Julie Baher, Group Director, Customer Experience, Citrix
Design Thinking at Citrix – An
Interview with Julie Baher

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A passionate user researcher and natural design thinker, Julie Baher is currently managing the Customer Experience team for SaaS products at Citrix. Together with her team, Julie is responsible for championing design thinking to drive innovation at Citrix. In this interview, she tells us the story of how, through design thinking, they turned around a robust company like Citrix into a sleek organisation that praises design as it’s core differentiator.

6. O.K, having talked about ROI in design thinking. What about an incentive system? Are there incentives for employees and managers to use design thinking in their work, to be more design-minded and customer-focused?

At Citrix, we have a set of guiding principles for employees called the Leadership Blueprint. This is a set of beliefs and ways of working that employees are measured against at the end of the year. Just last year, we worked with Human Resources to add “design driven” to the blueprint as a core competency. This is defined as “creating exceptional experiences that delight customers, partners and employees.”

We included, for managers, the behaviors needed to foster a design-driven approach on their teams. Everybody should know the customer, practice empathy, understand good design, and aim to simplify processes. Managers need to encourage their teams to do those things. They need to work across teams and get rid of silos to ensure a good customer experience.

Some of the negative things we saw with managers in the beginning was wanting to tamp down the scary-looking stuff, when they should’ve been encouraging their people to explore new spaces and try new things. They needed to understand that it was OK to fail. That needs to be part of the incentive system.

A lot of the gaps in customer experience are between handoffs. When the customer is moving between different departments, they shouldn’t know they are moving between different departments. We wanted managers to focus on these gaps between teams.

We also have the Design Hero program, which is a recognition program for exceptional customer-centred design. We publically recognize employees each quarter who exemplify design thinking.


7. A lot of companies look for advice from you on how to implement design thinking. Could you tell us more about your work with other companies?

We do a lot of peer-to-peer sharing with several informal groups. I was part of one group with Procter & Gamble, JetBlue, Kaiser Permanente (health care company), VF (clothing corporation that owns The North Face, Wrangler, Timberland, and many other clothing brands). We are non-competitive, so we were able to work together and share best practices.

With VF, two of us participated in one of their workshops in London for their Kipling brand. It was a great experience to see how they apply design thinking, and to work on a challenge completely outside of technology.

Another set of companies we’ve shared with are Nordstrom (department store chain) and Fidelity (financial services). They held a series of design thinking workshops, and people from my team participated as coaches. That’s one of the coolest aspects of being in the design thinking community: It’s very open and you meet people who compete in totally different business spaces.


8. Your team also injected design thinking into two major internal events – Citrix Connect, the company’s annual engineering summit and Citrix Sales Kickoff, a training and networking event for Citrix partners and sales teams. What did you do?

I was on the committee of the Citrix Connect event when it was in its second year. This is an event where engineers come together to network and listen to talks. Often people see design thinking as the fun part of an event, so they asked us to “do something,” so that Connect would have more than just people presenting.

I seized this opportunity and was given three hours (almost a half-day) to use for a design activity. For the first part, I brought in Lime Design, an agency with whom we’ve worked a lot, to do a 90-minute introduction to design thinking. In the second part, we did a brainstorm on “How could we improve the organisation at Citrix?” We did it in a very engaging and design-focused way, and it was quite fun. The ideas were rolled up to the leadership team and Human Resources, who worked on them in the subsequent year.

For the Sales event, we were asked to do a workshop on design and leadership. Our task was to discover what design meant to a sales leader. It turned into a two-part session. Part 1 was about identifying areas where they wanted to improve. Part 2 was another crowd-sourced brainstorm.

After the two sessions, the sales leadership said “This is great, let’s keep going. Let’s solve these problems and have teams compete and come up with ideas!” That turned into a sales innovation program, which we ran for two quarters and mentored teams on ideation and pitching concepts.

My team said “Yes” to everything because it was new and challenging to us. We wanted to see what we could do. And whether or not the program was a success, we knew we would learn a lot from designing it. The only way for us to become better in spreading design thinking was to embrace failures and iterate on our approach.


9. What is the strategy for the future in terms of design and implementing design thinking? What comes in 2015 and after?

Going forward, we are combining Design Thinking with Lean Startup. Design Thinking is very good for the upfront, i.e. exploring new markets, products, and concepts. Lean Startup comes in once you have a good idea. It gives you guidance how to test, refine, and pivot, and teaches people how to quickly test and iterate a concept. We’re also partnering with our Citrix Startup Accelerator to use a mix of Design Thinking and Lean Startup.

Business Model Canvas (BMC), which is part of Lean Startup, is very helpful. Sometimes you might have a good idea that you’re testing with people, but you haven’t asked good questions about your business model hypothesis, supply chain, etc. BMC draws your attention to these questions.


10. What are your thoughts on the future of Design Thinking?

I’m really fascinated by how Design Thinking and Lean Startup will work together. I wonder what the next step is to tie them more together.

The nice thing about Lean is that it’s liked by engineers and business people because it has structure and measures. It deals with numbers, rather than emotions and ambiguous problem spaces. It’s easy to know when you are doing it.

Design Thinking doesn’t work that way. I can’t tell you if it will take you one hour or or week to develop a breakthrough idea. You can’t structure or proscribe every tool or method you use. It’s a framework for creativity and you need to allow for the process to flow from what you learn on the journey.

That’s the interesting thing: the mushy space where the two processes meet.


This interview is a guest article, which is republished here by kind permission of Elina Zheleva from her blog Designthinkingshower.

The Interviewers: Julie Baher was interviewed on August 14th, 2014 by Elina Zheleva .

Some Facts on Julie Baher

Julie Baher, Group Director, Customer Experience at Citrix is responsible for championing design thinking to drive innovation at the organization. Her Business Design team collaborates with functions across the company to deliver outstanding experiences for customers and employees alike. Hired as Director of UX at Citrix, Julie Baher was responsible for growing the fledgling team and hiring top talent. As the team grew, she built design processes and a program to evangelize design across the organization.

Image Sources

  • Generic-Header-Image-01: ThisIsDesignThinking.net

The Authors

Elina Zheleva

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