Organisational change and UX strategy

by Richard Johnston on 3 September 2013
UX Strategy: “A formalised plan to ensure User Experience design work delivers maximum success in terms of meeting both user and business requirements” The success of your designs rests not only on an ability to interpret user or customer requirements, but also the needs of your organisations. A large part of our role as a UX agency is to collaborate effectively with the people who are in charge of deploying and maintaining our designs. We find that our ability to communicate a clear ‘UX strategy’ to clients (e.g. how a good user centred design can be built, launched and maintained) is just as important as communicating what a good user centred design looks like, is laid out, or works.

Trusting a designer to reorganise your company

You have embarked on a user centred-design project - you've listened to and engaged your stakeholders and developers throughout the design discussions, performed round after round of user research to design and refine your wireframes, prototypes, and visual design to perfection.  Tada, your designs are ready to be built and your future success is all but guaranteed, right? Tactically yes, this will be necessary to get your work live, but strategically this does not guarantee the long-term ability of the designs to be maintained and adapted to continually meet the needs of the users you've built them for (as well as providing revenue or meeting KPIs). It's essential to advise your clients on how to ensure the culture, processes and organisational structures are in place for the future success of the design concepts. The responsibility of practitioners to influence how a company is structured to meet the needs of their users is currently a topic of heated debate, not just within the UX field but also the wider business world. There's momentum growing behind the opinion that we (as responsible design practitioners) need to effectively communicate and help shape the way those who will implement and maintain our designs work together.

The user-centred organisation

In practice putting users first, creating a UX strategy and thus moving towards becoming a user-centred organisation can  be difficult. Often there’s a desire to 'do right' by users or customers but owing to the nature of the rapidly maturing digital market, and how regularly people’s use of technology changes, putting users first can be hard. Teams or individuals in charge of digital often have enough on their plate, never mind trying to find ways to innovate or cut costs to meet changes in audience’s needs. This can be an indication that an organisation needs to consider the following for its digital teams:
  • More efficient workflows
  • Updated role definitions
  • New or easier processes
In my experience the best way to establish a coherent UX strategy is to begin by engaging key digital stakeholders, asking questions such as:
  • Who are your users or customers; what do you understand about their digital needs, and is it possible to prioritise their requirements?
  • Realistically what do you want to achieve from your digital presence, and is this in the short, mid, or long term?
  • Roles and responsibilities of those in charge of digital; is it clear who is doing what, and are they happy to do so or do they have the time to be doing it?
Simply listening to such discussions gives direction. Subsequently it's important to collaborate closely with wider stakeholders to determine what it will take to ensure the success of future UX design work. In the process of developing a robust UX strategy and ensuring appropriate delivery and maintenance of the work  you'll typically discover ways to best advise clients on organisational matters.

Tips for harmonising organisational change with UX strategy

To build on the initial 'listening phase' there are a range of  techniques that we often use at Webcredible to formally define how to deliver a UX strategy that also encourages organisational change. To give you a flavour, below is a sample of those which I have found to work well:
  1. Stakeholder engagement activities: Hold private workshops, listen to individuals, gain an insight of the functionality and features deemed as necessary (and possible). Demonstrate back to wider audiences your understanding and agree (as a team) that something needs to be done together to move forward
  2. User research analysis:If you haven’t truly listened or observed behaviours, and deeply understood the nature of your intended audience then you’re taking a risk. Take what is learned from stakeholders and match it to what is known about the audience. If there appears to be holes suggest user research techniques to gain a fuller picture. In true user-centred design fashion do this first
  3. Define a vision statement to share internally: Develop a concise and effective statement of what forthcoming design work will hope to achieve. Tell a story of what this will mean for the both end users and the business. Back this up with mock ups of what greatness looks like, either through rough sketches of concepts, simple wireframes or visual designs.
  4. Create a prioritised schedule of work: Identify the steps necessary to deliver (and continue to deliver) your UX work to the full. Liaise with key stakeholders to start thinking about time frames, identify some rough dates and stages of work to meet with anticipated budgets. This may be more detailed for what could take place in the near future (e.g. quick wins, or pre-launch), and slightly rougher for how it can be maintained (e.g. optimisation / larger updates post launch).
  5. Communicate required organisational changes: Be sure to communicate the organisational changes that will be required (if any) to ensure the scheduled work can happen, and is delivered post-launch. To document these recommendations simply and effectively we often create:
  • Validated flow diagrams to suggest processes/workflows and individual responsibilities
  • Organisational charts to suggest team structures and roles
  • Training programmes for both teams and individuals to learn the necessary skills to maintain and develop good user and customer experiences in the mid to long term
A properly formulated user experience strategy can not only be an invaluable tool on a project level, ensuring your user-centred designs are properly looked after, but it can encourage positive organisational change. What is your opinion on UX strategy and organisational change? Please do share your thoughts!

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