Interview with UX specialist, James Breeze, CEO, Objective Digital

What’s your day job?

I run my businesses (Objective Asia in Singapore and Objective Digital in Sydney) with my wife and business partner Kylie.

What type of projects does your company work on – how long do they run?

We work mainly in finance, telco, travel and FMCG; helping companies understand their customers’ experiences using eye tracking and other psychological research techniques. The outcomes of our work include design recommendations that improve consumer experiences across business systems, websites, mobiles and shopping environments.

How did you get started in digital?

My work as an Organisational Psychologist in HR and Change Management was not as exciting as I had hoped, and the problems we were trying to solve were mainly caused by the IT systems that people were using. So I decided to move into a role where I could fix the problems at their root cause, the unusable systems.

What’s your current favourite book, website, blog or source of inspiration for your business?

I love reading Mashable for new technology inspiration and I write for, and read, UXMagazine.

What’s the ratio of project managers to developers/producers?

Most of our projects are managed by the consultants on the job, with Kylie making sure resources are allocated profitably.

How many staff do you have in total

15

Have you introduced in new roles/jobs title in your business – is the nature of your business changing?

Our industry is new! User Experience Consultants didn’t exist when I started as a usability researcher 13 years ago.

How do you keep hours and costs on or under budget? How do you maintain profitability on each and every project? Is it a result of project management processes, good budgeting, or initial scoping? 

Correct initial scoping is key of course. But once a project commences, Kylie allocates our UX consultants to projects, and allocates their budgeted hours against each project. Staff then enter their time into a system which allows everyone to see whether a project is on budget or going over time.

We also use a WIP document which is in the cloud, and updated in real-time, so that everyone can see how their project timelines are scheduled. Keeping projects on time and on budget is a key focus for our business.

What tools do you use to manage time and job tasks?

We currently use Harvest to manage time and job tasks, but we are currently looking at other tools which can give a more accurate measure of staff utilisation rates.

Any suggestions on dealing with difficult clients?

If there is an issue, deal with it immediately and sort it out. If the client is being difficult, stand up for what you believe in, they respect that. If they are really painful, resign them.

What’s your or the company’s biggest challenge currently?

Managing growth across SE Asia and within Australia.

What particular skill set do you look for in your new hires?

To me User Experience (UX) is not simply a design role. I look for people who have an interest in people and who have undertaken a lot of user research to understand how the people they are designing for think and behave. Only once we have deep insights into the person who will be using a digital platform can we design it in a usable way. UX design is the outcome of research.

How do you ensure that your team is performing well, and focused on the same goals? Do you have any special team activities that you do to maintain a good culture?

We have 6 monthly planning days where we present the 3 year vision for the company and discuss strategies to reach our goals. All team members have KPIs and job goals that are aligned to our business dream.

Every second Monday morning we have a brown bag breakfast where we spend a couple of hours educating each other or being educated by guests. In addition, we encourage staff to attend industry events and training.

In addition, we try to foster a great staff culture. We have a balcony overlooking Darling Harbour and this is the venue of many staff and client BBQs. We also like to get out of the office to do things together. (See photo of Xmas bushwalk and lunch).

About Claudia Sagripanti

Involved in the evolution of mobile marketing and advertising from the early years, including co-founding Mobile Marketing and Advertising Awards, founding chair of AIMIA's Mobile Industry Group, development of mobile advertising guidelines for industry as well as commercialisation strategy.