Last month, our Founder & CEO, Amy Buckner Chowdhry, shared techniques for engaging stakeholders and advocating for research insights on our 5 Strategies to Maximize Your UX Influence webinar. Throughout her career, Amy has interviewed UX leaders to understand their influencing strategies, techniques, and advice for changing minds and improving products. Check out some of our biggest takeaways below. Then, take our UX Influence Quiz to assess your own level of influence and discover what you can do to increase it.
As UX professionals, we are constantly immersed in customers’ goals, pain points, needs, and desires. We see firsthand how customer insights can move our businesses forward, but we aren’t the only ones who impact customer experience. Our products are also influenced by product managers, engineers, and executives who may not see things the same way (and likely are not witnessing user interactions as often or as in-depth as we are.) However, it’s our job to give our users a voice and a seat at the table during big business decisions. So, how do we have the maximum impact in our organizations?
Before we dive into strategies and solutions, take a moment to reflect on your own organization and your role in it.
1. How would you rate your UX team’s influence in the organization on a scale of 1-10? Why did you pick the number you did?
Most UX leaders Amy interviewed said between 6 and 7.
2. What is your biggest obstacle to influence? Consider the following:
Structural obstacles: Where does UX sit within the organization? Is your culture design-led, product-led, or engineering lead? Is your UX practice centralized, decentralized, or a hybrid?
UX maturity obstacles: Is your organization customer-obsessed? How big of a priority are user experience and user insights in product development?
Visibility obstacles: How is UX socialized in the company by executives? Is there someone who gives a voice to your work organization-wide?
3. What influencing challenges are you facing?
Now, let’s jump into some strategies to help you solve some of the challenges you described.
Watch the full recording of Amy’s talk below to hear her 5 strategies to influence and stories and tips from UX leaders at Google, Slack, FedEx, and more.
Here were some of our biggest lessons learned:
Let’s talk about table stakes.
“Table stakes” is the minimum amount of effort you need to put in to have influence. So what are table stakes for creating influence in UX? Having and growing empathy, and being an exceptional storyteller. These are the two characteristics and skills everyone in UX needs to have. If you’re struggling with making yourself heard and showing your value, start here.
Consider yourself in service to your stakeholders and organization as a whole, not just your customers.
It’s easy to have your customers’ wants and needs be your sole focus and north star when it comes to advocating for UX. But, it’s important to remember you are also there to help your stakeholders and your organization meet their goals and objectives as well. When a UX team focuses on delivering exceptional service not just to their customers, but also to their colleagues and the organization as a whole, they become partners instead of vendors. When you’re considered a partner, you become indispensable, teams will see you as a critical component of their process, and your value and importance will shine through.
Be an advisor, not a gatekeeper
Some UX teams can fall into the trap of becoming gatekeepers, but we find gatekeepers can’t be influential because they come to conversations from a place of control and authority. Gatekeepers have processes and rules in place and are often unwilling to budge. Instead, seek to influence by being collaborative, solution-oriented, and flexible in your approach. Respond to questions and requests with “Yes, and…” instead of “No, but…” You’ll get a lot further.
Choose the right metrics
Communicating the value of UX and the impact of your team to your stakeholders requires complex planning and a lot of intentionality. Having the right data, metrics, and stories available to your stakeholders can help you show rather than tell the impact of your work. If you want to make a strategic suggestion, try using foundational research findings. If you’re talking with a skeptic, rely on quant to tell a hard numbers story. Spend time considering what’s important to your stakeholders, what kind of data will help influence them the most, and most importantly, what will help them make a quicker, easier decision when you’re asking them for something.
Use design thinking to plan your conversations
Ensuring you have productive conversations can be vital in influencing your stakeholders and colleagues, and you can use design thinking techniques to do so! Consider how you can communicate your message in a way that will truly reach your stakeholders. What environment is most comfortable for them? What communication channels do they prefer? Always set expectations for what you want to get out of the discussion, including key decisions that need to be made. And finally, don’t forget to design the space, whether that’s a conference room, video call, or walking meeting.
Get creative with how you socialize your work
Get creative with how you socialize your insights and findings across the organization. PDFs and PowerPoints give your insights a strict (and short!) shelf life, so find ways to make them live beyond the final report. Send out regular email summaries of research findings with tantalizing subject lines, post video clips and participant quotes in product team Slack channels, or host a UX Day where your colleagues can benefit from presentations and poster sessions on research initiatives. There are many ways to showcase findings in ways that are helpful to your stakeholders. Just make sure to tailor your content to your audience to make sure no one is getting irrelevant information.
Looking for more helpful tips and strategies?
We’ve developed a diagnostic tool to help you evaluate your team's influence and create an advocacy plan for how to increase it. Download your copy of our UX Influence Quiz to: