Moving Faster

By Juan Rafael Lopez, VP of User Experience at Validately

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Moving faster doesn’t mean that your engineers type more lines of code per minute.

It doesn’t mean that your designer draws any faster. And it doesn’t mean that your researchers shorten their interviews with customers. Moving faster isn’t a tactical change; it’s a paradigm shift. It’s about optimizing decision making early and ensuring that you are working on the highest leverage opportunities at any given time, even if figuring out what those opportunities are, sometimes takes more time.

To move faster, start by focusing on learning rather than doing.

That means reviewing every project in development and immediately pausing anything that is unvalidated or low-performing. Move those into a queue for experimentation instead. Moving faster is more a function of doing what matters than it is of simply doing.

Make sure to keep your experiments lean too. Many companies seem to overcomplicate their research, forgetting that research is meant to help them learn and ship faster, not be another step in a lengthy sequential process. There are many ways to get genuine customer feedback faster, without incurring any risk. For example, it’s fine for prototypes to take a week or two to design, but don’t wait for them to be completed to begin reaching out to users. You can learn a lot from simple conversations, or using copy, videos, and competitor products to communicate and test ideas. You might even realize that your prototype is going in the entirely wrong direction.

Simplifying your research also requires you to be more open-minded about processes and results.

It’s intuitive to think of broad ideas as indivisible when they are in fact made up of unrelated assumptions. One feature may not resonate with the audience you’ve already associated it with, but it may resonate with a different customer segment. Consider how you can break down research into more manageable pieces.

Explicitly outline success criteria before doing research, so that you mitigate biases when evaluating results. State clearly: if at least half of users we show this to aren’t jumping out of their seats for it, we’re not going to build it. This way you can’t justify and rationalize middling feedback afterward. Moving faster means being prepared to sometimes abandon seemingly brilliant ideas.

To research more rapidly, you need to carefully set expectations with customers and stakeholders.

Suddenly shipping features at an accelerated rate can be chaotic. Talk to your end users and decision-makers. Let them know that you are going to be testing and iterating on features. Sometimes they’ll like something that you don’t decide to build, and sometimes they’ll hate that you change or remove something they loved. If you’re transparent and empathic, customers will understand most of the time. They recognize that you are building a business and they ultimately want the product to be successful if it enables them to be successful as well.

As for stakeholders, you need to communicate the importance of prioritizing features from the customer’s perspectives. Of course, your sales team, marketing team, and every other team have their own interests and pet projects they want you to build. That’s the nature of working with other people. Don’t ram decisions down their throats or ignore their suggestions. Instead, rally them around the customer’s perspective. When you run an experiment, broadcast the results. Send reports with quotes, data, and videos to stakeholders. Help them understand that decisions aren’t your opinions, but are based on evidence and aligned with the company’s vision.

Moving faster sometimes means moving slower.

Mostly, it means moving smarter. Product teams have precious few resources to tackle the enormous opportunities that today’s economy presents. To be successful, you have to reevaluate every project, process, and priority, and focus on what matters most, even if realignment is painful. Soon, it’ll be second nature and your organization will be much more competitive because of it.

Juan Rafael Lopez is the VP of User Experience at Validately and Professor of Applied Analytics at Columbia University. He has over 8 years experience in UX and product.

Validately is an end-to-end solution for UX research that helps companies like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Salesforce to conduct more research in less time.

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