The ancient practice of "gather requirements, write code" is long gone. But the new world of user experience design is not as simple as "put the user first". The "balanced approach" aligns the business mission, user needs, and the growing body of knowledge around how users understand and interact with digital products.
A good user experience is of little value unless that experience moves the user toward accomplishing the company's goals. This is why we take the time to explore and define the company's mission, understand the company's brand and products, and consider all constraints and parameters that must be adhered to.
This is, of course, the heart of UXD. Any data that reveals the intent, inclination, or frustration of the user is pure gold, and most likely, the company already knows a lot about their customers. We may challenge, refute, or confirm this data, but we won't ignore it. But nothing can replace direct face-to-face or voice-to-voice interaction with the target audience; watching, listening, probing, and analyzing behaviors, attitudes, successes and failures while using the product.
It goes without saying that UCD is built on user research, but not every design decision will have explicit, local research data to back it up. This is where heuristics and established best practices play an important role. Countless thousands of tests and experiments have resulted in an ever-increasing understanding of human-computer interaction, which, if applied appropriately, can help avoid common pitfalls. And any design that falls short of being fully responsive and accessible has already dismissed whole audience segments. User-Centered Design is the glue the connects the user with the business.