I’ve been working in the enterprise now for over a year. As a full throated and once- incorrigible independent, the experience has been fascinating. DeloitteDigital is an incredible group of talent, smarts, and opportunity. Its studio culture is strong and eagerly defended. Its influence on design, development, UX, IT, and many other projects at Deloitte has been measurable. But if anything, I feel like I’m just getting started.
The enterprise world is of course a complete 180 from the social startup and before that indie web culture I spent most of my life in. Projects, rhythms, process, delivery — you name it, relinquishing independence is a blessing and a curse. What you lose in control and self-motivation you gain in challenges, opportunities, and rewards. Frankly, I love it, even if at times the extra weight of organizational coordination can slow things down.
There are vast opportunities in the enterprise to bring UX and design thinking to bear on strategy and outcomes. And on tools and practices. Standards for technology and design are completely different — lower design-wise sometimes than in the consumer world; but more complicated and richly nuanced. The “sociality” of the enterprise, as I’ve suggested before, is a different beast altogether from open, public social. It’s structured, organized, coordinated; it has targets and objectives; and its participants have roles and obligations (and are paid to meet them).
For somebody interested in social interaction design, this completely changes the frame. No longer is user adoption a matter of tractor-beaming new users onto social platforms through social invitations, memes, and launches. No longer is social activity a reflection of user personality and shiny surfaces alone — just as communication within the enterprise is not so much talk to attract attention but talk to get things done.
Truly very little of this has yet been unwrapped and rendered into the conceptual frames, methodologies, and practices which characterize corporate consulting. Sure, social business gets nods here and there, but truly mature, integrated social business looks to me still fuzzy and ambiguous. Where, in IT, does it properly transform business processes — beyond technologies? Where, in marketing, does it become a set of metrics, standards, and normalized processes by which customer interactions acquire new levels of influence and respect? The corporate world, siloed as its departments often are, is still learning how to modify the brainpan to accommodate what social and its technologies can do.
What’s become clear is that what works in the open social and public environment doesn’t translate directly to the enterprise space. This holds true for communication and sharing apps as it does for social techniques like gamification, likes, and friending. But all work is, fundamentally, accomplished by means of communication. And all employees are, whether they embrace it or not, members of a network. So the foundation for leveraging the personal (motivational) and social-collective attributes of social interaction design are there. They just need to be designed differently.
If you are in user experience and looking for the next new thing, give the corporate world a second look. And if you’re interested in social tools, well certainly consider the enterprise space. Mistakes have been made, and will be rectified, as we all figure out the boundaries and enablers that work in work life. You may need to expand your mind some — get educated in sociology, organizational theory, business process management, and a few other things not likely to feature on Mashable. But a good social architect should know these things anyways.
Impacts are real in the corporate world. And interest in innovation and design is genuine. And yes, the challenges are worth it.