A question of organisation

With just a week to go before the PMN Mobile User Experience conference opens in London, I have been reflecting on some of the things we have learnt in bringing this event together. After more than nine months of talking to people from all parts of the industry about this incredibly broad topic of ‘experience’, it strikes me that future successes will be as much about the development of organisations as they are about new technology.

Telecoms has by necessity been a business driven by the development of technology. There has been a tendency to try to ‘innovate away’ bad experiences. If the customers aren’t buying a product, the answer has often been sought in the R&D lab rather than within the board room. Of course, this kind of innovation is essential and must continue, but there is an opportunity to make significant progress by changing more fundamental parts of the business.

In researching MEX I have spoken to numerous product managers who feel constrained by their organisational structure. They have a vision for a customer experience, yet they are hamstrung by the legacy of previous offerings or limited by the politics within their company. This is not a problem unique to the telecoms industry, but the telecoms industry is uniquely guilty of seeing technology as a ‘cure all’ for poor performance.

In other industries, where the potential for technological innovation is less directly equated with commercial success, companies are required to constantly examine their internal structures to ensure they are maintaining a competitive edge. This represents a valuable lesson for the telecoms business.

If a company is built around particular technologies, rather than a desire to service particular segments, how can it ever hope to properly understand the needs of its customers? Feeding customer research and the results of usability testing into a structure which is not able to act on that information is usless.

No amount of marketing dollars are going to convince a customer to buy a product which hasn’t been designed for their specific needs in an industry where competition is cut-throat and consumers have global choice.

MEX will of course examine many individual technologies and products – they are essential building blocks of the user experience. However, the conference is as much about establishing the context in which these innovations must occur as it is about the innovations themselves.

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