SAW (Strategy Alignment Workshop)

Workshops provide value at every stage of the UX design process. Whether it’s exploring a specific UX problem, getting key stakeholders aligned, generating ideas and solutions, or diving deeper into your end user’s needs—workshops offer a safe, engaging space to tackle UX challenges collaboratively, creatively, and efficiently.

What is a UX workshop?

A UX workshop is a collaborative group session which focuses on a specific goal or outcome. It’s not just a meeting between UX designers and stakeholders; it’s an active, interactive session, carefully designed to empower progress through teamwork. A UX workshop follows a set agenda, with participants taking part in different activities throughout.

Why use workshops in UX design?

UX workshops provide value throughout the UX design process. You can use them to:

  • Explore and understand specific problems and challenges
  • Generate ideas and problem-solve
  • Develop user empathy
  • Prioritize and plan what the team should focus on next
  • Develop a UX strategy
  • Gather feedback and critique
  • Review and improve team processes

…and much, much more!

Before we began the design for the Annuities Main page, I created a map of all the products we had. I wanted to establish the definition and where and under what umbrella will the product and the page we will be designing, reside. Any new abbreviations we learned were also added to keep us more updated and have everyone use the same vocabulary.

So, along with my senior designer, we came up with a plan for facilitating a SAW. The SAW or Strategy Alignment Workshop was where we were planning to collect existing knowledge from team members and key stakeholders and converge to understand the current state and build consensus for plans for an upcoming project. 

Objective

To collect data around the topic of the Annuities Main page, find commonality and establish alignment across teams. 

Goal of this workshop

  • Create a safe space for open discussion, challenging or inspiring ideas, and honest project feedback. 
  • Take advantage of others’ knowledge and experience from outside our own discipline.
  • Align and define on a direction for the page.

Agenda of the workshop:

The agenda of the SAW was to review the page purpose, user needs and goals, collecting data and page type zone alignment.

Teams present

  • DPMs/EO/Business
  • Marketing
  • Advice
  • SEO
  • Content
  • Design

Problem Statement

Develop long term strategy for what we want the annuities omni-channel experience to be, from awareness and education through acquisition to nurturing and servicing. We’ve been very tactical over the years, which have led to a disjointed storefront experience.

Some Ground rules

  • If you’re not sure, ask questions in the Zoom chat.
  • Give time and space for everyone to contribute.
  • Write before you talk.
  • Be fully present.
  • Practice active listening.
  • Build on other’s ideas. 

Page Purpose: What does USAA need this page to do?

The themes that came up for this section are: what is an annuity?, what are the next steps, clarity/education, retirement strategies, value of annuities and a holistic understanding. 

User Needs and Goals: What is the user trying to do on this page?

Some of the themes that came up were retirement planning, get help, what’s it for, various options, understand risks, why should I get it, acquire an annuity, what are the benefits, why USAA. 

Data Collection

In this section, I had meetings with the individual teams (prior to the SAW) participating in the SAW and had requested them to fill out the overall findings section and discuss their sections to the entire team when it’s their turn to talk about their contribution to the page. The Business, Marketing, Advice, SEO, Content and Design teams were able to share their findings to the team. As a representative of the design team, I was able to pull up the findings from our Competitive Analysis and share our recommendations to the team.

Comparison Hub Type Content Zoning Alignment
- Led by Content

Page Type: Comparision Hub

A comparison hub is intended to highlight the key benefits and differences of a group of like products to help the user navigate to the one they are most interested in. Information may include value props, product requirements or other points to help the user make an informed decision on what product they need, or how to begin enrollment. 

Zone 1 : Orient and Validate

Let the user know they’re in the right place by describing what the page is about, using primary keywords.

  • Is there a key concept that should be addressed in the banner?
  • What’s the primary action you want the user to take?
  • Will there be imagery/video in the banner?
  • Requirements around the legal disclosure that is currently under the banner today?

Zone 2: Introduce

Get the user familiar with what we are offering.

  • Define the product/subject of the page.
  • Who should get this product or what problem does it solve?
  • Benefits of Annuities.

Zone 3: Compare Details

Help users compare and contrast characteristics of a product or service.

  • What are the product variants?

Zone 4: Convince 

Close objections, answer question and provide additional advice.

  • Is there an RTB sheet from marketing?
  • Are there POVs attached to this product type?
  • Why would someone choose USAA for this product type?
  • Is there statistical data to support buying an annuity?
  • Are we including links to the 2 product calculators?
  • Are we including the second video that is currently on the page today into the new experience or is it be replaces with a new video?

Zone 5: Support

Close objective, answer questions and provide additional advice.

  • What is the process for purchasing an annuity?
  • Which advice articles should we link to?
  • Are there cons associated with these products that we should address?
  • What are the most asked questions about this product type?
  • What criteria do I have to meet for an annuity?
  • What alternative products are there?
  • Do we need to add contact info to the page?

After the workshop was done. I was able to coordinate with the design team to come together and bring together themes in all the data that was collected.

Next steps

Next steps were for Content to take the outline and information we gathered from the page type and create the Story and collaborate with Design to align on a page structure. 

  • Content creates story framing
  • Content and design align on story framing 
  • Story framing is presented to partners for approval

What I learned about facilitating a workshop:

Lead with a strong introduction

Getting your UX workshop off to a strong start is critical. Kick things off by:

  • Clearly reiterating what the workshop is for and what you hope to achieve as a group
  • Briefly running through the agenda and what your participants can expect
  • Explaining your role as the facilitator 

A strong introduction will get everybody on the same page and help to manage expectations before you begin, setting the stage for success. 

Incorporate icebreakers

For many, the prospect of attending a workshop and taking part in different activities can be daunting. But, if you want people to be creative, innovative, and open, you need to put them at ease. Incorporate icebreakers into your agenda: certainly at the beginning of the workshop, and potentially after a long break to get people back in the swing of things.

Set expectations and ground rules

The best workshops are those where everybody has the opportunity to contribute, and feels empowered to do so.

As the facilitator, it’s your job to create this space, so be sure to set clear expectations and ground rules around communication. 

You don’t need to be too rigid with your rules, but a few basic guidelines will help to keep communication and collaboration respectful and smooth.

Give clear instructions for each activity

Whenever you introduce a new exercise or activity, make sure you give crystal clear instructions. Most importantly, keep your instructions simple. Don’t give participants multiple options for how to approach the task; stick to one method that everybody should follow. And, if you’re running a more complex activity, check that everyone’s clear on what they need to do before you start.

Keep troublemakers in check

Unfortunately, not everyone will attend your UX workshop with pure joy and enthusiasm. You may find some troublemakers in your midst, and it’s important to keep them in check so they don’t have the chance to derail your workshop. Fortunately, there are lots of tried-and-true strategies you can use to keep things running smoothly.

Stick to your schedule

Timing is everything in your UX workshop. If you consistently run over time, you’ll compromise the productivity of your workshop and risk things feeling rushed. Be diligent when it comes to sticking to your agenda, have a timer on hand to keep track, and build buffer time into your schedule.

End with a clear decision

The whole purpose of a UX workshop is to make progress on a specific challenge or topic. You’ll probably find that, throughout the course of the workshop, you collectively come up with not just one solution or idea, but several. To ensure the workshop is actionable, it’s essential to end with a clear decision regarding which solution, idea, or action you’ll pursue. Only then can you consider your UX workshop complete!