Every month in my column Ask UXmatters, our panel of UX experts provides answers to our readers’ questions about a broad range of user experience matters. To get answers to your own questions about UX strategy, design, user research, or any other topic of interest to UX professionals in an upcoming edition of Ask UXmatters, please send your questions to: [email protected].
The following experts have contributed answers to this edition of Ask UXmatters:
- Steve Baty—Principal of Meld Studios; Past President of IxDA; UXmatters columnist
- Leo Frishberg—Product Design Manager at Intel Corporation
- Pabini Gabriel-Petit—Principal Consultant at Strategic UX; Publisher and Editor in Chief, UXmatters; Founding Director of Interaction Design Association (IxDA); UXmatters columnist
- Jordan Julien—Independent Experience Strategy Consultant
- Cory Lebson—Principal UX Consultant at Lebsontech; President, User Experience Professionals’ Association (UXPA)
Making User Experience Part of Business Strategy
Q: What is the best way to define a product vision, determine the business goals for a product, integrate User Experience into an organization’s overall business strategy, and define a product’s requirements?—from a UXmatters reader
“These are huge topics—way too big to cover in depth here—but I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction” responds Pabini. “I recommend that every UX professional study product management. This will help you to be a more effective and valuable member of your product team. The best two books that I’ve read on product strategy are:
- Product Strategy for High-Technology Companies: Accelerating Your Business to Web Speed, by Michael E. McGrath—This book provides a very good grounding in various approaches to and aspects of product strategy and will answer many of your questions.
- What Customers Want: Using Outcome-Driven Innovation to Create Breakthrough Products and Services, by Anthony Ulwick—This is an important book, and Ulwick’s approach is very compatible with the philosophy of user-centered design.
In his book, Ulwick begins by defining three tenets of outcome-driven innovation:
- “Customers buy products and services to help them get jobs done.”
- “Customers use a set of metrics—performance measures—to judge how well a job is getting done and how a product performs.”
- “These customer metrics make possible the systematic and predictable creation of breakthrough products and services.”
Ulwick’s book outlines eight stages of outcome-driven innovation:
- “Formulate an innovation strategy.”
- “Capture customer inputs.”
- “Identify areas of opportunity.”
- “Segment the market.”
- “Target opportunities for growth.”
- “Assess messaging and branding.”
- “Prioritize projects in the development pipeline.”
- “Devise breakthrough ideas.”
“Now, regarding integrating User Experience into product strategy, the role of User Experience is changing. What used to be clear lines between the responsibilities of Product Managers and UX professionals are now blurring,” states Pabini. “In my UXmatters article, ‘Sharing Ownership of UX,’ which I wrote in 2007, I defined clear boundaries between the roles of Product Managers, who are primarily responsible for product vision, and UX Designers and Engineers, who are primarily responsible for executing that vision. While what I described in that article was a very collaborative process, in which all core team members could contribute to the making of any decision, certain decisions ultimately rested with particular roles.
“However, as more companies do generative user research—whether as part of Lean UX or taking more traditional approaches—user researchers are increasingly providing valuable findings about user needs that provide input to the process of envisioning products. This information has become very important in defining product requirements.
“Envisioning, ideation, strategy, planning, and requirements definition are all part of the Discovery Phase of product design. My UXmatters article ‘Design Is a Process, Not a Methodology’ discusses Discovery Phase activities in depth and covers:
- Learning about your users
- Modeling your users
- Analyzing your users’ tasks
- Eliciting and defining clear product requirements
“In an earlier edition of Ask UXmatters titled ‘Are Rapid Prototyping, Lean UX, and Agile Development Good for User Experience?’ I wrote about defining product requirements as user stories,” continues Pabini. “User stories are a very concise and effective means of defining product requirements, especially in agile development environments. To learn about writing user stories, I recommend that you read Mike Cohn’s User Stories Applied: For Agile Software Development. Cohn’s books are the only books about agile development that I’ve read that even mention user experience.”
“A product or service will deliver on only a handful of business goals: to increase the effectiveness of some existing function; to increase revenues; or to reduce costs,” answers Steve. “Each of those goals will have an impact on profitability—either directly or indirectly—which in turn funds future ventures. Which business goals a product serves should be fairly obvious and with clarity should come a very convenient lens through which to define the requirements for a product or service.”