Last week I attended the inaugural UX STRAT in Atlanta. My business partner, Dan Klyn, gave a brilliant 10-minute rendition of this performance continuum talk, and I really enjoyed myself. UX STRAT was a great single-track conference with excellent presenters, fascinating attendees, though too little coffee and too little time to talk with the excellent presenters and fascinating attendees.

One common theme throughout the two days involved the intersection of user experience (UX) and business, or the lack there of. This caught me off guard. Aren’t they part and parcel of each other? There were excellent talks about strategic impact of UX at the highest executive levels, but more common were points about how to align with the “business side” and fears about business consultants winning the hearts and minds of the board room with talk of Customer Experience (CX) in place of user experience.

Language is important, and what you call things matters, but I got the sense that the real threat to today’s user experience firms isn’t a name change. The threat is that larger consulting firms, that truly understand how to do business with and help the business of large corporations, are learning how to sell and deliver user experience services. And they do so unencumbered by any distance between them and the “business.”

There’s no reason why UX firms should be operating from this disadvantage. UX has always been about improving the business, be it a multi-national conglomerate that wants to improve customer loyalty or a tiny non-profit trying to activate its base. Whether you want to call it UX or CX or XX doesn’t matter (to me at least) — you still bring a valuable perspective to the board room which they ought to appreciate.

In his opening keynote, Nathan Shedroff noted how businesses focus on the price/performance continuum. As they should. You can’t stay in business if you don’t manage that continuum well. So rather than see business as the “other” let’s recognize that we are part of the business and figure out how to make “experience” an appropriate measure of performance on that continuum.

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