Recently, I attended Rosenfeld Media’s Enterprise Experience conference as an input to research I’m conducting about enterprise user experience (UX). My three top takeaways about how to improve UX for employees:

Use Sense-Making To Bring Order To Chaos

Tatyana Mamut, Nextdoor’s chief product officer, captured a widespread sentiment at the event about the importance of using the design skill of sense-making. Mamut believes the reason sense-making is so important is that enterprise UX is like being on a ship with an engine that will break if it runs too hot — while also being chased by pirates. To avoid being plundered or suffer an explosion, her advice was to find the levers of customer and user value and repeat them — something she has seen work at Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Salesforce. For example, at Amazon, she said CEO Jeff Bezos emphasized the importance of fast delivery as a lever to create customer value.

Melissa Schmidt, director of research at Autodesk, even made a map of research activities and their impact on the world for the Autodesk University initiative.


Create A Participatory Environment

Emily Eagle, a senior UX designer on Nordstrom’s enterprise design team, shared that she had created a board game to convey to executives and stakeholders how associates move through spaces and use tools. She had also found success working through research findings with a product partner rather than on her own.

Participation techniques extended to discussions about jazz, improv, and even the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). Laura Nash, senior UX designer at Boston Consulting Group, referred to these as ways to get more out of personas, and Ted Neward of Smartsheet ran a D&D session — with an imaginary boardroom as the setting — on stage. Role-playing and improv do have great power in improving collaboration, so we were glad to see them included.

Autodesk took participation to a new level to overcome organizational barriers and democratize research through Autodesk University, a massive effort at its customer conference. Autodesk University has doubled from 500 people in 2016 to 1,000 last year. Not sure executive support matters? Melissa Schmidt, director of research, and Adam Menter, senior program manager of social and community innovations, credit Autodesk’s first VP of design, Maria Giudice, for elevating the initiative’s profile in 2015. Schmidt said, “The value of research is primarily in democratizing the research,” so the team works hard to involve many people from across Autodesk functions like legal and marketing — not just UX and design. A highlight reel recapped last year’s event, with Schmidt encouraging the audience to “take time to make promo videos” and socialize results.


Don’t Let An Executive Request Go To Waste

ExxonMobil’s Nick Cochran, a design practices lead, shared how the organization’s UX growth stemmed from a request from executives to equip field workers with iPhones and iPads to help them be more efficient. It became clear that the team could only accomplish this goal with the help of a design practice — and so the UX function at Exxon was born.

Several other speakers confirmed this approach, and several added that every design decision and request has more impact when quantified and put in the context of a business need or goal.


Do you have insights about enterprise UX? Get in touch! I’m now identifying experts I’d like to interview, and I’m particularly focused on the business impact of bad employee UX and how enterprise design teams might still not have enough funding.