An open letter to Singapore Design Managers

An open letter to design managers in Singapore wanting to help their UX team's practice grow and flourish.

Three rules illustrated onto a piece of parchment paper.

Are you a Manager in Singapore overseeing UX design teams? Someone who may or may not be a practitioner, but is looking to mature the UX practice at your organisation? These three pointers will help orientate your progress.

Dear Design Manager,

Last year, I had the opportunity to spend 6 months in the UK working in Foolproof’s London office. While I was there, I had the chance to work with in-house client teams and gained an understanding of the UX industry in London. UX has been around a lot longer there: the industry has had more time to mature and businesses have had longer to figure out how UX fits into their value streams and processes.

The biggest learning that I want to share with you is about how UX is managed in a way that allows UX teams to contribute their full potential to the organisations they work in. I’ve summed this up into 3 key points:

1. Trust saves time and cost

When I was in London, I was surprised by how often projects would end with a working team debrief to the clients. In Singapore, I often find myself spending a lot of time producing stakeholder decks and debriefing Senior Management. In London, I could spend that time on value adding activities like workshopping with delivery teams or producing more actionable recommendations in something such as an issues log.

I came to realise that this was ultimately about trust: given the maturity of the UX practice, companies have come to trust that their UX teams know what they’re doing and how to execute, at least at a tactical-level. This trust literally saves money – the time cost of briefing Senior Stakeholders and producing the artefacts to support those briefings is dramatically less.

As the Design Manager and supervisor of your UX team, you’re their biggest voice in the company. You know your team is producing amazing and meaningful work. Please create opportunities to build management’s trust in your team’s ability – so that they can spend more time making a real difference to the lives of your customers, instead of rearticulating and dissecting that difference to stakeholders. 

2. Strategy is the next level of UX

Our team is leading the field of experience strategy and develop it as a practice in client organisations. Tim Loo, our Executive Director of Strategy, puts it best: “As customer experience has worked its way into the boardroom and into the consciousness of the C-suite, user experience design has established itself as an essential activity for business”.

Like any other business activity, UX works best when it’s informed by clear strategic direction that is aligned with the overarching business strategy. Without it, UX teams lack orientation and get lost in “build me a new screen” rabbit holes. Ultimately, this reduces the wider business impact of their work and diminishes UX’s voice in the boardroom. The practice of experience strategy specifically works to align business goals to design direction.

Design Managers, please remember that you’re your team’s connection into the wider business – through you, valuable guidance about the company’s strategic goals can sharpen and focus your team’s energies, in turn increasing the value they can add. Consider thinking more broadly about how you can guide your team towards stronger impact by better aligning experience design and business strategy

3. UX is not only about digital

The most exciting work I got to see in London went beyond the digital realm and pushed into physical space. While I was there, I experimented withcars that accepted contactless payments, worked on digital + physical briefs for showrooms, and saw integrated experiences for children that involved RFID chips and toy turtles.

Human beings access the world holistically - how can we ever do our best work if we limit ourselves to the digital plane? To express the value of experience design in full, UX teams must be free to conceptualise and deliver work that covers all aspects of the human experience.

Design Managers, having a UX team that only has influence on digital handicaps what they can produce from the start. Experience design is so much more than just a collection of screens. Please consider how you can enable your team to take on a holistic approach to design – one that can deliver the best possible experiences to meet the challenges your organisation faces.

Empower your team

Ultimately, as a Design Manager, your ability to champion, guide, and empower your team will be critical in unlocking their potential to transform your business in meaningful ways. Please, show your UX team that you have their back, that you trust their work, and that you believe in their potential and I know - they will do the same.

Related articles