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UX is a Team Sport ...but What Works Best for Client "X"?


17 Sep 2020 | Andrew Newman

Designing, building and embedding the user experience has and always will be a team sport where collaboration between the project team/client and the Experience Design team (UX’er) is crucial.

Integrating third parties or consultants into a team has to be done with skill and consideration, especially when these individuals are the ones cultivating change. Gravity 9’s Experience Director Andy Newman believes that priority should be on achieving the end business goal, while enjoying the process, rather than adhering to a standard structure. Achieving the best possible output for the client to meet their organisational objectives is the main priority, however the UX’er needs to have the support, flexibility and freedom within the project team to produce their best work.

“One of the main challenges UX’ers face is how they embed their work into the complete product/customer journey life cycle, which will involve collaboration with a number of teams and departments across the business” says Newman.

While there are widely recognised structural models’ organisations can apply, and many do, Newman believes a hybrid adaption of the models designed to fit the client, the project and the individuals is often the best approach. “Enabling flexibility within your team structure is vital. As the team evolve and grow so the structure should flex to adapt to their organic way of working, and team collaborations where it is working. And, where it isn’t, the flex needs to allow for change either within the same structure or adapt to a new model that best meets the needs of the team, project and organisation” say Newman.

Norm, what norm?

All too often organisations find themselves embarking on new projects whether they be transformational, evolutionary or a simple step change and these projects do not become the success they are foreseen to be. While there are a number of factors which can contribute to lack of success within a project, following the pattern of what has been done before and taking the ‘cookie cutter’ approach is unlikely to result in breaking new ground. Yes, there are always lessons to be learned and proven approaches, however if an organisation has the vision and desire to become the difference, then it’s unlikely they will get there using the same old methodology.

Team players

Experience Design professionals (UX’ers) by nature of the role are team players, their world is consumed by breaking down the customer experience, into the granular detail of the journey to envision and test ways in which it can evolve.  While the range of skill-sets a UX’er possesses will vary from AI through to research they are driven by seeing the difference their work makes.

Over the years organisations have moved away from the traditional centralised model for integrating UX’ers into an organisation, instead favouring a more embedded approach (decentralised). While this, now, popular approach moves away from traditionally linear reporting structures and task-based work it does bring greater visibility to the role of the UX’er as they have a foundation within the whole business enabling them to immerse themselves within their specific areas of expertise, developing centres of excellence.  This model also supports strong relationships within organisations as UX’ers are embedded within a team so not only do they have exposure to the whole project, becoming a member of the wider project team rather than just the UX team but, they also develop relationships which in turn often improves communication outside of the immediate project team broadening project and organisational awareness, potentially leading to more informed output.

Where projects are long running or evolution stalls UX’ers can become trapped within this model, unable to broaden their exposure outside of the immediate project team and despite becoming an expert within a specific discipline can be restricted access to new opportunities.

“Digital transformation isn’t a singular tick box project; it is a continuous cycle of evolution. The UX’er plays a key role in continuing to invent, refine and add value to this cycle” says Newman.

One size doesn’t fit all

Create a true partnership model, between project team and UX’er and also the project team and the organisation, ensuring all parties are aligned and working towards a single vision. By establishing an effective structure that is uniquely designed to meet the needs of an individual project, yet has the ability to flex to meet evolving organisational pressures or moving goalposts then team members will have autonomy and feel less restricted, able to ensure continued evolution of the project, thu benefiting the client.

Collaborate, communicate, collaborate, communicate. Master these simultaneously and your transformation project is on the path to success. Creating true partnerships within the organisation and the project team where the UX’er is a fully integrated member of the team able to add continuous value and drive project evolution benefits both the client and UX’er.

Select what works best for your organisation and the team members within, ensuing you keep your objectives in clear sight and the lines of communication both vertically and horizontally open then you are more likely to achieve success” says Newman.