For example, on one of my recent projects, I was asked to conduct research on a product’s future. Should the company invest in the product, just maintain it, or retire it? The product owner had never met me, and now I was going to determine the future of his product. I realized from the beginning that this research project could make the product owner quite nervous. It’s hard to sit on the sidelines while someone else is making big decisions about the future of your work. I recognized that for this project to succeed, I needed him to see me as a partner, not a threat. I needed to address his concerns head on, educate him on the value of UX research, and involve him throughout my research process.
1. Reassure the product owner that you’re a neutral party.
Ideally, as a UX researcher, you bring an outside, objective point of view to the project. You have fresh eyes and an open mind, which will help you conduct valuable, impartial research. You aren’t wedded to particular designs or solutions. You’re more focused on understanding the underlying problems and needs that the product must address. Reassure the product owner that you’re a truth finder. You don’t have a hidden or political agenda. You’re just here to discover users’ requirements and get their honest reactions.
Finally, remind the product owner that it’s better to make informed decisions than emotional ones. Conducting thorough research now will save a lot of time, money, and hard work down the line. It can be scary for a product owner to open up himself and his product to outside evaluation and critique, but in the end, it will help him work much more strategically and efficiently.
2. Be transparent and get the product owner involved in the research process.
Be up front and clearly communicate your research process to the product owner, providing a quick explanation of the purpose and value of UX research. By giving an overview of the general process to a product owner who has never experienced UX research before, you’ll reduce his anxiety about the unknown and make him more comfortable with the process and, ultimately, more receptive to the value of UX research. Work with the product owner collaboratively to determine the research goals and expected outcomes. Get his buy-in and confirmation up front so you know you’re focusing on the right things, and everyone is on the same page. Then the product owner won’t be able to dispute your methods or process later on if he doesn’t like the results.