Looking to the future, GE created the Design and Experience Studio dedicated to developing clean, delightful, understandable, and actionable software experiences for GE customers, partners and employees.
“The demand for user experience (UX) and design within GE is growing,” says Greg Petroff, GE Software’s (link to GESoftware.com) Chief Experience Officer and General Manager of the UX Center of Excellence (UX CoE). “UX is a profession that’s really about understanding how people work – understanding their context and finding out what they’re trying to accomplish. Gaining this empathy for our users helps us develop novel solutions that enable them to accomplish their goals more quickly.”
The fact that this work takes place within the Software CoE means that designers and developers work side-by-side, building and testing multiple approaches to creating software that helps users make sense of the vast amounts of data and analytic power now available to them.
“Presenting complex information in the simplest, most effective format helps people make intelligent decisions, resulting in operational efficiencies that may appear small on the surface, but which are very meaningful in the aggregate. Even a 1% improvement in fuel consumption can lead to millions of dollars in increased revenue over the course of a year. “
In addition to improving GE’s software portfolio, this design focus has other benefits too—for example, those created by the introduction and incorporation of the Industrial Internet Design Extension (IIDx) of the GE Design System, which launched in August 2012. “The IIDx is a fully coded and meticulously designed UX framework that helps teams accelerate development by using a set of reusable components and reference designs,” explains Petroff. This allows designers to focus their efforts on what makes each project unique, and frees developers to create new code only for those design elements that require it, versus replicating common design elements in every project. IIDx can be found on the Software Design Hub, gesdh.com.
The Design and Experience Studio
In addition to delivering UX consulting services to GE businesses, The Design and Experience Studio also provides product strategy, design research and development, and design thinking workshops. “We help businesses deal with ambiguity by using design as a tool,” says Petroff.
The growth of design teams within GE continues to accelerate. “We’ve worked to identify and grow the design capabilities within GE as a whole, and in San Ramon in particular. The Design and Experience Studio had only four members two years ago—we now have almost 60 designers in-house, and are continuing to seek new talent,” says Petroff. Design leaders have been recruited from a variety of environments and backgrounds, from some of the best organizations, firms, and agencies. “We’ve been fortunate to draw from a remarkable talent pool – and that would stand up to any other group or firm of this scale from a practice and caliber standpoint,” says Petroff.
The Design Center at GE Software
In conjunction with others in the SW CoE, several members of the Design and Experience Studio assisted in the experience design and development of the 12,000 square foot Design Center, opening in Spring 2014. The Design Center is a collaborative making space where cross-functional teams meet to engage deeply with their users, and to discover and test innovative solutions for them in a workspace unlike any other at GE. This intentionally designed, state-of-the-art environment features flexible workspaces containing a mix of digital and analog creation, annotation, and capture capabilities, multiple breakout rooms and wide-open “living room” spaces, sophisticated video-collaboration tools, and an impressive 270-degree immersive environment, which helps workshop participants directly connect to a user’s workplace experience – whether it’s on a deep-sea drilling platform or in a hospital operating room.
In the end, it’s about collaboration and creativity. “It’s about taking people out of their day-to-day job and putting them in an environment where everything is possible,” says Petroff. “In an un-structured-but-structured environment.”
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