Some of the most successful product creation partnerships in the past two decades can be said to have been the direct result of strong collaboration between the Product and User Experience functions of the organization in question. Whether you consider Jobs + Ive at Apple or Canadian examples Geoff Teehan + Jon Lax before their move to Facebook, the success of this partnership is critically important to any company hoping to create great products.
Karyn Zuidinga and Scott Baldwin’s presentation to Product BC, UX+PM= Products your customers will love! helped to lay an effective foundation for what makes as successful a partnership between the two functions as the famous examples above did, while demonstrating their strong track record of success from both sides of the partnership at making it effective.
Product is Product, but UX can be many things
The first important point was regarding the makeup of the Product function vs the UX function; whereas Product is generally comprised of a Product Manager or Product Managers, UX is comprised of a wide range of different functions, from a Strategist/Lead to Visual Designer, and even including Content Strategists/Writers.
PMs as “Problem Seekers”, UX as “Problem Solvers”
A valuable model for approaching the working relationship between Product and UX, as well as more specific things such as voiding stepping on each others toes came in the form of thinking of Product Managers as “Problem Seekers” and UX team members as “Problem Solvers”. Product identifies the problems that are potentially solved by the output and prioritizes which are most important; UX presents solutions.
Identifying Assumptions & User Research are Critical
During the presentation, Zuidinga raised a point that has become a common refrain amongst Product BC presenters regarding the importance of user research, but added a caveat: if research is not defensible by commonly accepted standards, it’s not worth the time you spent collecting it.
Additionally, an activity that is important to complete in a successful UX-PM partnership is that of identifying any assumptions that the team has when going into a project in-order to prevent these from having a negative impact going forward.
Sounding like a broken record: Group Discussion
Although commenting on the quality of the group discussion makes summaries of Product BC events sound repetitive, it’s important to note that again, this event brought excellent discussion amongst the group. Both Zuidinga and Baldwin expertly facilitated debate on topics related to the presentation, and also challenged the audience on many topics.
Through attending a few events, it becomes immediately apparent that User Research is likely the topic that presents the greatest hurdle for the members of Product BC and attendees of these meetups. The only thing that can be consistently replicated across contexts in the topic of User Research is that it is always important to every product development cycle, and also that keeping discussions with users open and free flowing (rather than guiding them in a certain direction, intentionally or unintentionally) is critical to getting a useful result.
User Experience without Product Management is as perilous a thought in a modern organization as Product Management without User Experience. Even when both functions are present in an organization, there is still the chance that each will not fully maximize the potential of a strong working relationship.
But, as illustrated by Jobs and Ive, Teehan and Lax, and Karyn Zuidinga and Scott Baldwin, when the two work together harmoniously, the results can be fantastic for the entire organization and its customers.