For this, our second Sponsor Spotlight post, we ventured over to Exact’s headquarters in Delft
Founded in 1984, Exact have a long history in creating Business software. They’ve seen their industry change significantly in the preceding 30+ years and are firmly focused on empowering SME’s by providing them with the technology and services they need to grow beyond their limits.
We spoke with Carina Palumbo over a coffee to find out more about the history of UX at Exact, the future and Exact’s plans for UXcampAMS17.
Thanks for inviting me over to your offices. Tell me a little bit about your background and how you came to be a UX’er?
I studied Visual Communication Design and started working as a Visual Designer. I was working in the design of solutions to reduce the vulnerability of my city to floods, in Argentina, where I am from. We were working with the municipality and University; therefore there were politicians, teachers and numerous other stakeholders involved. At that point I noticed that I was no longer solely a Visual Designer, but I didn’t have a name for what I was doing (a mix of qualitative user research and design). After this, I enrolled in a Masters in Information Studies at UvA (Universiteit van Amsterdam). I wanted to learn about the best methods and tools in the process of creating an experience. At the time I figured that studying human centred multi-media would help me get a bit further away from only visuals. After that I was introduced to the post-master in User-System Interaction (USI) programme which was a great experience to start with my first “official” assignments as a UX’er. These years were crucial to develop my research and design expertise further, giving a new meaning to my visual skills, and my role in projects. I was happy that it was now very clear to everyone what I could do.
How long have you been here at Exact?
I’ve been here just over 2 years and it’s been great to see how we are growing as a team and improving the way we create our customers and users experience.
I got the impression from your presentation last year that UX has come into sharper focus in the past few years at Exact. Can you give us some background as to how this increased focus came about?
Our CEO started an initiative to transform Exact into an Exponential Organisation (ExO), we have had a lot of exposure and trainings on this with the aim of spreading the ExO mind-set within the company. We had an external company come in and perform assessments and one of their conclusions was that we could improve in the areas of experimentation and autonomy, so that became a focus and goal of our internal programme. On the back of this initiative, tools like Lean Startup really started to spread around the company. We figured that this was also a great moment for us to bring Design Thinking as a further focus area for Exact. That’s what we are doing now, trying really hard with all UX’ers to make this a bigger change and move design towards a more strategic role in the organization. We’ve started experimenting more, using Lean Startup and also designing strategically with multiple stakeholders instead of building only.
The reason for this transformation is the evolution in the business software and technology industry; a few years ago, customers would for example accept that they needed training and that software was difficult to use, but now this is not the case anymore. They simply won’t buy your service or product if their experience with it is not positive. The standards have been raised all around, so it’s more important than ever to empathize with customers, discover their needs, experiment, build, measure and learn. This is the key to innovation and successful experiences.
What is your role within Exact?
I am the lead of a new team, the UX Boost team. The team aims at empowering UX Designers to become ambassadors, making everyone in their team a Design Thinker. I am working together with our Solution UX’ers on taking the quality of our design processes to the next level.
We help our Cloud Solution teams select a topic and provide support for them to try out Design Thinking on a key project. We assist with design-critiques and knowledge sharing sessions and give them access to Design Thinking tools. Additionally, we partner with teams working on strategic projects to extend their user research, data analysis and ideation capabilities.
What are your goals for sponsoring UXcampAMS17?
We are looking to share knowledge, inspire and be inspired. There will be quite a large contingent from Exact and we hope to get new energy, ideas and inspiration. We like the casual environment where you can talk to a lot of friendly people about many different aspects of UX.
Do you have any plans to pitch presentations at this year’s event?
Yes – we are working on a few ideas, such as the history of what is happening here and how we are rolling out Design Thinking. We are also thinking of putting something together on our experiences with envisioning a Design System and creating data-driven personas.
Do you have any tips for anybody planning to present this year?
The main thing is to have a clear story. It doesn’t necessarily have to be about something completely disruptive. Even if you think that you may not have something new to share, it will always be interesting for some of the UXers attending the event, as there are a lot of people doing completely different things, working in different types of organizations, dealing with diverse challenges. So it’s always nice to learn from what other people are doing.
What hot topics would you love to see addressed at UXcampAMS17?
One of the topics that I get a lot of questions about is the combination of Agile and Scrum with Design Thinking and how to deal with it. We have experience in this, but it would be good to hear from others.
Also, as we are focused on enterprise UX, we encounter technical challenges that we are solving, but in the meantime, we have to take the legacy into consideration. So it would be nice to hear from anyone with experience of the sorts of challenges that you may face in this area. How do you, as a UX’er, give maximum value in such environments?
I am also really interested in how to use data in the design process. We have a new “Customer Intelligence” team here who focus on working with data and we are starting to get more access to this information. We already do some data analysis, but I’d be really interested to hear the experience of other UX’ers who use data to drive their design process.
Finally, I’m keen to know what the future is for UX and UX’ers, so maybe to get insight from those who have been in the profession for a number of years have some thoughts and ideas on both career progression within UX and what they believe the “New” UX will be.
Thanks to Carina and Exact for spending some time with us ahead of UXcampAMS17. They are busy brainstorming their activities for this year’s event and we’re impressed with their dedication to help make this year’s event a great success. Stop by and say hello to the Exact crew and be sure to vote and attend one of Exact’s sessions.
Look forward to seeing you on April 22nd!