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I'm the first UX hire at an aggressively growing digital agency. I've been doing UX for corporations for a few years and before that was mainly doing dev and some minor design work.

I'm working on tweaking the standard client workflow to incorporate a bit more strategy and UX thought before mockups are started, but I want to grow our pure strategy and UX business.

What should I be looking at as my first steps there?

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I am in a similar situation, except I work for a large software house. You need to get senior members on board (ideally director level) and you need to 'sell' the idea of UX. I did a presentation on what UX is and rules you could follow to deliver good UX. It was beneficial because you can show developers what you know what you are talking about and for product / project managers to see how it would aid them. I got a few more internal clients from doing just a 60 minute presentation and I got to clarify where UX work should be in a project. –  Captain Oct 5 '12 at 9:23

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Your story sounds similar to my case( I am not the first UX hire but I am the first guy whom they have hired who has had formal education in UX as such). Anyway here is what I would focus on:

  • Find out who are the key stakeholders in the company who are interested in user experience: This is really important as you would need the support of atleast someone in senior managemenent when you start pitching UX design processes and UX methodologies to a team who perhaps hasnt had exposure to them. Also understanding the key stakeholders helps you determine the weightage your words will have and whom you need to influence to bring about potential change
  • Understand the business process of the company and see where UX could potentially fit in: There is always a temptation to jump in and try to bring about an UX process but you will have to understand how does the company work currently and how you could potentially integrate UX into their development/design/sales process. An understanding of the company's business process will also help you determine what are the key areas where incorporating UX into the process can help the company and would help you in making a stronger case while arguing for a User oriented process.
  • Work on establishing an UX process which can be integrated into the current system without need for significant overhaul or significant investment: The biggest challenge you would face in this is trying to explain the ROI of user experience. Hence before you start proposing the need for incorporating wireframing,information architecture,prototyping etc,ensure you have strong use cases where you can educate people about how incorporating UX design processes can help them not only save time in development but also drive pre-sales.

Here are some links which might help:

UX ROI: User Experience Return on Investment

Business Objectives vs. User Experience

HFI Animate - The ROI of User Experience with Dr. Susan Weinschenk - youtube link

  • Educate your team about User Experience: This should be perhaps point #2 but it can go here too. I am not sure how well versed your team is with the concept of user experience in general but conducting some information sessions about user experience concepts and how it ties in with the software development life cycle as well the pre sales cycle (since you are a digital agency) will help in not only building credibility but will also help in conveying information across to your team much easier while doing the actual design and development work. Also always remember that you need to adapt your discussions to talk to your team in their own language so that they see it from their point of view

Here are some good questions to go through:

How to deal with graphic designers who thinks UX is boring

“Selling” the management on need for UX focus

How do you persuade an organization to value UX?

  • Try to take the lead in determining which domains covered by the agency can benefit with a greater focus on user experience : This might be a little bit tricky if you dont have access to the marketing team or the team which actually brings in the projects,but if you do I would recommend looking at some of the incoming projects and highlighting how you could introduce the concept of wireframing or rapid prototyping or usability testing to help enhance the final product resulting in better sales and a better impression on the client. You could also go the reverse route and make a case study of a previously implemented project where a better focus on user experience would have yielded better results.

With regards to selling UX to other companies,these are they things I would recommend :

  • Work on establishing an UX design process in your company : The reason for this is that most of the client whom I work with like to know what the next step is. Having a clearly defined UX process which highlights each phase in the project and how it integrates with the software development life cycle will help you in selling yourself better to clients. It will also help you clearly define what all are the different deliverables the client can anticipate in each phase and what are the benefits of those deliverables. For example, a client might come with a request to do an Information architecture analysis of his site to determine why there is poor conversion. You might propose actions like taxonomy analysis or heuristic evaluations to determine issues with his site but having a clear process will help you explain how each steps ties into the previous step and how you would drive the process from end to end

  • Create a portfolio of your clients projects which have had UX deliverables or have followed a UX process : Clients like to see deliverables and having a portfolio of cases where you have handled similar projects or similar domains can greatly help in convincing your client about the skills your team would bring to the table

  • Create case studies of some of your projects : I guess this is a repetition of the previous point but use cases can help you clearly call out your process in greater detail than how a portfolio would and would help in focusing on the initial problem statement and the final result

  • Offer to enhance the user experience of an existing project or a new project : You might often get projects which might just deal with social marketing but a way to actually highlight the fact that your company does deal with UX would be to offer to enhance the user experience of the product along with the proposed deliverables of the existing product. This would help in not only establishing a name for your company as a place to go for both UX and social marketing related work but as a company which values UX

  • Ensure your emphasis on UX is clearly called out in your company's site : Your company's site is often the first place where clients go to get an understanding of your services and if your focus in UX is not clearly called out or is hidden in some small section, clients might miss it and just move on to the next design agency.

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What a thoroughly good read. As an aside: what is your formal education in UX named? I have been looking around for courses and such, but have probably been using the wrong words... –  Marjan Venema Sep 25 '12 at 15:37
    
Oh my masters was in Information Management but my focus was in user experience. But there are courses in my school (university of Washington) in HCDE (Human centered design and Engineering) which are completely UX centric –  Mervin Johnsingh Sep 25 '12 at 15:47
    
Whoops, got distracted while writing the edit: This is a great post! I'm going to use some of this as I move forward, but the main thrust of the question is more along the lines of selling UX and strategy to other companies. I think internally, there's some buy-in to doing things for our projects. –  Bryan Robinson Sep 25 '12 at 16:58
    
@mervinj, that does give me a couple of new search terms to use. Thanks. –  Marjan Venema Sep 25 '12 at 19:05
    
@BryanRobinson I guess I didnt understand your question sorry, I'll have to update my response in the morning when I get wake up,sorry for the delay :) –  Mervin Johnsingh Sep 25 '12 at 19:06

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