Interviews

Lola Oyelayo

Director, Head London

Creativebrief

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Career to date:

2015 - Head London (Director of Strategy & User Experience)
2011 - Head London (User Experience Director)
2010 - RMA Consulting (Information Architect)
2008 - UK Usability Professionals Association (Events Co-ordinator)
2007 - Flow Interactive Ltd. (User Experience Consultant)
2005 - Mott MacDonald (Business Analyst)
2003 - Mott MacDonald (Business Graduate)

 

Creativebrief: As Director of Strategy and UX of Head London what is your primary focus?

Lola Oyelayo: My focus is Digital Transformation, helping our clients to re-design their businesses to implement a culture of user-centred, digital first solutions.

I help organisations to see the bigger picture and mitigate their “me too” tendencies, with meaningful, impactful and tangible product visions which they can actually execute.

It’s all about being able to map the pragmatic path to that vision; combining their existing strengths, new skills and practices, and a bit of bravery to unlock their digital potential.  

“I see new technologies as canvases for possibilities. They open doors in our minds about things we didn’t think were possible. I get fired up imagining all the micro-revolutions these things will bring.”

 

Creativebrief: Please share a para on your career to date – specifically talking us through the high points.

Lola Oyelayo: I have a multi-disciplinary background having worked as a Business Analyst, UX Researcher and Interaction Designer. I studied engineering at university and later did an MSc in Human-Computer Interaction before moving into UX.

I’ve always been more about application than theory. In any role I’ve had, I end up gravitating towards making things happen, and away from more open-ended design thinking.

A high point for me was adopting Agile, I don’t know how we ever built software any other way. Projects that go wrong usually boil down to poor expectation management and over-stacking delivery. Agile doesn’t solve all of that, but it puts good structures in place to better manage outputs. It empowers organisations, taking down the defensive walls between strategy and delivery.

Re-shaping business around new technologies and ideas, understanding how to make the investment case marry up with the commercial and experience imperatives, keeps me on my toes.

Creativebrief: What’s unique about your agency / business? Why did you join Head London?

Lola Oyelayo: When you work for a design or research-only agency it can be very easy to critique your clients with a parade of problems or shift the blame when the product doesn’t come out the way you intended. At Head, we build what we spec. Because we focus on delivering real commercial results, it naturally makes us more conscientious and innovative on our client’s behalf.

We seek to leave behind a legacy with our clients by helping them to help themselves. No one wants to be dependent on an agency indefinitely, so we teach our clients how to do what we do. It’s hugely empowering for us and better for our clients.

“Digital literacy, personalisation and multi-device behaviour will continue to evolve quickly and getting the right content to the right consumers in the right places at the right time is an increasingly algorithmic task!”

 

Creativebrief: Who are the people new to you (either within your business or externally) who have particularly impressed you in the last twelve months?​​​

Lola Oyelayo: I’m constantly impressed by the work of the Government Digital Service. They are not perfect by any means, but the transformative nature of what they have achieved over three years, given the complexity of policy and law, is amazing. I often say to our clients, if Government can launch new digital services for things like Tax, benefits and even DVLA in 12-16 weeks, commercial organisations have no excuse.

I hear a lot of people dismissing GDS because it’s ‘easier’ in government or ‘they have lots of cash.’ GDS has about 400 people, government employs roughly 5million and the services they deliver touch all 64.1million of us. The ratios are exemplary of the best digital businesses out there. The service design-led approach has really worked to reframe out-dated worldviews and processes. Not everyone can take the GDS approach wholesale, however, they’re an inspiring team and we are all benefiting from their work.

Creativebrief: What has been your agency’s best work in the last year?​​​​​

Lola Oyelayo: We built a big data engine for a client that helped their product teams understand what was happening with their customers across all their products and touch-points. It meant that a Product Manager or UX person could get a robust view of what people were doing, how they were doing it and what they felt about it.

It was fairly complex bringing the qualitative together with the quantitative and making that experience navigable for an end user. The results however were significant. Our client has been able to take on the development baton from us, building out new data views. In turn, we have continued to push the edges of what’s possible with it and recently completed a prototype for a voice-activated interface for store managers to use the data in a more real-time way.

 

Creativebrief: Industry wide, what work has excited you most this year?

Lola Oyelayo: The government’s new identity scheme Gov.UK Verify is very exciting (and scary). They’ve essentially tried to create a totally new paradigm for managing your own identity when you interact with government.

We already have to give private companies a lot of information for our TV or energy bills. Verify allows these companies to tell the government we are who we say we are without having to share the same level of detail with the government themselves. It reduces the bureaucracy (which costs us all money) and makes it more straightforward for us to interact with the services we need.

I can see how security and privacy advocates might be worried, but what I like is that it gives us a digital way of managing proof. Many of us don’t receive paper bills anymore and the government is trying to provide digital verification mechanisms that make sense for the way we live.

Creativebrief: Who or what inspires you?​​​

Lola Oyelayo: I see new technologies as canvases for possibilities. They open doors in our minds about things we didn’t think were possible. I get fired up imagining all the micro-revolutions these things will bring. But I’m also ruthless in looking for the ‘so what’ in everything. I really believe I work in one of the most innovative fields in the world and that inspires me every day.

I should probably also add that I’m a big fan of Elon Musk. He is clearly a very shrewd and successful business man, but he is a passionate innovator. He doesn’t accept the ‘this is how we’ve always done it’ mantra. He is infinitely curious and if he thinks there is a better way, then we can be certain he will carve a path. We need more people like Elon.

“We also seek to leave behind a legacy with our clients by helping them to help themselves. No one wants to be dependent on an agency indefinitely, so we teach our clients how to do what we do. It’s hugely empowering for us and better for our clients.”

 

Creativebrief: How do you stay in-touch with the industry’s best work and culturally relevant news?

Lola Oyelayo: It’s tough, there is always a new trend, design pattern, outcry, critique or new tech to stay on top of. I have feed readers and I subscribe to blogs, I’m on twitter and Medium as well. 

Creativebrief: What do you think are going to be the main challenges for agencies in the next two years?

Lola Oyelayo: I think agencies, like a lot of their clients, are facing a period of transition. We have all become experts at selling something we felt our clients needed. But with digital disruption and the commoditisation of certain technologies, agencies have to consider how they flex to keep in touch with our clients’ emergent needs. We need new skills ourselves and we have to help our clients solve ever more complex challenges. Agencies that survive in two years will look very different to what they are today. I think ultimately, that’s a good thing.

nhs.uk prototype by Head London
 

Creativebrief: How do you see the media landscape unfolding in the next five years?

Lola Oyelayo: As per the above, elements of marketing and digital media are being commoditised, whilst other parts are increasingly less relevant. Digital literacy, personalisation and multi-device behaviour will continue to evolve quickly and getting the right content to the right consumers in the right places at the right time is an increasingly algorithmic task. Who knows, we might start seeing job titles like ‘Data Creative’ to satisfy the need for compelling data-driven services.

Creativebrief: What’s your attitude to the ‘traditional’ pitch? Do you think there is a better/more modern way?

Lola Oyelayo: RFP & Pitch processes haven’t evolved well. Many RFPs are poorly written as an inadvertent consequence of trying to ask for help whilst mitigating every known risk.

Hiring an agency should be like hiring an architect. Yes we can help you realise your vision, but in reality, your needs evolve as you get more information on what you want. Things come to light when you get stuck into making real (not theoretical) decisions. And some of those decisions are born out of constraints, which can be a positive driver. Too many clients see hiring agencies as buying a guaranteed outcome. I think anyone who has ever hired an architect knows that it’s like selecting a partner and trusting them to guide you on a journey.

I’d love to see clients exploring new ways of working over guaranteed outputs. I’d love for RFPs to be replaced by light briefs and Q&A sessions (yes let’s get all your agencies in one room) where much more richness can be added. I’d like to see pitches as interactive sessions, rather than the stilted performance acts they tend to be today, with BOTH the agency and client attendees expecting to participate.

“I’m constantly impressed by the work of the Government Digital Service. They are not perfect by any means, but the transformative nature of what they have achieved over three years, given the complexity of policy and law, is amazing. I often say to our clients, if Government can launch new digital services for things like Tax, benefits and even DVLA in 12-16 weeks, commercial organisations have no excuse!

 

Creativebrief: What’s the best pitch you’ve been involved in?

Lola Oyelayo: Where we end up having detailed conversations about doing the work. When the whole room gets involved in exploring some thoughts we’ve had and get excited about where that can take them, then we ditch the deck and get stuck in. 

Comparatively, in the worst pitch I’ve been in, it became clear the client was doing a bit of a show for procurement. They clearly knew who they wanted and should have just selected them without putting us or themselves through the morbidly quiet 40 mins

Creativebrief: What’s the next big thing for Head London?

Lola Oyelayo: We’re growing and evolving. Realising that we can teach our clients how to do what we do, and help them on better digital growth journeys is very exciting.