Tips for Collaborating with UX, Creative, and Marketing

My high school reunion is coming up (I won’t tell you how many years it’s been) and, as the years have rolled on, I’ve been fascinated by how my classmates have evolved. People have matured. All the old cliques have dissolved. The jocks, cheerleaders, nerds, geeks, stoners, and so on are now something entirely different. We’ve moved on to careers, families, and experiences that have made us the (mostly) mature adults we are now. And we’re all able to relate to each other on a completely different level — as people, rather than as two-dimensional stereotypes.

What does this have to do with integrating analytics teams and empowering your creative team? Everything. It’s been roughly 15 years since the modern Web was born. Or rather, it’s been 15 years since we started monetizing the online channel. Since then, the traditional divisions between tech, creative, marketing, and business have dissolved. We now have maturing interdisciplinary practices in analytics, optimization, interactive marketing, user experience, and interaction design. In practice, the boundaries between these groups have blurred to the point where analytics is an advocate for user research, user experience (UX) partners with optimization, and design depends on interactive marketing. The cliques and silos are crumbling, and a new maturity is emerging. It’s time to put aside adolescent stereotypes and forge new relationships.

On a day-to-day basis, this often means collaboration, early and often. Here are a few tips on how to make this happen.

  • Take the long view. Look beyond the next launch or the next scorecard. To do this effectively, you’ll need to involve those who are typically focused on the long-term strategy: your marketing strategist, user experience architect, and creative director.

  • Understand the goals – not just those of the business but also those of the users. Identify strategies that meet both. For this, you’ll need insight across lines of business as well as solid market research and user research.
  • Involve user experience, creative, and, yes, even development consistently throughout your process. Foster a culture of collaboration and mutual respect, and you’ll be surprised by the innovation and insight that will emerge organically.
  • Yes, it’ll be hard. If you’re in an organization with entrenched cliques of disciplines and sub-disciplines, you’ll have an uphill political battle. But the potential rewards extend far beyond ROI (define).

Your team members will also benefit by learning from other teams’ strengths. The design disciplines have a long tradition of collaborative studio critiques and design charrettes that can generate truly innovative solutions to complex problems. Technical disciplines have collaborative programming and stack-ranking methods for quality control and prioritization. The research disciplines have subtle methods for finding consensus and drawing out hidden patterns in mental models and qualitative data.

The real value of breaking down the barriers between disciplines is in the multidimensional view you’ll gain of your strategic landscape. Different practices have different methods of discovery and measurement — your methods can complement theirs, and vice versa. User research methods, such as surveys, contextual inquiry, and ethnography, can give you insight into the “why” behind the “what” of your analytics. You’ll be able to connect movements in your behavioral data back to specific user and business goals. And you’ll be able complement the work of your user experience architects and interaction designers with concrete key performance indicators (KPIs) that can reduce some of the guesswork in the creative process. Your optimization tests will be more focused, since you’ll be able to identify specific test variables and architect variations that strike at the heart of the customer purchase flow.

Now that 2008 is more than half over, what progress have you made on these resolutions? We’d love to hear your stories of success — or failure — in facilitating collaboration between the cliques and silos in your organization. Shoot me an e-mail and I may include your story in an upcoming column.

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