UX management is the practice of managing user experience related activities inside an organization. Typical UX management activities involve defining an organization’s UX design language and strategy as well as managing the work processes around UX design.
UX management can be understood both as a job title (a UX manager) and an organizational activity. Even when UX is the responsibility of a UX manager, it’s important that the entire organization and especially senior management, also take an active interest in users and user needs. Managing UX requires the strategic alignment of people and practices all in the interest of the end users.
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Good UX Management is User Centric
“According to our study, design-led firms exhibit the following behaviors far more than their non-design-led peers: Consciously put the customer first. Nearly half (46%) of design leaders cited creating an emotional bond with customers as a defining characteristic of an advanced design practice”.
– Adobe (Forrester Research 2016)
At the heart of UX management is the enabling and valuing of UX resources, researchers, designers and design leaders. Good UX management means pushing the organizational maturity of your company in the direction of peak or consistent delivery of UX return on investment (ROI). The idea is to create growth and innovation-producing management practices that allow for unimpeded Agile UX delivery.
Good UX management boosts an organization’s innovation by growing a strong UX culture with a focus on user centered design and validation.
Types of UX Management
UX managers often work in a user centered process, keeping an understanding of the users’ needs at the center of all activities. UX management comprises two dimensions – strategic and tactical. You can be adept at both, at different times.
Strategic –You focus on long-terms plans: (e.g.) funding models and UX evangelism (promoting UX in all dimensions, including aligning UX strategy with organizational goals, to identify your team as a corporate asset). You may also become involved in UX process development, project selection, etc. This is higher-level UX management.
Tactical – Aside from having solid coaching skills and addressing everyday issues, you’re a front-line leader working directly with UX designers. However many projects your organization handles, you’ll always have one more – your team as a collective supply of effort. Inasmuch as UX design spans the realms of UI design, usability testing, human factors engineering, among others, your skillset should reflect these areas. While your having the intimate knowledge some of your team members possess is unlikely across the board, you should still know enough to be able to direct team members. Additional areas of focus involve managing:
Up – Secure your leaders’ help to get resources/support for the team.
Across – Liaise with project managers and others as needs be.
Down – Wield administrative responsibility vis-à-vis HR concerns, training, performance assessment, geographic concerns of having an international team etc.
Communication is essential to success, as is a balanced approach handling teams and demonstrating their value. Besides defining experience strategies and how to deliver these, you’ll likely work closely with development and product managers in pursuing strategies and master tools such as Agile and Lean.
“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”
— Peter Drucker, Management consultant, educator and author