A Holistic Approach
Evaluating work objectives and product or service execution from the user point of view? That’s standard. Understanding what drives your partner’s business goals? Part of the process. Explaining why empathy is needed in the professional arena is an old hat–worn with comfort and confidence.
What’s lacking are the less obvious types of empathy and how they all play important roles throughout the product lifecycle. These more obscure types of empathy can run alongside end user or business needs, but they also consider other stakeholders, internal teams, and even you, individually.
Your teams want to experience the highest levels of trust, collaboration, and production with every project. Your company desires established long-term partnerships that evolve instead of end. And the best way to have it all is to promote holistic empathetic practices.
4 Types of Empathy
For companies and teams that work across the entire product lifecycle, empathy stems from the Kick-off/Discovery phases and branches out as the product takes shape. With design, development, QA, and beyond, the amount of understanding and vision for fluid conditions and expectations can be overwhelming.
Ultimately, there are four perspectives to keep at the forefront, throughout every input and output stage of product development (aka digital transformation).
The most straight-forward form of empathy (not to say it’s the easiest) is user empathy. A successful product, or brand, takes the time to understand the user and address their needs. Research, usability studies, and market analysis support this effort. From start to finish, the user presence should always be felt in a design and build environment.
UX designers tend to excel in this type of empathy because it’s a direct dependency for their success. For example, if a usability tester finds a significant flaw in an app experience that makes it crash, it’s necessary to make the fix. But, more importantly, you must evaluate the consequences of these flaws and use this opportunity to add more value based on user learnings. Having a higher level of user empathy fuels more than efficacy–it inspires delight and brand preference.
External Business Empathy
A great partnership often leads to a product that delivers the most value. A primary measurement of success for service providers is the amount of effort required on the other side of the table. You strive for the least amount of effort from your business partner, the smoothest, happiest path. The ideal B2B relationship mirrors the ideal P2C (product to customer) relationship: a natural fit.
After confirming the project, sales passes the baton, often with a high-level, general understanding of your partner’s business environment. Program and project managers often take the lead with partner empathy, but they can’t be the only ones doubling down on this effort. Your teams have to recognize all of the requirements and dig into the current circumstances of a company (and, at times, an existing product). And that’s just the beginning.
Then you go a level deeper to fully immerse yourself in product owner intentions and expectations. This may (or may not) include some of these sensitive items:
- Funding dependencies (present or future)
- Board expectations and buy-in
- Financial constraints (predicted or hypothetical)
- Unpopular demand
Walking around in their shoes, in this case, means taking the time to uncover every possible “IF…THEN” situation on their side. It means gathering as much intel to better inform your internal teams before they start the work, as well as continually syncing up on changes and context throughout the product lifecycle.