Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Who are the UX Strategists

UX is not just a single business or technical project, it is an important element of your digital strategy.

UX is the conjunction point of ideas, purpose and human understanding. Companies with many products and services need an experience strategy that brings a unified experience design to the entire ecosystem. But who are the UX strategists, and how do they design an overarching UX strategy which is an integral part of business strategy, and how do UX teams switch between UX strategy mode and design mode more seamlessly?

A genuine UX Designer has to be a UX strategist. Creating user experience design process and applying UX methodologies and fundamental principles to product design and development is not UX strategy. Only when a UX designer can position themselves to work alongside the BA, content specialists and marketers can then influence the overall strategy. It means making sure all of your activities are geared towards supporting the product owner to form a vision for the product. Ultimately the user experience is only as good as that which you can build and release, and to influence the roadmap continuously,  you need to be able to feed insight at the right time whilst having a true desire to support product owners in making effective decisions. The UX specific skills to be most effectively utilized in this space are (a) the ability to facilitate design thinking (b) the ability to convert insight into meaningful opportunities for the business and (c) the ability to empathize and understand a range of needs (including that of the internal technical and product teams). There is an inevitable overlap between product owner and UX strategy roles that can either make or break that relationship.

UX strategists are also someone outside the product and service design teams who can create an overall strategy: It guides the design of the entire product and service ecosystem, orchestrating all of the touchpoints to the brand. This "North Star" that guides product and service design should derive from business strategy and brand strategy, but is not identical to them, because those strategies don't prescribe specific experience design direction. Product managers can't determine the overall experience strategy unless the company only has one product. It's not that a product manager can't come up with a strategy for more than one product, in practice, the other products have other product managers who are responsible for their own products. Politically they have no authority to develop an experience strategy for the other products and services. It is impossible for different product owners to create a single overarching experience strategy that all of the other product owners will adhere to, so that the customer has one single branded experience that delivers long-term competitive advantage. This is where experience strategy comes in. It sits outside product teams. The business strategy and brand strategy are not nearly prescriptive enough to give all of the product and service design teams this North Star that they all need to conform to in terms of customer experience. Usually nobody on a product team has enough authority for that. The companies who are able to develop a customer experience strategy that encompasses all of their designed products, services, and customer touchpoints will win. This is the realm of UX strategy. It is beyond any individual product owner, unless the company only has one product.

Either an individual designer or team needs to work on UX strategy mode and design mode simultaneously. That is, one needs to give time to both strategy and designing (switching between both seamlessly). Without strategy, a designer can start to lose the bigger picture. Without design, the grand plan never gets implemented or is done adequately. Even if a UX team is split between those who focus more on product strategy and those who focus more closely on design elements, they must work more collaboratively to make seamless design following the strategy, develop skills - either individually or within a team in visualizing the strategy and implement it. Perhaps when UX artifacts are allowed to be used as tools to bring people together, reveal solutions vs just dictating specifications for others to follow, and then, strategy and vision can be embraced by all - not limited to a role or individual.

UX is not just a single business or technical project, it is an important element of your digital strategy, from research to planning; from multi-lenses inquiries to multiple-stage reviews; from visual arts to wire frames, it is not just about a user interface, but an end-to-end” customer experience and about your brand and competency. It is an integral part of business strategy. It is all about partnerships and, indeed, in making others successful which in turn makes UX strategists successful. UX needs to be owned by the business, not by UX team alone; only then can you get the best experience.


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