So what do you do when you’re part of a teeny team—or you’re the only UX person? You probably have dreams of delivering great quality, but sometimes it’s hard to see past the constraints. Best practices for large organizations don’t cover this, so here are a few best practices for small organizations.
Evaluate Your Situation Honestly
First, get a clear understanding of what you think you can and cannot do. It’s easy to fall into the “I can do that!” trap, especially when your role seems to include everything from making sales presentations pop, to creating training materials, to running usability studies and designing user interfaces. It’s easy to underestimate how long it would actually take to do something.
An important responsibility of your role is to sit down and honestly evaluate where you can add the most value to your organization’s work. This includes evaluating what your skills are, what the organization needs, and what you can actually do, then finding the sweet spot that balances all of these factors. Once you’ve done this, having a conversation with your manager about how to focus your efforts is typically relatively easy.
When you’re part of a small UX team, every decision is a priority trade-off. You’re constantly making micro-prioritization decisions as part of your daily task set—because your task set is likely to be fairly ad hoc.
When you prioritize everything, it helps you to frame conversations with stakeholders who come to you with requests. “Sure, I could take that on, but I’d have to drop these other three things.” This guidance for conversations about trade-offs isn’t new, but negotiation is a crucial skill when you’re part of a small UX team.
Get Good at Sales
When you’re part of a small UX team, sales is a really big part of your job. You must lead by persuasion, because you likely have little-to-no actual authority. This includes presenting wherever and whenever you can and turning almost anything and everything into an opportunity to move your UX agenda forward.
This is the part of the job where I most frequently hear “I can’t” or “I’m not allowed.” My viewpoint? In most cases, you can—you just haven’t yet. In cases where you truly can’t—where you truly have no opportunity to own your own work—leave. You can’t succeed at that company.