Mark McCormick, newly in the position of head of user experience for wholesale Internet services at Wells Fargo, has led customer experience teams for 20 years, the past 12 of which have been at Wells Fargo. He specializes in managing large research, design, and content strategy teams and driving cultural values and practices around customer centricity, innovation, and, lately, simplicity. We sat down to talk more about simplicity leading up to Mark’s keynote at CXNYC 2015

Photo of Mark McCormickQ: You’ll be speaking about ethnographic research at the CXNYC 2015 Forum. Could you give us some background on the role of research at Wells Fargo, particularly as it relates to design?

A: Ethnography is an enabler to design and decision-making. Design and research have always gone hand in glove at Wells Fargo, usually reporting to the same manager and working in tandem on projects. But when I talk about research, I’m referring to a few different kinds of research. In the case of usability, there needs to be a bit of a wall between the designers and research in order to maintain the objectivity that’s needed. With ethnography on the other hand, ideally you would have designers, executives, and product teams all in the field, side by side with researchers. With that kind of research, and with the rich qualitative data that comes out of it, it is extremely fruitful if you get designers and researchers parsing the data together. Then everyone has a stake in it, and if they have a stake in the data, they end up using it.

Q: Can you talk about the role of simplicity in the work that you do?

A: Simplicity is a big new strategic pillar for Wells Fargo and a personal passion of mine. If I could recommend one thing to build a strategy around, it would be that. Recently I gathered an internal team as well as an agency that I’ve worked with for many years, Humantific, to synthesize nearly 30 years of literature on simplicity, going back to Richard Saul Wurman’s Information Anxiety, written in the late 80s, right up the present with Alan Siegel (and Siegel + Gale’s) great work. I am really passionate about simplicity as a central underlying pillar of any customer experience strategy.

Q: Is it difficult to integrate simplicity into a large organization like Wells Fargo?

A: It’s very interesting about simplicity. No one will argue with it. Everyone intuitively gets it. But everyone wants to know, “How do we do it?" And that’s why we’re creating these principles:

  • Embrace simplicity.
  • Commit to the essentials.
  • Start by examining complexity.
  • Adjust for the situation.
  • Make sure it works.
  • Tell a story.
  • Speak human.

We’re breaking these principles first down into patterns and then into really specific practices. Finally, we’re going to create a set of heuristics for each one of those principles — that is, simply yes/no questions that teams can ask to determine whether they “made it simple.” We’re trying to create simplicity guidebooks or recipe books or field guides because simple is not easy. It’s really easy to create complexity.

Q: What are some of the techniques you’re using to turn simplicity from principle to practice?

A: We’re trying to break it down into practical steps first, and then I’d like to do facilitated workshops with cross-functional teams that are based in design thinking. I want colleagues to bring in their complex experiences, the things they’re working on, and then we’ll see which of the principles apply and start working through the problem by applying those principles.

We’ve gotten pretty good at getting the different functional teams to join similar workshops — importantly, these are not just for designers. We have product people, technical people, business leaders, business architects, designers, content strategists, and executives — we really try to get as many people from the different parts of the organization to participate. We don’t have a lot of resistance. They’re fun, they’re interesting, and people know that good things come out of them.

Join us on June 16th at Forrester's Forum For Customer Experience Professionals to hear more from Mark on the key role research is playing at Wells Fargo.

For more on simplification, please see the “The Power Of Disciplined Simplification” Forrester report.