In the recent years it has become widely accepted that customer experience (“CX”) plays a large role in revenue and market share amongst both B2C and B2B companies. With CX in the spotlight, roles ranging from UX designer to UX researcher to Chief Experience Officer to UX Ninja to UX Research Operations and more were created among the fortune 500 and startups alike.
Today, CX roles are commonplace with larger organizations hiring several UX researchers or several dozen for each product line. With growing teams, UX leaders are starting to ask themselves how they can increase the efficiency of each team member.
So, what is UX Research Operations? A quick google search for UX Research Operations will return dozens of newly created roles who own several different aspects of UX research. Although each post is written with a unique twist, I’ve boiled down the demands of this operator into four categories:
Efficiency. Like other operation roles, UX operations is tasked with driving efficiency through tools and process. As every UX researcher knows, recruiting can be very time consuming and is one of the first things off-loaded to operations. Vendors such as UserTesting and Amazon’s Mechanical Turk have helped B2C companies fulfill their recruiting needs with an on-demand panel, but for B2B companies and marketplaces this becomes a more complex operation.
For example, you’re a researcher for a fortune 500 network company who needs to talk to network-architect end-users. As a researcher, you start with a UX question and you may have as many as 20 steps across 15 software vendors in order to speak with a network architect. After speaking with the architect, you will have an additional 20 steps to process and store the information you collected. If UX operations is doing their job, this process could and should be just a few steps across two vendors with no researcher follow-up.
Beyond recruiting, the efficiency category is all about finding the right tools to get the job done. UX operations is responsible for both identifying what tools are needed and the vendor that can best support that need.
Impact. Impact for UX is about measuring the impact of the team on product performance and ensuring the visibility of the research across the organization. Measuring impact often takes the form of quantitative reports displaying how many research questions were answered, how many projects were completed, projects per headcount, and totality and efficiency metrics.
Whereas, UX visibility has more qualitative measures. UX teams often share their findings beyond the product team to build empathy for their users across the organization. Some have gone so far as to build UX museums to display their findings. (Read more creative ways to share your findings here). UX operations is tasked with supporting the proliferation of insights and soliciting qualitative feedback to understand the impact it’s having throughout the organization.
Enablement. Many job posts focus on providing enablement for UX teams as well. Enablement in a UX context mainly consists of ongoing education, industry events, and onboarding. UX teams need to know the latest developments in design and experience and most importantly, be able to share those with others in similar roles across companies through UX events. UX is still in its infancy and it’s important for UX operational roles to give their team the exposure to best practices that may exist outside of their own organization. As for onboarding, UX operations should ensure they have everything to do their job, but more importantly, they have access to historical data (both qualitative and quantitative) in a structured way, so new hires can understand where the experience has been and where it’s going.
Resource Planning. Finally, there’s the dry stuff. Yes, operations should discuss headcount, budget, equipment, and facilities with their UX leaders and finance. This will be a part of every operational role and UX operations is no different.
Admittedly, this is only a glimpse into these categories and the categories themselves will certainly evolve as UX Research Operations evolves. Only time will tell how this role plays out in the years to come.