For us, measuring the impact of our work is a no-brainer. Being able to point to evidence of our effectiveness is powerful. It shows people the value of what we’ve done and gives our team a sense of pride in their work. We aim to bake measurement into every project we work on, but getting it on every project is easier said than done.
There are many reasons why measurement isn’t implemented on experience design projects, but most come down to human behaviour. In this article, we explore the most common obstacles to getting people’s cooperation and our approach to overcoming them.
On an experience design project in 2020, it’s rare to find any team member or stakeholder who doesn’t intuitively understand the value of measuring the outcome of their work. However, knowing that we should be measuring our work doesn’t always mean that it will happen.
We find that the most common reasons for this include:
- Measurement not being front-of-mind at the start of projects.
- Not setting any or enough time aside to do it.
- Being unable to articulate how the project will create value for the organisation.
- Not being able to agree what the desired outcomes are or how to measure them.
- A fear of setting targets, in case these are not met.
- Lack of cooperation from those who own data sources or can set up tracking.
- The absence of follow-up to see if the desired outcomes were achieved or not.
Measurement is too broad a topic for a single article to cover in its entirety, so to help remedy some of these issues we’ve chosen three areas that make the biggest impact when getting started with measurement.
Getting your team to want to do measurement, not seeing it as a chore
Measuring your work often requires the co-operation of a diverse group of people, so before you start, you need to ensure that you have their buy-in.
First, get commitment from team members to spend some time together to discuss measurement. Depending on the size of the project, this might be a meeting or a longer workshop. You can use this time to get everyone onboard and create a first draft of a measurement framework.
When you have everyone in the same place (virtually or otherwise), don’t jump straight to asking for KPIs, metrics and so on. Start by explaining why you want to measure the work. That could include being able to secure funding, having something to showcase to the business, being able to demonstrate a team’s value or even apply for awards.
One tactic you can use to help ignite a desire to measure is to show what the end result might look like. Share case studies of previous work or use examples of other outcomes that were generated by having evidence about how effective the work was.
It doesn’t matter what motivation team members latch on to – even if it’s being able to better fill out their portfolio – as long as they see measurement as something that they want to do, rather than another piece of admin that sits in the way of ‘real’ work.
Establishing and maintaining a measurement framework
Getting a diverse set of team members and stakeholders to agree what should be measured and how to do it can be challenging. We recommend asking everyone in a meeting or workshop to write down their own version, to expose alignment or lack of it. You’ll often be surprised how many different interpretations there are of the project’s goals and the outcomes you’re looking to create.
Creating a measurement framework in an open and collaborative way creates a far greater sense of ownership than leaving it to one person to write the framework and then email it around to the team. It’s easy to ignore “another Excel file” that you had nothing to do with the creation of.
Like most others, our approach to creating a measurement framework centres around a table of outcomes, metrics, targets and data sources, but we always start by writing a problem statement. This is a couple of sentences which outline the main objective of the project. We use the following format:
Our problem statement:
We are doing something because of a reason.
If we do this well, then something will happen.
Once everyone in the team is aligned on this basic statement, you’ll be much better able to agree the outcomes that you’re looking to generate from the project.
When you get into the detail of what to measure, the key is not to overcomplicate it. Think beyond what you might have access to in Google Analytics – not everything has to be a hard business metric (e.g. revenue) or even a number. The outcome of some projects might include the number of items on a roadmap that are now validated by customer insight, or the amount of component re-use we see after setting up a design system.
Once you’ve agreed the outcomes you’re looking to create and how you’ll measure them, you need to assign an owner of the framework to follow-up and ensure that you get the results at the end of the project. It’s this person’s job to ensure the right processes, technology and relationships are in place to make it happen. If you don’t know who will do this, then your framework will become another well-intentioned but failed attempt at measurement.
Use the results to figure out what to do next
One of the best ways to demonstrate the value of measurement is to use the results to work out what the organisation should do next, not just show off how successful your team has been.
Once you have your results, the next step is to work together to identify areas for improvement. This is often best done by teams who share a view of the product lifecycle and its performance. Data about how previous work performed can form the bedrock of iterative design and development cycles.
Of course, using data isn’t the only way to figure out what to work on next. Experience and expertise play into decision-making, but the facts don’t lie. ‘The numbers’ don’t tell you what to do or what to change, but they do provide a starting point for creativity and problem-solving.
For measurement to work for you and your team, you need more than a table of KPIs, metrics and data sources. You need the desire and commitment of the people working with you. Without them, good work will go unmeasured and underappreciated.
This article provided an outline of our approach, but there’s much more detail to go into. To recap:
- Get the team to see the benefits of measurement so that they want to do it, rather than seeing it as a chore.
- Work together to define what you want to achieve, but assign a single owner once everyone is agreed on what you’re measuring.
- Use the results of your work to influence what you work on next.
If you’d like further information about the journey we’ve been on, or the measurement frameworks we’ve implemented to date, please get in touch. As always, we’d be happy to pull something together for you.