Orchestrating Experiences Blog

Collaborative Design for Complexity

Posts written by Chris Risdon & Patrick Quattlebaum

  • The Challenges of Orchestrating Touchpoints

    Posted on

    It’s a great time to be a designer. The nature of a good designer should be to inherently thrive in tackling complicated challenges, and giving shape and form to products and services is becoming increasing complex. This complexity and a greater focus on experience differentiation provides designers an opportunity to be the glue that guides cross-functional teams from empathy to iteration. To be guide to better experiences, however, means taking on three distinct challenges:

    • Moving from thinking in terms of 1:1 customer-to-product experiences, to a holistic view of complicated journeys that unfold over time and space;

    • Radically expanding our toolkit—our methods and frameworks for addressing this complicated customer journey;

    • Re-thinking how we organize ourselves within organizations to collaboratively solve for these holistic experiences.

    The challenge of the customer journey

    Mobile was the biggest, though not only, catalyst for increasing the complexity in designing products and services for customers. Almost overnight the context for which we were designing for became more rich and nuanced. We couldn’t simply say we are designing for a specific use case in a specific context. Up to this point, we typically thought of a touchpoint as having a 1:1 relationship with the channel they engaged in (physical location, website, phone call, etc.).

    But mobile helped channels converge and contexts shift. The picture wasn’t so clear. We are tackling a more rich and dense view of a customer’s experience. One that manifests itself as a journey that unfolds over time, across channels, platforms, locations and people.

    The challenge of process and methods

    We all have our toolkits. Our processes, methods, and frameworks for which we rely on understanding and solving design problems. But as we expand the lens through which we look at the customer experience, we’re realizing our toolkits need to be expanded as well.

    The field of user experience doesn’t inherently have established tools for supporting these complicated cross-channel journeys. Service design tools, out of the box, aren’t optimal for thinking about technology or these proliferating multi-platform product ecosystems. Yet most customer experiences now seem to be spread over time in intangible ways, connected increasingly by technology—a marriage of tangible products and ephemeral service.

    We now need to be agnostic of different design disciplines to deftly evaluate our design challenges and determine the best approaches, seamlessly leveraging the right tools at the right time.

    The challenge of the cross-functional group

    We want to design for the complicated end-to-end journey. And we think we know how we do it. Lastly our challenge is unifying disparate parts of the organization. Silos need to be lowered and cross-functional groups united, working in lockstep towards the same, holistic view of the experience. We now understand that no part of an organization is an island solving it’s own unique problem.

    We’re increasingly finding ourselves in a room together—digital, physical, IT, Marketing, call centers, operations, and so on—with a mandate to unite on a plan to seamlessly service the customer across channels and touchpoints. As you come together, you find yourselves asking the question, “now what?” How do we define a shared process for tackling these new challenges together, and reach across the organization?

    Patrick and I hope that sharing our practical applied experience, and the experience of others, can light a path towards successfully orchestrating experiences in the face of these challenges.

    We hope you will find it useful.

    So, here we are

    Posted on

    They warned: “Co-authoring a book is hard. Are you sure you want to do this?”


    They advised: “Figuring out how to write together will be the most important thing you can do.”


    They conceded: “But it sounds like you have something to say together. Go for it.”


    So, here we are. But let me take a step back.


    Chris Risdon and I have known one another for several years now. We’ve worked at two consultancies together. We’ve shared stages at conferences. We’ve co-taught hundreds of people how to design for more human experiences.


    Along the way, we’ve had a continuous dialogue about what challenges we’ve seen organizations facing and how they have approached solving them. We’ve seen a lot of focus on execution. Lean. Agile. Lean plus Agile! These methodologies solve a particular problem: how do we work better as a team to get the most important things done quickly. They also have a specific limitation. Lean and Agile help small teams get work done, but they don’t help organizations define and design a system of customer touchpoints that result in seamless, meaningful experiences. Lean and Agile get the parts done, but not the whole.


    That’s the challenge we will tackle in our book, Orchestrating Touchpoints. We will share concepts, methods, and approaches that get people across an organization to envision, plan, and design customer experiences together. We will help you guide others to understand the journeys of your customers and better meet their needs across time and space. We will teach you a language and a way of working that unites parts into a whole.


    So, here we are. Chris and I are excited to take this journey together and unite our unique perspectives and voices into one book. Along the way, we’ll be sharing our research, thoughts, and ideas with you here. We look forward to the dialogue that results.


    Patrick & Chris