In recent weeks, some of the world’s most prominent businesses have been in the news because of their commitment to making customer experience the center of their success. For example:
- The Atlantic just published an insightful article about Ford’s new CEO, Jim Hackett, coming from a design background during his tenure at Steelcase. Why promote an executive with a furniture background to run Ford? Because, as The Atlantic wrote, “We don’t live in the age of the automobile, or even the age of the computer. We live in the age of user experience.”
- Fast Company recently discussed how Lyft plans to win the transportation wars through the power of design. The company recently made some key executive hires as part of a design-focused strategy for redefining ride sharing as something bigger: helping people get around with or without sharing a car.
Both these examples demonstrate the design has a seat at the table. At the same time, as designers achieve more influence, they must collaborate with other functions such as product engineering that are integral to creating a great customer experience.
Design Drives a New Corporate Strategy at Lyft
The article about Lyft is especially fascinating to me because design is driving a new corporate strategy. Lyft wants to provide a range of transportation options to set it apart from Uber and broaden its scope. For example, Lyft is now the largest bike-sharing service thanks to an acquisition of Motivate. The Lyft app now makes it possible for users in select cities to find modes of public transportation. Lyft also launched scooters in nine U.S. cities in 2018. Redefining mobility means rethinking the user experience. So Lyft recently hired five senior designers to fulfill its vision. Per Fast Company,
Lyft wants to redesign the end-to-end experience of getting around, whether that means biking, taking a bus, or hopping in a shared car. But people are ingrained in their ways–and to convince people to opt into its ecosystem, Lyft’s leadership knows that it needs to offer a significantly easier way to connect multiple modes of transportation. The design team’s new directors aim to help the company with this mission.
- Lyft understands that design does not happen in a vacuum. The company is designing an interconnected set of user experiences to help people get where they need to go. How, for example, does the user experience with a scooter differ from the experience of riding a bike? When and where is a scooter preferable to a bike and vice versa? These questions require a holistic understanding of how people meet their needs through transportation.
- Lyft is embedding design throughout the organization. Although the senior designers report to Katie Dill, Lyft’s vice president of design, they operate in decentralized fashion. They’re going to be responsible for different aspects of the user experience and work with functional heads to design experiences that align with the needs of the business and user. By aligning design with core business functions, Lyft has set itself up for success.
Last year, I discussed how Christopher Hawthorn, architecture critic for the Los Angeles Times, had joined the city of Los Angeles to fill a newly created post, chief design officer. He wrote in the Los Angeles Times that “I’ll be working in the mayor’s office to raise the quality of public architecture and urban design across the city — and the level of civic conversation about those subjects.” He indicated that one of the ways that Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti would measure the success of the post is how well the city discusses “design in a more sophisticated and nuanced way in Los Angeles” — with a more thoughtful, innovative approach to how to design the city’s spaces to make the city’s future more inclusive to its diverse population.
Now let’s connect the dots: as design drives the experience in the public and private sector, the possibilities for creating stronger, interconnected experiences across major urban areas become even greater. But how? Here is where designers need to collaborate more closely with all departments of an organization – including engineering, product management, marketing, and strategy — to create a better holistic customer experience.
Design, Business, and Engineering Must Work Together
As product designer Andrew Yang wrote, “Designers and engineers are seen as complete opposites. Designers are portrayed to be sensitive creatives, and engineers as cold logisticians. However, as a former software engineer turned product designer, I can say that these opposites can work together effectively in the workplace.”
Design, Business, and Engineering must work together. And tools exist to help them do just that. For example, at Moonshot, we help businesses discover, design, and develop better experiences at scale by structuring our projects with cross-functional teams aligned with common ways of working – putting emphasis on the collective outcome not on the process or craft.
Creating experiences isn’t just the responsibility of the designers. Creating experiences requires all mindsets (business, product, marketing, engineering, sales, etc.) working toward a common goal. Designers can influence the collective through the inherent ways they solve problems with end users. It is imperative that designers share this mindset with their peers. To paraphrase a certain well-known children’s book, creating great customer experiences takes a village. That village is made up key functions across the enterprise to support the customer journey from start to finish.
As I have highlighted, designers are being invited to take a seat at the table to help activate the company’s mission. They can’t do this alone. It is their responsibility to facilitate a cross-functional mindset approach to solving human needs. In fact, it is everyone’s responsibility to activate and execute on that need.