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14 September 2004

User-centered strategy

There are more and more indications that user-centeredness is entering into a new phase of evolution.

New structures and functions are created within organisations () that extend established interaction design, new research domains are emerging (Usage).

This evolution might be leading to what could be called User-centered strategy: visions of innovation that are jointly driven by technical opportunities, business models and social analyses: on the dynamics of adoption, on existing practices in the social groups and on antecedents. This approach would do to strategy what user-centered design has done to product design: introduce a relentless focus on end-user value, open up the strategy elaboration and revision processes to end-user inputs, stress the importance of feed-back based on direct experiences with prototypes and redefine the composition and operations of strategy teams to create the right mix of technical, managerial and social considerations.

What is driving that evolution happening now? Whereas in the 80ies the rapid shift of the target for information technology, from technicians and computer scientists to the general public, accompanied by the crises of Three-Mile Island and Tchernobyl who put the finger on the critical role played by the user interface in the operations of informationally complex systems; at the beginning of the 21st century, the omnipresent mediation of technology makes for extreme adoption or refusal patterns. Two examples: the SMS and the MMS. The former demanding very limited investments and producing widespread adoption; the latter demanding very significant investment and producing marginal adoption. The elicitor has been the collapse of many Internet ventures technologically possible, business make sense, but unrealistic with the respect to the market and its capacity to absorb innovation and to modify its ways. The near bankruptcy of several European Telecom Operators in the wake of the auctions to purchase 3G licences, again motivated by unrealistic expectations with respect to adoption of new multimedia services, has shown the limits of strategies that don’t look with sufficient attention at customers’ needs and motivations.

In this context the question is not anymore that of designing products, but of contributing to the decision of developing a certain platform of creating the conditions that would make a given scenario come true.

For the human-computer interaction community, this evolution would not go without pain and suffering. New skills would become critical, I would single out quantitative research and business modelling; some theories would become central, I think in particular of adoption of innovation models, 

Posted at 04:08 PM in UsageWatch project | Permalink


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