For the last few years I have been doing two jobs at Habanero: leading the User Experience Group and also leading the User Experience Practice. I made a commitment to myself (and to Steven and Elliot) a year ago that I would figure out what I want to focus on and how I want to develop my career.
The group leadership part of my job is pretty self explanatory — it is the day-to-day management of the UE group. It includes performance management, coaching, creative direction, hiring new Habaneros, and working with each of the different practice leaders to ensure that UE is a core component of every solution we deliver. Group leadership consumed a lot of my time last year as our UE group grew from four to ten people!
A practice leader on the other hand is responsible for selling and marketing our various services and solutions. In order to be effective at this role the practice leader must be a subject matter expert and be able to educate our clients and partners on how we design and develop our solutions. The three groups (projects and planning, user experience and engineering) work closely with each practice leader to ensure everyone fully understands the capability of each group and how we can make our solutions better.
Over the last year I have become increasingly interested in practice development, although I was a bit stumped? User experience didn't seem like a natural practice as it is a core component of every solution we deliver. It didn't make sense to have a practice for something that is already a fundamental part of every practice. For example, portals and intranets fall under our collaboration practice, but good information architecture and user interface design are a fundamental part of every great intranet!
After looking at our service offerings, it became apparent that we have neglected one group of solutions — external websites and eCommerce. This may have been a result of us not wanting to be seen as a "web design studio", thus we didn't talk about our expertise in developing these types of solutions. Last year only 20% of our projects were designing and developing external websites and eCommerce. The majority of our business was creating corporate portals, intranets and line of business applications.
I truly believe that we can increase the percentage of external websites and eCommerce sites we build. As such, this is the area that I am going to focus the majority of my time as Habanero's Website and eCommerce Practice Leader. We are already showing a lot of progress — in the last little while we have created some amazing sites including PD Net (for CGA Canada), Terasen Gas, North Shore Credit Union, PH&N and even our own extranet (which I will blog about later).
As of today Caterina Sanders will be Habanero's new Director, User Experience. I can't think of a better person to lead the UE group. Cat has proven time and time again that she can successfully manage large projects and teams, while consistently improving the quality of the solutions we develop. She has a great team and is now leading the coolest people I have ever worked with!
I'm really excited about this change and can't wait to up our game in the website and eCommerce space :)