On 3 and 4 June 2016, the German-speaking IA and UX community met up for the ninth time at the Konferenz für Informationsarchitektur (IA) in Germany. The weather was perfect and expectations were high as Daniela Reichhoff, Maksim Mur’ye and I made our way to the Urania cinema and event building in Berlin.

In addition to the outstanding concept, an excellent range of topics and great organisation, we were impressed by the open atmosphere of the event. Beyond the lectures themselves there was also a lively exchange of knowledge and experience among both participants and speakers.

Once again the theme “Vision. Strategy. Product.” perfectly addressed the challenges and work that are our daily bread. Jaime Levy’s opening presentation, “What the hell is UX Strategy?!”, provided the underlying theme for the rest of the presentations. Levy introduced the topic with the following quote:

“UX strategy is the process that should be started first, before the design or development of a digital product begins. […] It’s the vision of a solution that needs to be validated with real potential customers to prove that it’s desired in the marketplace. […] UX strategy is the Big Picture. It is the high-level plan to achieve one or more business goals under conditions of uncertainty.”

Levy thus made it clear that a successful solution is based on the permanent research and validation of customer needs. This solution is not described as an isolated project, but rather a product or service requiring the development of a strategy.

The several cases that were discussed demonstrated why a (UX) strategy should not focus just on marketing or business goals. Instead, you need an approach that is user-focused, based on facts and that aims at creating real added value for the end customer. Opportunities have to be weighed against risks, and the criteria for success have to be defined in order to position oneself accordingly within the market.

The various solutions tabled emphasised two aspects in particular. It is important to develop the strategy together with all parties involved before the implementation process, so that the entire team can align themselves accordingly. This is the only way for collaboration to succeed in a truly agile process that offers adequate leeway for spontaneous research and user tests. And it means you can always question whether the goals are realistic, thereby reducing the risk of failure once it is already too late. Other presentations vividly demonstrated the potential pitfalls in using agile processes in everyday business activities, because these require a certain corporate culture.

The several practical presentations reflected the current market situation and offered us, three concept developers, plenty of ideas for our everyday strategic product development. Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed the IA Konferenz 2016 and came away with plenty of inspiration, as well as a better understanding of the UX strategy.