HiPPOs -- the Highest Paid Person's Opinions -- are a well-known pitfall and obstacle to creating a great web site or mobile app. Features or designs aren't chosen because they're what users need, but because they're what the HiPPO wants.
Well, another common pitfall is something worse than digital design by HiPPO -- digital design by a herd of HiPPOs. Usually, the powerful heads of several departments all want their desires represented. If they all got their way, the new site or app would be a muddy hodgepodge, pleasing to no one.
But their boss, the uber-HiPPO, is distant from the fray and unwilling to wade in. And if data-driven decision-making is supposed to rule the day, many HiPPOs pull out their own respective stack of research to support their demands. Lies, damned lies and statistics…
There seem to be two ways out of this log-jam that can lead to good digital products (if you know of others, do share!) Both solutions depend on a strong guardian of the product vision.
1) The Steve Jobs model -- this is the CEO as Chief Product Officer and the ultimate guardian of the product vision. This uber-HiPPO cares passionately about details of the digital product because he/she understands how they contribute to the overall vision. The herd leader wades into the logjam and clears it through ruthless adherence to the vision, cutting down things that turf-guarding executives demand but detract from the overall product goal.
2) The data battle-of-attrition model -- the philosophy behind this approach is that strong testing results will ultimately win the day, despite each HiPPO in the herd pointing to their own selective findings. This implies that your user experience pros need time to do the testing to gather strong results before the HiPPO herd jumps in. It could also mean that company launches the digital product initially muddied by the HiPPOs conflicting demands, before further testing and optimization shows what works and what doesn't and the product is refined.
In your experience, how have you broken through a HiPPO log-jam?