IA Summit: A Management Fable

by April 14, 2008

Dan Willis’ A management fable: The little UX that went a long way presentation at IA Summit 2008 outlined a series of lessons learned about the role of user experience champions in the product development process.

  • Success without ownership: someone else owns product definition. As a User Experience practitioner, you may not be the only voice calling for better definition of a product, but you will frequently be the first. Stand up and say something.
  • Frequently someone else own requirements. Tech teams don’t always push back on bad requirements and may tend to act more like a “service team” than UX professionals. This is likely because they are often rewarded for specific tasks vs. the overall solution.
  • Frequently someone else owns implementation: geared towards getting things implemented, not towards maximizing user experience
  • Acceptance is not Buy-in: if you’re forcing the user into the process, you can expect to solve the same problem again and again
  • Everyone loves the user until it gets painful. People may love your work, but when there is pain, consensus building needs to start again.
  • Even common tools are not commonly understood: UX professionals take UX tools more seriously than others
  • In the real world, driving user experience requires tactics up and down the conceptual ladder. A mandate from management can never be assumed. Don’t wait for it.

Tips for managing in the real world

  • If they are missing, put the user into the requirements
  • Adjust the requirements to help make the user unavoidable
  • Offer solutions for every problem you raise
  • Credibility issues: don’t just say things are wrong –offer solutions.
  • Be ready to work harder than people in all the other departments. Take ownership of the minutia nobody else wants.
  • Enjoy the little successes, but don’t them at face value. Short terms gains don’t stick.
  • Don’t assume a successful project will have a positive effect on the next.