UX Strategy: defining and executing strategies for your UX projects and UX teams
Advanced Session, presented by Steve Baty.
UX Strategy: competition, competency, alignment & fit. Gain an understanding of what these simple terms mean for you, and the user experience you’re trying to implement.
This session will discuss some of the basics of corporate strategy: competitive advantage, value creation, strategic alignment & fit, execution, and competencies; as well as how these concept can shape and assist us in developing and executing user experience strategies in our project work; and in the management of our user experience teams.
Steve will look at the role of strategy in directing and channeling activities towards common goals; discuss some simple questions you can ask to help highlight strategic issues within your organization; and look at some of the ways in which UX teams can make themselves more relevant, and better prepared to contribute to organizational goals in the future.
Founder & Principal Consultant at Meld, Steve has over 13 years’ experience in the design and delivery of e-business services. Steve is a well-known practitioner in the area of experience strategy and architecture, writing articles for industry publications and presenting at local conferences.
Steve has, over the past four years, led user experience teams to develop online strategies and experience architectures for clients across a broad spread of industries including: tourism, travel, transport, consumer electronics, manufacturing, government, and the arts. These include projects for the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage & the Arts; Maersk Line - the world’s largest container shipping company; oneworld Alliance - the world’s leading airline alliance; YHA Australia; and Fuji Xerox Australia. Steve is currently working with the NSW Department of Education & Training to redefine and reinvent the role of its staff Intranet in the capacity of lead UX Strategist.
Steve holds post-graduate degrees in electronic commerce (M.Ec) and business administration (MBA) from the Macquarie Graduate School of Management; and a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics (Physical Mathematics & Applied Statistics) from the University of Technology, Sydney.
Ten questions for Steve Baty
- When you say UX strategy, are you talking about an end (‘Our strategy is to have a UX like [...]') or a means (‘Our strategy for delivering a great UX is [...]')?
- Actually, I mean both. A strategy has two components: a goal or purpose; and a plan on how to achieve it. A goal without a plan is just a dream; a plan without a goal is a waste of time!
- Does this session require an understanding and experience with strategy development with the application of competitive advantage, value creation, strategic alignment & fit, execution, and competencies? And if so to what degree, and if not what degree of understanding of the above is required.
- No background reading or knowledge is required. Although this is an ‘advanced’ session, the aim is to run through the basic concepts first and build up a picture of strategy in a UX context.
- There won’t be any stats in this talk will there?
- Hehe, no. This year’s presentation is a distinct departure for me as far as topics go, although it’s much closer to the work I actually carry out on a day to day basis. The good news is that I’ll have a whole line of fresh jokes and quotes to go with the new topic!
- Will you be addressing in the ways UX Strategy is different to other business environments/industries? What similarities/commonalities can be carried over?
- I’ll be talking about fairly general strategy concepts and how those can be applied to UX. I won’t be going into any detail on how, say, UX strategies differ from IT strategies or logistics strategies. We will, though, be discussing the application of strategy to both the way we think about user experience; and the way we structure and focus our UX teams.
- How central of a role should ux strategy play? Can projects fumble through without considering these issues? Has the industry evolved enough now such that greater attention to strategy is demanded to stay competitive?
- User experience is something that cuts right across the organization. It is the tangible manifestation of the organization’s reason for being, translating the brand values into a series of identifiable and actionable experience characteristics. To execute a UX strategy requires the coordinated efforts of the entire organization, and, as such, should sit close to the centre of the organization’s overall strategy. However, organizations can, and do, ‘fumble through’ without considering UX as a strategic issue; it’s entirely possibly that they don’t consider IT, logistics, HR or finance in strategic terms either - without necessarily stopping them appearing successful. I do believe, however, and this is a view shared by the business community, that the pace of change has increased; that the need for innovation in all areas of the organization has increased; and that the ability to look beyond the immediate concerns of today’s challenges - to take a strategic view - is becoming more important for all organizations.
- Is this something only the suits should bother themselves about, or could rank and file developers/designers/etc be aware of the issues too?
- I think strategy is something of which everyone should be aware, regardless of where they sit in the organization. It’s particularly important to have a good handle on strategy when looking to progress your career beyond hands-on production (architecture, design or development) and into higher-level project work such as team leadership, or management roles. But I firmly believe that you can do a better job in the trenches if you understand the terrain and know where your work fits into the overall picture.
- Do you think everyone can do strategy, or does it take a particular mindset?
- Yes, it takes a particular mindset, but I think it’s possible for most people to lift their eyes, so to speak, and look at the issue with a broader perspective. I think some people are more suited to strategy development, though, and strategic thinking. This requires the ability to see the possibilities over time; to recognise connections between disparate concepts; and to design ways in which these connections can be used to enhance the whole. It also requires that we set aside our own judgments about what a ‘good’ user experience might be, and focus instead on what the ‘appropriate’ user experience should be in this circumstance, and that can be a really difficult thing for people to do.
- Why is it that this aspect of a project is usually done so poorly or not at all?
- There are so many possible answers to this question - one for every organization and project out there. Defining good strategy isn’t easy; and executing it well can be even harder: but that’s no excuse not to do it!
- How can we stop people jumping into solutioneering and details when we need them to be thinking about what the goal is first
- You really need to build into the process an expectation that both the end-point and the plan are clearly defined before you get started on the implementation details. I can hear the screams of 10,000 Agile programmers saying I’ve got it all wrong, but there’s nothing to say the “plan” can’t be ‘thumbnail sketch of requirements; short development phase; user testing; repeat’ – a mud-map can still get you where you’re headed. More importantly, we need to be really clear on where we’d headed before we start so that our efforts aren’t wasted heading in the wrong direction. And this should mean knowing and understanding how the UX we’re designing impacts on the rest of the organization’s efforts. Our aim should be that the UX directly supports and furthers the aims of the organization: always.
- Do you follow any specific blogs on this topic? Where else can I go for more information?
- I don’t read any specific blogs on the topic of UX strategy. I follow business publications like Harvard Business Review, McKinsey Quarterly and Strategy + Business, as well as remaining active on the IxDA and IA Institute members’ lists; and I engage in discussions through Twitter & Plurk with industry peers. I’m also fortunate to have a network of people sending through articles of interest within the UX strategy sphere.