Enterprise UX: Selecting and Conducting the Right Research in a Business Setting

Welcome to Fuzzy Math’s four-week series on Enterprise UX, all leading up to the Enterprise UX Conference in San Antonio from May 13-15. We’re organizing our blog posts on the four conference themes: Insight at Scale, Craft amid Complexity, Enterprise Experimentation, and Designing Organizational Culture.

This week we start with Theme 1: Insight at Scale–Design Research in a Business Setting

Enterprise UX research can be tough. With many users across many client companies, there’s rarely one right answer to how your product should work. Talking to many people across different companies can help understand who your customers are, and identify powerful opportunities to improve their experience.

The Business Difference

Unlike with consumer products — which typically have a broad range of users choosing the product based on an internal need or want — enterprise users may fill niche roles, and likely didn’t choose to use your product. Rather, most enterprise software is purchased and implemented across an entire company. Consumer products may meet an abstract need such as fun or social engagement, however business tools typically focus first on concrete needs tied to business functions. While consumer products can typically exist in isolation, business products will always be just one tool amongst many used by the organization and must fit harmoniously within that ecosystem. UX research in the enterprise world, then, must focus on not only understanding the people using the product, but also the business within which your product will be operating and all the processes, infrastructure, and goals it entails.

Enterprise users may fill niche roles, and likely didn’t choose to use your product

Understanding people, companies, and your product

To get at these business insights, we suggest sitting with a variety of different people to both observe what they’re doing today and to discuss what’s working for them now, and what could be better moving forward. These research sessions should touch on your product, including time spent watching the participant use your product, but must go a step further. Dig into their role, including their overall goals, what brings them joy in their work, and what things they don’t like doing. Understanding the context of what each person’s doing before and after using your product, including work done in other products, can help you understand their overall process and way of thinking. This sort of holistic insight is crucial for identifying opportunities for improving or growing your product based on how work is actually being completed.

Enterprise products typically have many client companies, none of which use the product in exactly the same way. Spread your research across many companies, but make sure to speak to people across roles within each company to gain a complete picture of how that organization operates. Ideally, your research should represent the general breadth of your customer base, including each type of company with which you work today (or would like to work with in the future). Try to meet with each person you speak with in his or her actual working environment. It’s one thing to hear people talk about their work, and another thing entirely to watch them work — many nuances in behavior and process will only appear when you can see the work happening.

At this point, you’ve talked to people across the company, and have a great set of insights about your product and the work surrounding it. Now it’s time to build from the research, and communicate your findings to the rest of your organization.

The Enterprise UX 2015 Series

Insight at Scale
Craft amid Complexity
Next up

Enterprise Experimentation

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