I championed design thinking across the Business Innovation and Technology teams as the principal UX researcher and designer for the Business Innovation team in AllianceBernstein’s Client Group. I advocated for and got executive sponsorship to conduct in-depth research that served as the foundation for innovation projects ranging from Salesforce redesign, a new big-data project serving intelligent business insights to sales teams and their support staff, and business process redesign to ensure teams are incentivized to participate in data production and aggregation.
Big wins: Empowered developers and business analysts to be design partners with the business. Business buy-in for design thinking and growth of the design practice. Saved millions of dollars in development time with a research-backed and validated product roadmap. Empowered a growth in sales of AUM for the firm.
- Stakeholder Buy-in
Building buy-in with executive leadership as well as end-users.
- Democratizing UX at Enterprise Scale
Large enterprises with complex processes are notoriously difficult for fledgling designers to scale their services without becoming a bottleneck.
- Prioritizing Research Findings For Product Management
Research saves time and money as an invaluable asset to validating teams’ assumptions. With a solid foundation, empower your Business Analyst and Developers to be true partners for your business and you’ll spend far fewer resources on solutions that don’t solve your business stakeholders’ and users’ problems.
- Putting User Research to Action
Validate assumptions, prototype, and bring true innovative transformation to ensure your application matches your users and business needs.
1. Stakeholder Buy-in
As the Principal designer on a team of business analysts, developers, and project managers; it was critical to the adoption of design thinking on the team. Additionally, it was important to build buy-in with executive leadership, end-users, and other stakeholders across the organization.
I used a user research exercise to gain stakeholder buy-in. The results were the first UX artifacts of the process including Sales Lifecycle overview focused on Sales and Relationship advisors, Day in Life Maps, User Personas, and User Stories grouped into three categories.
Business Analysts and Developers
The Business Innovation team at the client group was tasked with producing solutions to empower AllianceBernstein’s global sales teams through big data, artificial intelligence, and streamlined collaboration. A group of four business analysts, one Salesforce developer, a salesforce admin, and four developers would form the core of this team. I worked adjacent to the business analyst teaching them how to use design tools like Adobe XD, paper prototyping, and more to empower them to be solution partners. To ensure developers would have ownership over the solutions, I also worked alongside them, inviting them to user interviews, and ensuring a shared understanding of end-users. This also served as a useful relationship-building tool to promote the use of the Salesforce Lighting design library. Reducing design bottlenecks as much as possible and empowering a lean methodology approach to solving client problems.
Sales Advisors, Relationship Advisors, Support
I interviewed dozens of end-users across the globe, building relationships with Sales advisors, Relationship managers, and their support staff across the firm’s client group. I augmented this research with senior executives and strategists giving me a unique ability to validate assumptions for the product teams and work with the project management staff to accurately prioritize the feature and user story backlogs for Salesforce redesign, and the AI project serving new sales and relationship insights to Sales advisors. These relationships proved invaluable both to solve team debates as well as build stakeholder buy-in and ownership of the two primary products with our end-users.
Executive Business Owners
I built organization-wide relationships with executives from financial product development, business, and sales. Presenting the results of the initial research and prototypes to gain sponsorship for design thinking within the Business Innovation Group. Helping the team to gain approval for the product roadmap and user-story prioritization that would inform Salesforce Redesign and the business processes that would create incentives for sales teams accustomed to keeping important data offline in the early stages of the sales lifecycle.
2. Democratizing UX at Enterprise Scale
I lead advocacy for UCD thinking enterprise-wide at AllianceBernstein, empowering teammates in Business Innovation to adopt prototyping tools using Adobe XD, Salesforce Lightning Design System, and the developer reference library. As well as promoting the use of a reference library to deeply understand users’ needs as well as the overall business process.
Teaching Business Analyst Design Systems
I worked with BAs on his team with prototyping abilities. Enabling them to build high-fidelity prototypes on the fly that would excite and impress our business end-users and our super-user groups; speeding up the development and prioritization of user stories that they were able to validate in real-time.
By using Salesforce Lighting, everything myself and other BA’s produced in Adobe XD would be easily replicated by our developers with an easy-to-reference library. I worked extensively with the Salesforce development team to promote the adoption of salesforce alignment to AllianceBernstein’s business process by using the Lightning Design System making custom development and implementation of new features a breeze.
3. Prioritizing Research Findings For Product Management
User research is the best tool we have to prioritize user stories in the product backlog. I used research at AllianceBernstein to build consensus among all stakeholders ranging from executive sponsors to client end-users to development and business analyst team members.
User Stories from Qualitative Research
I interviewed dozens of Institutional Sales Advisors, Relationship Advisors, and their support staff across the globe. Taking detailed notes with annotation in a shared OneNote repository for collaboration and reference by the entire team. This became the foundation for Tim to mine data for insights into the user’s pain points and to identify user stories. Combining these interviews with interviews across the business enabled him to identify user-centered design solutions as well as business processes.
Building Empathy with Personas
Using the qualitative interviews, I built out a series of User Personas for Institutional Sales Advisors, Relationship Advisors, and their support staffs to circulate to his direct team as well as the broader Tech and Ops teams to help ensure solutions providers build a deep understanding of AllianceBernstein’s institutional sales teams.
Informing Product Roadmap with Day in the Life Maps
Referencing the extensive interviews, I produced a series of day-in-the-life charts to help developers and project managers better understand the pain points, frustrations, and delights of Institutional Sales Advisors and their support staff at AllianceBernstien. This also became a useful tool when discussing the prioritization of user stories from the product backlogs with executive sponsors.
Putting it All Together – Strategy Meets Product Management
Deeply understanding and empathizing with the users you’re solving for provide insight that can inform business strategy as well as prioritize your product backlog. I produced the first-of-its-kind end-to-end sales lifecycle for accounts in AllianceBernstein’s institutional sales division. From early leads and relationships with advisors to formal business opportunities, through to RFP, formal account creation, account management, end in account closing. This document revealed that no amount of good design in the Salesforce redesign would solve the motivations of the sales teams and their desire to keep leads in their own charts until they were sure that they would convert into a lead, circumventing the intended lead generation that senior leaders were looking for from their teams. This map proved one of the most useful documents to inform product roadmap prioritization on the Salesforce redesign team as well as the data intelligence team, and it also proved useful with executive sponsors as our partners in reviewing business processes and incentives as well as disincentives to prevent adoption.
4. Putting User Research to Action
Research serves the ultimate purpose of improving lives and serving the objectives of stakeholders. In my role for Business Innovation for AllianceBernstein, I was the Principal UX Research and User Interface Designer for Salesforce Redesign, and for a data intelligence project internally called High-Value Actions.