The cooperation of Diebold Nixdorf and Mobee Dick lasts almost two years already. What real value does it bring for an international corporation? Lowering the costs is a strong argument in a conversation concerning the real value of UX. We have to always remember that in user experience designing, a user is only one third. The remaining two thirds are business and technological constraints. ‘Cooperating with Mobee Dick opened us the door to further development’ – says Łukasz Krebok, a leader and creator of a designers’ team at Diebold Nixdorf.
Bartłomiej Sury: Where can I meet the products of the Diebold Nixdorf company?
Łukasz Krebok: When it comes to retail – sales – generally speaking, we can talk about the majority of cash registers in the Biedronka, Decathlon, IKEA, C&A and Triumph stores. Our equipment is also being used by LIDL and Tesco. We mean hardware solutions – cash registers, being de facto screens accessed by sellers, drawers, printers, etc.
I am a seller in a big commercial chain. There is a large chance that I will be working on the Diebold Nixdorf equipment. What about the customers? Do they also use your solutions?
At least one in three, if not one in two cash machines in the world was produced by Diebold Nixdorf. The machine brand is usually identified with a particular bank. Yet, things work differently in reality. The bank announces a tender for a specific number of cash machines and suppliers, including Diebold Nixdorf, submit their offers. Banks do not have cash machines fleet from one supplier only. It looks similar when it comes to cash registers of big commercial chains – in one country a given brand is served by the X company and in another it is the Y one. We create loyalty applications used by consumers. Of course, the applications work under the banner of a popular brand.
What you are saying shows the scale of the phenomenon. Diebold Nixdorf is one of those brands which is present almost every day in the lives of the majority of us…
… in the background though.
You and your team design interfaces for POS. What is it that you do, actually?
POS – point of sale – is the place of contact between the consumer and sales system. The point at which the transaction is made. The same POS, although being one product, will have a totally different character depending on the needs and circumstances. Sephora requires something different than IKEA.
Do you design a particular, standard product which is later adjusted to a specific place?
Yes. Every customer can order an additional function which shall be adopted to their individual needs. I will give you an example. If you ever did shopping at the airport, you know that you almost ever have to have your boarding pass to be scanned. A cashier shall have an easy access to this function and this is why we adjust POS to their needs. The majority of customers require to expose the brand logo and take into consideration the branding elements connected with colors. All new products are built based on HTML so the changes in the interface can be introduced relatively quickly.
Why do we need a design team, then?
Our software is being produced in many locations, involving many people employed at different times. It makes maintaining coherence difficult.
At some stage, our portfolio looked as though particular products were created by another company. It did not have this uniform ‘feeling’. You did not get the impression that it was software produced by one supplier. Despite being varied, Google services, for example, are homogenous in some way. This is what we lacked.
It was one of my tasks. Successively, one after another, we are starting to renovate each software in the same vein. We are creating an uniform interface as far as it is possible. Of course, touchpoints will differ because a cashier needs something different than a manager browsing charts.
This is the mission on a global scale.
Yes. Millions interactions of customers with software every day.
Is it happening in your team here, in Katowice?
This is where it comes from.
Didn’t you feel overwhelmed by such a mission?
Very. At the beginning, I was one of two designers, right now there are 12 people in the team. So far, we have contacted with teams which produce more or less half of the Diebold Nixdorf software. Developers do great job but their priorities are different.
We are talking about adding one element to the whole chain of the product manufacturing. This element is design. Your team’s task is to strengthen this stage.
Somehow, we are a company within a company. One can say that I try to lead the team on agency rules – we get orders for creating a given product design.
Are you the only such a ‘design studio’ in the whole company?
Diebold Nixdorf is a huge organization in which design is only starting to gain momentum. I have tried to get to all the people dealing with design but every now and then I learn about new ones. They are not teams but individuals. The intention of the person creating the R&D department in Katowice was to make the design hub for the whole corporation. And this is what is actually happening. I was lucky to lead the process and I am responsible for exerting this vision.
So, big Diebold Nixdorf comes to a relatively small agency called Mobee Dick. What does it say? What does it expect?
I will start from saying that earlier we used to cooperate with several agencies and there was something wrong every time. Not only the agency was to be blamed for that. On our side, responsible for the contact were people not connected with design – they were not really conscious of what to expect and how to keep cooperating. It looked more or less that way: an agency came, prepared the cost and after a month it happened that something totally different was to be done. The problem was that the agency talked about its tasks with a marketer, not with an analyst or developer. The scope was totally changing and the deadline and budget had been already booked. Unpleasant things were happening.
The agencies were not making a deep analyses of what they should actually do.
Right. Unfortunately, it caused the situation when the company designers were perceived as those unnecessary in the project, as people making everything longer and more difficult whose projects were not realized in the end.
In the end I got a green light to look for the agency on my own. I refrained myself from sending inquiries to the whole Poland for a simple reason – it is hard to present what you expect in writing, the whole vision of cooperation. At the same time, it was a ten-minute walk from my work to the office of Mobee Dick (laugh). Its former seat was in the same street, several dozen numbers further. Frankly speaking, I just wrote to Mobee Dick on Facebook, saying something like: ‘I could have an order for you’.
Sounds like the beginning of some criminal movie.
That is why I was not surprised at all when Monika [Monika Mikowska – CEO in Mobee Dick (Ed.)], was quite defensive. Some guy comes from the street and says he has a job for us. Corporations usually do not communicate in that way.
Would you have a problem to construct brief?
Our products live and develop. I do not know any person who would deal with our whole portfolio. I mean the retail field only here and there is also an equally complex banking sector.
What happened with your ‘order’?
I started explaining to Monika that what we really needed was not classical, agency cooperation but specifically understood designers’ outsourcing. Designers have to join our team and take responsibility for what we create together. We cannot fully outsource our knowledge outside since we would be too dependent. It is about the safety of the so-called single point of failure. Determining the way we would cooperate took us about two months. Three, four meetings.
So it is not commissioning but cooperating in the right meaning of this word.
Exactly. Since the very beginning I was indicating that we would need different specialists at different times – information architects, UIs, researchers. All of them are needed but not at the same time. I do not treat our cooperation as outsourcing of the type: ‘I pay the invoice and require’. It is about continuity.
Making external designers join the team works very well but such additional rotation is a breath of fresh air for our ideas and a validation possibility. I also have a ‘wild’ card – if any team needs something immediately and we do not have any resources, I can always pick up the phone and call Mobee Dick. ’I need five designers for the next month. Will you make it?’. It is such a kind of a buffer solution.
Why is it important?
A project occurs and it has to start NOW. Thanks to the long-term cooperation with Mobee Dick I can, colloquially speaking, take people for the beginning and in the meantime complete recruitment. I intent on having only part of the team outsourced.
You were looking for the people having UX, designer know-how. But when it comes to UX, you can read about it or get trained on it either internally or externally… Why immediately invest in cooperating with the agency? Didn’t you have the temptation ‘to keep it in the family’?
Outsourcing, understood as cooperation, gives you greater dynamics. You are able to do more and faster. You are right – one can read about the process but in fact the information about how the project process looks like on a large scale is lacking. Such knowledge cannot be found in groups and UX collectives sites. It does not have the marketing potential of the type: ’15 tips on how to make your e-commerce convert better’. We build something which shall bring fruit in several years. We use quick methodology, but ‘time to market’ is totally different. You will not find the knowledge we need anywhere else. We have to work it out ourselves.
Mobee Dick has its own know-how, Diebold Nixdorf has its own know-how. Everyone contributes something of themselves, everyone learns. Only such a system makes it possible for the project process to produce effects.
Synergy. Two different persons have two different styles of designing and they create the third, common one together. Only this third style is really adjusted to true needs.
We can write a book together but it will be adequate for one, particular company only.
Another corporation, employing several dozen employees will have similar challenges up to a certain levels but when coming down to the level of details they shall be different, specific. As I said, this is the knowledge of the type other than ‘How to write a good newsletter’.
I remember your appearance on Tipi UX in Cracow – you were talking then that convincing supervisors about the value of UX Design required huge determination from you. Why did you make such an effort? You did not have to take care and do your job…
As it is in a corporation, you can sit by a dark desk for years and not do much at this time. It is not my style. I like challenges. If someone claims that something cannot the done, I prove they are wrong in spite of it. Changing the way of thinking about UX in my organization includes many factors – one of them was the aforementioned goodwill of the Katowice department manager.
You had an ambassador inside the company.
You can say so. Then an ‘ambassador’ become what we did ourselves.
The designer’s joining the programmers’ team can be divided into several stages. The first one is denial – ‘this person is unnecessary, we only have more work to do because of them’. The second phase is acceptance – ‘since this person is already here, then let it be’. The third stage is affirmation – ‘we really need a designer as there are lots of tasks solved before they get to development’. In practice, however, if a designer, or a project team, starts working with a given product, then they stay with it since its value is visible.
We always need to remember that in user experience designing, a user is only one third. The remaining two thirds are business and technological constraints.
What you are talking about is a spitting image of design thinking assumptions.
However, many articles about UX tend to forget about these two spheres – business purposes need to be realized and this is what has to be coded.
How else were you convincing bosses to UX?
I had to show its value. Slogans saying: ‘We have to start designing since designing is cool and we have to do it since it is important’ do not mean anything. One has to analyze the whole situation carefully. What the current situation is, what has to be done, what are threats and benefits. The catch-all are ‘costs’. Reducing the code by several dozen percent through using some framework shall mean reducing the cost by this and this amount… – it is a specific argument when talking about the real value of UX.
What about the limitations connected with security?
No external company shall fulfill our expectations because of a corporation firewall with a very, very dense sieve. That is why the cooperation has to be based on physical present of designers in our seat.
As it is with a ship – if it has to reach the aim, all needed members of the crew have to be on the board.
Mobee Dick designers come to our office and this is our requirement. They are obliged with the rules similar to a full-time employee.
How long does the cooperation of Diebold Nixdorf and Mobee Dick last?
Soon, it will be two, full years. Of course, at the beginning we had to adjust to each other – for example, it turned out that we do not need so many information architects in Diebold Nixdorf. I use the benefits of our cooperation – I know that I can complain a little bit. My superior aim is to re-design as many applications as possible in the maximally short time.
What was the process like before cooperating with Mobee Dick? How does it look like right now?
Before, everything was chaotic as hands on deck were lacking. There is still some chaos right now but it is smaller (laugh). We were straightforwardly told: ‘you can design unless you block development’. If we did not deliver something on time, developers did it on their own. Then, our priority inside the organization as a team was too low. In a recollected situation we could not say: ‘it cannot be the case’ because it could. And was done this way.
So, not a Rejtan-type veto but acting within existing circumstances.
Yes. There were so few of us, that what we were doing out of the whole designing process was only prototyping. Still, it was better to do something than do nothing. We might probably stop on that but it is UX, not UI and our targets were different. This is when the cooperation with Mobee Dick starts. It opened our door to further development. On the one hand, we did not stop developing, on the other – we got access to specialists who could build the project process.
Our internal library of components – design system – started to be created. In huge simplification – it is information architecture for everything. Large prototypes have been created and as they can crash software, one has to divide them into smaller files. Thanks to the help of designers from Mobee Dick, we started to pay the debt we assumed ourselves but did not have time to pay it off.
Are there any changes at the system level?
Frankly speaking, right now we are at the same level as development as a team. In the past, we were not even and addition, rather a bonus. Currently, managers decided that uniformity and coherence of interfaces are priorities.
Did the things you managed to work out together with Mobee Dick already become company’s fixed assets?
It is officially inscribed in the company processes and does not constitute only ‘a good practice’.
Such a cooperation definitely cannot be defined as ‘ad hoc’.
Having such a scale, there is no place for being ad hoc since nothing will change. A large benefit is the presence of specialists from Mobee Dick for the whole time. We were able to do something which always failed while cooperating with other agencies and nobody felt satisfied of it.
When creating one of mobile applications for shopping, the Mobee Dick team conducted the research.
Yes. We are at the moment when it is hard to independently carry out the research. We cannot do it internally but I have this’ wild’ card with a whale (laugh). Then I show it up.
And you have particular arguments.
If you were about to look for a new agency in order to conduct the research and implement it, then the cost would be several times higher. Even trivial things such as discussing all agreements or NDAs take weeks at the corporate level. In this case one phone call was enough.
You are using an example of cooperation with Mobee Dick in order to prove that research is valuable?
If the topic of the research is occurring right now, I have got a great report concerning our application and environment. I could show it up and explain how to do it.
Does it pay well?
Yes, but we know the reality. As you mentioned, you can come to a corporation, sit down and do nothing.
Then it might be cheaper to hire your own employees so they could do nothing. Cruel but true. We will give you the requirements and you will send us something back. We will give you corrections etc. In such a system we do not learn anything from each other and in the end there is a report which will be read by nobody.
Needed is crossing this border where the communication stops being colorable and becomes a real cooperation.
The truth is that in many words we are constantly defining the real meaning of the notion ‘cooperation’.
Is the know-how which you work out in Katowice migrating up the organization?
Yes, by all means.
At higher and higher levels, design occurs as a business value. Of course, we cannot require the situation when the people from the 4th level of management shall know how the UX process looks like. Their knowledge is that design has a value – I think it is a victory. The measure of success of cooperating with Mobee Dick is the fact that your designers somehow got into our organization culture.
We are talking about real initiatives here, it is not only the internal PR.
Adapt or die. The attempt to convince the developer by force that design is important is a mistake made very frequently by designers. Of course, you can run and shout that UX is important. But you will only run and shout then – nothing more.
What does the notion ‘design first’ mean to you?
For me, design first is an approach according to which we can verify the idea of business at a low cost and quite quickly. This is how I would define it. It is also about combining design with every stage of producing software – from making out new functions, through contact with customers and the possibility of obtaining the feedback till participation in development and testing the software. Design is not really the first, it just is, in every possible place.
A leader and creator of designers’ team in Diebold Nixdorf. He is responsible for introducing coherence in the company portfolio, re-design of enterprise-type tools in the retail field and banking for global brands. Before dealing with UX, he had created a software house from over 100 finished projects. Łukasz feels great when cooperating with developers’ teams. He participated in all phases of creating the Internet applications. Practical, always looking for a golden mean between the needs of users and business. He loves a critical approach – finding mistakes and fixing them. Leading his team, he still designs. A deputy of an editor-in-chief in dailyweb.pl