Friday, November 03, 2006

Selling Usability to Your Manager

Tips on how to sell usability ...

"Before you can implement a usability initiative in your organisation, you'll need to convince your manager it's worthwhile. The obvious approach is to use a cost-benefit argument, but experience shows that this approach often fails because many managers find the data unconvincing. An alternative approach is to tailor your argument based on your manager's MBTI personality type. This approach generates many different ideas for selling usability within your organisation and is much more persuasive.

You're enthusiastic about usability and want to make it happen within your organisation. But your manager doesn't share your enthusiasm. Perhaps your manager sees usability as a diversion from the business of product or software development, or thinks it's too fluffy to truly inform design, or sees it as a threat to his or her expertise. How do you go about changing your manager's mind?

Most people will tell you to assemble a cost-benefit argument for usability. There are many resources on the Web to help you do this, and Randolph Bias and Deborah Mayhew have written an excellent book on the topic. To assemble a cost-benefit argument, you simply take a piece of paper and draw a vertical line down the middle. On the left you list the expected benefits, such as increased sales, fewer calls to customer service, and increased loyalty. On the right you list all the costs, such as paying participant incentives and renting a usability lab. You then pencil in guesstimates of the cost of each item, trying to be as realistic as possible.

But often, this just isn't enough. I'm a great advocate of cost-benefit calculations and recommend them as a way of institutionalising usability within your company. But as a psychologist, I also realise that changing the company culture is very different from changing a specific individual's opinion. Cost-benefit arguments will work for some people, but they assume a level of engagement with data. People who are detail-averse will listen uncomfortably to your presentation and feel that some underlying concerns haven't been addressed. They might be thinking, "How will this initiative be perceived by my manager?" or "How will the developers react to having users criticising their designs?" or "How will I be able to control something I don't understand?" So I'm proposing a three-step approach that combines using these key arguments with a communication style customised to your manager. The three steps are:

Assemble the benefits of usability
“Type” your manager
Tailor your argument"    (Continued via UserFocus)    [Usability Resources]

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