As head of BNY Mellon’s Pittsburgh Innovation Center, Ashley Blankette is focused on providing an environment that fosters collaboration between BNY Mellon’s technology and business partners.
The Center drives active problem-solving with clients and aids in accelerating technology delivery. The 32,000-square-foot facility is home to more than 300 employees and is located in BNY Mellon’s offices at 500 Grant Street in Downtown Pittsburgh. It is one of nine centers worldwide. The Center opened two years ago, and Blankette has been at the helm for six months.
“Pittsburgh is a logical place to invest in an Innovation Center,” said Blankette, a Greensburg native who earned dual degrees in graphic design and communications from Penn State and is also completing coursework from the MIT Innovation and Strategy Executive Certificate Program. “That’s because the local workforce of more than 7,000 BNY Mellon employees makes Pittsburgh the company’s largest U.S. location. Our highly skilled teams in this region support nearly all of BNY Mellon’s global businesses.”
The Innovation Center role is an addition to her position managing BNY Mellon’s User Experience Group, which is based in Pittsburgh. In this capacity, she directs a dozen user experience (UX) designers, visual designers, research strategists and front-end developers who collaborate with business, technology and client partners to deliver technology solutions that align with clients’ needs.
“My career evolution has brought together design, client advocacy and technology,” she said. “It’s fulfilling to focus on productive innovation that has a daily impact on the experience our clients have with BNY Mellon.”
Internally, Blankette’s efforts are focused on helping BNY Mellon’s global technology and business units collaborate in meaningful ways.
“It’s fulfilling to focus on productive innovation that has a daily impact on the experience our clients have with BNY Mellon.”
In contrast, external efforts are dedicated to engaging with the regional technology community. A recent partnership occurred between the Center and Honeycomb, a local fintech, founded last year. Honeycomb’s online platform focuses on bringing a new funding option to community businesses in ways that strengthen ties between businesses and their loyal customer bases. Co-founder George Cook and his team conducted a full day of usability testing in the BNY Mellon UX Lab in Pittsburgh to inform product changes and shape its long-term roadmap. As a result of the usability testing, Honeycomb gained insights that will help shape its application interface and inform growth plans.
Blankette explained that a usability testing session is ran with a product user sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with a UX researcher, either in the context of his or her own office or in one of BNY Mellon’s four global UX Labs. The researcher facilitates the exercise from a pre-defined test plan and asks the user to complete tasks within an application while thinking aloud. The user is encouraged to share instances where he or she feels confused, areas where language or actions are unclear, or any other points of friction or delight while interacting with the product. Observers note the user’s behavior and feedback during the session.
The UX research team then captures insights from multiple testing sessions and creates a report to document findings and recommended modifications to optimize UX. This process enables active improvement and iteration on solutions.
“Usability testing is particularly powerful in combination with Agile Software Development practice, which enables improvements to be quickly prioritized and addressed in two-to-four week development ‘sprints,’” Blankette said. “This accelerates delivery of enhancements to our clients in a fraction of the time it takes to bring changes to market through traditional waterfall methods.”
The Innovation Center and User Experience Group employ Design Thinking methods. According to Blankette, “In practice, our approach puts people and their needs at the center of the process. We believe that the best solutions emerge when we collaborate with clients through empathy-building, ideation and iteration.”
Article by Todd Miller | Photos by Brian Cohen