This is the sixth installation in our Experience Over Everything series.
- A Research Toolkit for UX Design
- 6 Things You’ll Find in a High-Performing Retail Location
- Improving Employee Experiences – A Playbook
- 4D Journey Maps for Next-Gen CX
- Powering the Experience Economy
Every company is a product company. Yes, even yours.
We tend to think of product companies as those that make and sell software, hardware, etc.
However, in today’s business environment, every company is a product company – as we all are, or should be, doing at least one of the following:
- Building products and/or designing experiences for our customers
- Building products and/or designing experiences for our employees
- Modernizing our business offerings
- Undergoing digital transformation
Every company needs people designated to manage and execute this work. We’ve all seen companies build or buy tools that no one uses. We’ve all seen initiatives crank up and start strong, only to die on the side of the road while following an uninformed and ever-winding roadmap. Having experienced and committed professionals following best practices and methodologies ensures a higher probability of success for initiatives. It also reduces wasted time, resources, and money.
Today, your customers and employees expect the same responsiveness and innovation from your company as they expect from companies like Google and Amazon. Your partners and competitors are starting to think like product companies—and if they aren’t, it means there are needs in your market that aren’t being met, which equals opportunity for you. In order to go from thinking like a product company to behaving like one, you need to hire or contract people to map the journey and drive the execution.
Here are a few of the key roles every enterprise needs now—and will need to drive innovation in 2025.
You need people to map the journey and drive the execution.
A product manager or strategist is responsible for using best practice methodologies to uncover the needs of an organization and align key stakeholders on a solution. From there, this person is responsible for managing the collaborative efforts of a team in order to ideate solutions and create a roadmap for bringing those solutions to life.
You can think of product managers/strategists as project managers for building products and experiences. They are voice-of-customer experts who understand and can empathize with the users, identify their challenges, collaborate on the ideation of solutions, prioritize the components of those solutions, and help lead development efforts through a project management lens with agile methodology.
Every company has a digital world. You need someone to map and landscape that world.
A technical architect is responsible for creating and implementing software development or information technology service strategies and leading software development or information technology service teams. They have software development and technical writing skills, and are excellent communicators. Technical architects work closely with product strategists, UX designers, and software developers where they apply their knowledge of architectural patterns, software delivery lifecycles, DevOps, and IT service models.
Your company is (or should be) creating or providing digital solutions for customer and employee problems. A technical architect ensures that this is done correctly, efficiently, and in a manner that is scalable. While the UX researcher gathers customer insights, the product strategist uncovers requirements, and the UX designer crafts experiences, the technical architect sources and manages the talent, technologies, and services needed to make those experiences a reality.
Technical architects should be involved from the beginning to the end of product/solution development work and should develop and implement a strategy to support and enhance the product/solution after launch.
Digital products and services. Physical products and services. All products and services have experiences and you need someone to design those experiences.
A UX designer is responsible for applying design thinking to ideate solutions to problems and using design skills to bring those solutions to life in the world. That sounds pretty profound, and it is.
It’s easier to see when it comes to products. You know your company needs someone to design your websites, landing pages, software, or physical products. This person needs to use requirements, customer insights, and journey maps to wireframe or mock up solutions. You need a UX designer to administer user testing to get feedback and iterate on designs based on that feedback. This role is important not only for the initial design of a product, but also for ongoing improvements and enhancements as technology and customer expectations change.
It’s harder for most people to see when it comes to services. More times than not, there are digital and physical experiences involved with those services, and always at least one of the two.
The manner in which customers request, receive, use, interact with, and pay for, your services always falls into one of those buckets and there are things in each of those buckets that need to be designed and improved over time.
Every employee should have an understanding of and focus on customer experience – but you need team members who focus SOLELY on customer experience.
A user experience/customer experience researcher is responsible for becoming an expert in the voice of the customer/employees and the customer/employee journey and sharing those insights within the company.
For small businesses, this role can fall under the responsibilities of the product manager. For large enterprises, especially those with complex organizations or lots of customer segments, this needs to be a full-time role held by a person or team.
UX/CX researchers conduct ongoing customer interviews and surveys. They monitor product and service usage. They also conduct empathy research. Their contributions to the company usually take the form of customer/employee insight presentations and reports, sales enablement resources and training, empathy and journey maps, and personas.
There should be many VOC experts within a company, and your UX/CX researcher(s) should be the most knowledgeable of them. They should actually be the ones educating and training other VOC experts. You need people willing to join your customer-facing employees on the frontline; people willing to roll up their sleeves to find out the right questions to ask and get those important questions answered. Whether they are conducting surveys and interviews, observing customers, managing market research or social listening initiatives, or simply analyzing product usage and customer data, they should be constantly learning about customers and their experiences.
Ambient Technology Technical Architect
The future of tech is ambient. This will transform all consumer and workplace experiences.
If your company is building software and mobile apps for your customers or employees, then you’re keeping up with the times. You’re doing what you need to do in order to be competitive in today’s business and consumer environment.
In order to be competitive in the future, your company needs to build ambient technology solutions. Ambient technology turns everyday objects into parts of intelligent home and office systems. This technology works in the background to meet our needs and often anticipates and acts on them before we are aware of them.
Today, if you want to use smart home technology to turn your lights on or off without ambient technology you have to physically use a mobile app, speak into your phone, or adjust your settings so that your lights turn on or off at specific times.
An example of ambient technology at work for the same scenario, is when you enter or leave a room the lights automatically turn on or off or when you are in close proximity to your home, the lights turn on or off.
Another example, of ambient technology is devices in your home sensing your mood and being able to adjust temperature, lighting, and even music and sounds to match or help you adjust your mood.
In a few years, your customers and employees will expect ambient technology experiences in most aspects of their lives—especially at home and at work. You will need a technical architect to work with your product manager/strategist to understand and validate/invalidate the use cases and focus specifically on building ambient technology solutions.
Voice UX Designer
The future of tech is voice. This future is happening now.
Truth be told, 2025 may be a little late to start voice technology initiatives at your company. Your customers and employees are already leveraging these technologies in their daily lives. They are using voice to make phone calls and send messages, check the weather and the news, activate their televisions and sound systems, and more.
In order to provide similar experiences for your customers and employees, you will need someone focused on designing them. This person should have experience designing voice user interfaces and the interactions between a user and a device.
In addition to voice-enabling technology, a voice UX designer will also be responsible for improving voice experiences and making the interactions more conversational.
Voice is critical to ambient technology, so having a voice UX designer is critical to your company’s ability to build ambient technology solutions.
AR/VR UX Designer and Engineer
As the AR (augmented reality) vs. VR (virtual reality) debate rages on, get a designer and an engineer who can do both.
Either way the pendulum swings, one thing is for certain: mixed reality will be critical in the future of tech. People want to be able to interact with their devices without the devices being a barrier between them and their environment or the people in their environment. People also want to enhance their physical, in-person experiences with digital ones.
We’re already seeing this today.
People are bringing notifications into their fields of view with smart glasses and soon, heads-up displays on windshields. They’re enhancing their gaming experiences with AR and VR games. They’re exploring new environments and visualizing products in their own environments. They’re also using smart mirrors to see news and weather updates and assist with the application of beauty products.
These technologies are becoming very prevalent in our lives as consumers.
In our lives as employees, we’re just scratching the surface of what AR and VR technologies can do.
Manufacturing employees are leveraging AR to guide them through complex processes and aid in making physical judgement calls and calculations. First responders are leveraging VR for training and skills development.
To explore and capitalize on this new, mixed reality frontier, you need a UX designer who can craft and an engineer who can build amazing AR and VR experiences for your customers and employees.
Planning for 2020
If you already have a product manager/strategist, technical architect, UX designer, and UX researcher, then you’re in a good place going into 2020 and need to decide what you want them to accomplish. If you don’t have these team members, you should consider hiring or contracting people for these roles. Either way, your next steps should be to evaluate your current business challenges and existing roadmap(s) for solutions to those challenges.
Are you aligned on a vision? Do you have a solid roadmap to bring that vision to life? Do you have the human resources you need to do so?
If so, we would love to learn more about what you have planned and how we can be a resource.
If not, we would love to learn where we can step in and help.
Either way, we would love to speak with you and learn how we can help you build products and/or design experiences for our customers or employees, modernizing our business offerings, or strategize and execute your digital transformation.