Sunday, July 19, 2015

How to Initiate a Strategic Conversation about UX

UX Strategy is not just that empathetic understanding of people, but the ability to frame it as a compelling story.
Being customer-centric is the strategic goal for many forward-looking organizations, UX/CX (User/Customer Experience) plays more significant role today. However, many of business leaders still do not understand the strategic impact and brand effect it can bring to the organization’s long term success. For example, how UX strategy like marketing strategy or product strategy forms, influences or informs part of an organizational business strategy which in turn expresses corporate strategy would be extremely useful to explore. What are interactions you've observed and what problems have they exposed and how were they solved. Where does and should UX strategy sit? Is it the strategy you use to guide UX work? Is it about using UX tools to create product- or organizational strategy? Is it simply UX work that has strategic impact? Would it be possible to talk about ways of UX influencing companies to address the vital part of their business strategy.
There are two level of UX understanding - UX as a Strategy; and UX as a Practice and Execution: The confusion around just what UX is (a profession? practice? strategy? design?) is due to its encompassing two distinctly different things: strategy and definition on one side, and practice/craft/execution on the other. Should you really be narrowing the conversation at this point? Or was the point to extend a sensational meme? You surely have to be cognizant of and have a strategic approach to execute good UX work, and it is not simply a product strategy. A product strategy will typically include the business model, marketing, sales, etc... as well as a strategy for UX. Rarely is UX the entirety of a product. Additionally, your strategy for influencing a user experience may be specific to one product or be driven across the portfolio of products. Many times the proposed strategy requires some degree of organizational alignment in order to execute or sustain the solution. This quickly becomes 'Change Management' territory. UX Strategy shouldn’t sit in its own little box, but really needs to connect into and become the fabric for how an organization thinks, breathes and acts. Talk about that, talk about the things that people care about - the people (customers and our fellow employees), the processes, the ways of thinking that lead to bettering ourselves and our world. Talk about how design thinking changes everything.


UX informs or influences a company's core strategy. That is a critical aspect of our future and a significantly under utilized competitive advantage. Considering how broad and passionate the UX Strategy conversation is, from in-house groups to external consulting firms, it would be great to see a few cases of what worked, what didn't work, what could have been done different. There are several aspects covered under the broad definition of UX Strategy - (1) Organization Design, Strategy and Transformation, (2) Corporate Strategy vs. Product Strategy vs. UX Strategy, (3) UX work of strategic impact, and what are the key elements that distinguish that work from "tactical level, tactical impact." (4) Positive and negative impact of corporate culture in UX Strategy, (5) Key People roles that manifest in a successful UX strategy transformation, and last but not least (6) Measuring UX strategic impact.


UX Strategy is not just that empathetic understanding of people, but the ability to frame it as a compelling story. Point out that UX Strategy, at heart is very simple. You take it account users' needs, behaviors, and desires, and figure out how you can deliver on that. This is in contrast to technologically-driven strategy, and market-driven strategy. However, too often UX people confuse methods for solutions. Methods exist to help you arrive at solutions, but they are not solutions themselves. It's not sufficient to do research and craft personas. That UX Strategy really comes into its own as an organization scales, because the organization needs a compelling story that ties together the efforts of people who are otherwise not able to directly interact.  


UX, CX, service design, cross channel, cross silo customer centered holistic business models are the fabric to weave into a customer-centric organization. How to build a customer-centric organization is the top priority of any forward-thinking organizations today, and they continue to navigate the journey via questioning: “what is UX Strategy." “how do we effectively implement UX Strategy organizationally" and also down to "how can UX be brought into the Agile process?" Now these questions are less heard in organizations as UX Strategy is defined and in its early days of maturity, and Agile as a candidate replacement product development lifecycle model is now being more thought of and implemented as a part and phase of a larger PDLC—of which UX Strategy is in part outside of the Agile phase to reach a tailored user experience outcome. Now that UX Strategy and the UX Strategy conversation has moved on from existential inquiry, on to definition and now on to day-to-day implementation at large organizations.


The UX conversation needs to focus on communicating the importance of a customer centric business strategy, from a vision statement that includes the benefit for the customer and mapping project outcomes back to said vision. As a general rule of thumb, when using “UX” in a sentence, if you want it to mean, or could replace it with “Pretty pictures” - and be happy with the definition, then you're not going to get the full benefit of what true UX can bring. The in-depth conversation about UX needs to go to the strategic level. Eventually UX will have a clear position in every organization and company. No one will question its existence and it will be a natural part of strategy in customer-centric organizations.

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