It may be easy to think that the most relevant stakeholder in UX research is the end user. When it comes to creating the best customer experience strategy, they are not the only player needing attention. But no man – or stakeholder – is an island. They cannot be isolated from the process in order to ensure a successful outcome.
Stakeholders in any such research are a wide and varied collective. Everyone within that universe has their own wants, needs, parameters and expectations. Knowing and respecting those criteria are as key to successful research as knowing the same of the people who (hopefully) will (eventually) pay money for the product or service being researched, introduced and sold.
But why is that?
It’s because every stakeholder brings an area of expertise to the table and they must have a sense of ownership in UX research. Without that, they may have legitimate reasons for not acting on research findings. So, energy, time, and money will have been spent without much assurance that anything other than frustration will come of it.
Harnessing both the power and the glory of an engaged stakeholder is not difficult. It only requires planning and forethought. Our experience can provide you with important considerations before you embark on your next UX project.
Know who your stakeholders are. Before starting a UX research project, identify the stakeholders. Who will be charged with developing a product, marketing plan, or sales initiative based on the findings? For smaller projects, or with small companies, there may only be a few stakeholders and involving them is relatively easy and straightforward. Some clarifying questions should establish connection with, and support for the research. Large projects and companies, though, may have layers and processes for reviews and approvals that make establishing a network of stakeholders more complex.
It helps to segment stakeholders into three key areas.
People who are charged with the business aspects associated with research findings. They include upper management, product managers, marketing and salespeople who have probably established long-term goals and will endorse research that supports them. These people are often decision-makers or occupy positions of authority around time and resources.
Stakeholders in the engineering space are those who can provide information about the technology – its capabilities and its limitations – that must be available, utilized, developed or procured to create and implement any research-driven changes.
Other UX stakeholders are the people who spearhead the activation of the research results and use them to drive the development of solutions for the end user. This includes other researchers, designers, and even technical writers who produce user guidelines. Partnership with these professionals, who actually craft the manifestation of research results may, in the most practical sense, represent the most important stakeholder engagement of all.
When it comes to driving productive collaboration with stakeholders, remember that the nature of the relationship is just that: a collaboration. Establishing these connections with the mindset that everyone is committed to the same end will create a sense of common purpose and investment in outcomes. And in a world with more ways to communicate than ever, it’s easy to forget that the best way is the oldest and most intimate of all: by actually talking.
While the goal is to establish congenial and free-flowing back-and-forth with stakeholders, remember that everything is in support of a business initiative. So, be respectful of everyone’s time and talent. Enter conversations fully prepared and informed. Know their experience and skillsets and have questions prepared that will elicit honest feedback and enlightening information.
In a small company, there may only be one person in each category, but in larger organizations, there may be several. Nevertheless, as much as possible, have conversations one-on-one. This helps to discern if there are conflicting opinions and how to prioritize them, plus it’s easier to drive more casual and open dialogue. And, as a practical matter, record the conversations – with permission, of course.
As a rule, ask stakeholders questions designed to determine what the project is about and incite better engagement throughout the process:
- What is the product and why is it being developed now?
- What are the goals of this marketplace research?
- What needs clarification, and what are competitors doing?
- What is the stakeholder’s role?
- What does success look like from their perspective, what are their concerns, and what will their level of involvement be?
- What are the established parameters of the project?
- What is the state of the project to date, its requirements, release date and make up of the development team?
- Who are the users, what is known about them so far, how will they use the product and how will that evolve over time?
UX is a communal effort, and gaining competitive insights doesn’t happen by chance. Identifying and engaging all stakeholders from the start is crucial to establishing a unified force that drives and supports impactful research and subsequent actions. A team bonded together in spirit and committed to action, with clarity and agreement among everyone involved, whatever their roles, does more than drive buy-in and cooperation. Only by working together as one will the organization develop increased levels of insight that elevate the odds for success.
Our goal is nothing less than to help you create a successful partnership between your brand and the people who trust it.