Case Studies


logo WK europe

Wolters Kluwer, Tax & Accounting Europe

My Role

Head of UX, Cloud Strategy Solutions Division

Thought Leader in UX

Lead in UX Community, Tax & Accounting Europe

Head Coach in Training UX

logo WK europe


I have…

  • led a community of UX managers in Europe to upskill and raise the bar of UX awareness and excellence, resulting in a 210% increase in user research and usability testing across the countries.

  • created a center of excellence to serve the European markets, consisting of eight countries, to promote UX best practices within the division.

  • led workshops at the community level, producing 21 assets for the design system for complex software that caters to the whole division. This is the first time complex software components have been added to the design system.

  • coordinated a train-the-trainer program for a community of eight UX managers in Europe, focusing on Lean UX as a baseline with some contextual design and goal-oriented design sprinkled in. The program spanned 12 months and involved varying specialists’ workshops.

  • spearheaded qualitative research, interaction design (IXD), and introduced usability testing as a common practice to cross-functional leaders for a pan-European cloud platform project. This helped consolidate inconsistent product solutions.

title-what's UX?

The orgs were heavily focused on UI but lacked emphasis on UX, with non-existent UX in several cases.

Overall company culture & processes unfortunately had UX marginalised to UI.  They’d get engaged near the end of the product design process (instead of at the start).

Click on image to enlarge

The Greatest Confusion: UI over UX

  • The chronic misunderstanding of roles and responsibilities of UX within all the organizations was a leading problem. It was necessary to clarify that UX is distinct from UI and requires different skill-sets and focus
  • The company had two pillars of reporting lines (Tech and PM), and UX serving under one of them led to UX being limited to UI production. Any UX efforts were seen as unnecessary overhead and expendable.

image of build build build!

Clashes with SAFe Framework

  • To exacerbate the confusion between UI and UX, the orgs  were adopting the SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework), which is well-known for optimizing code production and speed but lacks structure on how to incorporate UX into its process
  • UX teams were overwhelmed with UI work and feature ideas to produce.
‘Feature-itis’ – a condition where production teams focus on delivering features constantly but overlook usability.
checklist in understanding UX and SAFe challenges

Having witnessed a few SAFe rituals from several countries and formulated my own observations, it was necessary to hear from the UX managers of those organizations. We’ve had multiple group discussions with representations from all the countries and discovered common pain points as patterns. This was followed up with anonymous surveys and individual interviews to gather context and detailed scenarios. The following were the top common patterns:

Confusion of UX with UI:

  • Colleagues believe that UX is UI and regard research and testing as a lower priority
  • There is a demand for ‘final design’ upfront as a standard.

Timing out of sync and lack of time:

  • UX is brought in at the end of the process, with little room for adjustments even with UX recommendations.
  • There is not enough time within the PI (Program Increment) to perform the needed design activities, including testing. Often, one sprint is not enough.
  • UX gets blamed for delays or development challenges due to requested iterations and changes based on user input.

Exclusion to product visioning:

  • Not being involved with Lean Portfolio Management (on Epic level with PMs)
  • Being met with closed ideas & required only for final designs for specific UI components.
  • UX is not included in the business/decision flow for backlogs.
title of ux community is born

Building up the UX Community & Workshop sessions

  • Firstly, I’ve nurtured & led a community of UX managers from 9 countries– as the ‘Agents of Change’
  • A Lean UX competition was set to rally the countries to execute small wins & share actual artefacts, learn from those experiences together collectively

Train “The Trainers” Program 

To deliver a level of consistency & standards set from within the UX community of best practices & principles, my approach was investing in our UX leads/managers for 12 months of training with cadenced workshops on best practices & principles in UX – to bring back to their orgs themselves to train others.

title of roadmap for change

It’s not enough to ramp up the UX team within the orgs, but essential to get support from the whole org for UX.

Everyone Needs To Buy-in

  • Training UX leads wasn’t enough to affect cultures within orgs. Enabling & shepherding the entire org to buy-in the UX culture & methodologies as needed
  • UX cannot happen without advocates & champions from all levels, top-down, middle and ground-up.

Strategy For the Community & Serving Each Country

  • Understand the orgs in order to understand where they are currently
  • Having a roadmap for the next 3 years for UX in European orgs – 3 key initiatives to run in parallel
  • Aside from the community training, having the plan to serve the countries at the individual level in increasing the UX culture– is to be done with stakeholder interviews & custom roadmap for each individual org.
Peter Drucker's quote and chart

The roadmap creation step-by-step

  1. Org study
    1. Assessing the country’s stage of UX maturity with a deeper understanding of org’s structure & political landscape for change
    2. The above is best achieved via meeting & interviewing the people of the org – all levels & functions
  2. Identify bright spots
    1. What’s working already well?
    2. What does the org understand already in UX?
    3. How can we build UX momentum off of that?
    4. What other roles are working well, and how can those be co-opted?
  3. Develop a custom strategy
    1. Eg. 3-5 months of “process beta” – training & win project
    2. 6-24 months of “staffed UX effort”; further training, staffing with senior UXers, UX projects in swing
    3. 24-48 months of “UX program” – field studies & testing, UX management
  4. Identify UX sponsors
    1. Seek & find sponsors/champions at all 3 levels – Leadership/exec, management, grass-roots (developers)
    2. Form alliances / co-opt for internal support
  5. Exercise UX cycling & measurement
    1. iterate practices on evidence-based insights
    2. Become active with qualitative info from field research
title- what drives UX?

Building Bridges with the Product Management Community

  • Cultural change needs to happen across all levels including the Heads of Product who has a high influence on their orgs. Speaking at their conference and started building relationships & rapport with them was a fundamental start in the process
  • Highlighted the importance of engaging UX early in order to maximise success & minimise risks in costs – all serve business
  • Engage conversations on best practices in UX can help them win
  • Update them on the latest movements in the UX community and co-opt PMs in the cultural change ahead

Being “customer-centric” and applying Design Thinking needs to be an organisational affair. It is NOT exclusive to designers.

In addressing the Heads of Product in Europe in a presentation, it was critical to be aware that it was a mixed group with some already advocates of Human-centered Design and some were detractors, and many were in the middle. Quite frankly, even UXers get confused with many buzzwords of various methodologies. We’ve spent the opening 7 minutes discussing how it all is at the core the same – having the Customer & his needs at the centre of the process. And its execution depends on not UX designers exclusively but on non-designers, Product managers as well. In fact, it’s a whole organizational affair in order to work.

Debunking the myth that User research was too costly & adds excess time was the next point to get across, with examples of modern tools & practices for ‘rapid learning’ experiments to get validation on key decisions on design. In the same context, a clear distinction of focus & responsibilities between UX & UI was explained. As many UX departments reported under Product, it was essential that they were aligned on UX skill sets for future recruitment.

UX aims to be providing critical insights to business (Product Management) to enable them to make sound business decisions.

The best time to engage UX is at the very beginning, at strategy phase.

What is “User advocacy” and why does it matter to business?

Statistics & figures sit well with Product executives, it was important to speak their business language in order to get a good outcome from the presentation. Facts show that approx. 70% of new software products fail due to Users not accepting the products. Hence User adoption is key to beating the percentages and achieving success. In order to gain User adoption, User advocacy is essential– a practice of having genuine empathy with Users. In order to achieve genuine empathy (and not remote empathy which is far worse) a discipline of consistent HCD (Human Centered Design) needs to be practised, connecting back to the earlier point in the need for UX.

Imagine having to spend 3-4 years in UI design & development and realising that it failed when released in the market due to lack of User adoption; one can easily quantify the cost of that failed venture – all due to skipping on UX and focusing solely on UI.

Another example showcased was its company system (still in the market) which has 621 features while only 5% of them are actually used regularly by customers. One can quantify the costs of maintaining those unused features in code as well as UI design efforts in the coming years. And if we add on the costs of cognitive taxing those features enforce on Users, the costs are overwhelming to the brand & the business.

Why involve UX at the start instead of at the end? Can we afford NOT to?

The cost for design changes skyrockets if UX is consulted at the end (near the launch date). In comparison, if UX is approached at the start the costs in those changes are at their lowest with the benefit of higher manoeuvrability for options. In my experience, whenever UX is brought in at the end the UX recommendations get ignored by tech/business due to lack of time & costs involved – leading to a deficient product to release and adding risk of User rejection.

title-support calls to each country
1-to-1 meetings to listen & coach

Finding the gaps & talking through probable remedies together…

Support To Each Country

  • Regular support calls with the country’s UX leads on their custom training program to enhance areas to improve in adopting Lean UX / Human-centered design’s best practices
  • At the country level, I’ve conducted interviews with key cross-functional leaders in the orgs, which gave insights on UX maturity level assessment. It was followed with a tailored roadmap for a gradual path of having a more embedded UX culture
  • Scorecards in adopting SAFe with Lean UX were assessed for each country and were created– to first understand in order to support
support calls 1 to 1
title-key values and mission
Mapping the shared goals as a community – a Mission Statement based on common values

UX Community's shared Values, Mission & (Key Performance Indicators) KPI

  • I’ve coordinated the discussion & workshop on what the UX community’s common values & its focused mission are– decided as a group
  • Mapping of key responsibilities UX should take to serve their orgs
  • Mapping & ranking the top initiatives the community needs to undertake to make an impact
  • As a result, the group came together on a set of common vision & high-level KPIs to take, setting up for the next several years to achieve

title - KPI for UX

Measuring the Rate of Customer Validation

  • It was a consensus that across WK’s European division, the orgs suffer from a mindset that it does enough customer validation when in reality that is far from fact. A way to measure this based on evidence was needed, a scorecard on how the org as a whole is performing on this key indicator
  • Lack of visibility of this KPI and no incentive of UX activity participation from cross-functional colleagues were needed to be addressed in order to improve
  • Each quarter, under my guidance the UX managers (custodians of this scorecard) would submit it along with business reviews to the MD of Europe – inciting interest from the whole org in doing this well, a first for the company
  • The rate of customer research will become a direct indicator of how the business will be impacted
“What gets measured gets done.”
– Peter Drucker


By establishing clear operational metrics and evaluate performance, companies have the advantage of using what is crucial to stay competitive in the market, and that’s data.

It was to be an whole wide org’s affair with collaborations from collegues from Tech & PM were expected & to be measured at intervals of 3 months led by the country’s UX lead. Key items in the metrics included:

  • Qty. of customer insights gained
  • Qty. of feauture ideas / hyphothesis validated with Users based on facts
  • Ranking the quality & cadence of usability tests undertaken
title- KPI no.2
Running up UX debt exponentially and getting forgotten over time was a common issue experienced by all 9 countries.


Measuring the Rate of UX Debt

  • A prime pain-point the UX teams all suffer from– Usability gets compromised with either tech/business constraints placed and run up UX debt (work omitted or cut out) affecting usability for customers
  • I’ve led the community to have a shared set of criteria to measure the UX debt (and the rate of churn/ to reduce the items on list)
  • Rate of performance on this on this quarterly measurement is shared with top executives in business reviews including the MD of Europe, which will gain engagement from rest of org to take action.
Each unpaid UX debt leads to negative implications to the company’s success as poor usability hurts the bottom line.


Key items in the metrics included:

  • Qty. of High User Value & Low Effort
  • % of capacity allocated to reduce UX debt from total backlog
  • % of churn (diminishing) of debt items
Working together towards reducing the debt would be in the interest of everyone in the company.


title- co-opting and alliances
Looking for bright spots & alliances from each function to co-opt into the movement of the UX cultural change…


Building Bridges With the SAFe Community

  • Friction & frustration with SAFe framework marginalising UX to be “UI production farm” were the common issues across European orgs, with both communities (UX & SAFe) at odds on how to work together
  • Speaking at the SAFe Leadership conference, I gave a presentation on what is UX & what it is not, how UX can serve for better development & the orgs
  • It resulted in building relationships with several key Leads in SAFe across the countries as a good start to open the required conversations on how to collaborate better. I was able to have great follow-up meetings to open the door for UX managers to get more visibility on PI planning & influence the product decisions much earlier in the process
title- how we work together

Visual Map of the Product Design Process As a Cycle

  • The Go-To-Market (GTM) department which handles the market research (and related customer feedback) from a pricing & launch/marketing stand-point clashed with UX teams
  • Many of the countries’ UX Teams were being restricted from doing UX research due to PM & GTM’s belief that the research work is already done by from their process –this was due to confusion on what Market research vs UX  research is fundamentally
  • I’ve engaged with the head of GTM & Product from Europe to discuss and map out a way to better collaborate; it led to the need to have a visual process map for other departments to understand when is ideal to engage with UX and when not-to-engage
  • It resulted in a draft process map which outlines the whole product design cycle with Lean UX, GTM, PM, SAFe processes all considered – it was a start for further discussions & refinement.
title- remote workshop training

Training the whole Org on Lean UX & Goal-directed design

  • Tackling the training issues for colleagues from other departments – a tough challenge with varying levels of detractors for change
  • I served as a partner to the UX manager (UK) to tailor a program best suited for the org & based on my previous observations of its UX maturity and sourced an agency that can deliver it
  • The chosen agency was brought in to assist in a week-long training (remotely due to COVID) with a team of trainers/educators to run training/workshops using actual project problems to use to solve via the best practices in Lean UX / Human-centred design
  • UK went first as a pilot run to see if it can also be scaled to the remaining 5 countries. It was well received and dramatic impact on boosting the shift in mindset & perception of the local UX team
title- indicators of traction

Signs of Positive Impact

  • The program was in full flight now, the fully-trained UX managers were key in pushing the best practices from grass roots & ground up – once they were supported with the skills, the resources and the network of the community, the wind was in their sails to keep progressing as ‘change agents’ in UX culture for their orgs
  • Light training for the whole org as an intro to Lean UX with an external agency boosted UX awareness & skillsets throughout the org with un-UX colleagues (especially from the PM function) empowered to practice the methodologies themselves, a good start to UX democratisation
  • Having the 2 KPIs shared with the ‘C-suite’ leaders have led to a shift in mindset from cross-functions; UX leads were now getting approached by their colleagues regularly on how to improve the performances.

Cross-functional colleagues show more attention & engagement in User research across countries, the rate gets measured every 3-month intervals…

Changing culture will take time, we knew this coming in. But placing seminal activities & training to jump-start an on-ramp to that journey was accomplished. I estimate 4-5 years on avg in reaching their peaks in maturity.


I wish to thank my coaching staff & partners including Vikenti Kumanikin & Marcello Coppa. Without them it would not have been possible to cover so much ground and at such high quality for the UX Community for those years together.