One of the great challenges of UX people is to convince the C-suite that UX is a serious, strategically important discipline that is utterly needed to achieve digital success with the company’s customers. As a result more ill-conceived projects and initiatives that I care to mention are being funded and launched. And then failure sets in.
Given that UX’ers have as part of their DNA to be grounded in the end user/customer perspective, these good people should have the best opportunity to help their companies navigate towards success. So how do they convince their CxO’s that that is the case.
Recently I gave a talk on this subject at the IT University of Denmark, and I wanted to add 3 little pieces of advice here. So here goes.
First and foremost UX’ers need to step out of the craftsman-role and look beyond their traditional role and be the advocates of making sure that the real problems, needs and wants of the end user/customer is understood well in advance of sketching anything. This should be done through field work, a variety of interviews, analysis and what have you.
The reason for this is that while most companies have a fairly good understanding of what they do and produce, they have preciously little understanding of what problems and needs they solve and fundamentally what the job that the customer is trying to get done that results in ‘hiring’ the companies product or service.
Understanding this is absolutely key to securing success. And as I said: The understanding is not there today at any real scale. It’s Blue Ocean for UX’ers.
But before the UX people get mandated to go out and explore, they need to let their voices be heard. And this is my second advice: Learn to speak up – respectfully – to your bosses. Point out that the approach so far has been failing and that there is a better way. And point it out even though you’re essentially saying they haven’t done their jobs that good so far. Don’t be afraid of the backlash. Do what’s necessary. Speak truth to power.
For many this is hard. Both because a lot of creative people are not comfortable with conflict (with their bosses at least) and because they fear the backlash towards their careers. But believe me: There is more future in embarking on a new and better way of doing things rather than continuing to ‘put lipstick on a pig’, which is essentially what is happening a lot of places.
The final piece of advice is to just go out and do something. Ask for forgiveness rather than permission. Don’t be so nice all the time. Too nice people seldom get on the radar of their bosses and thus don’t earn either the respect or the mandate for helping to drive real change. Of course I’m not suggesting you should be a jerk. I’m just suggesting finding some middle ground.
It will make a world of difference.