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illustration of woman outlining a strategic plan on a bulletin board - How Researchers Can Lead and Inform Strategic Priorities in 2023

How Researchers Can Lead and Inform Strategic Priorities in 2023

Tips for shaping and prioritizing your UX research strategy through the rest of 2023, from User Research Leader, Roberta Dombrowski.

The last few months have been a journey, filled with unexpected challenges. It is true that research roles have been affected by layoffs and hiring freezes. In my coaching work, I’m noticing a trend of research leaders being asked to do more with less. But there is only so much time in a day, week, quarter.

If you're a researcher who is hoping to use your time in the most strategic way for the remainder of 2023, below are some tips based on my experience leading the UX research team at User Interviews.

1. Start with a self reflection about organizational priorities

When we feel out of power, it is not uncommon for us to look outside of ourselves for the answers. I invite you to first look inside when thinking about what to do next

As researchers, we have unique perspectives about what's going on in the business. We’re often hearing patterns and themes from customer conversations as well as priorities from the wider business. 

Try to set aside some time to reflect on things like:

  • What are the knowns and unknowns when it comes to the user experience?
  • What is the highest priority for the business? 
  • What are the biggest risks to the business? 
  • What themes have I been hearing from customers and my team? 
  • How can research help mitigate these risks?

This should give you a good starting point for project ideas that could have a major impact on your team. But there are always things that you may not have visibility into. 

An example of how I brainstormed ideas for user research strategy using the questions above – from my H1 2023 planning Miro board
An example of how I brainstormed ideas for user research strategy using the questions above – from my H1 2023 planning Miro board

🎧 User Researchers Need to Care About the Business, Too – the Awkward Silences Podcast with Zack Naylor of Aurelius

2. Invite stakeholders to the conversation

While many researchers opt for an intake form to manage research requests, I always favor live sessions to connect with stakeholders and get a pulse of what's going on for them. I’ll ask them things like:

  • What’s keeping them up at night?
  • What are they most worried about?
  • How could research support?

Some of my favorite conversations would often happen with our SVP of Marketing, Erin May and former SVP of Product, JH Forster. They would always make sure to flag whether there was something on the top of their minds that I should give some attention to as I was planning. I combined this kind of stakeholder feedback with my self-reflection into a proposal for the team.

📚 5 Ways to “Recession-proof” Your 2023 User Research Plan – By Rachell Lee of User Interviews

3. Put together a short proposal to share with team leaders 

At this point I’ll typically have a giant list of project ideas. I use an Eisenhower matrix to organize what are the most important opportunities for the team for the upcoming chunk of time.

Next, I’ll write up a short proposal in Notion and share with other leaders on the team. This step is critical. As researchers, we get hired for our perspectives! Don’t be shy about sharing your recommendations with the team on what should be most important.

screenshot of strategic UX research ideas organized by scope and status

I also try to place bets on at least 1 longer term initiative, as well as some short term wins that allow me to show faster impact across the team. I’ll share this proposal with fellow leaders across the team, so they can leave notes and we can have discussions about whether any shifts or changes need to be made.

📚 Learn more: The Ultimate Guide to UX Research Strategy

How do you prioritize user research?

While this approach worked well for me and the team at UI, each team (and project) is unique. 

I’d be curious to know: What inputs are you using to prioritize user research for the remainder of 2023?  Be sure to reach out, I’d love to hear from you!

Roberta Dombrowski
VP, User Research

Roberta Dombrowski is a (former) VP, UXR at User Interviews. In her free time, Roberta is a Career Coach and Mindfulness teacher through Learn Mindfully.

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