Welcome to Enterprise

Originally published on The Pastry Box November 3, 2015

You work in Enterprise Software. You work in Design.

Your goal is simple: please your client.

Who is your client?

Your client is the user.

Your client is not the business client, product owner, project owner, or whatever your company has titled them who brings you an idea, a project, and a budget. You and that person are a team with a single goal: make life better for the user, so they give the company more money. Your product owner might think they’re the client. You might even need to stroke their ego and pretend they’re the client. They’re certainly a powerful stakeholder that holds the purse-strings to this specific project. You need to work with them.

But if the project fails to deliver what the user needs, it’s not the product owner who suffers, it’s your user.

Your client is not your boss. (It’s not your boss’s boss either.) Your boss probably also wants to think that they’re the client. They give direction and advice about what the managerial branches of the company want to have happen. They provide constraints, identify (and hopefully clear) impediments, measure your performance, and quite possibly decide your bonus or raise.

But if your performance doesn’t positively impact your user, you’ve failed your client.

Your client is not the Executive Management Team although they certainly think they’ve got a say in the matter. They set direction for the entire company, deciding what large scale initiatives are going to entice the user to give the company more money, and deciding how that money’s going to be spent. You must understand the direction of the company to see forward far enough to understand how it will affect the user. You must also know how to speak concisely and clearly enough that the Executives understand your user’s pain. If that means data, bring it. If it means persuasion, join Toastmasters.

But if the company fails to respect the user, no matter what the vision, the user will fail to respect the company — and seek out those companies they can respect.

Your client is absolutely not the Owner. I don’t care whether the company is individually-owned, family-owned, private stock, public stock, or employee-owned. Those people paid a single price for a product – the company – and they are reaping the rewards of their investment. That’s a good thing; most of us would not have jobs if we didn’t collectively invest in each others dreams. And yes, your executives’ vision is tied to pleasing the owners, and yes, your boss and your product owner’s raises and bonuses are tied to pleasing the executives, and yours is too, and what the owners really want is more profit from their investment.

But if the company fails to create what the user needs, the user takes their money elsewhere.

That tends to have a negative impact on stock price.

Your client is none of these very valuable people without which the company could not run.

Your client is the user.

Your client might be the Randolph who is buying a roasted ham he researched on the website you designed so he can take it home to his kids for supper.

Your client might be Jane in Procurement using a B2B portal you designed so that she can buy the factory machines necessary to spice a ham for Randolph.

Your client might be Tanisha, who is using the application you built to design the marketing materials Jane looks at to buy the equipment needed to make Randolph’s ham.

Your client might be Jose in customer service whose job it is to use the internal software you designed to provide Tanisha with technical support.

Your client might be your boss who uses the intranet site you built her to discuss better management practices with other team leaders.

Every step is a client who needs a product or service. Every step is a UX Designer building that product or service. Every step is bringing a user closer to a goal. It’s clients all the way down.

But not up.

When you need to find the person you work for, the one to whom you owe your allegiance, it’s not the folks who rank above you, it’s the ones who you serve.

The people above you are there to guide you, assist you, pay you, and join you in serving your client. And like all teams, you must work together to accomplish your goals.

Your goal is simple: please your client.