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How SiriusXM Aligned Teams for a Visionary Product Roadmap

Research leader Laura Oxenfeld entered SiriusXM in the thick of a major product launch—but soon realized the org needed a plan far beyond the near future.

Interview with Laura Oxenfeld, Edited by Kris Kopac

Since its groundbreaking radio technology launch in the early 2000s, SiriusXM’s competition is no longer AM/FM radio, CDs, or iPod music, but instead digital streaming apps like Spotify and iHeartMedia.

The company continues to retain satellite radio as the primary line of business but is now growing the team to invest in future products that cater to “Zillennials”, the generation between Millennials and Gen Z.

Laura Oxenfeld is a Senior UX Researcher leading the innovation charge at SiriusXM. As the company had all hands on deck preparing for a new product launch, see what she has to say about the proactive steps she took as a researcher to envision what would come afterward.

The approach

✔ Identifying and filling a gap

Everyone is super heads down, executing to hit this launch deadline by the end of the year—which is very important—but also I was wondering, what's next after launch and doing all the fast follows and fixes?

My boss Dhvani Patel agreed, as she also comes from an innovative UX research role. She said to put a proposal together and we'll share it with leadership and go from there. That's where I thought through what this workshop should look like. I ultimately chose the method called ‘creative matrix.’

✔ A creative matrix workshop

We needed to ideate and a creative matrix as a method has you crank out as many ideas as possible. It's a lot of silent ideation, so everyone is putting as many ideas out there as possible.

The initial list they gave me was about 15 people and for the exercises we were doing, we needed to limit it a little more. We narrowed it down to people who had the context, people who crank out good ideas, someone from design systems, someone from research, someone from the app, and someone from content. All the different design disciplines were covered.

The challenges

The initiative encountered several challenges, including:

✔ Analyzing and making a story of a large amount of data

One part that always takes longer than expected is crunching the data afterward. Folks share a bunch of ideas in these workshops, but you have to make sense of them all before you can share them out in a meaningful way.

✔ Organizing concepts to share with business leadership

I spent maybe a week or two partnering with Kelsey, who's another researcher at SiriusXM, on affinity mapping the themes. As soon as I had something that was clean and digestible enough in FigJam, I shared it with design and research leadership. We went back a few times to iterate this mess of concepts and determine what actually matters most to the business right now, versus what's a little too far out to concern ourselves with now.

✔ Shifting from a top-down to a bottom-up approach

I pivoted to a bottom-up approach, which has been successful. The bottom-up approach is having 1:1s with the individual contributor-level product managers, the ones who write the requirements, know the nuance of the product, and know the nuance of the roadmap. That's where I've had success. For example, some of the PMs are like, “Oh my goodness, this one slice of a concept I'm already building right now.”

Part of this is relationship building—maybe more than getting the actual concepts out there. Both the top-down and bottom-up know that research can do more than just make sure the interface is usable, like here are the ways we can contribute to innovation. A couple of these items are definitely on the roadmap now, which is great. That's the bird's eye view.

The outcomes

✔ Enhanced collaboration and a culture of innovation

People started messaging my boss saying things like, “We need Laura to run workshops for us.” They saw what was possible, but they wanted to do one where they were involved in the planning and they had control over who participated. They wanted to run a similar workshop that was more focused on the outputs they wanted.

✔ The prioritization and integration of ideas into the product roadmap

I had 143 [concepts]. I kept getting rounds of feedback from the senior design and research leadership, which was helpful. But then I also started tagging each concept with which product manager it's their area. And I would just Slack them, “Hey, are you working on something related to X, Y, and Z?”

Sometimes I hopped on calls with people, sometimes not, because I didn’t know if I could share the concepts quite yet, so I was just having conversations to ask people about what they were working on.

✔ A tried-and-true process for future product roadmap sessions

This is what the analysis, the affinity mapping, and FigJam ended up looking like.

✔ Affinity mapping

Then we copied all the ideas/sticky notes into a new workspace. We maintained their original boards, made a new affinity mapping space, and then just started affinity mapping and figuring out what the themes were.

✔ Granular analysis

And my analysis style is extremely precise. I go down to the atomic level. I break it out into the absolute smallest pieces before you regroup it. Sometimes after workshops, I'll see there's a bunch of great ideas, but then people don't give it the time to do as deep of analysis as they would on a normal study. If you don’t then you don't squeeze all the juice out of it.

✔ Meticulous labeling

Here, we squeezed all the juice out of it. And then the color coding—the blue, green, and purple were the three highest level categories. Each black item is a subgroup, and then under each black item has the more specific categories.

The image is zoomed out but I try to make my FigJam boards as digestible as possible. If you're a stakeholder and you pop in, you can understand what the themes are.

✔ Checking viability

This is what I brought to my first review with design leadership instead of wasting time and putting it into a slide deck and seeing that, “Oh, wait, half of these are actually not viable for the next five years.”

✔ Connecting concepts through storytelling

I started to track what there are already product briefs written on, what's already in the roadmap versus what's a new idea. When I was making the slides for the VP-level product leadership, what it looked like was the storytelling of what research is important for them to understand so that the concepts have meaning. But then once we were looking at each concept, I had little tags of, is this an existing work stream or is this a net new opportunity?

If there was already a product brief, then I would link the product brief. I was showing breadcrumbs that we didn't just do this workshop and then here are ideas. I did the due diligence to figure out like, what's that already in motion and what's net new?

✔ Making basic wireframes

The other thing I did too was wireframe everything myself, which researchers don't always do. They were purposely very low fidelity, like just gray boxes and more Miro-level wireframing than a design system. That was also to communicate that these are design concepts, not design solutions. These are not thought through. These are just to communicate what this could be.


It’s not easy to successfully navigate digital transformation for future generations. However, with a strategic focus on UX research, SiriusXM was able to foster a culture of cross-functional collaboration and continue to evolve in a dynamic landscape.

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Kris is a content creator and editor based in Chicago.

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