Wednesday Jun 13, 2012

Getting stakeholder feedback on the impact of your research

I know that I haven't been blogging a lot lately, but I've been busy. In the last 14 months, I have conducted ~20 research activities including baseline tests, numerous formative tests and concept validation studies, RITE tests, and several large-scale surveys. I've had 5 major client teams, spanning the middleware spectrum, across Java, SOA, Cloud, and Oracle Social Network. This year has been the busiest research year of my UX career, but I've been able to work on some of the coolest products that Oracle builds. What a great time ...

But I'm  a worrier. And a pleaser. I don't want to just be fast -- I want to do a really good job. I want my client teams to value the work I do, and to ask me back for more. So far, so good. But my manager has another definition of success, which she refers to as "impact". It's not enough that I conducted the research studies or they've asked me back -- they need to have taken action on the results. Now this doesn't mean it's my job to file bugs or ensure they get fixed -- thank God for that. No, it means that research resources are scarce, and one way to allocate those resources (me, and the other folks who do the same work I do) is to give them to the teams who are acting on the results. Yes, there are business priorities, but we have enough demand that we can't support clients who don't want what we're offering.

Now the real impact of a study is usually not immediate -- the designers, developers, and product management have to determine what they can actually do with my results and recommendations. And because I'm busy, I don't have time to follow up right away, because I'm running that next study. But twice this year, I've sent brief emails to my stakeholders asking for their feedback on the impact that my research has had on the product design and development. I need to update the wiki page to include impact. Tell me what's happened since the study, and what value you got out of it. 5 teams, 5 emails. Low effort.

But the responses have been overwhelming, which is why I'm sharing this with you -- I want you to have this experience too. I feel like Sally Fields at the podium, crying through tears "You like me -- you really like me". How often in life does that happen? Never. And how scary is it to invite that kind of feedback? Very scary. But the rewards are so worth it. And now I don't have to write those paragraphs in my next performance review ... I can just quote my stakeholders. Ah, the goodness keeps on coming.

So do it! Ask for feedback on the impact and value of the research you've conducted -- it'll be a learning experience, a love-fest, or something in between, but I promise it's worth it.


About

I am a Senior Principal User Researcher in Oracle's Middleware division. Essentially, I work with users, customers, and consumers, to try to make the software we create easier for you to use.

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