Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Corporate Process

I'm working a new gig right now (ok, new since the end of November) and it is a bit different than anything else that I've worked on.

I'm in at a large financial services company, which is really cool actually, because I love the industry, stocks, trading, everything. Of course, I get to do none of that. What I'm there for is to be an Information Architect. What I work on is how one of the company's institutional products looks and feels. Some of the stuff is pretty stodgy, but it is in process. I'm responsible for working on new designs, envisioning future designs and shepherding a team of designers (visual design, prototypers, usability experts, editorial, accessibility) through the process of getting a great design that allows the user to get what they want, when they want it quickly, easily and intuitively. If you think it sounds easy - you may or may not be right. For me, it is pretty "easy" but it's because of several reasons. It's actually not easy - and if you don't believe me, sit down with a visual designer (graphics guy) and a usability expert and see if you can get them to agree on something. And, then once I've got the design team to agree, we then have to sell the design (essentially) to the systems team (the developers}, providing of course we can get the business partners to agree on what we're doing too. Yes, if you're thinking that it sounds like it can be a three ring circus at times, you're right.

The worst of this is that during many of the meetings I can have ten people in the room - all with different opinions. Any change that we're attempting to make comes under brutal scrutiny because it all has to be signed off on by the business (which has one objective), systems (which has several other objectives) and the designers (who have five different opinions). Oh yes, then we have to run things by legal. So, there are lots of times when I'm in a meeting when we can burn up an hour just discussing the placement of a label, the name of a label. Yes, ONE.

Part of that reason is because the company is so huge and all of its systems seem to interact. Therefore, anything we change needs to pass muster across almost all systems. It needs to be consistent across several different style guides (one company, several brands that are all a theme of the primary company brand), it needs to be language that is meaningful not only for my product, but several others as well.

The result? I spend much of my day dissecting and analyzing pocket lint.

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