Technology Featured Southeast Asia

Can UX designers be part of the business decision making process?

Manila, Philippines – Expertise is the name of the game in the workplace, but even that carries a challenge – often you are thought to be limited to your specialization and miss the chance for your voice to be heard in other valuable areas of the company. 

In the field of user experience, designers aren’t an exception who are often left from the business decision-making process, but a principal product designer from Indonesia e-commerce Tokopedia might just have the perfect answer. 

In the recently held UXPH Conference for experience designers last November 14 to 15 in the Philippines, Tokopedia’s Sonya Seddarasan presented a framework that can help UX specialists gain ample background of a product’s marketability, and therefore, get their foot in the “business” door.

Seddarasan has been with Indonesia e-commerce since 2019 where she works with multidisciplinary teams of business, data analytics, engineering, and experience designing.

“[There’s] a lot of culture [where] [UX] designers are being [passed down] requirements, and our job is basically just to empathize with it, and then give [back the result] to [the] product [team]. So you are actually missing a lot of the background work that has to done,” she said.  

In her talk Using Customer Value Proposition as Revenue Model, she explained the structure of how designers can identify a product’s best revenue model with customer value proposition as the entry point.   

Also called a viability assessment, the framework consists of three building blocks: identifying a product or service’s top customer value proposition, coming up with user personas, and then matching the latter to the best revenue model for the business.

With four to six key people in the team, the assessment simply involves asking the right trigger questions, brainstorming a list of the answers, and rearranging them based on priority. 

With the existing product or solution as the baseline, Seddarasan said to ask three key trigger questions to name the top values it offers the user: what value does the solution offer, why should customers use the solution, and what problem is being solved for them. 

With three priority values named, the target users are then identified. Seddarasan said to differentiate them based on four different tiers: their job, their age, their needs, and their behavior.

Similarly with a number of three user groups to focus on, the best revenue model – from pey per use, bundling, or subscription, among others – is matched to each persona. For the final step, Seddarasan said such questions must be asked: how much is the customer in a certain group willing to pay, in what medium are they likely to pay, and where can they find such medium.

In the UXPH session, Seddarasan said by applying such framework, designers won’t need to clamor for validation from stakeholders, whereas an intelligently informed business suggestion would naturally emerge via following the steps.

Seddarasan, having been in the design industry – with experience ranging from graphic and product design to UX – for more than ten years, is no stranger to receiving prejudice from other functional teams in the workplace.

“At the end of the day, you’ll meet different people anywhere, whether they’re accommodating or [not], but everyone has got the same basic behavior. If they know that you actually add up to [the company], no matter how small it is, as long as you know how to speak to them and how to negotiate your way around it, I think everything is workable.”

But despite workplace differences, Seddarasan said pushing for the immersion in business strategy is well worth the effort, for business knowledge could make or break designers’ longevity in the industry.

“UX strategy will be something that is an [asset] for us designers to be able to have a chair, to have a seat in the middle of business environment.” 

MARKETECH APAC is an official media partner at the UXPH Conference 2020: Designers as Navigators of Change, which was held from November 14 to 15, 2020. 

Technology Featured Southeast Asia

From ambiguity to ground-up: how designers perceive change

Manila, Philippines – “Designing the overall digital experience while creating magic in the details.”

The phrase, defining interaction design as a separate entity of user experience design, is a perfect summary of how new experiences can be developed out of ambiguity, as explained in one of UXPH Conference 2020’s lightning talks titled “Designers as Enablers of Change”.

Presented by Daisuke Yukita, one of global design firm IDEO Tokyo’s interaction designers, the talk centers on the importance of creating meaningful designs that speak to customer experience and accessibility. Furthermore, Yukita stresses the importance of bringing the stakeholders on board to further understand the design process and achieve change.


“We should try as much as possible the stakeholders along the design process, and it’s not just the furnished parts, it’s also the messy parts. We need to learn to embrace that effort and time that it may take because it does lead to a bigger impact,” Yukita stated.

During the talk, he also narrates various instances that interaction design has led to a ‘golden age’ of small yet meaningful designs, from micro-features like Recycle Bin and right click, to more meaningful and interactive projects from ‘Remote High Five’ to creating a school from the ground-up.

While often met with ambiguous questions from clients on solving business problems, Yukita notes that most of them change from “I wish it was…” to “How it can be changed…”, all thanks to a diversity of effort.

“There are designers like interaction designers, communication designers, mechanical engineers, and business designers. It’s not just that, there are people from all sorts of backgrounds and careers, like physicians or musicians or food scientists. With these amazing people, we practice design thinking.”

Another key takeaway from the talk is that the design process is, and should be focused on the lens of the people.

“Always think in the lens of the people. When you create something new, you need to think of it from a business sense, which would be the viability; the technology lens, the feasibility, and the people lens, the desirability. You all make the key decisions with the people in the center of the design process.”

Daisuke Yukita, Interaction Designer at IDEO Tokyo

Yukita concludes his talk by adding that aside from taking stakeholders on board, designers must also provide rationale for future processes and create outputs that are distributive

MARKETECH APAC is an official media partner at the UXPH Conference 2020: Designers as Navigators of Change, which was held from November 14 to 15, 2020. 

Technology Featured Southeast Asia

UXPH 2020’s virtual conference makes UX/UI ‘open for all’

Manila, Philippines – User Experience Philippines (UXPH), a local-based non-profit organization that provides connections and resources to the local design community, has recently concluded its annual conference held online on November 14 and 15. 

The event was attended primarily by attendees from various sectors, ranging from UX/UI designers by profession, students, SME founders, and media practitioners.

Opened up formally by Aldrich Tan, UXPH’s managing director and CEO/co-founder of digital banking suite NextPay, Tan stated that the prime focus of the convention is to stress on the importance of collaboration and community in the design community.

“Our mission is to grow and nurture the Filipino creative community through sharing and collaboration, and raise the design standards and practices within our country; to help uplift the lives of our society. We envision an empowered culture where products and services are built mindfully and sustainably,” Tan noted.

The event was also graced with a short message from Design Center of the Philippines’ executive director Maria Rita Matute, in which she stressed the importance of designers as leaders of change.

“We as designers are called to lead the change for the better. It is time we show how we can use design and design thinking to pave the way forward, not simply towards a new normal but a better normal, a better forward, but we cannot do it as individuals [for] we are stronger together,” Matute stated.

Designers towards change and transformation

One of the prime topics being focused on in this conference is the importance of user interface and design towards change, breaking the norm, and moving towards the 21st century.

“Designers have the responsibility to share the skill that we have—this gift that we have to more people because ultimately what we, our skill as designers it’s not just to create change, it is to enable change,” Daisuke Yukita, senior interaction designer at IDEO Tokyo, a global design firm.

Yukita stressed in his talk titled “Designers as Enablers of Change”, that there are four points to note that design creates change:

  • compelling content that creates emotional impact 
  • tangible prototypes that generates momentum
  • authentic voices from users that propels decision making
  • unlock the creative potential of the people that we work with

On the other hand, Lisa Gokongwei-Cheng, SVP for digital transformation and corporate services at JG Summit, stressed the importance of digital transformation amongst businesses, whether a small-medium enterprise (SME) or a traditional conglomerate company.

“[Digital] transformation is not an end state, it’s a journey. We keep iterating our operational model as we learn. In a few months, we probably will learn a few more things, or realize that some of these [are] wrong. The point is to keep pivoting,” Cheng stated in her talk titled “Lessons in Digital Transformation in a Corporate Setting.”

Accessibility and democratization: the future of UX/UI

While UX/UI have strived over the years providing accessible interfaces to many products and services both in the physical and the digital world, there is still room for improvement of such prototypes that describes both practicality and futurism.

Julian Charles Serrano, an accessibility consultant at Catalyst International, discussed keystones of web accessibility which includes usage of accessibility guidelines, accessibility training, and testing or auditing.

“When you make your content accessible, you’re going to show everybody that you took your time to understand the needs of people with disabilities, and provide them with content that they need,” Serrano stated, stressing that blind and deaf people often rely with tools such as magnifying tools and text-to-speech reader to understand online content.

On another realm, Phil Balagtas, experience design director at McKinsey Design notes that the future fares better for the UX/UI world as digital transformation strategies have helped device new services such as AI-oriented vending machines or prototypes of modern-design PPEs and face masks.

“There is no one future: there are multiple futures and multiple possibilities that could arrive. Once we are able to map out those possibilities, we could prepare for different types of scenarios. We could use these to plan out our next agenda for today.”

Other speakers of the convention came from companies like Dropbox, Tokopedia, Eskwelabs, Shopify, IBM, and scores of others.

MARKETECH APAC is an official media partner at the UXPH Conference 2020: Designers as Navigators of Change, which was held from November 14 to 15, 2020.

Technology Featured Southeast Asia

How one of the largest conglomerates in the PH started ‘small’ in pivoting to digital experience

Manila, Philippines – We often think in the range of equivalents, that is, if something is big, we expect that all things toward it mirror the same gigantic force, but such is certainly not the case with JG Summit Holdings – one of the biggest conglomerates in the Philippines – which revealed that in bringing to life the company’s digital transformation, one of its most powerful weapons is “starting small.”

Two years ago, JG Summit fully jumped on its intention to shift to a digital experience when it declared that it aims to become the leading digital company in the Philippines. In the recently held UXPH Conference Saturday, a two-day conference for experience designers in the Philippines, the company’s SVP for digital transformation and corporate services Lisa Gokongwei-Cheng walked UX specialists through on how the firm successfully materialized its digitization, not just for its customers but for its employees as well.

If you’re a startup built in the heights of the current digital lifestyle, innovation in such area most probably comes second nature, for if it isn’t the business’ bread and butter, it’s one of its main operational pillars. But for a giant like JG Summit that was incorporated in the 50’s, to adopt digital transformation poses a bigger challenge.

JG Summit has over five business units emanating from different industries, such as airline company Cebu Pacific Air, commercial bank Robinsons Bank (RBank), and F&B Universal Robina Corporation (URC). According to Cheng, the biggest question for the company to answer is, “How do you innovate within a traditional, successful, and large conglomerate?”

Cheng said the question emerges because of resistors – businesses who can’t seem to see the ROI of taking a 360 degree turn to digital, because with their eyebrows raised, they tend to think, “Why fix it, if it ain’t broken?”

“At the beginning, none of the business units wanted to work with us. It would cost too much, it would disrupt their business as usual,” shared Cheng in the conference’s session Lessons in Digital Transformation in a Corporate Setting.

With much persistence, the company eventually found its willing guinea pig, its property development unit – Robinsons Land Corporation (RLC).

The digitization initiative with RLC launched four projects in six months – a hotel property management system, a sellers portal, a buyers portal, and a malls directory.

As Cheng emphasized in her virtual talk, “start with small wins,” and through RLC’s leadership, President and CEO Frederick Go, the projects have been pioneered through the “lighthouse” mindset – which like a lighthouse, the first of JG Summit’s digital experiences are meant to light the way, “to guide ships,” or its other business units to fully harness technological innovation.

According to a blog post by JG Summit, Go said the main goal of the digitization project was to find the pain points among its stakeholders – customers, employees, and clients – and figure out how technology can offer as a solution. As identified, those were not being able to find a store in the mall, a room for a more simplified buyer and seller process for clients and sales agents within its residential division, and finding a way to enhance the customer experience for the guests of its hotel.

Of the buyers portal, for example, Go said, “ It helps automate our buyers’ most common interactions with us. We will make it easy for them to know when their next payments are due and monitor their receipts. The Buyers Portal allows them to view and update their account information, manage their payments, view and download the latest statement of accounts, and log requests and inquiries directly.”

In jumpstarting the “lighthouse” with RLC, JG summit had to take the baby step of working with one resource at the time – a single digital consultant.

“So we worked with our consultant, our one full-time resource for Robinsons land who worked with RLC employees on these projects, while they were also pursuing business as usual,” said Cheng.

Two years in from declaring its mission of digitization, JG Summit’s was a home run – successfully realizing its intent of digital transformation, with a slew of online portals and systems rolled out, following its pilot digital experiences with RLC.

For its commercial banking, RBank was able to develop the QuickR feature for its banking app, where the bank now offers a contactless alternative for sending and receiving money through a QR code.

URC’s global exports division, on the other hand, wanted to address their clients’ concerns with placing orders manually and solved it through the Global Export Order Management System (OMS). For SouthStar Drug, a division of JG Summit’s retail holdings, an e-commerce site has been established just right before the community quarantine was enacted in the country.

Meanwhile, for its guinea pig RLC, its team of just one consultant has now sprung to 10 key people in its digital transformation team, with 21 new projects under its belt. One of its recent – a portal for its condominium residents, myRLC Homeowner’s Portal, where residents’ requests such as work permits or gate passes have now been digitized.

Cheng said, “[It goes to show] that you can start with one project and a few resources. Don’t try to boil the ocean. We used the RLC example to show different parts of the conglomerate how it can be done. They are still trying to scale agile, but are on the right path.”

Concluding her talk at the conference, Cheng gave some powerful words, saying, “[Digital] transformation is not an end state, it’s a journey.”

She added, “We keep iterating our operational model as we learn. In a few months, we probably will learn a few more things, or realize that some of these [are] wrong. The point is to keep pivoting.”

MARKETECH APAC is an official media partner at the UXPH Conference 2020: Designers as Navigators of Change, which was held from November 14 to 15, 2020.