Scaling User Experience – Keystone projects

When I talk about Red Hat and the growth we’ve had in the User Experience Design (UXD) team over the past few years, I am often asked how we got buy-in from the organization to grow so rapidly.  Selling the value of user experience when all areas of the business are feeling under resourced can be challenging, but we were successful through a few key objectives that I think would apply to many other organizations who are looking to build out their user experience teams.  The first of these objectives was identifying and executing on a keystone project.

The user experience team at Red Hat had one initial keystone project that brought the capabilities of the team to the forefront of organizational focus.  A keystone is a central stone at the summit of an arch, locking the whole together.  Without the keystone, the arch can’t be built.  We often also see keystones as beautiful architectural objects even after they have served their purpose to help build the arch.

Our keystone project was to show the time-to-trial for our product compared to our competitor’s products.  This was a keystone project because it had the following attributes:

  • It touched a central objective of many business units and leaders across the company – to make it easier to access our products
  • It brought together all the disciplines we currently had on the UXD team to accomplish this project
  • It’s output was highly visual and could be shown and referred back to easily by anyone

For the output of this project, the UXD team created ‘scrolls’ containing printouts of each user flow for our product vs. our competitive products.  The UXD Leadership brought these physical scrolls to a few key leadership meetings and were able to show the competitor’s flows (could easily place on the table) vs. our flow (the scroll would roll down the whole conference table).  This theatrical presentation of the data, along with the capability to provide digital copies of these flows to executives around the company, was highly impactful and showed the problem that Red Hat had in front of them without question.

The team was immediately given responsibility and access to the organization in a new way.  We built virtual teams across the business units to make improvements to this flow.  We identified web pages, documentation, quality assurance changes we could make improvements to.  We showed the scroll “shrinking”.  At the same time, we initiated a few key projects on the product UIs themselves to begin to show other ways we could impact and influence the company.  This keystone project started a cascade of activities that continued to fuel growth as executives across the company saw the impact we could have to change things from “status quo” to “innovative design outcomes”.




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