The latest in our Industry Insiders piece addresses the challenge of internal buy-in for some companies regarding the value of UX. Ryan Ollerenshaw, Associate Director of Consortia, speaks with Patrick Schneider, who is Director of User Experience Architecture for MRM/McCANN Germany.
Make sure the investment is there
We spoke about how he feels that companies are investing in infrastructure and developing their software further but aren’t investing in the user to truly understand how the user is using a website, their software, service or product. Patrick asserts that creating a transactional website or producing software needs a lot of research behind it, and you need to do this first to drive the development: Think about the users’ needs first (and then match that with the business needs).
Investment for good user experience may be relatively high at the beginning but will definitely decrease after time: As time moves forward, UX investment will be needed less and less as you have built a great initial basis.
User Experience is becoming easier to justify as people know more, but there is still quite a long way to go in terms of the amount of investment and internal buy-in.
Measure the right metrics
Often the issue can be to do with the measurement of the processes. It is important to find the most relevant Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure the return on investment to the company. Patrick mentions that dependant on the industry, KPIs will of course, differ. For example, on an e-commerce website, the conversion or purchase rate will be a good example of how successful the user experience is, and this should increase with further investment in this area.
But the money spent is only one aspect of the investment required. Time is incredibly important; giving the user experience implementations enough time to begin working. Due to the many component parts of a more agile joined-up way of working (of which UX is a part), it’s difficult to attribute the success to just one factor: be is DevOps, the Visual Design etc.
Not that easy to show them the value – but when you assert and set KPIs – show that it makes sense to invest in good UX. It is important to have the vision behind the user experience from the beginning of a project – setting out the KPIs before the work takes place, so that when it happens you can prove the success of the implementations. Schneider says that the most important thing is to have these KPIs well defined and that the requirements from users and from business point of view need to be clear at the beginning of the project.
Which metrics matter most?
To identify the right metrics that matter the most to the wider business, Patrick recommends hosting and running collaborative “workshops” to “define the essentials”. Bring the important people together in one room to define requirements for the project from a business perspective – all levels (including the board) will be interested in this. It is also a good opportunity to educate the wider company on user requirements and what they mean. It’s interesting to bring these two areas together. It helps to solve the question of “How can we both (creative team and rest of the business) solve this business issue?”
Whose responsibility is it?
Patrick asserts “In my opinion, it is essential to be clear and talk about those topics in a workshop situation, involving all areas of the business. This is the discovery phase – now is the time to find everything essential to go ahead and make steps ahead in the process; bringing it all together to have the best stating point. Define the best way.”
We asked Patrick how he assigns relevant KPIs to ensure successful tracking and measurement.
Examples of typical KPIs that you tend to track?
- Bounce Rate
- Visitor figures
- Conversion rate – visibility metric
You then prioritise the most important of these for each area of the business.
B2B vs. B2C vs. SaaS: Does this influence buy-in?
Patrick speaks of the differences he has seen across B2B, B2C and SaaS, explaining that - if information-based - it becomes increasingly competitive and thus more important to gain buy-in. In terms of B2B vs B2C, he feels the measurement to be very similar in terms of tracking metrics. But makes the point that B2B sales conversions can often hold much more value than B2C.
In terms of timescales, of course this will be determined by many factors: i.e. much higher when launching a new product. Measurements need to be in line with the age and progression of the product. He’d suggest a minimum of 3 months between each UX “tweak” – check, check again and take note of how things are developing, then you can start adjusting in line with this. “It’s not linear, it’s a circle: there’s not one direction. It’s about checking as you go. You do something, you adjust, you interpret your results and compare against the original goal or vision. A never-ending cycle.”
How to gain investment for UX
Patrick said that users often don’t behave the way stakeholders expect them to – this is often quite a learning curve for them, so you must show them the user research and demonstrate the thinking behind the behaviour, and thus, the reasoning for the UX strategy direction. There is often resistance, or a lack of understanding about the actual research behind the UX strategies. You must prove the value behind the research too, to get the amount of funding required. There needs to be an element of trust - that 2 months’ worth of researching will be worth it in the long run.
Patrick goes on to say that pushback is becoming less of an issue for some companies/areas, with increased understanding of the processes involved in UX. The whole company is becoming more aware. At least, this is his experience in Germany.
Does sector or size matter?
Patrick pinpoints the finance sector as a good example, specifically Commerzbank and Deutsche Bank. There is a lot of investment in the internalisation of UX and there are quite huge internal hubs they are building. Larger companies (like Deutsche Bahn for example) appear to be more “bought in” and take on great UX people. This is particularly the case in Frankfurt.
There is difficulty finding great quality contractors for agencies because the competition is high. Big companies hire good UX people and pay them quite high rates. There’s a shortage of good talent.
But an Agency like MRM/McCANN Germany can offer more to young talent out there. This is reflected by the Gartner Magic Quadrant Report which named MRM/McCANN as a “leader”, which means that they can see the completeness of the vision and the ability to execute this vision. Service providers like MRM/McCANN GmbH focus on strategy, development, execution and measurement of customer-facing digital experiences across the customer journey.
Earning this positioning again from Gartner is a true honour for MRM/McCaNN and substantiates that the focus on breaking new ground and creating the future through creativity, technology and data provides real value for MRM/McCANN’s client partners around the world. Combining this with the credo “Putting relationships first makes them last” ensure MRM/McCANN remains a unique and a great place to work. As an agency, Patrick mentioned that challenges do exist with small and mid-range companies (SMEs) – “Mittelstand”. They are more difficult to “crack”, in terms of them investing in UX people, with a common theme of “we know our business, we know how our customers think”, when it could be incredibly beneficial for someone external to come in and assess their existing set-up.
In Patrick’s experience, it can be very difficult to effectively persuade SME’s of the benefits and value of UX. He finds it challenging to make them understand so tries to focus on pitching the product development in its entirety, as this can then mask specific UX spend. It is important to try and explain the processes rather than a direct undetailed or unreasoned confrontation.
In terms of the challenges associated with agencies placing UX candidates in SME’s, Patrick argues that this trend is slowing down: it is becoming easier to get people engaged with the benefits of a strong UX strategy, and he believes this is due to a younger workforce. The idea that younger UX professionals are more ‘bought into’ UX.
Is your toolset right for you?
When asked if there were any specific analytics tools that could be used to measure success, Patrick said “Adobe Analytics is, of course, amazing. Google Analytics is a great tool, too. But the person behind the tool is far more important than the tool itself. The important bit comes with interpreting the results and deriving recommendations. Can be an agency or people within a company.”
There appears to be an increased amount of collaboration between agency alongside internal recruitment teams. Internal teams have the history and background knowledge of the company and the way in which it works, whilst the agency can offer a fresh set of eyes and people to complement the existing set up.
Patricks parting advice on running a UX project is to start small and to concentrate on both top paths and then getting further and deeper into a specific topic. Go to conferences, get the insight you need, and be strict on setting up prioritisation from the outset.
We’d like to thank Patrick for speaking to us about his experiences with the UX market in Germany. If you’d like to speak to us about placing a candidate (or becoming one) in Germany, we hire the best UX contract or permanent hires in Germany, so please contact the team.
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