Get great quality from your agency

in Managing usability agencies

As a general rule when outsourcing usability work to an agency, I recommend that you conduct three quality reviews. It’s essential to reduce the cost of any rework by intercepting problems when they’ll both be easier and cheaper to correct.

Proposal stage
Get the key stakeholders together to review the proposals from your agency (or agencies). You should check that the proposal answers the research objectives, whether there’s a clear explanation of how the data will be analysed, and what the report will contain.

It’s amazing how much ambiguity and uncertainty can be uncovered by getting the agency and your stakeholders in one room and doing some hand-wringing.

At the earliest point of data collection
Attending a couple of sessions with the consultant can uncover whether it looks like they are answering the research questions. At the end these early sessions ask “What do you think we learned from that?” If the consultant can’t make some concrete, insightful comments, you should be worried. Reiterate the research questions. If, after the second, session it still seems that they’re out of their depth, put a hold on the research and escalate the problem. Believe me on this, I’ve learned the hard way.

As the report is nearing completion
Before the report is finished, ask to see a draft. What you’re really interested in here is the quality of analysis – the accuracy, richness and usefulness of the findings. Also check that the main sections are in place and that the report seems appropriate to the people who will read it.

Think about whether any of these quality reviews would have picked up problems with one of your projects.

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