Product executives have a lot to focus on – business outcomes, user satisfaction, partnering with engineering, and influencing stakeholders to name but a few.

It has become an industry standard to say that focusing on the user is the most important of all. The idea is simple, by prioritizing the user experience, teams can then move the needle on business goals, operational excellence, and many other important metrics.  

In partnering with product executives of varying maturities across industries, it’s clear a new trend is emerging: more significant investments are being made to capture and leverage user experience data. As a result, a growing number of leaders are investing in dedicated Experience Management (XM) functions and evolving their operating models accordingly.

Elements of managing an experience are often embedded into standard agile ceremonies or deliveries, but are not often enough a value stream of their own. For example, almost all leaders today invest time and resources in designing great user interfaces and/or establishing feedback loops that may capture user information to inform development, but this is only part of the battle – and quickly becoming 'not enough to compete.'

Here is a quick overview of what XM is and how it is impacting leading product operating models:

XM Defined

XM is a focused effort that conducts an objective analysis of how users behave and feel when interacting with digital products. Product executives can divide XM into two key components:

(1) an always-on data funnel telling the story of how users truly feel and interact with technology

(2) a methodical distribution of insights to relevant stakeholders for targeted action with outcome ownership

Mature XM functions leverage both digital and analog monitoring tools to build a continuous pipeline of experience data. Much like IT organizations have command centers full of monitors and moving charts displaying real-time data like performance stability, product teams must have the same capabilities for user experiences.

There are multiple models and no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to how the best XM teams methodically distribute insights from the data-pipelines they build. There is a spectrum however that can inform what is right for your organization.

On one end, some XM teams are accountable for implementing the right experience monitoring tools and developing a self-service repository for teams to access relevant data. On the other end, some XM teams are accountable for not just the data capture but also the synthesis and distribution of actionable insights. The best XM teams work with fast-moving product teams at co-defined ‘sprint-appropriate’ moments.

Impact on the Product Operating Model 

Leading executives with mature XM functions understand how product-centric operating models must evolve to get the most out of the investment. To maximize value, calculated adjustments across the product lifecycle are being made. Here are just a few:

Development Process: Digital organizations tend to design their sprints around common agile ceremonies like stand-ups, backlog grooming, demos, retrospectives, etc. There is now a need to make room for the insights coming from the XM function. The most mature organizations are creating new inter-sprint ceremonies to continuously validate goals, refine UX/UI designs, and continuously update assets like personas or journey maps using XM data.

Sales & Marketing: Product executives report that XM insights also identify where additional sales and marketing investments are needed. The data may show that prospects/buyers are not aware or adopting a set of capabilities that could result in lost revenue. With this knowledge, product leaders can take targeted actions to amplify marketing resources or refine their product support model. XM functions are enabling more targeted marketing efforts to maximize revenue while also lowering support needs/ticket volumes and reducing costs.

Culture and the Definition of Success: For many product teams, success is defined as being right about user needs, minimizing time to value, and releasing regular user enhancements. When XM is introduced, product executives are starting to reframe the goal of ‘being right’ to ‘finding out what is right.’ This is an uncomfortable shift for many product professionals – they pride themselves on representing the voice of their customer and incrementally delivering better experiences. Leaders investing in XM are responding to this by evolving their organization's culture to allow for a new definition of success.

The product landscape is constantly evolving and the leading executives are excelling with change. The continuous improvement of user-centricity has hit a critical maturity level and XM is proving to become a latest focus across industries. New tools are in development (by new product companies), new ways of working are being institutionalized, and sizable new investments into understanding customers are being funded. Standing up an XM function requires thoughtful operating model adjustments so that its value can be fully realized.

If your organization does not yet have an XM function, answering the following questions can help you get started on the journey:

  1. How do you currently capture user experience data?
  2. What practices are in place to ensure experience data is used across the product management lifecycle?
  3. How might XM help maximize revenue and reduce costs in your organization?