How to build a UX team from scratch?

People Success Story: Daniela Hellmann and Karin Pirklbauer 

When you start something  a team, an initiative, a company  you always have great opportunities ahead of you – but also big challenges to contend with. Daniela Hellmann and Karin Pirklbauer started the UX team within Cloudflight. They had the common goal of shared responsibility and open communication. The team has become an integral part of the company’s project successes. Read more about their initial difficulties, working methods, and future plans. 

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What makes a UX expert?  

“The UX profession is exciting and fulfilling for anyone who likes to work with people, understands their needs and problems, and enjoys solving problems in an iterative and creative way,” says Daniela. “It’s a varied job where you can really make a difference and make people’s lives easier.”   

Why do you need a UX team in a software company? 

According to Karin, “UX is important for software quality and user adoption. A few years ago, when the software projects in Cloudflight required UX contributions, we got short-notice requests from project leaders. These were often tough to handle. We also didn’t have an overview of the workload of other UX experts. Every UX designer was working mostly for themselves. And because there was no team, there was little opportunity to learn from each other.” 

“We wanted to find a solution for this and create an environment where everyone can grow,” adds Dani. “That’s why we created the UX team.” 

First steps in building a team 

“We knew we had to create a framework in which we could exchange and talk to each other. So, we introduced weekly meetings during which we coordinate projects, show what we’re working on, and get feedback on our work. We also use chats and ad hoc calls to brainstorm together, go over concepts, and share ideas. While we were building our team, we saw the benefits of agile working right from the start. We now use retrospective meetings for learning, and share ideas in regular standups. It’s great to be surrounded by others who are as interested in UX as you are. From this, the best solutions emerge,” reveals Karin. “Even though we don’t work in the same places (I think I’ve seen Dani only five times in person), it doesn’t feel that way.  As the heads of the UX team, Dani and I are also responsible for coordinating the UX work within the company and making sure everyone is deployed appropriately. Together, it’s much easier. We even review and discuss applications together to recruit new people for our team. As of summer 2021, we are a group of eight and look forward to welcoming a new hire soon!”  

The driving forces behind the UX-team 

When we asked Karin why Dani is best to build a team with, she told us “Dani is a very empathetic person. She can find the right words even in tricky conversations and she always keeps the best interests of everyone in mind. Apart from that, she is a highly skilled UX designer, and a very good friend. We share our ideas, challenge each other, and push ourselves even further.”  

Dani got the same question from us about Karin: “Trust is the foundation of our amazing collaboration. We can talk about absolutely anything. There are no taboos. I really admire that Karin sees challenges and change from various perspectives and focuses on the positive aspects and side effects. She is a creator and maker. That means it’s not only efficient but also fun to work together. We are good friends, great sparring partners, and an unbeatable team – that’s why I know we can achieve anything together.” 

Teamwork and future milestones 

Starting something is one thing. Maintaining and developing it continuously is another. The UX team has been in place at Cloudflight for several years now. The big question now is how the founders see the future of UX in the company. 

“In the beginning, it was often easier to sell UX to our customers than to build the theme internally in our company. But today it’s clear that our user-centered thinking, agile approach, and long-term planning allow us to work regularly and closely with colleagues on Cloudflight projects,” says Dani. “We prioritize, try things out, run multiple iterations (not everything has to be perfect from the start), regularly share feedback, and attend retrospective meetings.” 

“First of all, I am grateful for everything our team has achieved so far. It amazes me how motivated, helpful, and responsible everyone is,” says Karin, highlighting the benefits of teamwork. “Over the past few years, we have been able to raise our profile within the company quite well. Now it’s time to focus on our successes and capabilities. I believe Cloudflight is known for great software. In the future, I’d like to hear people say, ‘Oh, and they do great UX, too’,” says Karin. 

The mission of UX  

“Our mission is to share knowledge about UX within our team and company, with our clients, and even beyond (conferences, meet-ups, classes),” says Dani.  

“I strongly believe that focusing on user needs, goals, and desires in software development increases the quality, adoption, and success of an application. That’s why I personally – but also, we as a team – are more than happy to be involved in all our projects and create software projects with great user experience and usability for our clients,” says Dani.   

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