when and why large sample size-quantitative is valuable. We should be using the right method to answer the right business questions in order to create the value statement executives are looking for, not caving to the executives perceived notions of what UX research ‘should be’ (i.e. “but I’m used to watching videos”) and working backwards from there.

Be the guiding light for your organization when it comes to extracting valuable insights.

4) Scaling your research

This relates back to the democratization of research and the integration of research. If 65% of you are reporting an increased demand in research, but the budgets aren’t rising to match that number, then the efficiency gain has to be figured out.

If you had asked me 15 years ago, how many research studies can a researcher execute in a year? I would have typically said roughly one study a month. Things have dramatically changed in the last decade.

We’re now seeing teams running 30-plus studies in a year, with some running 100+, and that efficiency gain has translated to dramatic value for the business. This is just the start, the scaling of research has been a key initiative within the industry. But this wouldn’t be the case if it wasn’t for the increase in access to diverse test participants around the globe, thanks to automated participant sourcing, and the spread of user research education.

5) Speaking the business language

UX is not a new thing. The term ‘usability’ has been in use for two to three decades, ‘human factors’ longer than that, and ‘user experience’ was being used in advertisements for refrigerators back in the 1950’s.

But as you can see in the chart below, more than 50% of CEOs are now talking about customer experience, user experience and the experience economy as a key differentiator in their respective markets.

state of ux in the enterprise ceo talks about user research survey

Dramatic improvements have happened in the decade since the iPhone has been released. What software and hardware can do, in terms of features and functions, is becoming a cluttered marketplace and it’s becoming harder and harder for enterprises to compete on just the hardware or software that they sell. CEOs are now looking at the experience economy. The end-to-end experience is now what matters the most, and consumers always have a choice, a good CEO always knows that. You’ll never hear an executive say that they do not want to be customer-centric.

Every executive that I have worked with has always been customer-focused and value-focused, and it’s not a surprise that they are looking at user experience and customer experience as a competitive differentiation. And now it looks like the ship has turned. There are more CEOs focused on UX/CX than not. Which means our community can finally get down off the soap box that UX is a key differentiator, or at the very least, doesn’t have to shout quite so loudly.

6) Demonstrating value

We asked our respondents, “What level of management does your most senior UX or design leader report into?” It’s highly encouraging that 30%+ are reporting that they have a vice president, senior vice president, or a C-level person whose sole focus is related to user experience.

state of ux in the enterprise who does your ux leader report into survey

I would anecdotally mention that 5 to 10 years ago, this was definitely not the case. Some enterprises had started hiring a director or VP of design, but you could count the number of organizations on one hand.

We run a lot of scorecarding and KPI workshops with our customers. We always try to understand, whoever the executive is, what are the key KPIs that they are measured on, and then how do the UX KPIs connect to those higher order metrics.

Use the right method at the right point in time, conduct some UX benchmarking in addition to in-Sprint research. And collectively, all of this will demonstrate value.

Where there is value, there are budgets.

If you would like to have your own say, we’re running the State of UX survey again in 2019! So if you work in an enterprise organization, please take a few minutes to give us your insight and you’ll not only be shaping a more accurate picture of the UX landscape but you’ll also be in with a chance of winning a bundle of must-read UX books. Take the survey now!