It’s almost become a cliché: you have to place the customer at the centre of the company’s attention, organisation and decisions. Any company that’s not customer-centric has no hope of success. But in practice? It means that it has become essential to understand customers’ needs perfectly, to know about their past difficulties, to identify the obstacles causing them to hesitate, to know what they get excited about. This is where UX Design comes in: a method and a set of tools that give us the means to ensure that customers are the cornerstone of all the work each of us does every day.
UX Design is one of the key training packages in our Skill Up’ programme, run in partnership with the training organisation General Assembly. Rapid prototyping, intense ideation and instant user tests are the basic principles of this innovative approach to the development of new services and products. As a result, project development is profoundly transformed. Here are the accounts of two of our employees, Jorge Claudio, Project Manager, and Aurélie Leborgne, Head of Internal Accounting Control Department.
What led to you taking the UX Design training?
Aurélie Leborgne: When I took the training, the accounting department had just begun its process of transformation. An initial three-month training plan had been put in place very recently. The department talked up what the training could offer but without revealing everything, in order to maintain its originality. I wanted to do it! So I took the version of UX Design training that was offered subsequently with a different format, concentrated into a week. I saw being able to support the new profiles and share a vision with them as adding something to my daily life and being a benefit to me as a manager.
Jorge Claudio: I heard about it through conversations with other colleagues, who told me about design thinking*, about UX Design, and I could tell immediately that this would bring a new mindset to our working methods. I knew some of the tools specific to UX Design empirically, intuitively. The training provided an opportunity to approach them with a real customer-centric methodology, and carry out digital projects in a way that was very different from what we were used to. This very quickly made me want to take part.
Group work is very important in this training. Is there a particular reason?
A.L.: You’re right. There were about 25 of us, from different business areas, and we were divided into groups. So everybody contributed different expertise. Each group performed a full product design cycle, consisting of the key steps stipulated in the UX Design methodologies presented, through exercises that are immediately applicable. The aim is to produce a deliverable, such as a smartphone app or a website, for instance.
J.C.: We had different and heterogeneous profiles, with no real competence in UX Design. Some people were specialised in traffic building, others in project management. What was very good was that we started with a concrete case and carried out a mini-project in each group. Theory was introduced to illuminate this work, a method that gave us a good understanding of the purpose of each step in the methodology and helped us own the tools we were offered, which included Slack, InVision and Sketch.
Tell us about the content and the strong points of the training.
A.L.: Much of the training revolved around timed exercises lasting a quarter of an hour, on very varied subjects. This helped us to understand quickly and move on rapidly. There has been a flurry of post-it notes and cross-checking of ideas to analyse the results of our “customer interviews”, to create user families, solutions. We manage to work out very quickly which ideas to take further.
J.C.: It was very intense! The organisation that delivers the training, General Assembly, brings with it an international vision – it’s not exclusively French – which is a bonus! Even the format of the presentations and exercises is very different compared to traditional training programmes. I appreciated the fact that first of all a macro vision of design thinking was presented, before going into the different stages and specific components of the methodology, from identifying a need to carrying out user surveys and prototyping an MVP (Minimum Viable Product**).
Did the training make you want to work differently and to see changes in your profession?
A.L.: Very much so! Ideation and prototyping take the form of drawing, cutting out and assembling elements… on paper. It’s very simple, but it has a powerful effect: you worry less about the imperfections of the solutions you devise, you don’t try to produce a perfect prototype, you work on the essential to produce a visual. More basically, I don’t necessarily apply every stage of the UX Design methodology to the projects I’m taking part in. But it’s a mentality, a way of seeing things that has now become part of my daily life. The idea is no longer to do what we are technically capable of doing… but to understand what’s really necessary.
J.C.: Yes. Not in every aspect of my work, of course. But, for example, for the development of functionalities, we compare our ideas with a survey of users’ real needs. On some of our projects, this has already enabled us to carry out some very relevant adjustments so that we can adapt them better to genuine customer expectations. UX Design provides simple tools that let professionals back up their convictions with quantitative and qualitative measurements.
If someone was hesitating whether or not to take this training, what would you say to encourage them to give it a try?
A.L.: Previously, I was regularly involved in middle and back office projects, and if corrections were necessary, this generally occurred when the projects were already well advanced. But it’s the opposite with UX Design: you ask the right questions straight away. Everything is quicker, you are more accurate, and you act more rapidly. You learn to multiply the possibilities, to approach solutions more efficiently, to be persuasive using good arguments that come from the users. And this is true for every profession: we all have clients… so being able to understand and adapt to their needs is essential! UX Design is quite simply another way of thinking and acting collectively.
J.C.: First of all, I would highlight the instructors’ listening skills, their ability to get us out of our normal thought processes as experts in our professions and give us a broader view. The simple, common sense questions they asked us were very useful for defusing technical discussions between experts, and focusing our minds on the essential, which is simply responding to the issue facing the customer. This is something that is really in our interest to do internally to advance our projects. In a word, or almost: it’s a training programme that encourages us to “open our chakras” and to change our working habits. This training seems to me to be beneficial for a lot of profiles in digital, but is not limited to that.
*Design thinking: a user-focused method of design that appeared in the 1960s, based on creativity, empathy, collaboration, iteration and trial and error.
**Minimum Viable Product (MVP): is a product with just enough features to satisfy early customers, and to provide feedback for future product development.
The future of work at BNP Paribas Cardif
“We want to offer all our employees the possibility of being an integral part of our present and our future. Our employees have to be agile and to adapt constantly to new technologies so that they can derive the full potential of them. Two complementary approaches meet this double challenge: Strategic Workforce Planning, to anticipate the skills of tomorrow, and Always Learning, which enables our employees to acquire both the technical skills and soft skills they need for the transformation of their professions.”
Sophie Joyat, Head of Human Resources
“The way products and services are designed is changing to get closer to customer needs. This has involved a steady rise in the use of approaches inspired by design. So we wanted to offer a training in UX Design, which is as essential for our internal users as for our customers.”
Nathalie Doré, Chief Digital and Acceleration Officer
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