By Joe Dyer
Director of Experience Strategy & Insight, projekt202
As teams drive to deliver products or services to their respective marketplaces, they often need to contend with internal battles or friction inside their companies and sometimes on their own teams.
Too few teams understand that there is tremendous value in:
- A shared understanding of the problem(s) to be solved
- Deep insights into the needs of customers
- Agreement on a prioritized product roadmap
What is at stake is bigger than just having a roadmap. It is more important than marketing data. It is about the team having the same priorities at any given moment — and those priorities are in alignment with the needs and aspirations of customers.
How might a product team gain a shared understanding of the problems to be solved? It won’t be through some exercise in gaining feature parity with a competitor. In fact, feature bloat is a well-worn road to product ruin. The answer lies in exposure hours. Exposure hours are nothing more than having team members (preferably UX practitioners) spend time watching customers interact with a product or service.
Whether in the field or in a lab setting, there are a number of ways to gain exposure hours. But no matter which methods you undertake, you need to build your case with evidence. Avoid any paths that lead to ambiguity, such as focus groups. Focus groups are notoriously bad at allowing myriad extraneous variables and ambiguity to muddy a data set.
Methods that employ direct observation of the end user are best. These observations are ideal when the study participant is engaged in completing a task or specified activity. Only then can real context of interactions be gained — the good, the bad, and sometimes the catastrophic.
By observing and studying customers, evidence is built by collecting the quotes of the user, or Voice of the Customer (VOC). These are quotes and declarations heard while using the software or service. Observable behaviors, the kind that few would think of reporting in survey data, is another form of evidence and grows stronger when patterns of behavior emerge from studying groups of users. Documenting similarities and differences of user types across a range of customers with credible methods now positions the team to begin building credibility.
Credibility is the quality of being convincing or believable. Members of a product team will find they are far more effective at gaining credibility when they replace what is unknown with something learned or when they replace subjective opinion with observable facts. Team members who traffic in facts and data quickly build trust across an organization and with their peers and leadership. Additionally, there is typically an increase in team morale when feature choices and the product roadmap harmonize with and is led by a credible approach to studying users.
One way for a product team’s wheels to grind to a halt is when there is an abundance of diverse opinions on ‘what the customer needs.’ Driving out opinions with evidence and data is really the goal here. Team members who observe, study and analyze user behaviors find that deeply-held suppositions fall away quickly if there is no data to support the opinion. Replacing guesses and subjectivity with data and VOC is how a team builds credibility within the organization. The team is better positioned to request funding, defend design choices, and make better long-term strategic decisions.
Building consensus is your force multiplier. If all team members are joined together in a shared understanding of the problems and their solutions, higher velocity can be achieved and pitched battles avoided.
Enjoying What You Have Built
Teams that share an understanding of the needs of their customers are happier teams. Individual agendas are sidelined, customers are put at the center of the experience, and solutions are brought to market in shorter cycles. These are the product teams that create value and are themselves valued in the organization.
Are you ready to get started building credibility and consensus in your organization? Contact us at projekt202 to learn how.