I’ve noticed a recent shift in the kinds of projects I have been getting from clients. Very often, rather than building a website, app or other solution which will be used by end users I am being asked to use user experience techniques to help visualise a business strategy. In many cases this strategy can have little to no technical component. So how can we apply our UX toolkit when we aren’t actually building anything?
Strategy Impacts People
The fact that we aren’t creating an end product in these kind of projects may be scary at first, but if you take a step back you will notice that your skill set is still perfectly applicable. Any change a business makes to it’s strategy; technological or otherwise, is going to have an impact either on it’s employees, it’s customers or both.
Fortunately for us that means it is a human centric problem we are being asked to solve, and that’s what we do best!
Understanding the Business
This type of project means you need to get down into the nitty gritty of what the business is about, perhaps more so then you would on a standard design and build project. That makes things such as identifying stakeholders, understanding additional work streams and managing feedback even more important. Luckily we have put together a guide on surviving a new UX project giving you a few quick tips on how to do this.
More than likely you will have a fair amount of strategy related documents to review. Taken on their own they may be hard to understand so if possible try and find someone from the client side who can walk you through. Keep a record of everything you’ve been sent, and by who. It can be useful later on for verifying how you have come up with your proposals and for doing a handover once the project finishes.
Identify Design Principles
Design principles are something which may or may not be defined already for the strategy. If you aren’t sure what they are they are basically ‘mission statements’ of what the strategy should be, or aims to be. To get a good idea of some I recommend looking at the British government’s design principles on Gov.uk.
Design principles are important as they help give both you and the client an idea of what the most important impacts will be. It can also help in deciding which user journeys you want to focus on after you have done your user research.
Understanding the impacts
Depending on the project there could be one of two angles to what you deliver. You may be being asked to provide recommendations for changes to the proposed strategy based on user needs, or you could simply be providing a representation to the business of what their strategy impacts will be on their employees or customers.In most cases I have found that personas and user journeys are the best way to cover off either of these two requirements.
With this kind of work sometimes you will be unable to disclose to people you speak to about the new strategy. This is because sometimes it can involve things such as job losses or pay cuts. In that situation you need to understand how the person operates in the current model and rely on information from the client and the materials you have reviewed to gain a picture as to how their life will change.
Using Personas and User Journeys to Visualise Strategy
Personas and user journeys allow you to do visualise a strategy in an easily understandable way. By creating a picture of a current employee/customer and their common tasks the client will be more easily able to identify where the major impacts will be due to any new strategy.
The process you go through to create your personas and user journeys isn’t vastly different as you will be using your standard user research toolkit. The key difference may be that you will not necessarily be focussing on future technology or functionality.
This work tends to be highly iterative. New strategies often have many different stakeholders feeding in and it’s not unusual for no single person in the business to have the full picture. For this reason you should keep your personas and user journeys simple, normally just text based is fine for the early stages as you will be changing them often!
Who is the work for?
After you have a set of personas and journeys more or less complete it is important to understand how they will be used by the business after you roll off the project. If it is being used to sell the strategy into an executive committee for example you may wish to discuss making some of the journeys more visual by getting illustrations done for them. You may also want to bring out the relevant design principles in some way. If the work is being used to recommend changes to the strategy, make sure these are highlighted.
It is important to identify who on the client side will be taking the work forward, and make sure you fully handover all materials to them. Ensure they understand what you have delivered, who you have spoken to and any documents you have reviewed.
Hardcore business strategy can be intimidating, but by using our UX skillset we can make it a little more user friendly to understand.
Have you been asked to do a UX project like this? How did you approach it? Let us know in the comments.