Tuesday, February 19, 2008

On the importance of alignment, trust, loyalty, ...

Does it matter where user experience personnel are positioned in the organizational structure of your company, and how their work is funded?

"Yes," according to Jim Nieters, a Director of User Experience & Design at Yahoo! and former Senior Manager of User Experience Design at Cisco. As guest speaker at the first meeting of my "User Experience Managers and Executives Speak" offering, Jim compared characteristics of a variety of organizational and funding models -- centrally-funded, client-funded, distributed, consultancy, and hybrid -- and shared stories of his experiences with each.

Though many claim that there is one best model for user experience, Jim argues that there is a right model in every company, but that that right model is not the same in every company.

Jim reviewed several of the factors to consider when evaluating different models, but the criterion on which he placed the greatest emphasis is the extent to which the model supports alignment between the goals of user experience personnel and the goals of the business.

Building trust with senior executives is critical, Jim argues. If they like you and believe you are loyal to them, they will fight for you. If they think you might have another agenda, beware.
"You want to work for an executive who buys-in to what you do. If that executive is in marketing, then that is where you should be positioned. If that executive is in engineering, then that is where you should be positioned. Specifically where you sit matters less than finding the executive who supports you the most. If the executive you work for has reservations about what you do and wants proof of its value, that is a sign that you might be working for the wrong person."
Look for signs that your organizational and funding model are impeding your impact and alignment. If those signs are strong, suggest a change to the model. Jim calls this being strategically flexible, and claims that suggesting such a change will reveal that you really care about the business. Hence, focus on building strong relationships with lots of executives. Circumstances can arise in which you may need to find a good, new home for your personnel quickly.

Related discussions in this blog include: