From agency to organization = omgwtfbbq

i worked at 2 agencies for the past 5-6 years.
i recently got a 9 month contract with a professional association as a UX consultant.

i was contracted by the marketing department, they want to drive more traffic to the website, more prospective members, but the UX is terrible.

coming from the agency, there are some important differences and new challenges. the project is really a kind of milestone for me, and i want to do the best for them, but i’m a little tripped up by the calculus here.

  1. i’m using their resources. so their politics, processes, teams, and individual capabilities become central

  2. their UX problems are so glaringly obvious, most people in the company can see them. why haven’t they been addressed yet? no one seems really sure. the gist: some are technical challenges (new database technology sass thing, several agencies working on the platform = technical debt) but also several departments disconnected from each other with siloed knowledge, and organizational restructuring means there are actually 2 departments working on the website at once.

  3. is my job to continue pointing at these obvious UX problems? should i address non-obvious ones while the big stuff remains in the way? at the agency i also project managed development, so instinctively, i want to start a backlog of issues, prioritize it, make development transparent to the organization, and start tackling work. — this seems like it might be beyond my role though, but all their development is opaque AF.

with all this in play, the UX which I’m realizing is honestly the easiest part for me, is actually just a footnote. this is barely a UX problem. the problem is their organization, artifacts of poor design, and so on. What could have been a relatively simple UX project is actually an organizational and technical quagmire.

i don’t know what to do with this really. my role seems like a mystery to me atm. did they really need me just to set meetings to collect company feedback on the website and work with development to improve it at this pace? i’ll be here for years, not months. i barely feel like i’m working compared to the agency. i want to jump in and start working, but it’s hard to figure out how to help them. is it them? is it me? it’s making me a little anxious.

anyway, thinking out loud a bit to wrap my head around this. any feedback would be useful.

I also work agency side, but even being agency side doesnt shelter me from working with siloed ‘old fashioned’ clients who need a organisational redesign rather than a website redesign. One thing I’ve noticed is that since bringing in the importance of UX at least the issue of having siloed business units that impact the conversions on the website is now a known problem they hope to address slowly - it won’t be radical or quick. You can at least use UX as a catalyst for bigger change, right? After all, everything is done online, UX needs a bigger seat at the the table and this is our chance to show it.
If communicated and demonstrated properly these types of projects can really spread the gospel of UX, build better teams and be amazing case studies.

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Probably, they see them but do not know how to deal with them. I assume they need a clear plan or set of steps to perform to improve the situation.

Not any organization is ready to change towards lean processes as the cost of change may be too high at this point. But they may be considering these changes and your insights could be valuable to them. Why not talk to the management about your worries?