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I work as a UX Designer in an IT company. The company is still very developer-oriented with a low level of UX Maturity. The team consists of two designers (me included) and 4 developers.

We have been building a software using the Scrum method, and a new manager (from a developer background) has just arrived a couple of months ago. He has pressure from above to keep adding new features to the software, but as we had rushed to finish the 1st version of the software for its launch, there is a lot of UX debt to cover (we want to improve most of the pages and improve+align our style guide across the site).

The stakeholders themselves want the software improved but the manager has not included time in the roadmap for such improvements and has suggested, in order to keep up with the roadmap for the new features, that developers work directly on them without any wireframes from our part!

How can we make the manager understand the value of our UX work and the importance of accounting for continuous UX improvement of the software?

Some things I have already been doing in the past months for this project are:

  • Sharing usability testing results with stakeholders+developers
  • Explaining (to stakeholders) the reasons behind design decisions/changes when presenting new wireframes
  • Gathering stakeholders' feedback on the current version of the software
  • Talk about our design process and its steps in general
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Treat your manager like another user (because they are one).

Identify what their needs are. It sounds like the manager is at odds with the stakeholders and they have decided to focus on delivering anything to meet deadlines rather than ensuring they deliver the right thing.

You might be able to show them how UX pre-work correlates to reduced overall dev time (since you only have to build the right thing once instead of the wrong thing twice). As the saying goes, "You can fix it with an eraser on the blueprint, or a sledgehammer at the construction site." Identifying problems that users will have before they have them almost always saves time and money.

It could be that their needs are being dictated from above them and those people don't understand that demanding more features without moving deadlines means something needs to give. Maybe they are stuck and doing the best they can juggling UX demands with dev resources. You might be able to work with the manager and find out where UX gets the biggest bang for the time spent, or find more value looking ahead at upcoming, high-profile features to make sure the app makes a good first impression (even if the settings panel was built by engineers and never mocked up).

It is quite possible no one ever established a core metric to measure the success of your app, or maybe it's something unhelpful like "more users!" Do some research to find out what it needs to be and then you can frame any UX discussions with the manager around moving that needle. Maybe they will realize that a feature won't have the impact it is meant to without proper design work behind it, or maybe it will turn out that it's OK to skip mockups on a feature or two so that your time can be better spent researching or designing ways that have a larger impact on the user.

You may also reach an impasse where they are set in their ways and you are unable to prevent the captain from steering you into an iceberg, so to speak. In that case, you can try working more closely with the devs since they generally don't like wasting time building things no one will use. You don't have to be the sole repository of all UX knowledge on the team, and if you teach the devs to think about things from the user's perspective they might see the value in wireframes and ask for them or start adding time to assist you in making them as part of their sprint work.

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Unless the organisation is doing UX to look good/modern, they don't really want to hear abut the processes you go through, they hired you to do that work not to talk about it to them. They want to hear about the results that can be delivered and how those results can benefit the company, i.e. they want reassurance that your role is viable.

Empathize with the manager and speak the manager's language:

  • identify risks and weaknesses in the project that UX can mitigate. Explain (sell) how that can be done (as in how the results will be integrated into the project, rather than explaining the expensive and time consuming activities involved in UX research).

  • consider changing your ways to fit the manager's project lifecycle. E.g. deliver something each sprint in an Agile process and be ready to accommodate curve-balls.

  • provide measurable success criteria for each deliverable so your manager can expect tangible results (whether success or failure). Make it a science.

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