The digital transformation forces an expansion of the IT lexicon, and new words abound. We are talking about disruption, collaboration, internal transformation or innovation. But let’s not forget those two little letters at the end of the dictionary: UX. And what if the user experience is at the chore of the digital transformation, as Jérôme Wallut, author of “Patrons, n’ayez pas peur !” suggests. We put the spotlight on a business leader who has co-founded the Human to Human opinion monitoring agency, headed Wcie of the Havas group, and created his own consulting firm, ICP Consulting.
[Talkspirit] UX is associated to the world of web design, but does it mean more for you?
Jérôme Wallut : The user experience is what supplements the use, it’s the way we experience the user-friendliness of a product or service. It’s much broader than the user experience of a website! Today, we can agree that the public has earned the balance of power by having conversations first, then through mobility and the apps. In short, the public gained power through use.
We must ask the following question: why do some uses work and others don’t? In other words, through the quality of the user experience, the fluidity and comfort that are part of a pleasant, simple and intuitive experience. Nothing is more frustrating than an app that doesn’t work or is difficult to understand. Innovation and creativity are therefore more part of the quality of the use rather than of the use itself. The website of Voyage SNCF is a great example. Its strength lies in the fact that it was inspired by the Airbnb model. The company did not invent a use, it invented a travel booking user experience.
How do user experiences impact companies?
J.W.: It seems essential to me that companies understand that it is the uses that guide businesses. It’s no longer about finding customers for products they manufacture, which is something they already know how to do. The goal is to offer an absolutely phenomenal user experience.
Today, the SNCF no longer offers on a station to station service only because they now boast a door-to-door service model. Through his process, the company has managed to rebrand itself as an hypermobility expert. They knew how to adapt to the digital transformation and have thus managed to expand their market, understanding that their skills set includes much more than simply making trains roll on rails. In fact, UX is a way of thinking; it’s the digital transformation mindset. This is what allows a company to be consistent with their audiences’ needs, desires and requirements.
In concrete terms, how do you incorporate UX to your business?
J.W.: It’s a question of methodology. If there’s one thing that startups have understood is that they have to work differently. A company that is transforming itself is a company that re-synchronizes all these business processes with regard to the uses of its audiences. So, with UX, we frame, we prototype and we test.
And most importantly, when the user experience is at the center of the company’s strategy, the focus is not on the products, but on the experts and more specifically their skills. Gone are the days of management by job sheets. The idea is to combine skills that will work in synergy towards a great user experience. In this context, new professions are emerging, such as UX Managers, UX Designers, Voice Member Coordinators, or Community Managers. These are people whose job is to understand, hear and animate the user experience.
Agility, design thinking, UX … Isn’t all the same thing?
J.W.: What annoys me in ‘design thinking’ is the word ‘design’, which means to make or to manufacture something. With UX, we go further than prototyping. At ICP Consulting, for example, the majority of our employees are UX managers. They are the user experience quality guarantors. It is they who know the personalities, the routes, the weaknesses and the leaks that make a user abandon a route. We also have UX designers: their role is very precise; they bring forward solutions during prototyping workshops in order to solve these challenges.
In UX methodology, agility is obviously also an important component, but so is the speed of execution. The main idea is to prototype and test. We are able to launch and test a prototype in a few days. If the prototype proves to be faulty, we repeat the process. Our mindset is one of ongoing and permanent improvement. Lean management is the key word here. In fact, UX encompasses agility, lean management and design thinking. It acts a bit like a justice of the peace.
What advice would you give to a company which is going through digital transformation?
J.W.: Companies don’t come to us because they want to change. They come to us because they’re experiencing problems. I like to say “we must try, we must be wrong, we must be wrong quickly, we must be increasingly better at it.” We can’t continue to be in the same old work mindset and of work commitment. It’s necessary to participate in the subject and to be guided by competent people in the matter. One important thing must be noted here; sales continue as the work progresses. You therefore have to go through the transformation while continuing to undertake the work you’ve always been doing, at least for now. For a long time, companies have perceived the realm of all things digital as a form of communication, as an extra channel, such as a beautiful website, but that’s it. They didn’t immediately understand the business challenges unfolding before them. That’s why they’re late at this game.
Are bosses afraid of the term ‘UX’?
J.W.: UX is a term not always well understood. We tend to confuse ‘User Experience’ with ‘customer centric’, by telling ourselves “the work is done, now it’s up to marketers to do their job.” This can appear right at first but is ultimately wrong. Because marketing is about selling products that you’ve created, but the subject doesn’t concern selling products… It’s about focusing on the legitimacy of the experiences we’re offering. For example, when Darty invents the Darty button, the brand isn’t trying to sell a product, but is trying to promote a user experience and to guarantee the quality of the experience. UX is more than a methodology, it’s the company’s center of gravity.
When you talk about the user experience, are you also talking about of the collaborator experience?
J.W.: An audience is comprised of the 4 Cs: the citizen, the customer, the consumer and the collaborator. The power that lies behind the digital revolution and the sum of its tools is its capacity to de-compartmentalize these audiences. We’re no longer talking to a citizen on one side and to a colleague on the other. We’re talking to everyone at the same time, depending on the concerns that need attention. It’s necessary to consider that the 4 Cs exercise great influence in digital transformation. In fact, they’ve taken charge of it. The audience discovered that they could do without ads, that they were empowered by their uses, and that they could change if something doesn’t work. Digital transformation is therefore also the internal transformation of a company and the user experience enjoyed by its employees.
Summary of Jérôme Wallut’s journey:
After creating the agency Human to Human, now part of Public System, Jérôme Wallut directed the Wcie agency of the Havas group and founded ICP Consulting, a consulting agency that helps traditional companies to become familiar with the contemporary uses of their audiences. He recently authored a new book, Patron, n’ayez pas peur ! (Boss, Don’t Be Afraid!), which is targeted at companies going through the digital transformation.