Leaving Avaloq

Leaving Avaloq

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

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

At Avaloq, I had the chance to work in a context mature enough to start seeing 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 most challenging part. Avaloq is an industry leader and has 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, 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 Design Process
      How to destroy the “please, could you make it nicer” stereotype? I haven’t any rabbit in my hat for this. Every organisation has its dynamics regarding structure sensitiveness towards the design topics. During my time at Avaloq and in other companies, I’ve always tried to communicate based on a neutral approach. I’ve always striven to avoid design jargon, shared the metrics we can adopt to evaluate the design options, and evangelised human performance instead of 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 many LOW-FI and HI-FI prototypes to show the complexity of user interactions. We’ve shared our tools with 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 different options’ limitations and suitability.
    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 business. My peers often said, “We do know what the users need”. I often 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 when I jumped into a brand-new project 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 they 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?
      What tools will she/he use with the APP to accomplish the task?

      I’ve noticed that this type of question triggers a variety of reactions. First, 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 boost the chemistry between the product people and the soon-to-be user. I’ve relied on this momentum to increase the persona topic to avoid forgetting it or separating it from the DP. I bore my colleagues to death when constantly reminding them that we design for human beings and are aware of her/his limits, needs and – more importantly – personality. In short, I’ve tried to permanently connect the product with the actual “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 three 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 because its people do their best to build what is “essential for banking”!

Live long and prosper!

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