Leaving Avaloq

👋 Leaving Avaloq

After three years, I decided to leave Avaloq. The most important lesson I learnt from this experience is, if you want to build trust among your co-workers and managers, you should start by demystifying the design process itself.

I know it sounds odd, something like the geek version of the Oedipus complex. However, I strongly believe this is the best starting point to help non-designer people not to look at the design process as if it was a Being 747 black box.

At Avaloq, I had the chance to work in a context that was mature enough to start to see things from a different angle. Thanks to an open and direct relationship with C-level people and colleagues, I could gear most of my effort towards three main points:

    1. Reinforce trust towards Design Thinking (DT)
      I have to admit it, this was by far the toughest part.  Avaloq is an industry leader and has a solid experience in the field of banking software development. Starting a product design process based on the DT approach looked like a giant leap, the reasons being the complexity of the business, the intricacy of the technology stack we used to design our products, as well as and the legacy in terms of user interaction, i.e. the core desktop application that made the Company a leader in this sector. These assumptions were my starting point for collecting the topics that could boost the DT value. By listening to the engineers, web architects, business analysts and product owners/managers, I could find common ground to start working together
    2. Demystify the Design Thinking oriented Design Process
      How to destroy the “please, could you make it nicer” stereotype? I haven’t any rabbit in my hat for this. It’s a matter of fact, every organisation has its own dynamics in terms of structure sensitiveness towards the design topics. During my time at Avaloq, and in other companies too, I’ve always tried to communicate on the basis of a neutral approach. I’ve always striven to avoid design jargon, I’ve clearly shared the metrics we can adopt to evaluate the design options, and I’ve evangelised human performance as opposed to system performance. But more importantly, I’ve always sponsored the “Design Doing” rather than the purely “Design Thinking” approach. Together with my team, we delivered a bunch of LOW-FI and HI-FI prototypes to show the complexity of user interactions. We’ve shared our tools with our colleagues to review and evaluate the design options. We’ve striven to avoid presenting design deliverables embedded in PowerPoint decks stuffed with Steve Jobs quotes. All the design options were always presented in their reference context. For instance, we’ve always shown the prototypes embedded within the browser window, to show the limitations and the suitability of the different options
    3. Pushing the “user perspective” ever since the first stages of the project
      Like every complex and leading organisation, Avaloq knows how to run its own business. Very often I heard my peers saying“ we do know what the users need”. Very often, I invited them to drill down this sentence to collect a list of measurable objectives and targets. A perfect environment to push forward this conversation materialised itself when I jumped into a brand-new project, which I designed with the client. It was the right moment in time to put on the table questions such as:

      How does the user run this task at the moment?
      Will she/he be able to receive support and training to learn how to use the APP?
      On average, how many times do we expect she/he will use the APP?
      Which type of tools will she/he use, together with the APP, to accomplish the task?

      I’ve noticed that this type of question triggers a variety of reactions. First of all, they drive the conversation towards the first two points of this post (Increasing the trust towards Design Thinking and demystifying the Design-driven Process), and they boost the chemistry between the product people and the soon-to-be user. I’ve relied on this momentum to boost the persona topic to avoid forgetting it or keeping it separated from the DP. I bored my colleagues to death when constantly reminding them that we design for a human being and we are aware of her/his limits, needs and – more importantly – personality. In short, I’ve tried to always connect the product with the real “fictional” character.

This is, in a nutshell, my logbook as a designer at Avaloq. Beyond the technical and professional side are the people I met and the 3 years we spent together. A bunch of geeks, very skilled in what they do. I will always cherish my time at Avaloq, a company that deserves to be a leader, so much so because its people do their very best to build what is “essential for banking”!

Live long and prosper!

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