In a typical UX project the stakeholders you deal with include engineers, product managers, UX designers, quality assurance as well as senior managers and c-level executives. This diversity presents significant challenges. Each has different skills, contexts, and pressures. Some are so specialized that they may not understand each other and many of them will have only the haziest understanding of what you do! At last week’s QRCA “Flex Your UX” summit, I offered ideas for how to work effectively with stakeholders, so that UX becomes a binding force. Here is the gist of my advice:
1. SEEK ALLIES
Teammates who value what you do and apply research learnings directly to their work. Focus on forming trusting relationships with peers as well as stakeholders at high levels, even if they are not actively participating in the research. High-level support needs to be visible because it reinforces the integral nature of your contribution which makes it easier for you to be effective.
2. SHOW STAKEHOLDERS THEIR IMPACT
Show the stakeholders how their contribution makes an impact on the research. Stakeholders should be able to see concretely how their needs will be met by your research. For example, the usability study discussion guide should call out objectives for questions and tasks that map directly to stakeholder information needs and concerns. Use private conversations and workshops to uncover the diverse needs of your stakeholders.
3. INVOLVE THEM IN THE ACTUAL RESEARCH
People learn about end users through direct observation, so always invite stakeholders to observe your sessions. If you know and trust the person, it’s fine to ask 2-3 stakeholders to accompany you on an in-home visit or other research activity, but make sure to explain your role clearly and tactfully as the moderator and theirs as the note-taker, camera man, etc. To accommodate a larger group set up a back room with piped in video from a study. Ask a colleague who understands UX to manage the group and help folks process what they are seeing.
4. LET THEM ANALYZE THE RESULTS
Debrief continuously with stakeholders as you move through your study. This gives you a chance to really understand their perspective and the impact the findings have on their area of responsibility. In a usability study debrief, compare notes on how well participants completed tasks, what went well, where they struggled. At the end of a study sponsor a “roundup” workshop where the team reviews all the findings, decides on issues, solutions, and priorities. The Affinity Diagramming technique is a very effective team decision making tool for these types of workshops.
5. MEET EVERYONE’S NEEDS WITH YOUR REPORTING
Your report needs to be succinct and actionable. It can be multi-media or written, but its primary purpose is as a record of team decision making with a punch-list of action steps. The report should also contain no surprises because throughout the whole research process you have worked with stakeholders to identify the issues, prioritized them, and develop solutions. Layer the information – separating summarized from detailed findings because some stakeholders (e.g., C-level executives, product managers) care most about the summary while others (engineers and UI Designers) need to see the details.
Overall though, your success always hinges on how well you work with the people around you. So keep it human!
Here’s a link to a published article on my talk from the Spring 2022 edition of the QRCA VIEWS Magazine.