UX leader to harness the energy
and time of a range of people. Their
participation was motivated by goal
alignment and maintained with
regular communication and milestones
(as with any project), and was
bolstered by a variety of soft rewards
(including recognition, gratitude, and
communication with managers).
Resuming the metaphor of alliances
as levers, we aim to create a guidebook
for building organizational alliances
that can inform UX leaders and their
colleagues. The guidebook will illustrate
how to create circumstances and shared
values to promote great partnerships.
We are collecting additional stories
of cross-functional collaborations
involving UX leaders. We invite you
to contact us and share your alliance
success (or failure) narrative. UX leaders
around the world will benefit from both.
We recognize that the exact process
documented in every alliance story
will not be instantly transferable into
every context. Corporate culture, UX
organization maturity, energy levels,
budgets, and business conditions
vary greatly across companies. We
hope these stories will inspire you and
provide some insight into defining and
implementing your own version of
collaborative UX leadership.
1. von Hippel, E. Democratizing Innovation.
MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, April 2005;
2. Friedland, L. Culture easts UX strategy for
breakfast. Interactions 26, 5 (Sept.–Oct. 2019).
Gregorio Convertino is a user experience
(UX) research manager at Google and does
research on Google’s material design system.
Previously, he has managed UX teams at
Cloudera and Informatica, led research on
software products (e.g., data analytics tools),
and worked as a human-computer interaction
(HCI) research scientist at Xerox PARC.
Nancy Frishberg works as a UX researcher
and strategist in private practice. Recently she’s
undertaken the concept testing of health and
wellness systems for a large tech company,
and improving the California Voter Guide in
collaboration with responsible county officials.
She has been a member of the local SIGCHI
Chapter, Bay CHI.org, for more than 25 years.
from InVision’s support team—to
cause change at scale across an
8,000-employee, 35-year-old software
company. Using his relationship map,
Polivka was able to identify the seven
key relationships on this project for
him to manage. This allowed him to
lead the effort to completion while not
getting overwhelmed by all the moving
parts. As this was only one of several
key projects for the year, Polivka’s
attention was needed for managing
other projects too.
The impact was amazing. The
corporate deployment of InVision
was successfully launched in April
2017. Employees simply visited an
internal URL and their account was
created on the fly. By November,
only seven months later, over 1,900
employees located in 36 different
countries had subscribed. Notice that
1,900 employees is much greater than
the 400 designers in the company;
the implication is that marketing,
engineering, and executives were
all now in a common company-wide
design tool for the first time. The low
barrier to entry enabled the creation of
over 1,800 projects containing 40,000
screens, with an average of 25 new
projects being created each week.
In the end, the relationship map was
a powerful tool that facilitated cultural
change, including “radical design
collaboration” with participation by
more than the designated designers.
It also supported new practices as a
result of this collaboration, including
universal access to a specific tool via
LESSONS YOU CAN
The first story teaches us that the initial
step of listening to customers from
two perspectives can seed an alliance
based on a common problem and thus
a shared business goal. In addition, the
message about that common problem
and business solution must be repeated
and shared across the organization.
This process of repetition along with
persistence and patience pays off These
actions prepared the organization
to endorse the change, all the way
up through attracting an executive
champion. The story also highlights
the need to understand the intrinsic
business factors that influence people's
behavior within organizations. A
good idea for a new product, process,
or initiative may not be accepted
immediately if it conflicts with plans
already in motion for that business.
This story also reflects broader lessons
about building the right organizational
culture, reported in Friedland's
own “Culture Eats UX Strategy for
Breakfast” Interactions article [ 2].
The second story offers a method
and model for working outside of the
official hierarchical organizational
structure to achieve a cross-functional
goal. Key to Autodesk’s success at
launching company-wide access to
a specific tool was the ability of the
DOI: 10.1145/3371289 © 2020 ACM 1072-5520/20/01 $15.00
Figure 1. Snapshot of the org chart at the start of the project. Source: Autodesk Research, 2017.