Trying to change a large software organization is like trying to make the Titanic turn on a dime. Trying to embed usability practices into a large software organization that has never practiced it before is like… well you know what happened to the Titanic. However, it doesn’t need to be that way.
The company I work for (Dominion Dealer Solutions) is a fairly large software organization selling multiple, market established products serving around 50,000 users. It’s my job to work across these products, evaluating the user experience of each one and providing recommendations for improvement. On top of that, these are all established products which makes it hard to implement sweeping changes.
One of the mistakes we UX professionals make when first engaging a large software project is coming in with the attitude of having to fix it all and having to get it right the first time. We have the notion of making a big splash and changing the way software is developed. But for all sorts of reasons regarding big company software (time, budgets, history, people, red tape, distrust, etc), we just can’t affect the change we want to see.
Instead of attempting to right all the usability wrongs in one pass, I have had huge success in making small changes. Working small has enabled me to build a rapport with the stakeholders, to prove the value of usability through real user testing, gain buy-in, and most importantly, get real change implemented.
I admit that as a UX professional, small change is hard live with, however, it’s even harder to get a stakeholder to agree to a massive, wholesale change to enterprise level UI. By focusing on “big change through small victories” we can make real, honest improvements to the software over time.