User experience research is an important aspect of product design, refinement and persistence in any service or product a company renders. Without user experience research, it is impossible to find and effectively target demographics or to compete with established services or products in a field of industry. It is impossible to spot problems with a concept, or possible opportunities to make the product or service exceptional and competitive with rival alternatives without user experience research. However, it is costly and it does slow down development or continued rendering of a service or product. Those in research and development or involved directly in the design or perpetuation of a service or product are more than capable of seeing the expense of money and time as just an a priori part of the process as a whole.
Unfortunately, stakeholders in a company or product/service, by their nature as financiers, are prone to not see things this way. They find it often difficult to see the expenses as justifiable or necessary. It then becomes a bit of a formal battleground, where developers and professionals struggle to justify the value of user experience research in the eyes of these stakeholders. In instances where they fail to convince them, the service or product will more likely than not fail and stakeholders will be remiss in understanding why. There are reasons stakeholders view the world this way, and in order to convince them of the value of User experience research, it is first important to understand these reasons. Upon understanding them, it’s then possible to find ways to convince them of the truth.
To a stakeholder, time is money. They are invested in a product, service or concept, and units of time that must be endured before there is a return on investment are quantized as loss or at the least, non-monetary expense. Therefore, when user experience research must be conducted, therefore slowing the process to launch or slowing the process already existing, they see this as an added expense.
In the case of time, it is best to be proactive in strategy. When presenting the project model to stakeholders before beginning, it is best to quantize the time consumed by user experience research as part of the initial process. However, itemizing it as such is unwise, because that will draw their negative attention to it. It is best to just list it as part of base research and development, which isn’t a mistruth. They understand internal research and development, and will not question something that is lumped in with it.
They view the expense in money as the same problem, and as such, a similar strategy, though not always proactive, is best for the monetary concerns as well. Research and development costs are something they expect to incur, ergo it is best to label User experience research as a subset of research and development not just in time and scheduling, but also in tangible expenses as well. Again, this is not dishonest, as research and development very much includes user experience research, if being done right.
However, it comes down to another problem as well. Stakeholders don’t understand demographics and user experience as a science the way that professionals working on the development would. It’s simply an alien concept to financiers. They do however understand the importance and scientific nature of marketing research.
When it comes down to having to directly address user experience research when all is said and done, it’s best to equate it to marketability research. They may not understand the science of marketing intimately, but it is something they understand the purpose and importance of. Equating demographics, usability and effectiveness of a product via user experience to that of marketing and outreach, which is not remotely a stretch anyhow, they are likely to see where you are coming from.
Stakeholders are about the bottom line, so drawing parallels in how user experience research, or lack thereof, affects the bottom line will in turn reach them on a personal level. So, when the day is done, drawing little attention to its presence by wisely categorizing it, and then drawing the proper parallels to things they are familiar with is the best combined strategy. Follow this simple guideline, and you will have minimal difficulty convincing stakeholders of the value and high importance of user experience research in the future. Remember, it’s not their fault that this concept is alien and abstract to them.