When implemented correctly UX research will create better products and delight customers. It also has the benefit of transforming how groups work together to support a single vision.
When working in a large organization, how do you choose the right path forward if visions clash between divisions? This is a critical question. Disparate interests often lead to silos, and silos lead to stalled progress and conflict.
When technical and business goals collide
In the software realm, tensions often arise between two groups: UX teams and business units. Simply put, UX and sales or marketing tend to care about very different metrics. Disputes often emerge from differing incentives driven by the goals and mindsets of the two teams. Typically, the “business side” wants to maximize financial impact while the UX side cares most about the design and infrastructure of the product.
Let’s say an investment bank is designing a content management tool to distribute thought leadership publications to clients. The sales team has one vision of the product’s interface while the UX team wants to implement a different solution. Listening to conversations between these groups, you’ll hear many people say “I think” rather than relying on facts and evidence. With 20 to 30 people on the project, you’ll find many opinions but no clear direction.
The process — if there is one — is haphazard and even political, with one division “winning out” over the other in the end. The result is either stalemate or a sub-optimal content delivery system that never gains traction.
The same situation is often true for a tech startup that’s designing a new feature for a product. Even if the end users are programmers or other individuals who work in the building, this tension can take over the whole conversation instead of bringing relevant voices into the room.
Let go of my ego
Eventually, something has to give — especially when egos are at play. If not, you end up with a compromised solution that doesn’t satisfy the UX unit, the business unit, and most importantly the user.
Research provides both UX and business units with objective information to leverage when designing software. With a well-organized research operation, you not only remove much of the tension between divisions, but you build products that users love.
Actionable research ultimately leads to better, more objective decision-making by taking egos out of the equation. This happens because the user or customer opinion becomes the key evidence for hard choices. Instead of hypothesizing how a customer will react to a new product or a change to a product, you and your team will actually see that reaction — all in real-time. From this process, the best ideas rise to the top.
Why UX research works
Intuitively, it makes sense: any good business strategy needs feedback from customers — especially when software is the product. Well established research operations force divisional silos to “get out of the building” and begin to ignore the politics that naturally bubble up when making substantial product decisions.
Instead of relying on a multitude of assumptions (many of which may be biased by an individual group’s incentives), the assumptions are stress-tested by users — whether they are aware of it or not. While it may be uncomfortable to confront some truths, incorporating users in the design process forces you to face the facts.
Granted, you do not have to follow user feedback each and every time. Users may lead you in the wrong direction if not properly managed. It’s critical to work with qualified researchers who will establish a plan that embraces the right target audience and methodology, know how to interpret and synthesize the findings, and will provide meaningful recommendations that serve the business goals.
Structuring teams and workflows
Ultimately, UX and business units must work together to integrate research into their process. The goal is to break down barriers and build more cohesion around a single vision. Both groups will begin embracing UX research because they are more invested in the process and have seen the value first-hand.
With everyone aligned, making choices becomes simpler. There is less wasted time, better decisions are made, and users are happier — the ideal scenario.
Companies tend to structure UX research teams in one of two ways: either UX designers are conducting and incorporating the learnings themselves, or a distinct research team provides the product designers with the information. When the same person does it all, the process can be simpler, but you also risk spreading the designers too thin across many responsibilities and areas of expertise. When a separate team does the research, you get a higher degree of specialization, but the team needs a reliable process to ensure insights are actionable.
A third option, which works well for companies without an existing research team, is to partner with an outside firm. Consultants can conduct high-quality research and teach existing staff how to use it.
No matter how you go about it, close collaboration and translating the research into actionable results is imperative. De-siloing only improves when everyone is brought into the process.
You can also learn more about leveraging UX research to build high-performance software in our executive’s guide — a company of any size can benefit from the strategic insights that UX research provides. Reach out to our team to learn more about how we can help: firstname.lastname@example.org