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Identifying the touchpoints between customer and businesses is the first step in creating products and services that provide true value. The use of systematic, visual representations expose previously unseen opportunities for improvement and for growth.
There are many names for such diagrams: customer journey maps, experience maps, mental model diagrams, and more. The term “alignment diagrams” describes them all as a category of deliverable that shares a common fundamental principle: aligning the user experience with business processes.
Accordingly, alignment diagrams have two parts: one capturing customer behavior and the other reflecting business processes. The overlap of these two parts reveals the interaction between them. By visually aligning the user’s experiences with the business offering, providers are better able to highlight the points where value is created.
It’s a pretty good time to be a UX Designer. More and more companies are seeing UX and Design as a source of differentiation. That not only provides opportunities for us individually, but also helps our field grow. But we need to step as a field, I believe. We complain that others don’t get it or we don’t have a seat at the table. But if we did would we really know what to do? It’s great we have IxD and IA and Content Strategy and such. And I’m glad there are talented people focused on those areas. But we also need to be able to contribute to broader conversations in organizations, around strategy and vision and creating value
And that’s what Jeff was talking about in his 2012 article Lean UX is Nothing New. He writes: This doesn’t mean that you have to give up all the things you love about being a designer. I’m not saying to go get an MBA in business strategy. Rather we can use our design skills to become facilitators in organizations.
Jeff sees things through the lens of Lean UX. Another way to convert design skills into facilitation is through visualizations. This is an experience map by Chris Risdon. It describes the experience of interacting with a service called rail Europe. On the top are phases of interaction. On the side are different facets of information that describe the experience. Aligned to that are actions the provider takes and even business opportunities. What are the skills involved in creating this picture? Research and empathy Organization and analysis of information Storytelling Visualization skills
There are lots of approaches out there. Maybe you’ve heard of these things.
Let me explain why I call these alignment diagrams People expect some benefit from a product or service On the other hand, organizations and business need to get something in return – profit, market share, brand recognition, more members. Where the two intersect is around the exchange of value. And that’s where our focus should be. Not on the distinctions between diagram types. Not on the distinctions between UX and CX and SD. But on creating, delivering, capturing and maintaining value.
This is what Jess McMullin was talking about in his article from 2003, searching for the center of design.
But visualizations don’t provide the answers, they foster conversations. They are platforms for change. I believe they are a one tool – along with Lean UX and Design thinking – that enable designers to become facilitators. Because you’re not going to make this visualization and put it as an email attached. You print them out and have workshops around them. They are catalysts for conversations. They are compelling artifacts that teams can rally around. They are cross functional – everyone can get something from understanding the user experience. They show a picture of value alignment.
By describing alignment diagrams as a class of documents that reveals the value creation equation, you have many possibilities. This brings choice. Take a look at Harry Beck’s 1933 map of the London Underground. Here’s the original one. Who’s been on the Tube in London? Do they go in a straight line? Are the stops equidistant? Focus is on the different lines (in color) and stops Scope is to show the entire system. Can this be used by rain engineers to plan how much track they need for repairs? Who can use this? Travelers – that’s the point of view. As the mapmaker you have to make decisions about the story you want to tell.
By describing alignment diagrams as a class of documents that reveals the value creation equation, you have many possibilities. This brings choice
“By pushing for a collaborative cross-functional process, UX
designers are becoming grassroots strategic players...
The organizational perception of the
UX designer becomes more of a design
facilitator, a UX leader, and ultimately
a company leader.“
Jeff Gothelf. “Lean UX is Nothing New,” Johnny Holland (2012)
Designer as Facilitator
“Value-centered design starts a story about
an ideal interaction between an
individual and an organization and the
benefits each realizes from that interaction.”
Jess McMullin, “Searching For The Center of Design,“ Boxes and Arrows
Scientific American Supplement, No. 530, February 27, 1886
“A NEW PHOTOGRAPHIC APPARATUS”
This apparatus consists of a box containing a camera, A, and a frame,
C, containing the desired number of plates, each held in a small
frame of black Bristol board. The camera contains a mirror, M, which
pivots upon an axis and is maneuvered by the extreme bottom, B.
This mirror stops at an angle of 45°, and sends the image coming
from the objective to the horizontal plate, D, at the upper part of the
camera. The image thus reflected is righted upon this plate.
As the objective is of short focus, every object situated beyond a
distance of three yards from the apparatus is in focus. In exceptional
cases, where the operator might be nearer the object to be
photographed, the focusing would be done by means of the rack of
the objective. The latter can also slide up and down, so that the
apparatus need not be inclined when buildings or high trees are
being photographed. The door, E, performs the role of a shade.
When the apparatus has been fixed upon its tripod and properly
directed, all the operator has to do is to close the door, P, and raise
the mirror, M, by turning the button, B, and then expose the plate.
The sensitized plates are introduced into the apparatus through the
door, I, and are always brought automatically to the focus of the
objective through the pressure of the springs, R. The shutter of the
frame, B, opens through a hook, H, with in the pocket, N. After
exposure, each plate is lifted by means of the extractor, K, into the
pocket, whence it is taken by hand and introduced through a slit, S,
behind the springs, R, and the other plates that the frame contains.
All these operations are performed in the interior of the pocket, N,
through the impermeable, triple fabric of which no light can enter.
An automatic marker shows the number of plates exposed. When the
operations are finished, the objective is put back in the interior of the
camera, the doors, P and E, are closed, and the pocket is rolled up.
The apparatus is thus hermetically closed, and, containing all the
accessories, forms one of the most practical of systems for the
itinerant photographer.—La Nature.
[EASTMAN] recognized that his
roll film could lead to a
revolution if he focused on the
experience he wanted to deliver,
an experience captured in his
advertising slogan, “You press
the button, we do the rest.”
Solutions that merely please, serve, meet
the needs/specs, or delight customers don’t
go far enough. They represent yesterday’s
marketing and design paradigms. They
misunderstand innovation’s real impact –
Using "The Ask" with Alignment Diagrams
1. At each phase ask: Who do we want our
customers to become?
2. Use metaphors. These are often experts of
3. Reframe the solution space to transform users
based on the transformations.
In groups, discuss who you want your customers to become
You've got to start with
the customer experience
and work back toward
the technology –
not the other
An industry begins with the
customer and his needs, not
with a patent, a raw material,
or a selling skill. Given the
customer’s needs, the industry
develops backwards, first
concerning itself with the
physical delivery of customer
Growth slows not because industries stop
growing, but because companies fail to continue
to meet ever-expanding customer needs.
• From the end of World War II until the late 1970s, a retain-and-
reinvest approach to resource allocation prevailed at major U.S.
• This pattern began to break down in the late 1970s, giving way to
a downsize-and-distribute regime of reducing costs and then
distributing the freed-up cash to shareholders.
• By favoring value extraction over value creation, this approach has
contributed to employment instability and income inequality.
Profits Without Prosperity
WILLIAM LAZONICK, “Profits without Prosperity,“ HBR Sept 2014
Companies … remain trapped in an
outdated approach to value creation.
They continue to view value creation
narrowly, optimizing short-term
financial performance in a bubble
while missing the most important
MICHAEL PORTER. “Creating Shared Value.” HBR (Jan 2011)
Figure out what your product is and
what your value chain is. Understand
where those things touch important
social needs and problems. If you’re
in financial services, let’s think about
‘saving’ or ‘buying a home’ - but in a
way that actually works for the
MICHAEL PORTER. “Creating Shared Value.” HBR (Jan 2011)