ARTICLE: Kyle Bentle

Kicking off a UX project: how to align stakeholders and hit the ground running

For EdTech companies the beginning of a new UX project is critical. Unless your entire team gets on the same page about your discovery process and big-picture project goals, you risk inadvertently duplicating work and missing deadlines. Team members’ opinions about processes can come into conflict.

The success of the project depends on the entire team coming into agreement — and that starts with a kickoff meeting. 

An effective kickoff sets the tone for what will be a collaborative effort — one that ensures all stakeholders are heard. The goal is to work toward consensus of discrete problems from disparate points of view. Here’s how to take full advantage of your kickoff meeting.

How to Effectively Kick Off an EdTech UX Project

When Openfield initiates a kickoff meeting for a UX project with an EdTech company like yours, we aim to level the knowledge playing field for all participants. We believe getting traction depends on it. We also bring experience and expertise that help facilitate productive conversations. 

Here’s who we want to include in the kickoff — and the way we shape the kickoff discussions for maximum benefit.

Identify and Include the Stakeholders

Our initial kickoff session starts with identifying the key stakeholders on your team. This might include product owners, designers, developers, customer service representatives, and, ideally, a representative of learning sciences. In essence, anyone else who is invested in the success of the UX project should have a seat at the table.

Each person in this diverse group has specialized knowledge from a unique vantage point. 

Product owners bring the necessary big-picture vision. They have holistic business objectives in mind and experiments they’re interested in trying. The product owners’ thinking is complemented by that of both designers and developers, who can shed light on the execution of generated ideas. 

Customer service team members can give voice to common user frustrations. And a learning sciences expert can keep the entire team grounded in what matters most — a learning experience that improves learning outcomes for users. 

A productive kickoff meeting opens up information channels and allows each stakeholder to share their vision. The team brings clear definitions of the product, the users, ideas about problems to be solved, past research or data, and any anticipated obstacles. 

This approach ensures all project members have a 360-degree view. 

Openfield serves as a necessary, neutral party that can keep bias at bay, give your users a voice — and help your team align around a common vision.

Hold the Collaborative Kickoff Meeting

Once we’ve assembled all the key stakeholders, the next step is to set everyone’s expectations. Everything should be put on the table: critical information, past research, resources available, and possible roadblocks. Once everyone has the same baseline of information, there will be fewer surprises along the way. 

A member of the Openfield UX team serves as a moderator of the kickoff discussion and shares the agenda for the session with all attendees in advance. Our moderator keeps any one voice at the table from dominating the discussion, draws out relevant information with intelligent questions, and makes inferences that help build a holistic understanding of the topics.

The discussion should center around three different areas: the product users, the UX problem as each member understands it, and what success for the project would look like. We run through a series of questions and gather input from everyone. 

Examples of questions the UX team may ask include:

Understanding the users

  • Who are we designing for — and what’s important to them? Your users and their needs are your north star, the perennially guiding force.  
  • What motivates and creates stress for them? While sources of user motivation and stress shouldn’t be the sole agenda-driver, accurately answering these questions should inform UX decisions for your product.
  • What are the technical considerations? Now more than ever, EdTech UX must be inclusive. How can we make sure all users can navigate the product?
  • If we could change something about our user base, what would it be? Is your product attracting the users for whom it was designed? 
  • What do we not know about our users? Listing what we collectively agree are still blindspots can help teams direct their research resources in the most impactful way.  

Understanding the problem

  • What do we know about your user experience? Current knowledge may be based on anecdotal evidence, previous quantitative and qualitative research, and everyone’s unique areas of expertise. 
  • Are there any user pain points we already know about and can verify? What can previous research and customer experience tell us about existing points of friction?
  • How can UX solve for these pain points? The kickoff meeting is not intended to pinpoint solutions — but brainstorming possibilities to explore is appropriate.

Defining Success

  • What does success look like for this project? Consensus from all stakeholders on what success actually looks like has to be a priority. Without agreement, we don’t have a clear target to aim for.
  • How will we measure success? What metrics will be employed to calculate achievement of objectives?
  • Who are your strongest competitors? Some competitors are obvious. Some are not. Has your team considered the entire competitive landscape?
  • What do you hope will be different when the project is complete? What does each stakeholder personally expect will look, feel, and function differently? 

Determine Next Steps

Sometimes the kickoff session doesn’t allow for time to build consensus among stakeholders. When that happens, we distill the key takeaways from the kickoff session and pick up our next discussion again with clarity and focus.

Once consensus has been reached on the key questions, we can:

  1. Identify and agree on the roles everyone will play in the project going forward.
  2. Generate a series of action items that will be tended to before we meet again. 
  3. Set a timeline with specific milestones to build in mutual accountability. 

An effective UX kickoff session unites stakeholders, synthesizes their knowledge, and establishes the right next steps. Want to learn more about how Openfield’s approach can get your UX project started on the right foot? Let’s talk.

  • Photo of Kyle Bentle
    Kyle Bentle

    Kyle’s journey to the world of UX is an uncommon one. After earning a journalism degree from Ball State University with a concentration in graphic design, he spent the next decade working in news organizations in Jacksonville and Chicago. In his previous role as designer and journalist at the Chicago Tribune, Kyle juggled the needs of many stakeholders while collaborating on multidisciplinary teams under immense deadline pressure. As a data visualization expert, he brings a rare ability to analyze and translate complex information and concepts into engaging and understandable stories. Outside of work, he enjoys time with his wife, Lee Ann, and their dog, Scooter. Among his hobbies are biking, spending time outdoors, and painting poorly (his words).

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