Wednesday, June 22, 2011

How is UX Research Different than a Traditional BA Lead Process?

Recently, I started working on a document management project for one of the departments within our company. This project has been running for quite some time, prior to my (and my team's) involvement. They have done quite a bit of legwork in requirements gathering. In fact, at least a year of it.

As my team has begun to engage, we strongly recommended doing user research as a component of our work. Pretty obvious, right? Not so fast. In this case, it requires us to fly another office, in this case NYC, and will require some substantial expenses. Not to mention extending our project timelines.

That said, I have confidence, that this work will pay-off with 5,10, and maybe even a 100x ROI.

But then something unexpected happened. During a meeting one of our executives asked me this question: "So why are you going to NYC? Team X has already done all of the requirements gathering. Why can't you just start the design work?"

That question left me wondering - so how do you answer this question in a way that a business executive can easily understand?

Which brings me to the point of this post – to share a diagram that was developed during a whiteboard session, that has become a tool we use, when answering the question of "Why do user research" to the business crowd.

The BA team that did the requirements spent most of their time asking "What do you want to be able to do?" But what they never asked, "Why is this a problem for you?

In the diagram, the point is this. When you start with tools and features, in the end you will have the same problem you started with, just in a different tool. But if you ask "Why" is it a problem, you have a chance to solve the root issue and fix the problem.

Example: if a fileshare is a mess, introducing a new tool is not going to fix the problem, unless the new tool accounts for the root cause. In this case – why is the fileshare an unorganized mess in the first place?

I'll end with a short anecdote, that has seemed to work for me in a few instances.

Imagine your neighbor comes out complaining about his shovel. "This darn thing never works. Can't stand it." So as the generous person you are, you go to your shed, and bring back a different shovel for you neighbor to try. A few minutes later, he comes back out and complains about the new shovel not working very well either. This prompts you to ask "Well. It works fine for me, what are you trying to do with it? Your neighbor replies: " I've been trying to trim my bushes!"

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