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Chapter 5. Strategy > Coordinating Internal Staff and Consultants

Coordinating Internal Staff and Consultants

In Chapter 4, we covered why to consider using an outside usability consultant and how to choose one. Even with all the value that a consultant can bring to an organization, internal staff remains invaluable. Using internal staff costs less than hiring local consultants, but there are far more advantages than just cost. Internal staff members are the only people able to fully focus on the business content and strategy from within the company. They can learn the subject matter deeply. This means they can be more efficient in design work. They can also develop a set of instruments and procedures that really fit perfectly with the issues your company must manage. For example, if they are in the medical field, they are aware of the latest FDA requirements. If they are in customer service, they know the history of issues with workstation and voice response system integration. They know what to attend to in the next release. Internal staff members are the most familiar with customers and the organization.

These staff members also have an advantage because they work in the organization on a long-term basis. They have established relationships with employees and groups within the company that are not involved in usability. And perhaps most importantly, they know the opinion leaders and the sources of power in the organization. They can therefore reach a level of consensus and buy-in that cannot be achieved with consultants. It is too easy to tell a consultant, “Yes, user-centered design will be accomplished now,” and then ignore the whole issue the next week when the consultant is gone. The internal group is in a unique position to deeply ingrain the usability perspective into the organization.


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