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Engineers, Researchers and Designers: The Geeks Behind Cisco’s Collaboration Technology

September 27, 2012 - 0 Comments

It’s a great time to be at Cisco. Earlier this week, Susie Wee, chief technology and experience officer (CTEO) for the Collaboration Technology Group, unveiled the “collaboration geeks”: the engineers, researchers and designers behind the technology, to a handful of press and analysts. We were excited (and a bit nervous!) to share how Cisco is approaching user experience (UE) and design. These changes aren’t just happening from the product side, but are also evolving our internal thinking about being more user-centric across the organization.

Have you ever heard of a CTEO? Probably not, because it is a new role that we created to address the importance of coupling user experience and technology. As CTEO, Susie is responsible for driving innovation and experience design in Cisco’s collaboration products and software services. The first step involved in making a cultural change is how we approach product design. But what does this mean for her team? Below is a short excerpt from our User Experience Day event.

At Cisco, we’re dedicated to changing the way we work, live, play and learn. We’re always looking to break down barriers among staff; one example is how we’re approaching user experience design. Our team is looking into principles, guidelines, and archetypes that represent an organizational-wide approach to user experience design. The design team really lays the foundation for growing the influence and scope of all the UE specialists into strategic conversations where user experience can impact what we design and how we design. We coined the term “XQ” as the eXperience Quotient of the organization. XQ is a tool and metric that we developed to measure our customer’s experience with our products and our user experience-centric development process.

Another example is how our engineers are thinking about their products from the user perspective and pulling in the user experience designers and my team (user experience researchers) as well. To showcase this at the event, engineers brought in a number of XQ demos to show this thinking firsthand:

  • Ways of visual thinking and co-creation, and how it can be supported for remote team members to build a shared mind-map of their conversation,
  • How HTML 5 WebRTC will allow, among other advantages, for video calls to become ubiquitous parts of the business to consumer conversation through the web,
  • And how the user-centered process increases contact center agents’ productivity, primarily by reducing sources of stress and delay in the workflow of answering callers’ concerns.

And lastly, and what surprised me the most was the appetite to hear more about the research! As one of the first members of the research team, I’ve been engrained in this for the past seven years. My talented team conducts a wide range of studies on our designs and with users, to figure out what experience makes the most sense for them, given their goals for using communication and collaboration tools. Our user-centered design methodology starts out with a humble and open discovery effort to figure out who is struggling most to improve the way they communicate and collaborate. Knowing what situations and work scenarios are most frustrating helps us identify exactly who feels virtual teamwork problems most urgently.

I am excited to open this dialogue with press and analysts so that there is more visibility into how we design, why we design, and what our goals are for our products. This research helps Cisco evolve more rapidly and keep pace with the way end-users want to work.

Let us know if you have any more ideas about ways to improve user experience and design in the comments below.

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