Thursday, October 20, 2005

Chief Experience Officer (CXO) or Chief Methodology Officer (CMO)?

Update: (October 31, 2005) Peter Jones has posted a reply on his blog, in his words: raising the stakes to that of "full blown debate." I think I have some arguments against his statements there, so he may be right. Watch this space! :-)

In a recent post on Design/Redesign, Peter Jones talks about the need for a Chief Experience Officer. In his article he doubts we need one:
But does it make sense for IBM, or even Apple, to have a CXO? How do we effectively champion every user at that scale?
He argues:
We will create a more sustainable practice, and more quickly, by cultivating an internal demand than by acquiring formal organizational status.
To me that sounds like a "build it and they will come" approach. Or "proof is in the pudding". Or even "laissez faire" (not to be confused with laissez-faire).

Now, those are all viable approaches, but they do leave you vulnerable to unfavourable interpretation and small fluctuations in quality or project success. You're basically as good as your last project.

A CXO will be focussing on long-term issues, strategy, policy, approach, and ROI. He or she can afford a mistake or two on the project level, as long as the long-term strategy is not in danger. This "protects" the user experience professionals in lower level sof the organization from that vulnerability. See also Richard Anderson's description of the role in his article The Chief Experience Officer.

However, I do see value in Peter Jones' argument that "management wants an integrated approach to organizational problem solving, and not a 'new fix'" and I wonder if it would be better to have a Chief Methodology Officer (CMO) in place that deals with how any aspect gets integrated in the way of working, be it quality assurance, agile approaches, or user experience.

I know of one organization where that role is in place (well, two if you count me too): Adaptive Path's Peter Merholz's title is "Director of Practice Development". From the discussions I have had with him and a couple of others, that means he has to deal with putting the right methodology together for his company. The fact that it will definitley be a user experience methodology is an added benefit ;-)


Blogger beep said...

Sean, thanks for this story; it is good to see references to companies that have a CXO or similar, and that UX methodologies are being developed under their guidance.
Can you tell me what Chief Client Officer Larry's business unit is called?

12:09 PM, October 21, 2005  
Blogger Peter Jones said...

Peter,this has inspired me to post a response on my blog, raising the stakes to that of "full blown debate." There's too much to just plug in here, mainly because there were all these points that would not fit in the brief UX magazine article. Basically, I think with CXO we're going after the wrong type of organizational influence. Chief "Anything's" are targets, and do not have sustainable influence. Even CTOs (in large product companies) do not usually set engineering standards for the engineers (can you imagine the pushback if they did?). We are like engineers, essential to the product, but not involved in revenue decisions.

A Client or Marketing Officer makes sense - they hold responsibility for external relationships and their accounts. Would we (as CXO) be responsble for user relationships? How would Marketing like that? Would we have sales accountability then? At Officer level, Yes. Anyway, I have more points, and a few solutions, over here.

7:54 PM, October 23, 2005  

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